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Be the change you wish to see

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/be-the-change-you-wish-to-see-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Be the change you wish to see
Ali_aug10Lately there has been wide awareness of civic rights, of need to be responsible citizens, and often quoted were Mahatma Gandhi's words "BE the change you wish to see." Many youngsters woke up to their responsibility and resolved that they will not just sit back and complain, but will actively do something to change society and life.

Corruption, inefficiency, callousness of the administrative machinery, environmental balance, sanitation and hygiene were some of the issues much written about and debated. Young fresh faces contested elections without the backing of political parties, NGO's took up various causes, blogs appeared all over calling for support and advocacy. In some places, change appeared to be happening.

Some issues have actually been tackled by these young enthusiasts, and transformation is visible. Some other issues brought about momentary change (at least indicating that it IS possible), and then slid back into the old complacency. Some other efforts (such as "clean" candidates fighting elections) met with very disappointing results.

ali1_aug10What is YOUR view on this basic issue? If you have not taken a stand, please do so now. Whether you succeed or not, try to assert your identity, for appeasing your own conscience if not for society. My stand is based on the age-old saying (or is it a prayer?) that says,
"Lord, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can...
And the wisdom to know the difference.

About the author



Do Good, Avoid Hurting - Enrich The World

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/do-good-avoid-hurting-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Do Good, Avoid Hurting - Enrich The World
Whenever I am accosted with "values" or "morals" I am completely stumped. Some say that Ends justify the Means – i.e. telling lies for someone's good is ok. Killing an "enemy" in war gets a medal, killing your personal enemy gets you life imprisonment. Cheating your neighbour of a hundred rupees is bad, but cheating the Income Tax Department of a lakh of rupees is okay.

Dr. Ali's April10 ArticleMore confusing is – should I be critical of my friend on his face, or should I be nice to him even when I know that he is doing something "wrong"? Is it sinful to kill one animal and eat its flesh, while I wear a silk shirt that has been made after killing hundreds of silk-worms? Is it okay for a Doctor to be engrossed in prayers when his patients are in pain and need him? Where does the list stop?

I often wonder what is good or bad in this world. The rat eats the insect, the cat kills the rat, and the dog chews up the cat. Ironically, the insects then keep merrily sucking blood from the dog! And life goes on ....

Dr. Ali's Article April2010The only very clear directive that I could find in this confused scenario is – do as much good to others as you can (and define good by what THEY want, not what you THINK they need), and consciously avoid hurting anyone intentionally. If we follow these two rules, we will be enriching our lives and creating a better world around us.

About the author



Are you afraid to say 'NO'?

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/five-steps-to-learn-to-say-no-by-counsellor-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Do you end up doing things you don't want to?

Assert yourself - learn to say no
Credit: Christopher Robert Quintas Alba, CC-By-2.0, flickr.com

In five simple steps, learn to assert yourself and say 'NO'

Often, do you find yourself saying or thinking the lines below?

"Right from childhood I have had this problem of saying NO to anyone, and I end up doing things I don't want to, and hating myself in the process."

"I neglect my own needs; people just take me for granted. I have tried all possible means but I just cannot get out of this habit. What should I do to get over this problem?"

Good! You have already taken the first step towards learning to say NO (that is, you're aware of and acknowledge that you have a problem).

Step 1. The consciousness that you are not making anyone (including yourself) happy by obliging all and sundry should help you prioritize what you will do for whom.

Step 2. Understand clearly that if the other person has the right to ask, you have the right to refuse. If you refuse and the other person terms you selfish or uncaring, do not walk into the guilt trap being laid for you - do not submit to such emotional blackmail.

Step 3. Identify the unreasonable people you can keep away from. Keep in mind that there are inevitably a few people who make quite unreasonable demands, and these few have obviously understood your weakness and take full advantage of it. Identify these people, and see how many of them you can keep away from. It is not cowardice - ask yourself if you really need the relationships with such manipulative persons.

