Ali's Corner

Dr. Ali Khwaja

Someone gave me an interesting food for thought. He said: “Creative ideas come in bed, bath and bus”, i.e. when you are about to sleep, when you are leisurely taking a bath, or when you are travelling. I do find it true to a great extent.

Give it a thought. On my part I ensure that I have a pen/paper or my electronic notepad handy when I am travelling or about to sleep. I don’t take them into the bath, but often I am desperate to come out and jot down the inspirational thought that occurs to be in the bathroom.

When the mind is free and is allowed to roam without restrictions that is when the best of thoughts and ideas come to us.

-Dr. Ali Khwaja


It Almost Rained

Week after week the sun was beating down on us. Breeze was at a standstill, clouds playing truant. And the weekend passed off, hot and stuffy, with most of us preferring to remain indoors.

Monday dawned bright as ever. The day took on its harshness of the summer heat. But …. by afternoon it did not seem as hot as the other days. Before evening, those who ventured out could feel a pleasant breeze caressing their bodies. Looking up at the sky one could see stray cloud formations, and the sky acquiring a dull grey colour from the earlier bright blue.

There was even a slight promise of rain. A stray raindrop touched the skin now and then, the breeze was picking up rustling leaves and taking away the sweat. Those who had the sensitivity and will power to stop work and step out could experience a cool evening after many days. Those who had the time and inclination to lean back and admire the sky could see beautiful shades of grey and white intermingling with the golden hue of the setting sun. But most other city folks continued with their work, oblivious of what nature was offering them free of cost. Maybe some turned off their air-conditioners or reduced the fan speed – but kept busy with “important” work.

It almost rained, but it actually did not. Nature perhaps was teasing us, tempting us, and telling us that the best things in life are free – if you have the ability to enjoy them. The beautiful evening melted into a calm and cool night. The next day dawned on a softer hue, the sky was still in a naughty mood, playing with colours, dancing with the clouds. But when nature saw that humans are too busy to even step out, the heat started picking up. And it became another typical hot summer day. – Ali

A (un)true story

Every day, a small ant arrives at work very early and starts work immediately. She produces a lot and is happy. The new Boss, a lion, is surprised to see that the ant is working without supervision. He thought if the ant can produce so much without supervision, wouldn’t she produce even more if she had a supervisor!

So he recruited a cockroach who had extensive experience as supervisor and who was famous for writing excellent reports.

The cockroach’s first decision was to set up a clocking in attendance system. He also needed a secretary to help him write and type his reports and … ... he recruited a spider, who managed the archives and monitored all phone calls. The lion was delighted with the cockroach's reports and asked him to produce graphs to describe production rates and to analyse trends, so that he could use them for presentations at Board meetings. So the cockroach had to buy a new computer and a laser printer and ... recruited a fly to manage the IT department.

The ant, who had once been so productive and relaxed, hated this new plethora of paperwork and meetings which used up most of her time…! The lion came to the conclusion that it was high time to nominate a person in charge of the department where the ant worked. The position was given to the lizard, whose first decision was to buy a carpet and an ergonomic chair for his office.

The new person in charge, the lizard, also needed a computer and a personal assistant, who he brought from his previous department, to help him prepare a Work and Budget Control Strategic Optimisation Plan … It was at that time that the lizard convinced the boss , the lion, of the absolute necessity to start a climatic study of the environment . Having reviewed the charges for running the ant’s department, the lion found out that the production was much less than before.

So he recruited the owl, a prestigious and renowned consultant to carry out an audit and suggest solutions. The owl spent three months in the department and came up with an enormous report , in several volumes, that concluded : “The department is overstaffed ...” Guess who the lion fires first? The ant , of course, because she “showed lack of motivation and her efficiency was continuously going down”.

Please Note: The characters in this fable are fictitious; any resemblance to real people or facts within your office is pure coincidence…

I know you are a busy person, but do try the following ……

On a cold January morning, step out of your house as soon as the sun is up, or maybe a little earlier if possible. Walk into the open and watch the sky brighten up slowly and lazily, watch the sun barely peeping out through the winter haze, experience the slanting rays of the sun as they hit your body, caress you through your clothes, and slowly warm up your whole being. As the sunlight battles and defeats the chill that was making you uncomfortable, savour the warm hug it gives you.

And remember …. remember the months you spent cursing the sun. The days you would have to go out on a summer afternoon, and would protest loudly about the heat. Recollect how you would want the sun to just disappear over the horizon and give you relief. And not having patience to wait for that to happen, how you ran back to the shelter of a concrete roof and sat under a fan or in an air-conditioned room.

Ask yourself … is the sun your enemy or your friend? Does it scorch you with its heat, or does it caress you with a warm hug? Does it intend to harm you or heal you? If you understand this aspect of nature, you will realize that the same is true of all your friends, in fact all human beings. They give you bouquets and brickbats. At times they may appear to be like the harsh summer sun, but if you accept them in those hot days, you will find them very useful when you need their warmth in your coldest days. They may make you very happy, they may hurt you badly. Learn to accept both, as we learn to accept the day with the night, the summer with the winter, and life with death. -- Ali

You have a Mind. Use it.

Often you will be deeply impressed by someone’s words or comments. If others around you are also equally impressed, then you will succumb to agreeing, just because you do not want to be the odd-man-out. We often feel that there is safety in numbers. A “consensus” or collective decision usually means that everyone has agreed to say collectively what no one believes individually – since a Committee is defined as “a group that keeps minutes and loses hours”.

Are you an independent thinker, or do you take shelter under numbers, saying things like “everyone agreed to it”, or “so many others are saying the same thing”? There is a tremendous shortage of independent thinkers. George Bernard Shaw said something like “a few people are very unreasonable …. I wish there were more of them.”

I’m not asking you to become a revolutionary, or to rebel against the whole world. Remember that your thoughts are the only aspect of your life that not even the most powerful dictator can control. If you give up this control to others, just because they are larger in numbers, or because you feel safer in belonging to a group, then you are insulting your intelligence – and maybe heading towards deep disappointment and regret some time in life.

However busy you are in life, try to develop the habit of being Proactive. Rub the blackboard of your mind clean, and start writing what you actually believe in. Have your own mind, listen, evaluate, analyze, but do not go with the “herd mentality” of getting swayed by something just because many people are saying it. In this age of media bombardment, protect yourself from the tsunami trying to control your mind …. your last refuge. – Ali

Are we recessed?

