There are a lot of Tim-like opportunities and Shaktimans waiting for us

If we make an effort, however small it may be, to touch another Life, we will live meaningfully!  

Reading the news this morning of Shaktiman’s (the horse in Dehradun who lost a limb after he was brutally beaten up by a local politician over a month ago) passing saddened me. A Life so unfortunately, so heartlessly, snuffed out.

Tim Mahoney & Shaktiman Picture Courtesy: Internet

The Shaktiman episode assumed a political overtone no doubt. And people took to social media to express their angst too. Understandable. But the story also leaves us richer with the learning that every aspect of creation gives us perspective on Life’s larger design, it’s purpose. Because, among the many who shared their grief over Shaktiman’s plight, two people actually went to work on it. Jamie Vaughan, an artificial limb expert, who was treating Shaktiman after one of his legs was amputated following the incident, posted, on Facebook, the requirement of a prosthetic leg to be sourced from Virgina and shipped to India urgently. Jamie, who works for an NGO treating animals in Bhutan, was hoping that someone traveling to India would volunteer to carry the precious cargo to her for Shaktiman. But Tim Mahoney, a former Bank of America employee, decided to do something better. He traveled from Kentucky to Virginia, picked up the prosthetic limb and traveled 12,000 km to Dehradun, at his own expense, all for a “call of heart”. Both Tim and Jamie had never known or met each other. Both of them were trying to help the distressed and injured horse – obviously expecting nothing in return.

I read about Tim’s compassion in the Times of India a few days ago. Ever since, I have been thinking of how this reminds us about how much we can do to help Life around us. Truly, I believe that with all that we have, we can do a lot, lot more, within our circle of influence. We don’t have to travel 12,000 km necessarily. What Tim’s selfless, magnanimous gesture does is it inspires us to pause and to think.

All of us are created compassionate. We become self-obsessed because either we are busy fighting our own battles and insecurities or we are busy earning a living. I think if we step out of our shells and look up, there will be a lot of Tim-like opportunities and a lot of Shaktimans waiting for us out there. Make time for someone today, go make a difference!

Your ‘Daily Good Turn’ awaits you!

Ever paused to think what a random act of kindness can do to you?
It can brighten up your day, keep you energized and create a positive aura in your immediate circle of influence. In fact, it can do the job better than any body freshener or deodorant that you currently use!!! In everyday Life, you have the option of being rushed, stressed and moving forward with blinkers on, obsessed with yourself and your priorities. Or you can notice the innumerable opportunities that surround you where you can make a difference. The problem with us is that we have psyched ourselves into believing that a. an individual alone cannot make a difference; b. we don’t have time to invest just now and c. we reason within ourselves that since Life has been unkind to me in the past, why should I be kind to anyone? A random act of kindness is doing good or saying something good while expecting nothing in return, not even an acknowledgment, let alone gratitude. James West (1876~1948), the ‘Godather’ of the Boy Scouts movement, in 1928, called a random act of kindness, ‘…the Daily Good Turn that is instrumental in instilling a habit of service and an attitude of mind that offsets a tendency to selfishness…’ How simple. And how relevant this philosophy is even today!

In a facebook and twitter era, when service organizations like the Scouts are forgotten, it is our responsibility to not only make our days meaningful but to also inculcate in our children a sense of selfless service. We don’t need to have money to be kind. We must only develop the aptitude and attitude to be kind. Even picking up litter from the street, knowing fully well that we are not responsible for the litter or the street, is an act of kindness. In fact, in Islam, Prophet Muhammad, prescribed this__picking up litter from the street__as an act of faith. So, whether you want to do it because it concerns the faith you practice or you want to do it to keep you energized all day long, your Daily Good Turn awaits you. Do one each day of the week and feel the difference in – and for – yourself!

Romance Life to see how loving you really are!

