Ali's Corner

Dr. Ali Khwaja

Trust

Do you trust people or are you very cautious?

I generally trust people. Due that of course I get cheated occasionally – but more often than not, people live up to my expectations. I prefer not to dwell on the small minority who at times let me down or betray my trust. I would rather focus my attention on so many others who are honest, who keep up to their word, and who I can trust without being disappointed.

I feel I am happier than those who do not trust others, are extremely cautious (and suspicious), and prefer to live in their own cocoons lamenting that everyone in the world is bad.

If I decide to allow only good people to occupy my mind, I am certainly going to be more at peace and enjoy the world around me. Take this example: A friend was trying to teach History to her daughter, and was persuading her to ‘memorize’ the year when the First Battle of Panipat took place. The daughter flatly refused and said, “I don’t want to remember horrible people who fight. I will only remember the peaceful and loving people.” We need to learn from children.

Good Evening

I find many of my friends losing out on the joy and serenity of the ‘evening’. For them the day just plunges headlong into the darkness (and bright artificial lights) of the night.

The slowly fading sunlight, the birds flying to their nests, the gentle cloud formations, and of course the “go-dhooli” of the cows returning home – are pleasures that many of us are losing out on. We are shutting ourselves in our rooms, windows closed, and oblivious of the path the sun is taking towards the horizon.

Symbolically the sunset reminds us that it is time to call off, to be with family and friends, to unwind, and to merge with nature.But the urban rat race does not allow such privileges to many of us (or do we deny it?). Every evening when I sit out in the verandah with a cup of tea, I feel one with nature, feel the cool breeze and watch the gently swaying leaves on towering trees, and I am reminded of the retro Bollywood song,
“Ye shaaaam mastaniii, madh-hosh kiye jaaaye....”

Gratitude

I ask my new counseling students to write down a few things they received in life without having to work for them. The answers, as expected, vary widely – but many of them inevitably mention their parents, spouse or children. Whatever may be their answer, the reason for stirring their mind to this issue is to help us understand that we do get many blessings with no efforts from our side. Contrasted to the losses or things we have missed out, there are many material and non-material bonuses of life that we get and enjoy.

The next step is to introspect whether we show our gratitude for these free gifts or not. Do we just make these things part of our life and enjoy the fruits, and take it for granted that we deserved it so we got it? That is a very insensitive approach to the joys of life. When we struggle long and hard to gain something, we are proud of ourselves and pat ourselves on the back. But when something comes free, we need to acknowledge, thank and show gratitude for it.

Do list out everything that you have received without personal effort, and make a note of how you are going to periodically and constantly show your appreciation & admiration to the source.

Cultural Diversity

I was once invited to the Bengali Association to give a talk. I reached a little early and I had the opportunity to listen to a soulful rendering of “Rabindra Sangeet”, the poetry of Gurudev Rabindranath Tagore, by a lady who enthralled the audience, and yet was lost in her own world of the great poet’s thoughts. The beauty of the moment was that I could hardly understand a word of what was being sung, but yet I could revel in the serenity of the moment.

It made me think once again of what I often perceive – how each language has a beauty of its own, how fortunate we are to live in a country that has a treasure trove of innumerable languages, dialects, literature, culture and quotes. If we make up our mind we can unite all the myriad languages of our country, pull out each pearl of wisdom from every one of them, and merge them to form a legacy that can be passed on to future generations, to overcome the strife of competition, parochialism and regionalism

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake…..”

The TIME

Time is the one resource that never comes back if it is lost. Hence those who value time know that it should be treasured. Managing one’s own time is definitely a great skill and asset, but we also need to evaluate whether we are giving our time to others who need it badly.

Perhaps the greatest gift one can give to another human being is our time: Giving full attention, doing tasks for someone, involving in activities that the other person wants… and most important, listening to a person who wants to be heard. There are innumerable people around us who wish to speak out, to pour out their emotions, and have the joy of knowing that someone cares enough to give them undivided attention. If we can do that, at least to a few people around us, we would be doing wonderful service.

Look around for someone who is not necessarily your close friend or relative. If you sense that the person is lonely, isolated or feeling left out, just sit with him and give him your listening ear. You need not comment or advice, you can just be there for him – and experience the joy that you are giving him.

Are you an Imposter?

