Stop being a ‘nobody to anybody’

Sometimes we all see so much pain and suffering around us. And we wonder why is Life so harsh on people?
There is a reason.
Each instance of pain, every suffering fellow voyager through Life, is an invitation to us, an opportunity for us to lift ourselves from this quagmire of self-centered thinking and invest ourselves__our time, resources and efforts__meaningfully. And yet we hurry through Life, squirming at times when we see destitute people on the streets or hear of those who are living in agony and despair, promising ourselves that we will serve the rest of humanity when we have enough for ourselves first, which includes the most priceless commodity, our time!
Mother Teresa always reminded us of the folly in such thinking. She said that the best form of prayer was to serve those who needed love, understanding and caring. “One of the greatest diseases is to be a nobody to anybody. Only in heaven will we see how much we owe to the poor for helping us to love God better because of them,”  said. The time we have, this lifetime, is really not for merely rearing families, earning an income, planning for our retirement, and worrying about our past, present and future. It will be more meaningful to invest some of our time daily to touch lives__to cause a smile, to give some understanding, to lend a shoulder.
In making a difference to another Life, we will discover the God we so desperately seek. And, believe me, it is not so difficult to make a beginning. There are over 1 billion people that go hungry on the planet daily. Which means even if one of every 5 people feeds a hungry person daily, the hunger crisis can be mitigated. You could be one of those 5 people today! As Mother Teresa exhorted, “If you can’t feed a hundred people, then feed just one.” What are you waiting for? Stop being sick__a nobody to anybody. Wake up and make a difference today!
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Stop seeking an easy Life, work towards a better Life

If you look beyond ‘earning a living’, you will realize that you have the opportunity in this lifetime to touch lives and make a difference.
When alive do something, whatever, in such a manner that it impacts a whole lot of humanity positively. Live an inspired Life such that you will be remembered as an inspiration much after you have passed on. This opportunity is available to each of us in this one lifetime that we have. To make productive use of this lifetime all we need to do is to dream the unthinkable, do the unimaginable and pave our own trails.
One man who exemplified this thinking in our lifetime, just like several others had before him, was Steve Jobs. He said this once, “Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes… the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules… You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things… they push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the ones who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
So, stop being cautious about Life. Stop being half-hearted. Be crazy. Stop working towards an easy Life. Work towards a better Life. Live like a King. Lead Life King-size. And when your time is up, you would have passed on the baton, by being an inspiration, the flame, the energy to someone who will continue to inspire, to touch lives, see things differently, and as Jobs would famously say, “make a dent in the Universe”!

Touch lives. There are so many waiting, wanting to be touched, to be led, to be inspired. They are waiting for you. What are you waiting for?

A gentle reminder to make the world a better place

If you make an effort, you can practise simple acts of kindness, to touch a Life daily – and make a difference!
Over last weekend, I lunched with Rajan, my dear friend, who, at 70, continues to be young with his thinking and in spirit. A consummate adman, an expert in Rural Marketing, a man with a big heart and a great sense of humor, Rajan is all this and more. And that’s why he’s simply unputdownable! Post his retirement, some years ago, he took to writing seriously and has written three books already – including his autobiography. Despite a few upheavals with his health in the past few months, Rajan plows on – his energy levels undiminished,  with an insatiable zest for Life! His wife passed away about a year ago and he’s coped well. He prefers cooking most of his meals himself, although his son’s family lives in the same building, and was, in fact, asking my wife if she could share some interesting Gujarati recipes! But what excited me most was Rajan’s new mission. “I make it a point to see how I can help people with my time, ideas, resources and experience. I want to touch someone’s Life daily. It gives me great joy to serve someone, to make a difference, however small. I wish I had dedicated my whole lifetime to doing this. But I am happy that I am able to do this at least now! It is never late,” he declared. That morning, he had made it simpler for four other friends to join the lunch we were at, by driving them up and offering to drop them back.
Rajan’s missionary zeal to touch lives daily, through small, even if mundane, acts appeals to me. Most important, it helps us shift the attention and focus from ourselves to others around us. Given the quality of Life we all lead, with too much to be done in too little time, we end up thinking and working for the welfare of only our families. We don’t lack the intent to be useful or to serve, but we simply don’t have the time. Which is when a perspective such as Rajan’s is most helpful. My takeaway is that if we can, during the course of our everyday schedules, do something to help another person live their Life better, we would have made a small difference. Our acts can be random and small – helping an elderly person with getting her shopping bags to her car, making way for a lady to sit on the bus, calling a friend who’s going through a crisis or feeding someone on the street by buying him or her a hot meal. We don’t even need to make a special effort. Just look around, in our own circles of immediate influence, we will find people who need help but are not asking for it. They don’t fall into any specific income or social brackets – they are just there, fellow voyagers, like you and me, who are struggling with their own daily challenges through Life.
Mother Teresa (1910~1997) has said this so beautifully: “If you can’t feed a hundred people, feed one.” Rajan left me inspired and I am grateful to him for this, if I can call it, gentle reminder. And I am sharing this here in the hope that if any of you feels equally inspired, you too can join in the mission. When more of us come together, over time, with consistent effort, we can make our world a better place!