For the a few years or so, the word “recession” has become one of the most commonly heard ones. I am surrounded by people who lost their jobs, people who are scared that they may lose them, people who have run up debts, and people who are confused what direction to take in the future. But I really wonder, is there anything to really worry about? How many wise people have told us that we only learn in adversity, that failures are stepping stones to success, that hardships sharpen us, and – “When the Going Gets Tough, the Tough get Going.”

But we seem to have become so used to luxury and the easy life that we cannot face setbacks any more. When youngsters with three years were earning double of their seniors with thirty years experience, they did not introspect. When people jumped jobs twice a year to reach dizzying heights, they did not look down. When greed overtook wants, they forgot what their actual needs were.

I think there is poetic justice in the global recession, which has at least made us more aware of reality, of poverty, of failure, and of broken dreams. Those who live through this phase will emerge very strong. The younger generation will re-learn the value of delayed gratification, the difference between needs and wants, and the satisfaction of working slowly and steadily towards their goals. The elders will regain their dignity, “experience” will no longer be a dirty word, and people will have time to slow down the merry-go-round of their lives and actually admire the beauty of nature around them – without the background music playing! -Ali

Family Stories

Family stories are tales about people, places, and events related to the members of our immediate family or their ancestors. Family stories casually chatted about at the dinner table, or regaled again and again at family gatherings can parallel great epics or notable short stories. The memorable stories of our lives and of others in our family take on special importance because they are true, even if everyone tells different versions of the same event. These tales are family heirlooms held in the heart not the hand. They are a gift to each generation that preserves them by remembering them and passing them on.

Listening
The first step to collecting family stories is to become a good listener. Good listeners encourage great storytelling. When a speaker feels that the listener is interested, he or she is more inspired to communicate generously. A good listener gives full attention to the teller, does not interrupt or contradict the facts of a story as it is being told, and offers the teller encouragement with an interested facial expression and body stance. When a teller feels encouraged by an interested listener, there is joy in the telling.

Interviewing Elders
An effective way to hear family stories is to ask questions. Family stories can be collected by interviewing a family elder. Make a mental or written list of topics that might generate some questions to ask the elder.

Questions about:
People, places, events, objects, important transitions, work, or travel can be story starters. Although short-term memory may sometimes be limited in the oldest of relatives, long-term memory may be very much intact. We need to help the teller journey back in time to retrieve these treasures. When families are disintegrating, and when the joys of storytelling are fading away from children, this is a good way of reviving both. Do try and practice them.

Is the Customer Always Right?

Often we are reminded that we cannot be successful in business unless we go out of the way to please the customer. We need to put in extra efforts, be very polite, tolerate his idiosyncrasies, pamper his ego, and acknowledge any nonsense that he says – because the customer is always right.

Sometimes I feel we have taken this too seriously, not only in business, but also in our lives and our relationships. We have begun to define “customer” as any person from whom we need money, favours, licence, any material benefit. And this does not stop with our commercial dealings. We practice this very sincerely, a little too sincerely I feel, in many of our personal relationships.

When we know that he can provide us with some benefits, when we can extract monetary benefit from him, he is always right. We are willing to bow down, crawl when we are asked to bend, and fawn all over him – till we get what we want. Maybe then the roles may be reversed, but who cares?

In our mad race of the “competition”, whether it is for a job, a contract, a promotion, a sale, or even getting a spouse, we are on the chase like salesmen. And exactly like salesmen, we pursue only till the deal is done. And when we ourselves put the “customer” on a pedestal, it is but natural that he takes advantage of us.

If we can stop selling – our products, our services, our own selves – we will be able to deal with people much more rationally. We will be able to build better and longer lasting relationships. But it takes a lot of courage to stop selling – for we are afraid of competition. Only those who can step out of the rat race and watch the world go by, can have the courage to achieve this bliss. – Ali

The Failure

People sniggered as he walked past – those who cared to take notice. Others did not even feel his presence. Nondescript, clumsily attired, disheveled hair, torn sandals flapping at every step.

No one knew much about him – no one cared to. Somewhere in the blurred and distant past he was part of society. Some vaguely remembered that he came from some noble stock. But that was very long ago, and none cared for the bygones. Today there was only one word to describe him – failure.

He did not have a job (was he capable of doing one?), he lived in a shed in the compound of a long-closed factory, he didn’t seem to possess any clothes other than those on his back. He had no friends, at least not among the respectable citizens. The lunatic hanging around the City Market square seemed to like him very much. So did the stray dogs that the elite wanted terminated. There was also the old beggar woman, crawling on hands and stubs of legs, who seemed to be fond of him. Wasn’t the company he kept itself enough evidence of the fact that he was a failure?

One day a highly respected scholar was passing by City Market. He was an acknowledged authority of wisdom in many fields, and a very prosperous and respected man. The scholar saw this man sitting on the pavement and noticed that he was scribbling something with a pencil stub on a dirty bunch of papers. With disdain he went near him and inquired what he was writing. The tone of the question clearly conveyed his contempt that the person could write at all. Silently, and with glazed eyes, the man held up a bunch of ragged papers to the scholar.

“Reality of Life” read the scribbled title. The scholar started reading and his jaw dropped in disbelief. The wisdom of the words pierced as an arrow. The depth of the thoughts could only have come from profound intellect far beyond the average. The scholar kept shaking his head in disbelief as he read page after page of unbelievable excellence, an insight into life that no human had unraveled before. “Where did you get these notes from?” asked the scholar sternly, as a policeman interrogating a criminal. The man sitting on the footpath raised his eyes, and in the depth of those eyes appeared the mysteries of time immemorial. “I wrote it” he replied simply.

The scholar berated him for lying. He laughed derisively. A rainbow of emotions passed through the scholar’s mind – incredulity to greed. His heart was racing with the idea that was forming in his mind – an opportunity of a lifetime. He looked down again at the miserable figure on the pavement, and loudly started scolding him for being useless and an imbecile, a burden on this earth already overloaded with other vermin like him.

Continuing with his loud tirade, he slowly and purposefully thrust the bunch of papers in his bag, and walked off without a second look. The man on the pavement seemed to be giving a blank stare – but none knew what was going on in his mind’s endless depths. He was quick to grasp what had happened, and he accepted it with the same cynical grace as he had accepted every turn of his miserable life.