Just as you can learn swimming, cycling, writing, you can learn loving too.
Overcoming small irritations and injustices by giving the situation and the perpetrator love, instead of anger, is how you practice loving. A motorist tries to cut past you and creates a small traffic jam but ends up blaming you. Don’t respond with a how-dare-you look. Smile and say it was just an ‘oops!’ situation. At a busy check-out line at a store, someone edges past you and the cashier does not insist that you must be allowed to bill first. Don’t agitate. Smile and say these things happen! Your boss holds you singularly responsible for the team’s poor show though you have put in several extra miles. Don’t grieve. Pray for your team and your boss.
Our daily Life is peppered with several hundreds of opportunities__or call them nanosecond tests__to practice loving. In that nanosecond you have to make a choice. Do you want to respond with anger or practice loving instead? When you practice loving, you learn forgiving__or, as Richard Carlson would say, you learn how not to sweat the small stuff. How you deal with the small things in Life is what determines how you deal with the big things. The interesting aspect of practicing loving is you don’t have to become loving. You are love and you are capable of loving. The only thing that comes with practice is that you become more aware of this capability.
Just like Mother Teresa and Gandhi and now, Narayanan Krishnan, personify love, so can you. Because you are that already. Just that you don’t know it. The love in you doesn’t just need some lemon and honey, it needs practicing. Romance the travails of everyday Life, and see how loving you really are!

Changing ourselves to make our world better – one small act at a time!

If we can be sensitive to everyone around us, every single moment, we can create a better world. 
I read a beautiful anecdote in Speaking Tree recently. A man who is visiting Sweden on business is driven from his hotel to his client’s office by the client every morning. The man has work with his client for several weeks. And so everyday his client drives him up. The client’s office is a large facility, which has the capacity to park over 200 cars. But every morning, although they arrive early, the man’s client never parks his car close to the office building – even if the parking bays closer to the building are empty. He always parks his car in the first available bay that is farthest from the building. One day, the visitor asks his client why he does so. The client replies: “We are always early, so we can walk up. Besides, it is good exercise. But think of those who come late. If they can park closer to the building, they can save that much time getting in to work!”
I was moved by the spirit of humanness that the story conveys. How often to do pause to think of a fellow human being? In our rush to make our work and lives complete, we have become self-obsessed and self-indulgent. There’s no time to pause, no time to think for another person and no time to be kind. And yet we are quick to complain, to criticize others and to lament that our world is being destroyed.
But a few change-makers are showing the way. The other day, while on our morning walk, we saw a gentleman walking his two pet dogs ahead of us. Much to our surprise, he actually cleaned up after his pets – he scooped their poop! That is rare, especially in India. The fact that someone was caring to do it was both reassuring and inspiring. I believe that real change around us can happen if we focus on changing ourselves first. One person at a time. One small act at a time.
For that change to happen within us, we must be sensitive to the needs and sentiments of those around us. There are so many opportunities each day to show your kindness and compassion to a fellow human being. You can help someone with their shopping bags or make way for an elderly passenger to board ahead of you or hold the elevator for someone who is rushing to catch it or avoid honking if you notice that there’s a traffic pile up or not talk at the top of your voice from your balcony. We can do all this and more, however, only when we look beyond ourselves and our own small worlds. And that requires us to let go of the past, avoid the urge to rush into the future and simply be present in the moment. When you are present in the now, you are aware. It is when you are aware that you are sensitive. It is through your awareness that your humanness can be restored. And it is only through being human, and being sensitive to others, that you can make this world – and your Life – any better!

Pause, Listen, Share! Let’s make the world a better place!!!

