Ali Khwaja

Ali Khwaja

Aab knows what loneliness is. He has not only experienced it, he has seen it written in bold capital letters on people's faces - people who laugh, dress up well, mix freely, and communicate with ease. Because when he looks at faces, he does not stop at the surface. His eyes go deeper into the mind, and there he sees a completely different picture. Aab knows that people are like the theater stage, Under the bright spotlights, with full make- up and rehearsed lines, there is glamor, attraction, thrills and laughter. Look just a little behind the edge of the stage4 - and there is the ugly side of unkempt faces and irregular material, coupled with minds that show anxiety and maybe even frustration. Yet, it is these minds that make the show entertaining for others.


So are the lonely people. They are the ones who make life better for others to enjoy the show called life. But then, Aab is disturbed that anyone in this world should actually be lonely. There are people suffering from Living Together Loneliness, having relatives, family and friends all around them, but mentally cut-off. There are those who are more lonely in crowds than they are when they are alone.

Great spiritual leaders talk about overcoming loneliness. They show the path to merge with the Creator, thus surrendering your very being and becoming one with the Universe. Aab is a very small, ordinary and unenlightened person. He can feel one with a astray dog, with a row of ants, with a paper boat flowing with rain water - but not beyond that. The funny thing is that these very beings, according to Aab, can take away loneliness. But some of 7us doggedly hang on to our individuality, isolating ourselves from so many wonderful things around us. He wants to help them. Some listen to him, some don't. Some listen and forget; some do change and enjoy their newfound, warmth.

Aab looks up at the sky and wonders what lies beyond. Space is finite, but only because man has created his own limitations. Water can be stopped by a dam, but no human can stop it from evaporating or seeping into the ground. Man shuts out the breeze to insulate his AC room - but he still needs to breathe the same air.

Humans build fences to enclose and protect their property - and are in turn interred into six feet of ground where even the tiniest of insect can nibble at his remains. Aab has a lot of time to think. And he thinks of time. He knows that man has never mastered time and never will - for man is too busty putting walls around time, while time roams free of all fetters. Man creates his own misery of perpetually running short of time- until time abandons him and moves on in gay merriment while the most active human turns to dust and ashes.

The architect of the universe, when he designed man on his drawing board (He does not use Auto cad), gave man total mastery over one wonderful asset - his emotions. But man does not know how to use this valuable legacy. He is so busy chasing the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow, that he has missed out on the worth of the rainbow itself.

Aab wishes we would spend more time understanding our feelings and gain mastery over them. That, Aab knows is the final conquest man can achieve

There was an advertisement splashed over all the newspapers recently showing a sleek flashy car and a few horses standing in a docile manner nearby. The slogan read "Horses are meant to be tamed." I don't know ho much sales of the car the advertisement fetched, but I was wondering at the pompousness of the advertiser who made the highly egoistic statement, and that too without any context.

How often we have presumed that we are the Masters of the living and non-living beings around us! For centuries the White Man believed that the Black Man has no soul and hence should be kept enslaved. For millennia we have been destroying ecology for our short term gains. All over the world bosses use their subordinates as though they were use-and-throw gadgets (I was tempted to say "as though they were cattle", but then, are cattle meant to be used by us?)

Some time ago at a glittering charity function I met the top executive of a company, who proudly told me, "My company, which is one of the sponsors of this event, is among the top five cigarette manufacturers in the country." A little later a butler was moving around offering the same.

Company's cigarettes to the guests. On being approached, my new found friend declined, and then turned to me and said, "You know I used to be a chain smoker, But, by God's Grace I have now given up completely!"

When will God's Grace descend on his customers, and on all of us who think that we can use others to further our own desires?

I agree with them wholeheartedly. There is a tendency in us to "pass the buck", as the Americans would say. We inevitably look for a scapegoat, or something/someone to put the blame on. Agreed, having guns makes it easier for a person to cause greater damage to life, but if it were not guns, it would be something else. As individuals, as a community, and as humanity, we need to look into what is our attitude and where we are heading at the emotional level. It is said that Canada has more guns than USA, but far lesser crime rate. Doesn't that tell us something?

Closer home, let us introspect how much we tend to blame alcohol, high speed bikes, TV, internet, for all the ills around us. But they are lifeless things, they do not have a will of their own, and they are only as dangerous as the user. The rate at which technology is going, if we start blaming gadgets we will soon have to ban all new inventions!

Life doesn't work that way. Instead of switching off the TV or shouting at the children, we need to teach kids about balanced TV viewing. Similarly we need to create awareness on benefits of Internet, bikes, movies, mobiles phones etc. We need to show them that we love them, and give them love in the way they want it, not the way we think they need it. Let us take the responsibility and do something about it.