Days passed by. Life on the pavement was no different from one day to another. The rich, the beautiful and the intelligent would turn their nose up and walk past our miserable wretch, while those who thought they were more miserable than him reached out for his support. He often wondered what he had to give them. On the other hand, they knew what they were getting from him. No one said it in words, but deep down these wretches knew how much more wretched they would be without him.

One day he was shuffling along the main road that led to the Town Hall. Suddenly he was stopped by a lathi wielding policeman. He looked up in surprise to see that a fabulous function was being readied. There were buntings and banners. The crowds were waiting to receive the honourable Governor. The occasion, as announced by the banners was – the release of a book by the very same rich scholar who had snatched the papers from him. The book to be released was entitled “Reality of Life.”

The man pushed behind by the policeman looked towards the floodlit Town Hall. The book was yet to be released … but he knew every word of what was written in it.

Gratitude

Have you had occasion when you did a good deed to someone, and found that he has no gratitude? At times you may have even felt that the person is being a little cold or negative towards you, and may not only be hurt by his behavior, but also perplexed. It is not as though you are expecting much in return, but the least the person can do is to acknowledge the good that you have done for him. Right? Wrong! It is a sad but true facet of human behavior that a person does not act out of gratitude, but for future expectations. Perhaps that is why the Bhagavad Geeta gave the immortal advice “Karmany eva ‘dhikaras te, Ma phalesu kadachana” I remember in my childhood my Granny used to say in Hindi “Neiki kar, Ganga mein daal” i.e. do well, and put your good deeds into river Ganges to flow away with the water. The logic behind this inexplicable behavior is very simple. You do something good to me, and do not expect anything in return. I am initially grateful, but slowly the gnawing thought hits me – you are superior, you are in a capacity to help, you will get everyone’s admiration. I am inferior, at the receiving end, I cannot give back to you, and everyone will look down upon me. This leads to resentment, jealousy, and in my efforts to protect myself, even gossip or badmouthing you. I am not doing it consciously or with bad intention, but I do end up hurting you. And you not only feel very bad, but also perplexed at my behavior. You cannot change mankind. You cannot change even one person’s thinking or behavior. But you can change yourself to understand human behavior, and accept its little idiosyncrasies. “Karmany eva ‘dhikaras te ……..”

The Greatest Power

India has launched its first spaceship to the moon. Many countries have made nuclear bombs. Man has learnt to harness the great power of nature, whether it be the sun’s heat, the waves of the ocean, or the vast skies. But most of us have still not learnt how to control our emotions. They say that the last frontier of science is the human brain – when we understand it thoroughly, we will have made the greatest breakthrough. And the mind is from where our emotions emanate. So many of us struggle with our emotions, unable to control them, letting them control us instead. Has it not happened to you that someone said or did something, and you reacted instantly – only to regret later? It is because you could not take the responsibility of your “response-ability”. We all need to work on it. Make a resolution that you will gain more control over your emotions, and thus over your words and actions. Feel, experience the power that you will gain.

Verandah

Among the various species going extinct at a fast pace is a lifeless thing that adds life to every home – the Verandah. Once upon a time there was no house without a verandah, and the bigger varieties had a number of them, including many houses that had verandahs running all round. Tiny houses had verandahs at least big enough for a weary traveler or vendor to rest his aching bones, or for the family grandfather to catch up with the world going past when he could no longer walk out due to arthritis. The Verandah was also a lovely place for the young mother to distract the attention of the baby and feed him while he watched traffic with fascination. Large bungalows had giant verandahs, replete with swings, potted plants, and the khas thattis that cooled the breeze entering the house on hot summer days. The verandah cut out the sun and let in the air, it provided a buffer between the harsh outdoors and the cool interiors. It was a place for family tete-a-tete, gossip, escape from stuffy interiors, and a cozy den to sit and watch the rain with a hot cup of tea. Today we enter houses that greet us with formidable doors, steel shutters, and a “magic eye” from where the wary housewife peeps out whether to allow the visitor in or not. The latch-key has assured that the door can be shut every time someone enters or exits, and the home is cut off from the outside world, the nature around, and the cool breeze that warms the spirit. Apartments do have balconies, but many residents, unless prevented by law, prefer to close them up with windows and grills and make them additional tiny rooms in space-starved flats. The joy of a verandah can never be equaled by any other space in a house. I never give up an opportunity to sit, stand, relax, or swing in one. Next time you see one, try it out, if you don’t have the luxury of having one at home.


Will the correct door open?

Myself when young did eagerly frequent Doctor and Saint, and heard great argument About it and about that: but evermore Came out by the same door wherein I went. -- Omar Khayyam

Why does it appear at times that we are going in and coming out of the same door all the time? Even though material wealth has increased considerably, and we now have the best of living conditions, there is an emptiness that many complain about, a feeling of always being “rushed”, a greater feeling that something is missing. Is it because we are going to the Doctor and Saint of Wealth and Power, the ever-elusive and yet always attractive magnets that draw us to them like moths to the flame? Lately I have been reading about watches that cost a crore of rupees, hotel rooms at 18,000 dollars a night, Kalyan-Mantaps that charge five lakhs and have to be booked one year in advance, cars that are being bought hungrily even with price tags running into crores. On the other end of the spectrum I see every little hut has a colour TV, every coolie has a mobile phone and a bright T-shirt, and every restaurant is overflowing with people. In this scenario what more could a person want? Success is coming at an earlier and earlier age, health care has taken giant leaps, home delivery of food is guaranteed in 15 minutes (“If we delay you don’t have to pay anything”), most children are earning much more money than their parents ever saw in their lives. Then why is it that we have no time to see the sunrise or sunset? Why are we entering doors all the time, when we need to be out in the fresh air? I have asked the questions, but I don’t have the answers. Do you? -- Ali


Who has taught us?