Step 4. Clearly list out what you would like to and would not like to do for your near and dear. Consider those who are close to you and who you cannot isolate yourself from, and list out what you would like to do for them, and what you wouldn't.

Thoroughly convince yourself that you need to balance your needs with those of others, however close they may be. Also remind yourself that there may be more deserving people who require your attention or favours, who are missing out because you are too busy obliging only those who put pressure on you.

Step 5. Start saying NO without apologies or explanations. Without further delay, start the practice of saying NO to the least pushy among those you have always been obliging. Keep in mind that you should just say NO without offering apologies or explanations. Smile, make eye contact, and just TELL the person that you would not like to do what is being asked of you. Every time you succeed, jot it down as a stepping stone to ultimate success and slowly start tackling the more difficult persons.

Say no without apologies or explanations
Credit: Samantha Villagran, sxc.hu

You'll soon find that you're doing fewer things you don't want to and be happier with yourself.

About the author Dr. Ali Khwaja



Start With These Steps
- For Peace And Harmony

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/start-with-these-steps-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Start With These Steps - For Peace And Harmony

We hear so much about universal love, unconditional love, and the need to build peace and harmony. We spend hours sermonizing about how terrorism should end, and nations should not go to war.

Yet in our day to day life we find it so much easier to criticize, pass negative remarks, and encourage suspicion and hatred. We do not realize how we are contributing towards this at a micro-level – and each drop goes to make the ocean!

Watch the little child who picks up a stone and throws it at a stray pup. Who taught him to do that? Listen to the student who comes from school and says proudly that his group does not play with one boy who is “different” in some way. Observe the preachers and politicians who spend more time attacking opponents than talking about the good done by their own group. Is there a connection?

All we need to do is look into the mirror, and we will find where the hatred and violence in this world is coming from.

Let us start with these simple steps

  1. stop criticizing someone unless his behavior is harming us,
  2. refrain from even listening to gossip,
  3. reduce suspicion of people who belong to other categories than us,
  4. never generalize any bad thing done by an individual or group. With these steps, in our own small way, we will be taking the world towards the much needed peace and harmony.

Related Thoughts on Peace and Harmony
Some Signs and Symptoms of Inner Peace

About the author



In Memoriam:  Sitaram N (22 Jan 1970–2 Apr 2010)

A young man, very soft-spoken, unassuming, modest. When he first offered to build Banjara’s website, I was not sure of his capabilities. Perhaps I took him on board only because I knew both his brother and sister very well, they are both old DCS (Diploma in Counselling Skills) students.

Sitaram literally got “down” to work - he occupied the basement, and would slide in and out of the office without a sound. No one could guess what he was doing until we saw the output. Within days he had transformed all of Banjara’s past, present and future activities into a very simple, straightforward and yet very clear and impressive website. And before we knew it, Banjara had become international. We were getting responses from far away places, and for the first time in over twenty years, our work was getting its due appreciation.

Sitaram had much higher plans for Banjara. He had taken up the challenge of converting the Counselling course into an online program available to anyone in any part of the world. He began in earnest, and there was no doubt that he would have made a tremendous success of it if time had been on his side.

Fate struck a cruel blow to a young, energetic, healthy and balanced man, in the form of stomach cancer. Doctors told him that it was very advanced, and prognosis was very bleak. But Sitaram was made of a soft exterior and a hard determined interior. He fought. He was laid low with chemotherapy sessions, he went into remission more than once, but he never gave up. He did as much work as he could between painful and exhausting bouts of treatment. He smiled through his trauma, even as his wife Sachi smiled through her tears and held his hand through this turbulent journey.

I last met him two days before the battle was won by cancer. He was wearing his favourite Asterix T-shirt presented by his loving sister Bhavani, and waiting for his brother Narayan who was rushing back from Delhi knowing that the end was near. Yet he smiled. He gave a red rose to a lady visitor. He inquired about others. And he slid down with pain and grogginess.