Will you be a Santa today__and all year round?


The true purpose of Life is to serve. And that’s what the spirit of Christmas is all about too.

As kids we have all grown up adoring Santa. We have waited for our gifts. Or in families such as mine, where Santa was seen as something Western, Christian, we perhaps quietly envied those whose lives were touched by Santa. Even if it was about some wishes coming true or about surprise gifts coming clothed in stockings, there was an admirable quality about Santa. He toiled to make others happy. I remember, as a young boy growing up in New Rajinder Nagar in New Delhi, in the year preceding the imposition of Emergency in India, wondering if Santa would not be tired visiting so many homes. My bed was beside the window. And my neighbor Buba, whose family had a Christmas tree up in their balcony with festive lights adorning the frontage, making it all, look surreal and beautiful, had told me that he had wished for Santa to deliver a battery operated toy car to him! Buba’s balcony was in front of my window. I remember sitting up all night, keeping vigil on Buba’s balcony, trying to see if Santa really came by. I must have slept at some point because I did not see Santa come in. But Buba had his wish fulfilled. He came running home first thing the next morning to show off his new toy car!

My own views of Santa have changed obviously over the years. From thinking of him as a religious father figure __ because he visited only Christian homes! __ to seeing the message of selfless service in his legend. And now I see Santa as a metaphor for service, for touching lives and for making a difference. Santa is also an inspiration for serving selflessly __ have you ever wondered what wish Santa may be wishing, what gift Santa wants or who will grant him his wish or give him his present?

Surely, as each generation grows up, it will realize, just as we all have, that Santa is what parents play to their excited little ones. But perhaps there is value in teaching our children, and their children, that a true Santa is really one who touches lives and makes a difference.

Whoever you are, wherever you are, try something different today. Don’t try it because I invite you to or that you want to feel good. Even wanting to feel good is an expectation. Do it because you genuinely want to give! Take anything that you have not used in 6 months __ except your passport __ and which you think will be more useful to someone else. It could be books, clothes, shoes, blankets, pillows, suitcases, a table lamp, utensils, a pen drive, an old wristwatch, a bunch of music CDs, whatever. Go around a couple of blocks in your neighborhood. And give away whoever needs whatever you have with you. Someone may not need any of these things you carry with you, but may just want a hot coffee, or some soup or a meal. Buy them that. Or sometimes people may just need someone to talk to. Give them your time, your presence and your attention. When you are handing over whatever you eventually will, look the person in the eye and say, from the bottom of your heart, ‘Thank You. Feel genuinely grateful for this opportunity to serve. If you felt blessed and drenched in a rare energy, do it every day. Or at least when you get time or whenever you feel depressed, trampled upon or lost in Life.