Another “Teachers Day” has come and gone. A few of us did greet our teachers, but most of us forgot – or just did not have the time. Some of us do not even know who our real teachers are, who made us what we are today. To some extent we do revere, respect and love our parents for what they have taught us. But we often forget those who are not bound by any blood relationship, who did not HAVE to, but yet taught us so much about life that today we go about with our heads held high. Some have taught us from text books, others by lecturing or sharing experiences. Some others have taught by inspiring us or by being role models. We have also learnt through bitter experiences with some individuals. In some cases we have woken up to the learning years after the wisdom was handed down to us, like the young man who said, “As a teenager I was dismayed at how little my Dad knew, now ten years later it is amazing how much he has learnt.” It was not his Dad who learnt, but the young man who learnt that Dad indeed knew quite a bit. Even the illiterate have taught us – by leading lives that the richest could not afford to. The beggar sharing his stale roti with a stray dog, the coolie who gives away a part of his meager earning to charity, the young man who refuses to use influence or give a bribe to get a job – they are all our teachers. In a very subtle way, almost imperceptibly, we have learnt many lessons of life from them. This year on Teachers Day, along with a Seminar to felicitate senior Special Educators, we brought out a little booklet titled “I am a book, I teach” in order to remind us that books have also been immaculate teachers. Let us never forget those who have taught us. – Ali


Life without Electricity

I have lived in a village with no electricity. In fact the entire village was just three houses and a mosque perched on a hillock at a junction of the busy Kashmir-Kanyakumari National Highway with a dust ridden track leading into some nondescript remote villages. The only thing of significance in this village was a “Request” bus stop where occasionally one or two villagers from the interior would alight or board. And for the facility of these villagers, some good Samaritan had, decades ago, built a small platform around a massive shade-giving tree. One could sit, recline or lie down on this platform at any time of the day. I recollect the special days when I would make it a point to be present in the village – an elderly Mullah would dutifully call out the faithful for dusk prayers, and often finding no one responding, chant his prayer all alone. Once in a while I would diligently don my prayer cap and stand behind him, lost in thoughts of the unseen and sublime Almighty. Immediately after the dusk prayer I would stroll down to the platform under the tree and sit gazing East. As the dusk gathered the darkness all around, and as the blue of the sky turned darker and darker shades of grey, in front of me there would suddenly appear a piercing and steadily growing brightness as though the thick foliage and trees have caught fire. The light would spread through the jungle like a bush fire, brightening the whole horizon. I would sit there staring, spellbound. A few minutes later, like a warrior rising up to proclaim his victory, would rise the source of this unusual brightness – a shining full moon! I don’t know how many months I have watched the full moon rising from the horizon of the tiny hamlet of Asifnagar. But its impact is forever etched in my memory. For, the moonlight would brighten up the countryside as no city floodlights ever can. For miles around I could see the brightened fields, the huts, the highway. Only those who have lived in a village without electricity can truly appreciate the true beauty, charm and brightness of the full moon.


Go back to Permanency

We all love to have permanent things in our lives. The moment our basic needs are met, we move on to our safety and security needs. If you live in a rented house, you want one of your own, if you have a temporary job, you aspire for a permanent one. If you are engaged you want to get married. Yet why is it that we are moving more and more towards seeking temporary and instantaneous gratification? We cherish our oldest friendships with nostalgia, but we look for anonymous contacts on Internet. We love to work with old friends in a familiar environment, but we keep changing jobs. We want long-term and steady customers, but we neglect those who have already purchased, and chase new ones. Not being in the rat-race of this society, I do not identify with competition. But those who are out to beat competition seem to be making things difficult for themselves. I see people who have happy marriages getting sucked into extra-marital affairs. I watch mobile service providers trying to lure new customers and giving horrible service to their existing ones. Builders had taken the prices of apartments to dizzying heights till the recession hit them, and only now they are falling over each other offering “economical” housing. As consumers we keep changing our gadgets and accessories even when they are working perfectly well, just to keep up with the neighbours. Next time you find yourself talking about the “good old days”, try to go back to living those wonderful times. Cherish permanency in every aspect of your life, whether it is your dining chair or your spouse. Learn to value what you have (and “who” you have), rather than getting carried away by advertising blitz and seeking new things. Then you will be able to lead a life that is recession-proof and depression-proof. -- Ali


Impression

Every person I meet, casually or with specific purpose, leaves behind an impression on me.
Inevitably I tend to gain, by learning something from the other, by correcting my perceptions, or by getting stimulated into a line of thinking I had neglected earlier. This, I have realized, is only possible if I keep a completely open mind. The moment I look at you and start evaluating you, I am creating a barrier. If I form opinions (inevitably negative ones), I am shutting myself out from learning from you. Judgmental people can become very lonely, and I am working hard to inoculate myself against this major epidemic of the 21st century. As the old proverb says, “When there is so little time to love, where the time to hate is?” Let us use every moment of our interactions to increase the love, which increases the warmth in our heart, and which leads to a sense of fulfillment that no material things can give.

So when I meet you next, in case I forget to tell you, let me thank you in advance for enriching my life.



Some tips to improve your quality of life:

When a Loved One Hurts You

Every close relationship is defined by expectations – and there needs to be a sensitive balance. But when someone you have loved, trusted and done favours to, decides to willfully hurt you, it becomes extremely difficult to accept. If you are looking for a reason why the person you thought is very close to you let you down so badly, read the book “Games People Play” by Eric Burne. It describes the functional and dysfunctional aspects of close relationships. If you are focusing on the person who hurt you then you are intentionally keeping him or her in your mind, allowing the hurt to fester like a septic wound. If you are craving to get an answer to “WHY did (s)he do this to me?” then you are increasing your pain and anguish. The opposite of love is not hatred, it is indifference. If you want to get the person out of your life, you cannot do it by hating or by being angry. You can only do it by developing a sense of indifference. Anyone you are indifferent to cannot hurt you. By continuing to be angry, you may be spoiling other loving relationships, you may lose the ability to rationalize other relations, and you will definitely be a very, very sad person. If someone near and dear has hurt you intentionally, you are assisting him or her in increasing your hurt and fulfilling the other person’s desire. Also keep in mind that stress is cumulative. The stress of agonizing over the past will get added to any new stress you have to face in life.

If you have understood and agreed with what I have written above, then you have to start the process of….

Forgiveness

Forgiveness is not about giving up anything – except bad feelings. You can forgive and not even tell anyone that you have done so. There are many things you don’t have to do when you forgive. Here is a list of most of them. You can probably add more.

  • You don’t have to forget what happened or pretend it didn’t happen.
  • You don’t have to give up your grieving or diminish your feelings of loss or pain.
  • You don’t have to excuse or condone selfish, rude, or abusive behavior.
  • You don’t have to become a doormat. Forgiveness is not weakness; it takes strength and courage to let go and forgive.
  • You don’t have to justify other people’s behavior
  • You don’t have to reconcile with anyone or renew your trust in them
  • You don’t have to remain trapped in negative thoughts and feelings like anger, guilt, resentment, blame, shame or pain.

