19 September 2014

What does teaching mean?

Young Rohan an earnest young student friend of mine, telephoned me on Sept 5th which is Teacher's day in India to thank me for teaching him and changing his life, because of my writing and our interactions.

I should have been touched by his sincere greetings but I wasn't.
I asked myself, "If it was not arrogance I felt, then what was it?"

I thanked Rohan for his kind words but clarified that crediting me with his learning was in my opinion unjustified. 

He asked me "If this is not teaching then what was it?"
I had no reply but I had many questions. Questions, I had to seek answers to.

Today, October 5th, is World Teacher's day. Introspecting on teaching and learning, I offer the following thoughts.

No doubt there is a lot of teaching and even more testing but it is highly questionable if there is much learning taking place.

Why is it said that? "A student is not a vessel to be filled but a lamp to be lit"

A vessel when filled cannot absorb anything more, in fact it rejects anything that is additional or new.
On the other hand, once lit the lamp illuminates and lights other lamps, continuing to dispel darkness of ignorance.  Learning demands more learning as a fuel just like a lamp demands more oil to keep on burning. to illuminate and to light more lamps.

As John Lubbock said about modern teaching, "We strain the memory instead of cultivating the mind."

Then how shall we define teaching?
Teaching is the art of assisting and facilitating discovery.

Once we set off on a voyage of discovery, life becomes an endless adventure.
We will discover many things and experience many relationships, not all of them pleasant but in the end like Rohan we will hopefully discover ourselves.

17 September 2014

I am wealthy because I follow my heart.

When they grow up, young birds leave the nest. So in 1985 three years after we got married Mohini and I moved out from my parent's home to make space for the families of my two younger brothers.

We decided to  move to a small flat at Salunke Vihar on the outskirts of Pune (India). 

Salunke Vihar was a government project built to provide affordable housing to our soldiers and their families. It was located in a desolate place with a dirt road for access. In addition to retired people, the cheap rent attracted  many young couples starting out on their careers.

Salunke Vihar offered a large, open and safe space for children to play. The air was fresh and the community of residents were friendly and caring.  It was a relatively large township by the standards of those days, built for providing accommodation for members of the Indian Armed Forces at relatively low rates against soft payment terms.

The only problem was access to the city. Auto rickshaws rarely plied to that side and the bus service was pathetic and almost non existent. The nearest main road was 3 kilometers away, and therefore people often had to depend on the  kindness of residents with vehicles.

Being a son of an industrialist albeit a small one, I was amongst the few people who owned a car in the society. Keeping with the spirit of the situation, every time we travelled the dirt road, we would offer a ride to fellow residents and even visitors. Often people thanked us for the ride, sometimes they would not even acknowledge the assistance. This lack of appreciation and courtesy perturbed me.

I met many people and had some interesting experiences but one encounter changed my outlook on life almost totally .  Decades later I can still remember the events very vividly. 


It was about noon time on a hot May day where the summer peaks. It is never as hot in Pune as it is in other places like the Punjab or Delhi, but it was pretty uncomfortable.

I was driving out on an errand and running a bit late. I rushed out of the main gate and hit the dirt road. Rounding the corner, there I saw standing next to the road an old man. His back slightly stooped with age and a small bag by his side.

Looking like a character right out of a movie the chubby old gentleman wore a colourful bush shirt and had a big straw hat on his head.  Sweating profusely the old man was mopping his forehead and face, yet he had an irresistible and   pleasant look about him. I debated for a second whether to stop and offer him a ride or continue rushing to my appointment.

'What the heck? ' I convinced myself,  'Once a Boy-Scout always a Boy-Scout, I felt compelled to offer him a ride.'