Children need to be taught Life Skills - how to handle themselves and how to understand and interact with others. They need to be empowered to take decisions and grow into responsible citizens of the world. And it is the responsibility of every adult to do this teaching.

The famous Henry David Thoreau said, "If you have built castles in the air, your work need not be lost; that is where they should be. Now put the foundations under them."

I am very touched by this quote because this draws the wonderful mean between dreamers and realists. As I counsel hundreds of students to select their careers, I come across so many dreamers who build castles in the sir, and I come across an equally large number of parents who are walking behind them picking holes in those dreams. I often wonder who is right and which path we should encourage?

There are the Gandhis, Martin Luther Kings, the Dhirubhai Ambanis, Amitabh Bachchans and Sachin Tendulkars, who built castles in the sir, and built them so large that an entire humanity could seek shelter in their castles. Of course for every one such successful person, there are innumerable others who have wasted their (as well as others') time and money dreaming of the impossible, and missing out on what was available.

I think the answer lies in Thoreau's statement. I feel it is very important for young people to "dream, dream, dream," in the words of the ex-President of India, Dr Abdul Kalam.

What we need to do is NOT KILL the DREAMS of UPCOMING YOUTH, but encourage them to build castles in the air, and then help them put the foundations under them.

ON A LIGHTER NOTE

Of course, when I say young people, I refer, as always, not to the physical age! :-) I call upon all to dream, dream, dream - the physically young as well as those older in years but who continue to think, feel and approach life with the spirit of youth.

Do not dream just in your sleep. You'll have no clue about dreams in sleep unless you wake up in the middle of one of them!

Am reminded of a quote I saw on a young man's T-shirt. Think it went something like this -

It is impossible to achieve anything without dreaming.

So go to sleep!

LOL:-))

How often we lament, "I didn't know what to say on the occasion of ....", or "When my friend was crying, I just didn't know how to respond". Is it just the lack of vocabulary or command over the language? No. When we need to write official letters, we find the flow so smooth, when we wish to reprimand a junior or a child, we find the words pouring out without any blocks.

We are stuck in awkward situations because we have not learnt the beauty of the Language of Love. This language is the same in English, Hindi, Kannada or Latin. It comprises of "feeling" words. It is built up by expressing more and more endearments to different people around us. It is strengthened by developing a sharp mind to look for and identify the smallest good qualities of people.

Saying nice things is not a charitable act. It makes us feel better with our own selves, and the compliment comes back to us in some form or the other. Using the language of Love reduces tension, blood pressure, negativity: and it empowers us to face ups and downs of life. At no cost.

--Ali

Many of you who drive may have faced this situation quite often — the traffic light seems to turn red just when you are reaching the intersection! It is so irritating to be continuously held up in traffic junctions when we are in a hurry to reach our destination. It almost appears as though the lights have hatched a conspiracy against us.

This is called the ‘Red Light Syndrome’. Actually, if one were to ask a statistician, he would say that the ratio of green and red lights is exactly the same for every vehicle. Then why is it that we face so many red lights? The same question can be asked about our life. Many a time we face a situation wherein we are compelled to ask “Why me?” It appears as though we are getting more than our fair share of troubles and setbacks.

If one were to look at the structure of a miniature atom, one would realize that there is an order and harmony in its construction. If one looks up at the stars and constellations, one would realize that in billions of years they have not gone haywire colliding into each other. Would not the same principles apply to our life? There is a Super Power up there (a ‘Main Frame’ of the Universe in IT speak), who probably ensures that a harmony of give and take regulates everything that happens to us.

Yet many of us get bogged down by the Red Light Syndrome of life, and spend valuable time complaining how life is being unfair. In this situation we do not realize that we are being equally unfair to ourselves, pulling ourselves further down than necessary. We forget that we have been bestowed with the greatest boon of all — the mind. If we use our mind (and of course our heart), we can play a more proactive role in our own life, and rise to reach a situation similar to one the great poet Iqbal had described:

Khudi ko kar buland itna, ke har taqdeer se pehle

Khuda khud bandey se poonchhey, “Baata, teri raza kya hai?”

(Raise yourself to such a lofty height, that before writing your fate God himself should be compelled to ask you “What do you desire for yourself?”)

- Ali

Know yourself about who you are

A Samurai (a traditional wise man) was approached by a student wanting to know what heaven and hell are. He replied, 'I can't waste time with a useless lout like you.' The student was so enraged with the insult that he pulled out his sword to kill the teacher. 'That is hell,' said the Samurai smilingly. The student understood his error and apologized profusely, whereupon the teacher said, 'That is heaven.