It’s not necessary to understand why someone acted as they did in order to forgive them. They may not even know why they said or did something hurtful. Understanding their motives, opinions, and concerns may help us widen our own perspective, but “why” information about them is not a prerequisite for forgiving.


Alcohol and Addiction

Alcohol passes through stomach lining (then through small intestine) into bloodstream, then to brain. It depresses the central nervous system within a few minutes, depending on speed of drinking, the dilution, whether food has been eaten etc.

People react differently to alcohol: Feel High, sad or depressed, they develop error of judgment, slow reactions. Some become violent, other forgetful, and some have hangovers.Everyone has a different "limit" in drinking.

Then……Why do people drink?
“Makes me feel good, relaxed” “I am at ease with people”, “To get away from problems”, “Everyone else does”. “Makes me feel attractive, smarter, and stronger.” These are all temporary boosts that extract a great price. Withdrawal symptoms can make a person dysfunctional. The whole family suffers when one person becomes addicted. If your parents drink..... You are more prone towards addiction. The dividing line between social drinking vs. problem drinking is very thin.

Harmful effects of Alcohol: Liver, stomach, brain, heart, pregnancy.
40% of all serious accidents in USA every day, have an alcohol connection. In India also the number is very high.

How to Avoid
Ask yourself why do your friends force you to drink? What is their motive? Say: “No thanks, it makes me sick” “My mother is waiting for me”, “I have a sports match tomorrow”, and be firm. If forced on you, take only one sip, and quietly throw it away Get more involved in sports, yoga, talking it out, spirituality, whatever suits you

Counselling Potential Addicts
Forced treatment does not work. Motivation on the part of the client is important. Motivation varies from time to time. Understand this and accept it.

  • Establish a good rapport
  • Show unconditional acceptance
  • Make him realize you are interested in his welfare.
  • Identify problems caused by his addiction
  • Work out alternate styles of coping with problems
  • Alternate behavior patterns at usual drinking time.
  • Avoid places where he usually drinks.
  • Avoid drinking peers
  • Give free choice, give information of alternative means to give up

Follow Up:
Counsel family to support client during the withdrawal phase, and to avoid criticism. Give unconditional support and listening to family FAMILY MEMBERS should understand Three C’s which are not in their control: Cause Cure Control


COMMUNICATING (Adult with Teenager)
  • Use her language & terminology – allow her to use slang/criticism
  • Use e-mail, SMS, Whats App
  • Listen more than speak
  • Tolerate her wide mood swings from adult to child – don’t react
  • Allow her silences on vital issues (but express your disappointment)
  • Encourage her to talk about her friends (be non-judgmental)
  • Be consistent in exercising your authority
  • Be a role model in day to day activities
  • Show interest in activities that she likes
  • Give her space
  • Offer to help her, but allow her freedom to choose
  • Send her unexpected messages/gifts (and don’t expect response)
  • Share family worries, but reassure that you can handle it
  • Praise specific acts of hers (note, card, gift, public acknowledgement)
  • Bring up topic of concern, be non-judgmental, and ask for her views
  • Talk to her about boys, sex, values, morals & take her opinion
  • Don’t react to her anger outbursts or use of bad language, ignore and move on
  • Discuss role models and what is happening in her world – without passing judgment
  • Whenever possible, give her praise, positive strokes for smallest deeds (not grades) Communication is the most important factor of how she is going to behave with her elders.

I Am…………………….

We have a social Self (the image we present ourselves in society), a personal Self (how we are to ourselves and our closest confidantes) and a secret Self – some very personal experiences or attitudes which we just cannot share with anyone else. This is common to all of us to greater or lesser extent and generally should not cause any serious issues.

However, if there is a wide gap between these three, then we need to introspect whether we are living an artificial or hypocritical life. There will be some discomfort trying to balance the three aspects and shuttling from one to other. Without our realizing, it can take a toll on us in the long run.

I have been noticing that with the advent of technology and social media, many of us now have an e-Selfwhich is what we project to others through Facebook, Linked-in, Instagram, Tinder etc. Hiding behind the protection of the smart-phone we build an image that is just not real.The consequences of such adventurism can eventually be very emotionally traumatic……


The widening GAP

In a slum area nearby there is a small bakery. Among other things they used to stock small packets containing six Parle-G biscuits, costing two rupees per packet. I would see tiny children raising their hands to the counter with 50 paise coins (I didn’t know these coins still existed)asking for one biscuit!

The bakery man would open the packet and give out one biscuit each thus earning 3 rupees for the 6 biscuits! While he made 50% extra profit, I used to wonder about the kids and their families, who could not or would not spend 2 rupees for a full packet of 6 biscuits.

This is how the poorest of the poor keep losing out, paying more than what we do for the same commodities (including exorbitant interest on loans they are forced to take). No wonder they continue to be in debt traps and poverty from generation to generation….


It is said that the nation or society that has the most promising future is one that takes utmost care and gives the best upbringing to the next generation.

When we give good inputs and guidance to young people, we are not doing them a favor, we are doing something for ourselves – when we grow old and become incapable of looking after ourselves, it is these youngsters who will be ruling the world and the society around us. We will either be able to enjoy our sunset years, or spend every day lamenting, “Whaaaat has happened to the world/country/ locality/ society/ family – it is not like our good old days.”

Your good old days were good old days because YOUR elders had created a good environment for you, but if you have not done the same, then you deserve to be miserable.

Do give a thought – you invest so much in your home, savings, insurance, health etc. but the greatest and most profitable investment is the one you make in the new generation.

Do you feel very lonely when you are facing an unexpected setback or challenge?

Suddenly you may feel that everyone in the world is happy and enjoying life, while you are left behind in your own misery. At times you may also feel that friends and relatives let you down exactly when you need them.

If you have experienced the above even once in your lifetime, there is a way to vaccinate yourself from facing it in future: Whenever you even suspect that someone known to you (need not even be a close friend) is going through a setback and is feeling isolated because of his or her misery, just reach out to that person. All you need to do is to convey verbally or non-verbally, “Main hoon na” i.e. I am there for you. You don’t need words and you need not help materially or physically.