The old man slowly shuffled up to and agonizingly slowly got into my car. He was taking so damn long. For a moment I regretted my decision to give him a ride, this old man was delaying me.
I wished the old man had not taken so long, and the old gentleman sensed my irritation. But he dissolved my frustration by apologising and thanking me at the same time, speaking in Hindi “Thank you so much son, may God bless you and keep you happy”
Blessing me and thanking me, blessing me and thanking me, he went on and on. When he thanked me for about the tenth time, I interrupted him and told him, "It wasn't a big deal and not an inconvenience at all for me to give you a ride. This was on my route anyways." I added that at least he was appreciative of my kind gesture unlike so many people who remained ungrateful.
He smiled and nodded his head and said" I believe, I understand what you mean. May I ask you a question?" Of course I like nothing more than an interesting conversation and that is why I probably gave people rides in the first place. I replied "No problem. Please ask."
"Why did you give me a ride?" He asked. 
" Did you see a man on the road and think that let me give him a ride and then he will feel obligated to me, or did your heart speak with your conscience and asked you to do a good deed to this old man and give him a much needed ride?" he added.
I told him that I felt sorry for him and thought it would be nice to assist him.
He responded, “Does that not mean, you were only following your heart’s desire and did the good deed? So logically speaking, it should make no difference to you whether I thank you or not or am grateful to you or not?"
He continued “May I say that, your heart desired something and that you were able to accomplish it, that itself is your reward. If you have got your reward, it should matter not whether I thank you or not."
I was stunned by the realization of what this kindly old man just said.
He continued, "The poor of the world are not only those who do not have shelter or enough food, but also those who cannot implement what their heart desires. My son you are blessed and truly rich for you are able to follow your heart’s desire."
We reached the main road in the few minutes we had this conversation, I was captivated and hungry to learn more. I wanted to hang on to this awesome man and never let him go. He insisted that I drop him there at the bus stop.
I waited for a minute and then his bus arrived. He stepped onto the bus which slowly disappeared out of sight. But the old gentleman and his presence and words will be with me for ever.


I contemplated what had just transpired. I felt foolish about my puny ego. In a matter of five minutes this seemingly insignificant yet great man had awoken me and transformed my life.

I learnt that unhappiness stems from unfilled expectations. If I had no expectations for the good that I did to others, I would give more, and yet be happier. Was it not my good fortune that I had the God given opportunity to be compassionate?

Life is made up of good times and not so good times. I was sometimes broke, but I was never poor. The valuable lesson I learnt that afternoon has always blissfully guided me.  I learnt that the the joy is in the doing and not in the expectation of the fruit. I would do what I had to and let God do what He has to.

I should follow my heart and I would always be wealthy.

06 September 2014

Goodbye dear father.

On the 1st day of Sept with a gurgle and a cough my father left this world just as he arrived into it.

Concerned friends and relatives, dutifully tried to console me.
I was inconsolable because my mindless heart could not stop crying.
I was unduly brave because my heartless mind refused to let me grieve.

Some said it was an auspicious day to die. How can any day be a good day to lose someone you love?

Brilliant, hardworking, witty and charming, our father Man Singh ji 1928 -2014) was an extraordinary teacher and man. Even in his passing on from this world he continued to provide valuable lessons.

Dad's life was a very long roller coaster ride, achieving great heights and many precipitous falls. Yet the spirit of such people always remains strong. They are warriors fighting against great odds and overcoming challenges.

Dad and Uncle Manohar Singh ji, created great fortunes against huge odds only to lose them due to greater misfortune time and again. 'Never give up', was their motto. yet when this life's journey's end is near the good soul knows when to give in to His will.

My dad had been bidding farewell gently, from the past three years. His vision dimmed, hearing gone, and his speech almost silent. Dad's being was blanketed by wonderful grace and an erie calmness.

Maybe God answered Dad's prayers by taking away all anger, ego and greed from him. It was a blessing, for dad stopped judging people and events. He saw only goodness and wonder in everyone and everything.

We spent many mornings together and I learnt much by being with him. I want to share this learning with you.

In spite of having much to be angry and resentful about, dad's heart was at peace, filled with humility, love and compassion he sought forgiveness from one and all. He meditated and prayed a lot. 

Especially when young, 'Man the Animal' is selfish and filled with insatiable greed for power, wealth and influence. As people age and if they are blessed, 'Man the Saint' is filled with understanding, love and compassion, and like a pendulum our lives swing between these two extremes. 