Lately there has been a lot of buzz in the Internet on the “Imposter Syndrome (IS).” I don’t know if it is a fad that will die off soon as so many other ‘viral’ news do. The ‘IS’ theory is that high achievers often feel that they do not deserve the appreciation and recognition or success they have achieved, and are in constant fear that one day they will be ‘exposed’ as imposters and will lose all that they have gained. I don’t know how or to whom that happens. But I do know many hard working and competent people who have attained success, and yet feel humble about it, saying that they are being over-rated. They are certainly not imposters, but genuine and modest individuals who do not get drunk with power of success.

I am not an achiever, but whenever people praise me or put me on a pedestal, I often feel that whatever I have attained is due to many others who have been part of this process and have contributed significantly towards whatever achievement I am being recognized for. I am often reminded of the words of Isaac Newton when he was praised for reaching great heights. He is supposed to have said, “I could see far ahead because I could climb on the shoulders of tall men.” What he implied was that great men have helped him by lifting him up and giving him greater wisdom.

I do not like climbing over shoulders, but I have certainly learnt so much from so many named and unnamed people that I have lost count. I feel no achievement of mine is a singular effort. I feel humbled whenever someone praises me for any so-called attribute of mine which they admire. I feel that it was just a matter of learning from every source, gaining from each interaction, and expanding from all experiences. I salute all those who have contributed to whatever I am today

I am not an imposter. I am a genuine person. But I am sometimes the actor on the silver screen whose dialogues people adore, not realizing that it was the script writer who deserves the credit. I have had many script writers in my life, and continue to have many more who empower me to move on and continue with my humble mission. I salute them all.

The Elder one

He was much older than me.

Unassuming, humble, no great achievements to his credit, he lived a simple life. He would drop by once in a while, but always when I was alone or feeling isolated. I don’t know how he could sense it, but he knew exactly when I was by myself and in need of company

He would just sit with me for some time, or walk me down to a nearby tea shop and treat me to hot tea and biscuits (always HIS treat). He was not my counselor because I would not share anything with him. He was not a friend because we had nothing in common. He did not teach me anything – in fact he used to make very limited and light conversation. But somehow he was there to fill in those odd hours when I had no one else with me



I moved away and was out of touch for quite some time. Then much later I got news that he is no more. It set me thinking about how we neglect some people who become strong pillars in our life without making it obvious, and we do not appreciate how much they have contributed to make our lonely moments peaceful and serene.

If you have someone like that in your life, cherish him or her !

Life of a common Man

Last week there was a “bandh” and the bustling city of Bangalore had a sleepy look, no traffic jams or congestion.

I spent the day catching up with correspondence and writing, leisurely enjoying cups of tea. But my heart goes out to those who are on daily wages and would have lost their earning, the sick who were not able to go to hospital, the homeless who may not have been able to get food in restaurants, the hawkers whose perishable goods may have been spoilt.

I do not know politics, business or economics. But I watch human suffering and inconvenience helplessly, and feel guilty also that I did not do anything actively for such people. I tried to appease my conscience without much success, and went back to sipping tea and reading good books.

Why are we so insensitive to the reality of the common man? Those in power get away with anything and we quietly surrender our rights to them. Ironically many such moves are decided in the comfort of air-conditioned rooms, and are supposed to be “for” the common man. No one questions them and the poor are the greatest sufferers.

Next time something like this happens can a few of us work towards helping out those who are deprived of their daily wage?

Gandhigiri

Many people may have laughed at it, but I was truly touched by the concept of Munnabhai’s “Gandhi-giri”.

Every now and then I come across someone who was hurt, insulted or put down by others, and who, instead of retaliating or taking revenge, decided to be nice to them and tell them very gently how they can be friends. This is also the concept referred to in management jargon as “creating a win-win situation”.

I have also had a few occasions in my younger days when deep hostility developed between me and some other person, and when we resolved it amicably we became the best of friends and have stood by each other for years.

There is a Chinese proverb that says: When you set out to take revenge, first dig two graves. Revenge, hatred and hostility inevitably destroys both parties to lesser or greater extent. One striking example is the crores of cases languishing in courts of law for years and years. We know that justice delayed is justice denied. But then we need to ask ourselves, “are we more particular of getting justice, or do we want to be at peace?” If your answer is the latter, which I hope it is, then….

Try out Gandhi-giri at least once before Gandhi Jayanthi on 2nd October.