Helping others is a great way to inoculate yourself against future hurdles or challenges. You can give unlimited emotional support, and you will still have a reservoir to give more. Unlike charity, giving emotionally does not take away your wealth, it increases it.

A friend of mine was commenting that clouds can be quite naughty and playful

You look up at a clear sky, put away your umbrella and go out – and within minutes you are caught in a downpour! You see heavy rain and call off your plan to go out, and in the next two minutes the rain stops. Even as we look at the clouds and their formations, there is something lively about the way they keep changing shape, sometimes breezing past briskly and at other times remaining stagnant in the same place in the sky. They can get jealous of a beautiful full moon and cover it up completely, and they can overcast the whole sky and prevent you from getting nourishing sunlight.

Most important, they can withhold the rain for weeks on end causing drought at places and water shortage in the cities, or they can create thunderstorms that flood the countryside creating havoc and destruction. Perhaps we need to take more interest in them and study their behavior the way we study humans, animals and plants.

Who knows what wonderful things we will learn?

Why do we have the need to possess or literally own another human being?

When we feel that someone belongs to us, we are willing to go to any length to protect, promote and possess that person. I really wonder if that is love, as we believe. Am I doing all that only to satisfy my ego or my sense of ownership? I often wonder how we can totally ignore others in need and go out of the way to do anything and everything to someone we believe is “mine.”

Is there really anyone that I own in this world? The harsh reality is seen when someone claims to deeply love another person, and when the other rebuts or lets him down, he goes all out to hate and hurt this person he claimed to ‘love.’ Remember the proverb:

“If you love someone, let him go. If he comes back, he is yours, if not, he never was.”

A little Tibet

Muniamma and Kumar squat on the opposite sides of the road and spread out their wares on plastic sheets. Kumar specializes in eatables – one-rupee sweets and indigenous chocolates to fancier packaged junk food. Muniamma sells trinkets, toys, knick-knacks. Most children entering the school arch stop and look on with awe to see if there is something new or enticing to buy. They laugh, giggle, and chat leisurely, as they have reached school way ahead of the time for the first bell.

Nestled between undulating hills and valleys, nature holds sway for miles around. Even the clouds spread and roll in abandon in the unlimited skyline. Walk down the steeply sloping road beyond the arch and you are in a school campus with low-rise buildings, playgrounds, staff quarters and a breathless view of the hills in all four directions. This is the Tibetan school in the Dhondenling Tibetan Settlement, a few kilometers from the one-road little town of Odeyarpalya, a five hour drive from Bangalore.

The charming Tibetan refugees live in 22 ‘villages’ named simply by the alphabets ‘A’,’B’, ‘C’ and so on. Their children walk, cycle or ride to the school. The amazing part is that they love to come to school even an hour or two before assembly – for school is second home to them. From Muniamma to the ever-smiling Principal, teachers and support staff (not to mention a battery of tail-wagging street dogs) everyone welcomes the kids, tiny tots to hulking teenagers.

Time stands still in Dhondenling. No one seems to be in a hurry or under stress. Thousands of miles away from their mountain country the third generation refugees live in contentment and peace – and yet with the undying hope that they will return home one day. Children scamper all over the school campus and beyond. A monastery perched on the highest hill looks down benignly on the lone scooters on the winding roads below, the isolated buildings of the administration office, a traditional hospital, the agriculture cooperative society and a tiny bank.

This is a place where nature rules. And it rules with compassion and care, allowing myriad varieties of birds to flit around, for occasional wild elephants to meander through, for trees to grow to unbelievable heights, and for humans who love nature to learn that life should be allowed to progress at its own pace….

Invaluable

I read something very touching the other day:

Imagine that you had the means to give every person in your life an expensive gift. How happy and appreciative they would be! And how much satisfaction you yourself would get. Actually, you can give others a special gift, something they really need.

It won't cost you anything.

What is it? Your attention! Most people want attention and respond appreciatively when they receive it. To give quality attention, however, you must be an empathetic listener. Most of us forget to listen to our near and dear. We are very polite in listening to even boring strangers, but we take our most loved ones for granted.

Every now and then I make a resolution that I must give more attention, show greater sensitivity and express more affection to those selected few who are very integral part of my life. But slowly I slip, and soon I realize that I am taking them for granted.

Many a time we work hard to take care of the needs of our near and dear. We deprive ourselves of our needs and wants, spend more money to take care of their needs and wants – but we do it more in material things, and very less in fulfilling their emotional needs and wants. Yet in today’s fast paced and competitive world, what our loved ones need from us is some TLC (I hope you know what it is), small loving gestures and the feeling of warmth that comes from knowing that they belong to someone. Let us please give it to them.

Number game

We are all the time encompassed with numbers. The year that has begun is 2019, the date of every day is important to keep planning ahead, we constantly look at the time to keep up our pace, all our near and dear have become trapped in their mobile phone numbers. We are governed by PAN numbers, PIN codes, Adhar number, our vehicle numbers, and our alpha-numeric passwords, our blood pressure readings.

I remember the good old Bollywood movies where the poor man pushed into jail would lament that he has become “Qaidi (prisoner) No. XXX” and has lost his identity. I hope we are not becoming Qaidis entrapping ourselves in our own jails.

The years come and go, leaving good and bad memories – but I want to think that life is more than just numbers. It is emotions, relationships & people. It is names, greetings, pet-names, endearments, descriptions. It is Us !

Republic Day

4 years ago just before Republic Day, I saw an old man selling pins with small metallic National tri-colour flags for five rupees. I bought four of them, and started wearing them in rotation every day. Initially no one seemed to take any notice of this new appendage on my shirt. Then comments started: “Hey, Republic Day is long over, why the flag?” Some people even passed sarcastic remarks, “you don’t have to wear your patriotism on your chest every day”. It set me thinking. People wear their religion, caste, political affiliations on their sleeve, and it is accepted. Everywhere I turn around I see people flaunting their faith or their community – on their foreheads, in their dress, through ornaments, and even on the dashboards or windscreens of their cars. I want to wear my Nationality on my person wherever I go, because I genuinely love my country and am proud to be an Indian, and I hardly have any other regional or parochial affiliations. My language, religion, caste, region or political affiliation are very minor in comparison to my identity as an Indian – and I would like others to know this fact, through a tiny metallic tricolor flag proudly worn on my chest.