Failings my dad had many. Drive and intelligence he had even more. Kindness and  compassion he possessed beyond belief. My dad was an enigma. Come to think of it, most children can never understand their parents. All that lucky children can get, is the opportunity to appreciate and take advantage of the bounty of love and learning that they get showered with by their parents.

The soul always knows what is right, but rarely do we listen to it, because the mind will not be still. This is what prayer and then mediation is all about, the ability to listen to the soul.
Therefore the search for truth and understanding is never an outward journey but an inward journey. A journey to the core of our existence which is possible only by meditating.

The soul is like a Hans (Swan) which wants to soar to the heavens and reunite with God but it is shackled to this material world by our lust, greed, attachments, anger and ego. 

God has been kind to my father in the past several years by unshackling him almost completely from all these normal human traits. I pray that He will receive and accept my father Man Singh ji and grant his soul peace.

* Goodbye is a short form of 'God be with you'

28 August 2014

Her beauty cannot be measured by the standards of a colonized mind

"Her beauty cannot be measured with standards of a colonized mind."

Michelle NdegeOcello

"The wealth accumulated by Europe and North America are largely based on riches taken from Asia, Africa and Latin America. Without the destruction of India’s rich textile industry, without the takeover of the spice trade, without the genocide of the native American tribes, without African slavery, the Industrial Revolution would not have resulted in new riches for Europe or North America. It was this violent takeover of Third World resources and markets that created wealth in the North and poverty in the South."


"Sir, we have, as far as possible closed every avenue by which light might enter their minds; we have only to go one step further — to extinguish their capacity to see the light, and our work would be completed; they would then be reduced to the level of the beasts of the field, and we should be safe."

Speech on “The Abolition of Slavery” by Henry Berry, House of Delegates of Virginia, January 20, 1833 in the aftermath of the Nat Turner Revolt in 1831.
After this speech, “compulsory ignorance” laws were enacted as early as 1740 in South Carolina that barred most free and enslaved African Americans from a chance to learn.  By 1860, most southern states had outlawed black education. (via State of Black Education [.doc])
AMERICAN HISTORY AND AMERICA’S PRESENT. NEVER FORGET WHAT THEY WANT FROM YOU. THEY WANT YOU ON ALL FOURS LIKE AN ANIMAL. This is as crystal clear as it gets folks. The powers that be want us ALL to stay in the dark. If they keep us all dumb, they can feel safe. KNOWLEDGE IS POWER. Never forget that!
(via knowledgeequalsblackpower)

"Sometimes it was hard to express how much you loved someone. You said the words, but you could never quite capture the depth of it. You could never quite hold someone tightly enough."

- Diane Chamberlain, The Midwife’s Confession

"Why are you stingy with yourselves? Why are you holding back? What are you saving for—for another time? There are no other times. There is only now. Right now."


Reason only control their impetus

                        -Carlton Simon

My marriage has been impulsive. That marriage should have been short-lived instead of the 23 years it spammed.

-  Joseph Barbera

You are never alone or helpless.
The force that guides the stars, guides you too.

Shrii Shrii Anandamurti 

"There is a moral panic in America over young women's sexuality - and it's misplaced. Girls 'going wild' aren't damaging a generation of women, the myth of sexual purity is.

The lie of virginity - the idea that such a thing even exists - is ensuring that young women's perception of them is inextricable from their bodies, and that their ability to be moral actors is absolutely dependent on their sexuality.

It's time to teach our daughters that their ability to be good people depends on their being good people, not on whether or not they're sexually active."

Undone by Hope  -http://undonebyhope.tumblr.com/post/26598119528/there-is-a-moral-panic-in-america-over-young-womens
Stream Cream - Jessica Valenti  - http://www.thestar.com/article/623495

" A good friend keeps your secrets for you. A best friend helps you keep your own secrets."
          -Lauren Oliver    (Before I fall)

"Don't condemn  sensuality. It has been condemned by the whole world, and because of their condemnation, the energy that can flower in sensuality moves into perversions, jealousy, anger, hatred  - a kind of life which is dry, with no juice.
Sensuousness is one of the greatest blessings to humanity. It is your consciousness. 
Consciousness filtering through the body is what sensuousness is"


via -  http://mentalalchemy.tumblr.com/archive

"It is often in the darkest skies that we see the brightest stars"
                                                               -Richard Evans



23 August 2014

My Dream. Your Dream. Our Dream.