Cancer won the battle, and Sitaram lost. But he proved that the vanquished is at times more praiseworthy than the victorious. He left us with an example, a role model, of how to live every day and every moment of life.
Sitaram lives on …



How To Communicate With A Teenager

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/how-to-communicate-with-a-teenager-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

How To Communicate With A Teenager
  • Use his language & terminology – allow him to use slang/criticism
  • Use e-mail, SMS
  • Listen more than speak
  • Tolerate his wide mood swings from adult to child – don’t react
  • Allow his silences on issues (but express your disappointment)
  • Encourage him to talk about his friends (be non-judgemental)
  • Be consistent in exercising your authority
  • Show interest in activities that he likes
  • Give him space
  • Offer to help him, but allow him freedom to choose
  • Send him unexpected messages/gifts (and don’t expect response)
  • Exhibit a positive mental attitude about yourself
  • Share family worries, but reassure that you can handle it
  • Don’t ever compare with sibling
  • Praise specific acts of his (note, card, gift, public acknowledgement)
  • Be a role model in day to day activities
  • Bring up topic of concern, be non-judgemental, and ask for his views
  • Talk to him about girls, sex, values, morals & take his opinion

Related Thoughts on Teenagers
Living With Adolescents
Should I tolerate unacceptable behaviour of my son?
My Son is Refusing to go to School

See Report on
Teaching Life Skills To Adolescents

See Book on
Understanding Teenagers

About the author



How To Be With Special Children

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/how-to-be-with-special-children-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Facebook post for article: How To Be With Special Children

How to be with special children

Many of us are uncomfortable with people who are different from us. Children who suffer from developmental or physical disabilities, or who are intellectually challenged, are difficult to understand when you first interact with them. You may have noticed this in your visits to institutions for special children.

What we need to do is to increase our sensitivity to these “differently-abled” persons. Do not show your compassion or pity because they cannot do some of the activities we can. Do not talk about their disability in their presence (they can “hear”, and even if they are deaf, they can understand your body language). Do not presume that you can intrude on their privacy. Show genuine interest in befriending them, and treat them as you would treat any other so-called “normal” child. If you need more learning about their specific disabilities, find out from books, experts, or Banjara, but do not ask questions in their presence. Let them feel that they are no different, for indeed at the emotional level, they aren’t. Thanks.

About the author



Let's Pass On the Baton to our Children Happily, Not Hold Sway over them Forever!

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/lets-not-hold-sway-over-our-children-forever-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Let's Pass On the Baton to our Children Happily, Not Hold Sway over them Forever!

Every king was once a crying baby and every great building was once a blueprint. Mausoleums and tombs testify that every king has turned to dust, and every palace has crumbled to the ground.

That is how the cycle of life moves continuously. Everything in nature follows the pattern - the seed germinates into a plant, the plant yields fruits and withers away. The fruit is eaten and the seed is thrown to the ground, in turn to become a plant and a tree.

It is only we humans who believe that we are immortal and that nature has been made for us, not the other way round. We refuse to acknowledge that we are a fleeting and tiny part of evolution, and we in turn have to yield to the new generation.

One day our children will take over the world. We will be dependent on them, and we will be citizens in the world we have created for them to take over. Let us pay more attention to those who are younger than us. Let us accept that they often know more than we do, and hold as good values and morals as we claim to have.

We are so concerned about what our child will become that we forget to appreciate what he already is. Similarly, if we are proud of our achievements and our assets, let us not forget that

“It’s not where you are today, but where you’ll reach tomorrow.”

So shall we pass on the baton to our children happily, as soon as they are adults, not hold sway over them forever?

About the author



Hold on to your memories: Sad or Happy

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/hold-on-to-and-cherish-your-memories-sad-or-happy-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Hold on to your memories: Sad or Happy

Of all the wealth and assets we acquire in life, perhaps the most valuable are our memories. I read a proverb,

“Why is it that when we think of those who made us cry, we rejoice with happiness, and when we think of those who made us laugh, we cry on not having them with us?”

Memories cannot be stolen or taken away from us, not even by the highest authority of the land. Memories can be replayed, relived, and rejoiced at any time, anywhere, and in any selected form.

