Thursday, 17 September 2009


Holy books across religions profess love as the supreme emotion – love for God and love for mankind. Great saints, have urged that we extend this emotion without restraint. Extraordinary contemporary men, from Gandhi to Bono, have exemplified the overarching consequences of willingly loving and sharing that love. And yet, it is this very emotion that is fading from our lives. Majority of us are just too busy in our lives, our chores, our vocation; to even realise the futility of our ways of existence.

Technological advances were made to increase efficiency and save time, but those innovations are causing erosion of time. The cars meant to transport us faster from point A to B are the cause of traffic jams, causing delays and gnawing on waking hours. Emails and telephones, inventions supposed to facilitate communication, keep us more engaged in work matters restricting time with those who could use and would cherish our time and love.

As some of us seem stuck in the rut, there are the older and the wiser amongst us who make an effort to suggest the error of our ways. R M Lala (one such enlightened man), in his autobiography - the thread of God in my life, illustrates the varied forms of love that he has experienced, extended and enjoyed. All those instances are heart warming, however, the most thought provoking is a simple sentence – “People do not realise that to love to adequately you have got to spare time for the other person”. It is not all the time; it is just some time spent wisely to express the love adequately.

Parents love us unconditionally, but professional commitments rob us of time. A mother at home will stay up past midnight, after having travelled half way across the world, just so that she can ensure that you are alright. But when you walk in, your mind is absorbed in a thousand other things, a peck on the cheek and you dive in to bed all set to wake up to catch a flight next morning. Siblings stand by us through our best and worst, but when they call to have a quick word, there are more important conference calls waiting and tugging us away. Nieces and nephews, who want to spend only one night tucked in bed with you listening to a story, have to be disappointed because a client on the other side of the country awaits a pitch. Friends are just as busy and occupied and those who really love us have to wait their turn. Love and its reciprocation have seemingly instilled a fear in us that giving into these emotions will keep from excelling at work, fulfilling our commitment to social causes that we believe in and living a life of fulfilment and adventure.

JRD Tata and GD Birla, two pioneering Indian industrialist, changed the shape of Indian industry – both had families that they spent time with. When they passed on, their sons took over to fortify the institutions their fathers had created. Gandhi, with all his affection for Kasturbai, did not leave her but along with her took Inida on the path to freedom. In one of his writings he says, “Had not been for her (Kasturbai), I would not have been able to forge the weapon of Satyagraha”. Bono has tremendous adoration and admiration for his wife and in his autobiography, conversations with Michka Assayas, mentions how she inspires and supports his philanthropic efforts. Needless to say that all these men have lived very fulfilling lives.

With love for every man, there will be less evil and the world will be a better place. However, charity begins at home and so does the expression of love. Without love at home, we cannot extend it outside. It seems that today might not be too late for us to rectify the fallacy of our busy lives and build a better future.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Children of Hope

Childhood, the age of innocence and the time of laughter; is it not the right of every child to enjoy that stage of life? Apparently not and there are myriad innocent angels around the world struggling to smile, forget laughing, in their first few tender years. War, terrorism, hunger, poverty; the reasons for their sufferance are innumerable. When from amongst these less fortunate souls, there emerges a hard working yet content soldier, the world suddenly seems to be a more beautiful place.

MU, the broker, and I were taking a late night stroll by the sea when we were approached by a young lad selling chocolates. Akash, the boy, had a simple an honest pitch to us – he bought Cadbury chocolates for INR 90 apiece and sold them for INR 110. The INR 20 profit he made was to help his father repay a loan. If we bought one it would be great, but if we bought two, he swore by the Lord that he would give us a discount and if he met us again would never sell us another bar. MU bought two bars and a content Akash was on his way when MU stopped him. Given the late hour MU offered to drop him home after he was done selling the chocolates.

On the way to drop him home, MU and I started a conversation with Akash, who spoke fluent English. I was impressed and asked him if he went to school or was he self taught. He explained that he indeed attended school, and a good one at that (Don Bosco in Matunga for those familiar with Bombay). Further he informed us that at fourteen years, he is the youngest of five. His father has a small grocery shop and took a loan so that Akash’s grandmother could fulfil a vow she had taken. Now to help the family, all the children studied and worked. In Akash’s words, “I go to school, come back and help my parents, the sleep for an hour; get up and study, then play for an hour and then come here to sell the chocolates. Is it not nice – I get to study and help my parents.” A very interesting view at that young age!