Each of our stories is so fascinating. If only we pause to listen to them the world will be so much more a better place to be in.
Yesterday I was moderating a Panel Discussion on building Safer Cities at a Business Conclave. One of the speakers I met there is a fine Britisher named Dr.Andrew Hawkins, a senior management team member at Microsoft. Dr.Hawkins has an amazing, almost incredible, story. His great grandfather was lost in the high seas when his ship wrecked while he was on a voyage through the Indian Ocean. But he miraculously swam ashore, landing at an Indian beach. A group of Indian fishermen cared for him for several months, helped him regain his health and he eventually found his way back to Britain. Dr.Hawkins was very emotional when he said: “I am here, able to speak to all of you, only because a few kind Indians, in a coastal village here, many, many years ago took care of my great grandfather!” Dr.Hawkins finds it so overwhelming that, over three generations later, he should be in the same country that helped his great grandfather rebuild his Life. He plans to come back to India on a sabbatical to locate and reconnect with the families of those fishermen that tended for his forefather and express his family’s gratitude to them.
Hearing Dr.Hawkins’ story reminded me of a beautiful expression, a truth, that I had read some years ago. We are all not human beings going through temporary spiritual experiences, we are all spiritual beings going through temporary human experiences. All the strife and disharmony in the world exists because we don’t notice the divinity in each other. We go around seeking God in temples, churches, mosques and gurudwaras, but we fail to see the God within. You and I are alive because of a Life energy that powers us, that thrives in us. And it is the same. The slum dweller in Dharavi in Mumbai, the President in the White House, the hungry child in South Sudan, the Maori aboriginals of New Zealand and each of the seven billion people on the planet – each of us, has the same energy source. What more evidence do we need of the divinity in us? That makes all of us equal and connected. You inhale what I exhale. And I inhale what you exhale. There can’t be a more evident connect, a more deeper bond between us humans.
Yet, however much social media may have transformed the world by shrinking distances, we continue to be divided by race, religion and nationalities. The distances between us are actually no longer just physical. We are distant because we have stopped being human. We are just not available for each other. We are no longer making an effort to reach out, to understand, to appreciate and celebrate each other. We are lost in our own myopic worlds and are consumed by our challenges. We don’t realize that if share, if we listen, we can learn a lot more and feel a lot, lot more happier and secure. The Dalai Lama, someone who I admire greatly for his simplicity and wisdom, has said this so beautifully, “If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion. This is my simple religion. There is no need for temples; no need for complicated philosophy. Our own brain, our own heart is our temple; the philosophy is kindness.”

Here’s hoping you and I make more time for each other and for pausing to share and learn from our stories. That’s the only way we can, together, make this world more caring and leave it better than we found it!
namaste! – The God in me bows to the God in you!  

Excuse me, do you have a moment please…?

If you can help – always help. Don’t think. Just help.

Most of us lead such busy lives that we don’t even have time for ourselves. So, we don’t pause to reflect on the challenges people around us are faced with. Perhaps, there is less trust in humanity at one level – so not many want to come forth and offer help. Or, maybe, people don’t have enough time anymore. Or, often times, we don’t even realize that someone around us needs help.

An incident in Chennai on Monday, that has been reported extensively by the media here, holds up a mirror to all of us who are “too busy” to even look up from our own lives’ schedules, forget helping someone.

A 46-year-old man, Augustine, walking by the Adayar river with his wife and two children, suddenly flung his nine-year-old daughter Roshni into the river. He then tried to snatch his seven-year-old son, Joshua, from his wife, Rani, in an attempt to throw the boy too into the river. When a shocked Rani resisted his efforts, Augustine jumped into the river. It was rush hour on a Monday morning. Several people driving past on the bridge pulled up and peeped over the railing, wanting to, as it so often happens in India, “catch the action”. But none came forward to help. It would have been another typical Indian roadside story of apathy in the face of a tragedy, had it not been for Dinesh Babu, a 23-year-old, marketing executive, on the way to work. Unmindful of the depth and treacherous nature of the river, or of his limited knowledge of swimming, Babu jumped into the river and managed to lift Roshni above the water, over his shoulder. Seeing him struggle with the girl, another passer-by, Saravanan, 26, dived into the river. Saravanan knew swimming and he managed to escort both Babu and Roshni to the bank of the river in some time. Augustine however was not found for all of Monday. His body was recovered from the river on Tuesday.

Babu’s braveheart act not only calls for an applause but also begs reflection and introspection by each of us. Ask yourself:    
  •        What would you have done in such a situation?
  •       How can you be more sensitive to the needs of people around you?
  •       Whenever you can’t help personally, do you consider mobilizing help?
Each situation that requires helping someone may not be fraught with as much urgency and risk as in Roshni’s case. But the key point to ponder over is do we even considering helping? Or are we so caught up, indifferent and self-obsessed, with our own lives that we miss even noticing that someone needs our help?

My family and I continue to be blessed by the kindness and compassion of people, often even unknown folks, who have walked into our lives and have helped us – spontaneously, selflessly. I can vouch for how much of a difference it makes when you realize that someone, somewhere cares. So, if it is possible, do pause to look up, and around you, from your busy Life – someone can possibly do with a wee bit of what you have in plenty, if only you care to offer it to them! PS – most often that resource can even be time, and not necessarily money or something in kind!