Let us hold on to our memories, both sad and happy, and let us cherish them as one of our greatest assets of life. Let us not judge them, or think of what “should have been.” Let us just clean them like we clean the glass of an old photograph, polish them till they shine, and make them bright and clear, so that we can close our eyes and walk into them, away from the mundane life of today.

Do not run away from unpleasant memories, do not try to suppress them, and do not try to deny them. Make friends with them. The incidents may have been very unpleasant, but the memories can be very useful to shape a better life tomorrow.

And, of course, the happy memories – they tide us over the stormy and gloomy days if we are willing to keep them alive. They can give us warmth on the most chilly and lonely nights. Nurture them, and keep them safe.

About the author



Do you know
why sparrows have disappeared?

Author: Dr. Ali Khwaja

Perma-link for article: http://www.banjaraacademy.org/when-was-the-last-time-you-saw-a-little-sparrow-by-counsellor-author-life-coach-dr-ali-khwaja

Do you know why sparrows have disappeared?

When was the last time you saw a little sparrow sitting on a tree branch or a window ledge?

Some people say it is because of the mobile telephone towers, whose electric currents have been making them infertile. Others say that with the drying up of water bodies, they die of thirst in summer. Whatever may be the reason, be aware that we owe it to ourselves to protect the tiny and helpless creatures the sparrows and pigeons, the frogs, the squirrels who live in perfect harmony in urban areas along with human beings, and actually help us in many ways.


We too can find ways and means of making them feel welcome and safe. Small amounts of left over food kept out on the compound wall or terrace can be a sumptuous meal for them. Having a pond in your house will be a source of joy for them. If you are creative, you can even set up a water harvesting system in your house, whereby you collect rainwater from the terrace and other areas, and channel it into a container. This water can be used for washing, gardening, flushing, etc.

Another simple task: Find a nice open ledge in your house and put a shallow and wide plastic or tin container where it is easily visible from the sky. Fill it with fresh water every day, and see how quickly some birds discover it and use it for their daily drink. I have a crow who regularly brings stale pieces of roti, bread etc., drops them into the water bowl I have kept on the balcony, and comes back after an hour or two when his food is softened by being in water, and then happily enjoys a hearty snack !

To make our world a better place, you too can play your role by partnering with these little creatures who will not only help you maintain an ecological balance, but will also become good friends. When you have the time, sit quietly and watch the scampering of squirrels – it is wonderful to see their graceful movements, the games they play with each other, their search for food, and the way they enjoy even a small morsel. They will teach you how to live happily with the least luxuries.

Image Credit: Daria, flickr.com, Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 License

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Page 48 of 48


FREE Online Psychological Counselling by Banjara Academy for anyone, anywhere in the world FREE online counselling for the depressed

  • Are you stressed about your child?
  • Is your marriage in trouble?
  • Are you stressed about your education?
  • Do you feel overwhelmed by anxiety and fear?

Just mail your counsellor now, sharing your problems, your worries, your anxieties, your fears. Your counsellor will reply to you, and be there for you until you need her to help you cope and get going.

Leading Banjara Academy's online email counselling team of volunteer-counsellors, I realize it is not an easy task reaching out to a person one has never met, never seen, without the added advantage of gestures, eye contact, a gentle reassuring touch, tone of voice and yet providing empathy, positive strokes, making the person feel heard and understood.

With the aid of only written words, it is quite a task building trust, making people open up and share and helping them cope and feel better. So when in many instances they write back saying thank you and that they feel so much better, the feeling one gets is priceless and incomparable - knowing one has done something right, something good!

Hats off to all the volunteeer-counsellors of Banjara Academy who have been carrying on this work silently, anonymously for the last couple of years. Truly commendable! - Ali Khwaja


This website was initially conceived and designed by the late Sitaram N
Copyright © 2017 www.banjaraacademy.org. Creative Commons License
Except where otherwise noted, the Content of the Website of Banjara Academy - the text, the audios, the videos, the images - contributed by Dr Ali Khwaja and his team of volunteers at Banjara Academy is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.