Awareness of your own feelings is acknowledged as the basic step towards building emotional maturity. Because only awareness can lead to action towards change. The only person we can change without any trouble is the person with whom we spend 24 hours of our life - OUR OWN SELF.

SWOT AnalysisNot many of us do much introspection of our own Strengths and Weaknesses, our Opportunities and Threats (known as SWOT analysis in managerial jargon). Not many of us are proactive, and hence spend our life reacting to situations. Perhaps we need to pay heed to the simple two words attributed to Adi Sankara: 'Aham Brahmasmi' - I am the Universe, (and therefore I am responsible for all I do).

You cannot always do what you like, but you can certainly like what you do. And because that is difficult, that is challenging. When you meet the challenge, you will be proud of yourself, and that in itself will be a source of motivation.

There are over six billion human beings on this earth. No two humans have the same fingerprint. That is an indicator that each one of us is unique - each one of us certainly has unique characteristics. The need is for us to find that uniqueness, become aware of it, and use it to advantage

Everyone was in a hurry. The drizzle increased anxiety levels, and people hastened their steps. Even those well ensconced in cars with the glasses securely wound up, seemed to be wanting to get home in a hurry. It was not yet time for sunset, but the looming clouds had made the evening darker than usual. First the roads had a spattering of raindrops on them, then the colour of the tar changed to a darker blue as the wetness spread all over. Subsequently little rivulets started winding their way down the road.

On the edge of the road the piddle grew bigger, and vehicles would either cautiously skirt it, or callously splash water on pedestrians.

Everyone seemed to be disturbed by the opening up of the skies- except one little fellow. Most passers by did not notice him, he was so dark and small, huddle up on the footpath. He had laboriously made a paper boat, and was floating it in the puddle. The drizzle did not seem to bother him, neither did the splashing waters of speeding cars. He was in no hurry.

I stood under a ledge and watched him, fascinated. The swirling currents made by the little rivulet held his complete attention. He did not even mind when the flow of the water took away his precious paper boat beyond his vision. He found renewed interest by paddling his little toes in the water.

I learnt two lessons that evening- the first was that nothing and no one belongs to anyone. The water did not belong to anybody, and the little boy had learnt early enough in life that the paper boat did not belong to him. The second insight was in the fact that here was this little fellow with his whole life ahead of him, and he was not bothered about the passing time, the rain, or splash of muddy water. He did not care for his security or for his health. The hundreds who went past him failed to see the lesson of life he was teaching us by his own example.

The next time when it rains, can we stop and enjoy it without looking at our watch?

- Ali

For those of us who have grown up so much that we have forgotten this childhood story, let me remind you once again:

There was a king who was very proud and arrogant. A thief took advantage of his ego and told him that he could make coat of gold that would be the most beautiful one on earth. The catch, he said, was that only intelligent people would be able to see the coat, and fools would not be able to. The thief took a lot of gold from the king and pretended to spin, cut and stitch it. On the appointed day the king was "fitted" with the non -existent coat, and went out in a grand procession through his city. No one wanted to be labeled as fool, so they all pretended to see the coat, and kept praising it. Until ... a small boy looked at the king and announced loudly that the king was not wearing anything! Only then did it dawn on the egoistic king and his entire populace that they were indeed made fools by the thief.

Do we succumb to such thieves? Before you vehemently deny it, give a thought to the following: we believe our politicians and repeatedly keep voting them to power even though they only serve their own interests at our costs. We get taken in by "get rich quick" schemes, or by "upto 80% discount"sales. We are willing partners in spreading gossip, even when there is no truth in it. We believe people who blatantly praise themselves, provided they do it in a subtle way. We succumb to the manipulations of those who appease our ego.

It is said that if a lie is repeated a sufficient number of times by a sufficient number of people, it becomes a truth. In the fields of religion, politics, social life, commerce, family, education, sports, there are innumerable people willing to spread untruths- because they know that there are always takers.

If we wish to make our life a journey that we will be able to look back upon proudly, we need to start using our judgement and wisdom (and I can assure you that the Creator has doled out enough of it to each and every one of us) Let us learn to differentiate between fact, fiction and perception. Perception is what "appears" to be the truth, sometimes for a simple a reason as- someone has said so.

Being assertive is using your judgement may not make you very successful or a great leader in today's world. But, it will help you to go to bed every night with a complete sense of fulfillment and satisfaction

Happy dreams!

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