Super Hero of the needy

When someone falls sick, a loved one is dying, there is an accident or disability, or when someone is struck down with mental illness – Ramaswamy is the first name that comes to mind.

One phone call, and Ramaswamy does not give you advice what to do, he just informs you how many minutes it will take for him to reach you. Like the pizza delivery man, Ramaswamy is with you in minutes. He takes charge, quietly runs around doing everything possible to relieve the situation, provides solace and reassurance, and manages to get results at lightning speed. Be it a case of brain trauma or mental illness at NIMHANS, a serious case of cancer in Kidwai hospital, a destitute who needs admission in a government hospital, or a person from a far off village lost and desolate looking for a cure in the giant city of Bangalore – he’s there.

Ramaswamy has the uncanny knack of making friends with the right people – never for himself, but to ensure that the contacts he builds up will be useful when the next emergency strikes to a stranger who calls out to him. Travelling from one corner of the city to another, be it by car, scooter or BMTC bus, he does not hesitate to take every suffering soul to the right destination for the most appropriate and affordable cure. And he does not stop with that. He knows where financial relief is available, which authorities to wake up from their slumber to release most deserved concessions or grants to the poorest of poor. He completes his work and moves on …. To meet the next person in need.

Sun is shining, Oh so Bright!

The mist cleared up early. It is nearing 7 a.m. and the sun is peeping over the tallest trees in the East.

The day is becoming quite bright, and the little residents of the salubrious Manthan (Churning of minds) retreat, are up and about. A squirrel comes running and jumping at amazing speed, climbs briskly up the tall wooden pole, and perches himself (herself?) comfortably on top. Enjoying the view and surveying the surroundings, he smoothly glides on to a thin tree branch. For a moment I gasp, is he going to lose his grip and fall? Not at all, he knows how and what he is capable of. Before I can catch my breath, he has effortlessly moved on to another tree and then another, and is out of sight.

There are tiny birds, smaller than the usual sparrows we see in the city. They move in and out of my vision so fast, I cannot keep track of where they are going. In the meanwhile my favorite Vividh Bharathi radio station is broadcasting another session of “Bhoole Bisre Geet (forgotten and scattered retro Hindi songs)”. The slow and lilting music goes well with the slow and measured movements of nature around me. A hot cup of tea appears by my side, and before I can say thanks to the eternally loyal Thirumalamma, she has glided away noiselessly and is sweeping the far end of the campus.

I wish every morning can be so beautiful and bountiful. But I have to get back to the concrete jungle. For every day is not Sunday, and I have promises to keep, and miles to go before I sleep……

Your Attention Please

I read something very touching the other day:

Imagine that you had the means to give every person in your life an expensive gift. How happy and apprecia¬tive they would be! And how much satisfaction you yourself would get. Actually, you can give others a special gift, something they really need. It won't cost you anything.

What is it? Your attention! Most people want atten¬tion and respond appreciatively when they receive it. To give quality attention, however, you must be an empathetic listener. Most of us forget to listen to our near and dear. We are very polite in listening to even boring strangers, but we take our most loved ones for granted.

Every now and then I make a resolution that I must give more attention, show greater sensitivity and express more affection to those selected few who are very integral part of my life. But slowly I slip, and soon I realize that I am taking them for granted. Many a time we work hard to take care of the needs of our near and dear. We deprive ourselves of our needs and wants, spend more money to take care of their needs and wants – but we do it more in material things, and very less in fulfilling their emotional needs and wants. Yet in today’s fast paced and competitive world, what our loved ones need from us is some TLC (I hope you know what it is), small loving gestures and the feeling of warmth that comes from knowing that they belong to someone. Let us please give it to them.

Corporate work life

The VIP Guest House of IIT Roorkee, calm ambience of the formal dining hall at dinner time. I saw a young gentleman looking a little lost as he entered, so I invited him over to my table. He turned out to be a very successful Corporate Executive heading operations of a large MNC. He had just finished giving a talk to the students on developments post demonetization.

As we spoke his phone rang 3 times in 10 minutes, and he kept on telling the person at the other end that he will be with him in a short while. He explained apologetically that his associate was calling him back to the guest room because he needed advice on a presentation that they were preparing. Apparently his boss had called up from Delhi to tell him that an important customer wants a proposal on Monday morning.

I then understood that despite it being a Saturday night, he and his associate will sit late in the night, prepare the proposal, drive to Delhi early morning, and go his boss’ house to show him what he had prepared. He said it is quite likely that boss will make major changes, so he will sit on Sunday night and finalize the presentation.

The person I was talking to was in his thirties, good looking and smart, he said he has two small children, and he will not be able to spend the weekend with his family – which is a regular affair. Of course he earns a salary which has so many zeroes in it that I cannot even count!

Modern Leadership

Ratan Tata appointed Cyrus Mistry as the head of the Tata empire after extensive professional search. Narayan Murthy and his team appointed Vishal Sikka as the Head of Infosys bypassing senior executives. Mulayam Singh Yadav appointed his son Akhilesh Yadav the Chief Minister of UP when he himself could have enjoyed that position. And subsequently each of these stalwarts got into a public spat with their appointees, accusing them in the media and elsewhere of mismanagement, and tried to take back control.

I have often seen this desire among successful leaders to want to become Remote-controllers and to rule by proxy, without having the responsibility or answerability that a designation brings. And even after having gone through a rigorous and time consuming selection process, they are so unhappy eventually with their appointees that they want to take back their positions, undo whatever the successor had done, and start from square one. In many cases this process can be unpleasant, acrimonious, bitter.

I often wonder why such people cannot let go and retire gracefully, even if their successors are not doing things exactly the way they would want them to. What makes them hand over authority, keep monitoring from a distance, and again step in to make changes? In most cases age is catching up with them and the task of rebuilding is not an easy one.

I suppose we do not learn from nature how the old order gives way gracefully to the new and the cycle of fresh harvests and new blooms continue to make the world a better place.

Giving time a Break

There is a famous proverb: “Man travels all over the world looking for happiness, only to find it at home.” The mystic poet Kabir Das had also said something similar about searching everywhere for God and then finding out that He resides in your own home.

I have always been a critical admirer of proverbs and quotes of famous men. But I do not blindly follow and applaud them. There are times when I find some very popular proverbs either irrelevant, senseless, or even exactly opposite of what I believe in. When I identify such a quote, I just ignore it and move on. But I find so many people who blindly read, repeat, forward and quote to others, without giving a deep thought to their relevance – more so if it is a quote by a “foreigner” with an impressive sounding Western name.