Before we could reach the fishing village where he said he lived, Akash asked us to stop by a police booth and got off. He said his brother would come to get him. That struck me as weird and I remarked to MU that it was rather strange for the boy to have not taken a lift home, especially as he had mentioned that he would have taken a cab home if he found two more customers after us. MU‘s response was stirring – “whatever be the reason, he must be desperate to sell chocolates at this late hour. Don’t give it further thought.”

While I thought no more of it as we drove through the night, sitting at home, my thoughts keep going back to Akash. How does he manage such poise with all the hardship surrounding him? Where does he get the strength and stamina from? And then, was he being honest about his family or is he being exploited by a gang that uses children to make money?

I sincerely hope that he is not being exploited. And for all his composure, honesty in trade and hard work – well he is a real Indian hero. It is people like him who give this country the different touch that it has, and it is unrelenting soldiers like him who make this country run. We, the privileged, can definitely learn a lesson or two from Akash and his kin. Someday I hope that children like Akash, in India and around the world, can have a carefree and laughter filled childhood. One that they deserve.

Friday, 11 September 2009

A Prayer for a Miracle

There are believers and there are non-believers. I would categorize myself as the former, and have always believed that the scales of universe’s justice balance out sooner or later. However, today, I am left wondering about the absurdity of this justice and am praying for a miracle.

After almost seven years of marriage, she had a baby girl; a child that she had longed for and doted on as soon as she whimpered into this world. This child today is four weeks old but instead of being cuddled in the mother’s lap, she is in cradling in the ICU, pierced with needles all over. Her little body is being fed with antibiotics via an IV and the prognosis is gut wrenching. This little angel, who seems to be sleeping in peace, is supposedly suffering from a congenital bone marrow disorder. While the doctors are waiting for the reports for a final diagnosis, they suspect either a rare form of leukaemia (ruled out just yesterday by other physicians) or an auto immune disease which could slowly start impacting her spleen, liver and lings one by one. The only course of treatment would be a bone marrow transplant, which cannot be undertaken on an infant of her age. She is going to go through an agonising biopsy later this morning and that in itself is going to be tricky given her soft still forming bones.

The little angel is suffering pain that she cannot even express. The mother is crying and suffocating within but expression of her grief is not helping. There is one thing other than medicine that could help; and that is prayer. I believe in the power of numbers and in the strength of sincere prayer. As I am praying for a miracle, I humbly request all those reading this to pray that the one above us waves his magic wand and cures this little child. There would be justice in this world when the little one can return home to her naming ceremony, play with her parents, grow up holding their hands and finally become a young woman that the parents can be proud of.

It might be rare but it is not impossible, nothing really is; and I would like to believe that her recovery is possible. I bow my head and await the justice

Monday, 7 September 2009


Randy Pausch, in his Last Lecture, spoke about the Parent Lottery; the sweepstakes where some of us win the bumper prizes of supportive parents who nurture their children into independent, aware, seeking and compassionate individuals. In addition, I think, there is a second lottery that everyone plays in their lives and that is the Great Friends lottery. The winner earns friends who through the years help her in becoming a better person. In times of need they stand by her like the rock of Gibraltar. When she makes a mistake they do not shy away from telling her that she was wrong but do not judge her for that error. And even after each one of them is on their individual life paths they are still there for her, unconditionally.

Now while I got lucky in the Parents Lottery, I also struck gold in the Great Friends Lottery. I am currently absorbing the magic of this luck of mine and am wonderstruck by the enormous amount of love and affection all around me. It is not big gestures that drive the point home, but it is the small stuff. It is the little things such as taking a delivery 2:00 am gladly, sharing the limited time to be with the better half with the friend, taking a day off just to spend some time together, ensuring that you have enough to sustain you on a two hour journey and even though you are old and independent enough not to leave you alone on your way in to the train station. There is such indulgence showered so spontaneously that one cannot but humbly acknowledge that one is not just well looked after but also amply looked out for. And yes in between all of this there is loads of laughter, fun and the small conversations that address the questions that life poses in front of each one of us. No wonder they say that it is the small stuff that matters!

This year my annual holiday has enriched me with the memories of a precious family holiday in some of the world's most picturesque mountains and a priceless realisation of the fact that some of the world’s most wonderful people are the ones I call friends. So is there anything more that I should be asking for?