Demonstrating leadership by, thinking what you believe, saying what you think, and doing what you say.

In 1985 two leaders from Bendix Corporation a leading American company, came visiting to our manufacturing facilities.They sensed that we wanted to achieve something outstanding in our field but could simply not describe it. Allan suggested we should aim to be a 'World Class Company'.

At that time no one even spoke of something so audacious. The concept sounded fantastic and next day we brothers met and discussed the concept. We adopted the vision to be 'A World Class Organisation'.

In the following week at a meeting of all our staff we made the announcement. Guess what? Our team just looked at us blankly. We were appalled, how could they not be excited about this fantastic vision? They were aghast that we should dream of something so audacious when we faced great struggles daily on countless matters big and small.

Thank God a brave man asked, "Sir, what exactly do you mean by World Class?" 

We brothers looked at each other and now we looked more confused than our staff. We had adopted a concept given to us by someone else, shot into action completely clueless of what our vision actually meant.

Returning to our office, we spent 3 months in discussions,  trying to figure out what that one statement really meant to us and to our people in which there were no doubts.

We finally concluded that as a business organisation we needed to find, retain and service customers profitably while providing value to them.

We adopted the philosophy; 
1. Look after the customers who are the purpose of our existence, by always providing them superior quality products and services, 
2. Look after the employees who actually make it possible to achieve things
3. Look after the shareholders and investors by providing superior returns on their investments
4. Look after the communities in which you exist and function in.

Now we called another meeting with our team. They listened and this time there was some more interaction. Even surprises and shock.

We mistook shock to be caused by the daring vision. In fact as subsequent private discussions with them showed that they thought we were mad.

Insane not because of the challenge before us but by our sheer audacity of proposing something so great while we were actually doing so badly on so many of the things that we wanted to change.
Hardly anyone believed us. It is then we learnt that the greatest resistance to change was 'Management Credibility'. They had learnt from our organisation and others where they had worked that managements say things without meaning them, rarely keep promises, and will only exploit you.
How could we convince them that we believed that the the interest of the employees and employers were one and the same and based on taking care of the interests of all stakeholders with sincerity?
Nothing seemed to work and now we risked looking like fools. 
Thank God, we had the counsel of several people and the most remarkable was our friend Nana Shahane.
Nana highlighted an important term used both for God, and father in Indian culture is 'Anna -Datta', meaning the one who provides us. Now rarely used but in earlier times even the employer was called Annadatta.
We learnt that you cannot expect people to give your their best if they feel uninvolved, disrespected, unloved and denied their fair share. We learnt that we had to shift from the accepted norm of highly exploitive capitalistic model to that of being a family. Not just any ordinary family but a well trained, disciplined, highly motivated continuously improving family working as a team to achieve our vision.
It took a couple of years to start winning trust, but once our people, our extended family members came to believe that we were sincere, our dreams became theirs. From leaders we became facilitators to successfully achieving a great dream. We doubled output with the passing of each year, seemingly impossible and incredulous growth.
The elders in the family also had the difficult and important task of maintaining discipline and fairness amongst family members. You have to be fair but firm, tough but tender and hard but humane.
You may ask if it is so simple then why so many people and organisations simply cannot implement this approach. Good things come from people with good and noble beliefs. Sincerity can be faked only for a while, because people easily come to see through insincerity rather quickly.
What goes around comes around. Many organisations and their leaders have grown physically, emotionally and spiritually distant from their own people. It is then not a family but a gathering of individuals only concerned about exploitation and increasing their individual wealth and power at all costs.
By engaging sincerely and respectfully with team/family members, nothing is impossible.