The essence of intelligent living is in understanding that it is far more significant to be useful than just be successful. A small mass of humanity is successful. An equally small mass of humanity is useful. But it is only the latter that make a big difference to a large mass of humanity that is suffering and lives in hunger and depravation __ yearning for food, clothing, warmth, shelter and above all, compassion.

You can choose to be Santa and touch those who form this unfortunate majority. Go touch a Life this Christmas __ that would be a far more intelligent thing to do than just post hollow greetings, that you have not even applied your mind, forget soul, to, on social media or instant messaging services.

In reality, Santa is timeless. And seasonless. When you value someone’s need as higher than your own, when you make an effort with no self-gain in mind, when you simply give because you want to give, you will be a Santa too and each day will be merry __ Christmas or not __ meaningful and memorable.

                                                                                                                                                                                          


Don’t let your money matter more than you!

Employ money to make your Life comfortable. Don’t let it enslave you!
This morning’s papers had a shocking story of girl from Kochi suing her father for gifting her ‘fake jewelry’ at her wedding. It’s yet another instance of how money keeps us from being human! It got me thinking.
Money is important. No doubt. It can buy you many things that will make your Life simpler and comfortable. But letting money buy over your peace of mind is hara-kiri.
Our entire attitude to Life has become money-oriented. Life decisions are being taken basis whether it can help make or save money. Not basis whether it can give you joy! Another dimension worth considering is that you can never say what people want of you. Do they want you and respect you for what you really are? Or do they want your money and respect how much of it you have? So, when money, which anyway is impermanent, stops coming your way, you suddenly discover that your durbar has dispersed. People don’t want you anymore. Because you don’t have what they want with you. You feel lonely, unwanted and unhappy. That’s when your big realization happens. That money is just a means. It must not dominate your Life, your emotions or your actions. Instead if you let happiness dominate your Life, emotions and actions, you will still make money. More important, you will then know how to use it!
I remember the movie Forrest Gump, which has a very relevant line that Gump says: “Don’t own nothin’ if you can help it. If you can, rent your shoes.” This whole desire to amass more and more in the hope that we will be secure and happy makes us slaves of a lifestyle we have long stopped enjoying. It fills our lives with grief every time something goes wrong with our Life __ as it often will and does! You lose your job or an important business contract and you imagine it is the end of the road. You plunge into depression. Or you lose your sanity over trying to protect what wasn’t worth protecting at all in the first place. I love LAMY pens. And I collect them as well, besides using them. A few years ago, when on a flight, I lost my favorite blue LAMY pen. For weeks I agonized over it. I felt a part of me was lost. I hunted high and low for one in India. At that time, Indian stationers did not retail LAMYs. And so I couldn’t find one in India. Years after this incident, my Firm went bankrupt and we entered a phase of complete pennilessness. One day, while practicing my daily silence period, it suddenly struck me how stupid I had been in agonizing over the loss of a pen, when in reality, my family and I had lost everything material __ all our money, all assets. And what remained was just us and our love for each other! It was a beautiful moment of awakening. The light that appeared in that moment continues to drench my Life with its brilliance!
Azim Premji: Keeper not Owner
A recent issue of Forbes India has Azim Premji, one of the wealthiest Indians, and chairman of Wipro, share his views about ‘employing’ his wealth to make a difference to others. His son Rishad, who works with Premji, both in the corporate and also on the board of Azim Premji Foundation, the Group’s philanthropy arm, says that they (the Premji family) are only keepers of the wealth (estimated to be $ 12 billion) and not its owners. “He’s (Azim Premji) always told us, ‘I am comfortable giving you something in Life but if you want anything above that, you have to earn it for yourself. The rest is meant to be given away, it is an obligation to give it away’,” says Rishad to Forbes India’s Mitu Jayashankar.
Important perspective that. You or I may not have the billions. We may be giving. Or we may plan to give. But the least you__and I__can do is to not grieve over money or let it enslave us. Let’s put it to good use __ to make our lives comfortable and to make a difference to someone else’s!