With due respect to many great people (who may often say great pearls of wisdom, but not always so), I think we should introspect and evaluate the relevance or usefulness of a quote. Going again to the proverb at the top, is it necessary that we come back after our explorations and find happiness at home? What if we have grouchy family members, or if we are going through stress at home for various reasons? We can perhaps find happiness when we explore beyond and see how others are dealing with their life situations.

Travel is a great education in itself and even a source of joy.

Road to Happiness

I don’t know if I am over-reacting, but I find more and more people who do not stick to their commitments, punctuality, or minor responsibilities. In this era of very easy communication, I find people who do not take calls or messages, do not call back, and do not show any remorse when questioned on it.

At times it becomes a question of how important or useful you are to them. If you are a person in authority or are useful to them in some way, then they do not wait for you to contact them, they are calling you up constantly, sending mails, sending “gentle” reminders of what you have to do for them. And once the work is over, they go back to the same attitude of indifference.

I do agree that we live in a competitive world, and everyone wants to keep climbing up the ladder of success. But what I fail to understand is that having people to support you when you stumble, cheer you on when you are struggling, or guide you if you are straying from your path – are as important as those who can actually give you a lift.

Even Newton, when praised for his great achievements, is reported to have said, “I could see far ahead because I was standing on the shoulders of tall men.” There are emotionally tall men and women all around us. They are not celebrities or billionaires or persons in authority. But they can lend their shoulders, not only to climb and see far ahead, but sometimes to lean on and have a good cry. Are you nurturing such shoulders?

Measure of Success

“Please tell me which is the best career?”

“In which career will I make the most money?”

“Which career has the best ‘scope’?”

These are the questions I am faced with on a regular basis not only from students, but also from their parents. I wish I could answer them ….. but I am only a counselor, not an astrologer or a palm reader. I can assess a person, find out all the abilities, traits, aptitude and intelligences, and I can match them to the most suitable careers. But can I predict how much money the person is going to make? If I could do that I would not be sitting here as a counselor and would probably be minting money myself elsewhere.

In today’s era of innumerable challenging and rewarding careers it is so sad to see people following the herd mentality and losing out on very promising opportunities. There are very nice, simple and proven methods to select the right career most suited to an individual, match it to his or her interest/ passion if any, and thus select a course and vocation that will be most successful, profitable, and enjoyable.

If you wish to take that path, I can assure you that you will never regret your decision, and you will be able to make your vocation into a vacation.

Selfishness

Are we all selfish people?

Enrollments for the new DCS batch are going on, and I am amazed at the number of students who are coming into this simple, experiential and unorthodox course with such high qualifications and credentials. Some have given up high-paid and high-status jobs, others have put aside prestigious achievements, comforts, their status, and have agreed to become students – to learn about life, about themselves, about others, and how to reach out to people.

When intellectuals say that humans are basically selfish and greedy, that they only look for their own benefit, I want to tell them about our students – and also those who have been giving selfless voluntary service for years after they qualify in our counseling course. These are the people who keep reinforcing my faith in humanity, and I feel so privileged that I am able to have such amazing people around me. That is what keeps motivating me to continue with my humble mission.

I am sure you too will find some selfless people around you – it is up to you to spend time with them, nurture your relationship with them, and find an oasis in the self-centered world.

Growing up

As I grow older, I realize that I have so much to learn from younger and younger people. It is nice to be old, with all your happy and sad memories, the nostalgia and particularly the beautiful relationships you have built and you cherish – even if sometimes the people are no more. But if we get stuck in the past, and keep talking about “In my good old days….” we are denying ourselves the opportunity to participate in the most exciting and challenging things that are happening now, which we couldn’t even have dreamt of some decades ago.

I will not forget the hundred year old man who, when people asked what the advantages of being a centurion are, he replied: “No peer pressure.” I agree with him. If I spend time with people of my age or older, I find very few of them willing to adapt and adjust to the new world and enjoy what it has to offer. Living in the past is not going to bring back the past, but will deprive you of living in the present, and planning for the future.

That is another topic of interest. Many elderly people do not want to plan for the future (except bolstering their investments or health insurance) just because their age has crossed certain numbers. But there is more to life than just physical security. Here I would like to quote the story of another centurion who was very positive and enthusiastic, and when asked the secret of his motivation, he replied: “every morning I drag myself out of bed with all my bones aching, go outside and fetch the newspaper. I open the Obituary Column to see whether my photo is there. If it is not there then I know I have one more day on this earth and I might as well enjoy it!”

The Guru

Guru Purnima came and went this month. Even the full moon was a little dull due to cloudy weather. I received many messages of gratitude and appreciation that warmed my heart – though personally I don’t believe that I have really been a Guru as such.

Which made me think –what really is a Guru? Is it just the teachers who taught us through text books, is it the religious wise men who give sermons, is it the person who coaches you when you have exams and sees that you pass? Surprisingly my best and most effective gurus have been none of these – they have been people who encouraged me to think for myself, motivated me to progress without them being my crutches, cheered me on when I was doing something nice, and stood by me when I faltered.

Some of my gurus have also been my worst critics who made all efforts to pull me down, and in the process lit a spark of determination in me that I should prove them wrong!

Many a time we do not realize how much we are learning from different people, leave alone acknowledging and appreciating them for what they have given us! Shall we start doing it now at least?

Writing

When I write, I do so for myself.

Sometimes people appreciate what I write, at times they say they do not understand, and some just ignore because they are too busy to read trivia. Of course in this age of Instagram and Twitter, perhaps reading a few paragraphs, and that too on paper and not on the mobile, must be quite a task to many people. But that does not discourage me, because I write for myself…..

I have always held the view that it is better to love than to be loved. Not many agree with me, at least not in practice. But I believe that when I love I am in control of myself, I am choosing to do what makes me happy. I am not dependent on anyone, not even on the person I love. Hence life is so much smoother and fulfilling.

Similarly, when I write I am bringing out my thoughts. Why should it be important to me whether others choose to read, agree, criticize, condemn, or as in most cases ……ignore? If you are reading this, don’t evaluate my expression. Use it to create thoughts and ideas of your own – and share it with others. You may have much more and better things to say than me, and there may be people who appreciate your inputs.