A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST

Musafir Ali (a recognized poet) meets Aslam Baig (a recognized wrestler) on the train from Bhopal to Delhi. They were sharing the same compartment. As they see each other, immediately Musafir Ali recognizes Aslam Baig yet he behaves as if it’s their first meet. As the journey is long and somehow both of them started to swap their professional and personal life stories. Meanwhile Musafir shows the ring of famous poet Gulam Nabi Azad which he gifted Musafir after watching Musafir’s performance. In response, Aslam shares the memory of his beautiful, gold-plated, and costly alarm pocket watch “Khusbakht”. For Aslam, Khusbakht was like his wife, it brought him fortunes but unfortunately decades back in a train journey someone stole Khusbakht and as result, Aslam started losing his fortunes. After their conversation, both of them goes to sleep but throughout the night Musafir was unable to sleep properly because a couple of decades back it was Musafir (previously known as Raju Shahwani) who had stolen Khusbakht from Aslam Baig and it was that of his guilt of stealing Khusbakht which was hunting him at present. As it dawns and the train stops at the outer of Delhi station, Musafir decides to quietly put Khusbakht in Aslam’s handbag in his absence, unfortunately, Aslam catches Musafir red-handed. Confessing his sin Musfair leaves the train at Delhi station but Aslam comes running after Musfair and handovers him Khusbakht asking him to hand over Khusbakht to the storekeeper at the Rooh-Saaf store on the next day at 3 pm. Accordingly, Musfair goes to the Rooh-Saaf store the next day to handovers Khusbakht. In response, the storekeeper asks Musafir the name for the record and Musafir mentions his name but the storekeeper says, ‘no mister, I need the name of the person from whom you have stolen Khusbakht’ but being embarrassed Musafir hesitates to mention Aslam Baig’s name. Angrily, the storekeeper asks Musafir to get out of the store and leave his coat of fake honor. Yet to hide his sin Musafir questions the storekeeper, “Why did people visit his store to return the stolen things instead of selling them?” And the storekeeper responds, SELF-RESPECT! Self-respect always bites our conscience. Whatever sins a man may commit he is, after all, a child of God and unless he confesses his sin, his soul remains blemished.” Realizing his sinful state, Musafir takes courage to confess Aslam Baig’s name. Then the storekeeper shows him the beautiful ring of poet Gulam Nabi Azad which Aslam Baig handover the storekeeper the before day soon after leaving the train. The storekeeper also mentions Aslam is one of his regular customers and shows many other pieces of stuffs and wrestling awards that Aslam had stolen before. Because like Musafir, Aslam was also suffering from Kleptomania disorder. The next day, Musafir comes back to the Rooh-Saaf store with a bag full of tiny pieces of stuffs which he had stolen from different people since his childhood.

Yes, you are rightly thinking, this is a story of the legendary Scriptwriter and Filmmaker Mr. Satyajit Ray which is filmed in the recent web series “Ray”.

How analogical is the story to each of our inner states! Isn’t it?

In the Bible, it is beautifully penned, “Our human heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. No human can understand it. It is like a whitewashed tomb which looks beautiful from outside but inside it is filled with rotten stinky bones.”

My inside isn’t visible to others but I can see it. Its sinful state haunts me day and night. I blame people outside for my peace lessness whereas the reason is within me and it needs to be treated at the earliest. “If we won’t treat our sin today, our sin might become our graveyard tomorrow”. For the treatment, all we need is “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to drop our coat of fake honor like Musafir Ali.” “A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to go for Rooh-Saaf, confession of sin makes us guilt-free.” A LITTLE COURAGE TO BE HONEST. Honest to self and unto others.

In my case, I remember, years back I was invited to an NPO voluntary board as an Asst. Secretary. While we were organizing an event, we had to outsource our work. As we the board members decided to outsource our work, we gave tender for music arrangements to one of our team members. But before signing the tender approval, I asked the Music Arranger to handover all the Music tracks to the Secretary soon after the event since the NPO has paid for it and the NPO is the sole owner of it. Being the youngest member of the team and as well among the Board Members, I was quite sure the Music Arranger will surely retaliate and that might also affect our personal relationship. Even to the extent, of his retaliation I must be embarrassed before the seniors but keeping eye on the mandate of being a voluntary NPO Board Member, I need to be honest in each of my decisions. As I took courage and went honest in my decision, he retaliated, and being an elder person went a little bossy on me. His response made me feel bad and embarrassed. But the end product was remarkable – “the sin got exposed & till date it was the last tender for him from that particular NPO board.”

A little courage, to be honest, keeps us guilt-free and is strong enough to expose the sin.

WHEN THE RISK TAKES THE VULNERABLE ON RIDE

Every time I think to show up my vulnerability, I get confused about finding the right person to open up to. If I am allowed to draw the picture it would be,

Walking in my dark dingy tunnel, I screamed for a help

but in the profound silence of the tunnel

all I could hear my own scream screaming me back.

In order to get rid of the pain, as I kept walking ahead

I saw a light shining at the end of the tunnel

asking me to keep walking since there is someone out there

to hold my hands and lead to my unknown.”

The honesty of vulnerability is showing interest to seek help from outside. In my vulnerability I always look up for help from 4 kind of people –

  1. A CONFIDANTE: Venting out your inner aches is always referred to as the initial pipeline for healing. Someone primarily shows up his/her vulnerability to a person with whom one shares a secret or private matter, trusting them not to repeat it to others. It helps the vulnerable to find the relaxation of his inner wounds.
  2. AN EMPATHIZER: The prime reason a victim always finds himself in loneliness is that there is none to relate to his pain. The touch of someone who can understand or be sensitive to another’s feelings or ideas makes the vulnerable feel safe and important.
  3. A PROPONENT: Vulnerable is often lonely, victimized, and morally low they open up their vulnerability so that there would be a voice among many to advocate their case. Make them guilt-free and rescue their selfhood.
  4. A PATHFINDER: The vulnerable’ whereabouts is always at stake. They are confused about where to go from there. For a person to tread to a better version of life is always necessary. Their vulnerability tells they ask the person of experiential relevance to hold their hand and lead them ahead.  

BUT ALAS…

In my search of them, a voice from my past experience had always instructed – it is wise enough to get a background check of the person to whom I will show my vulnerability. Well, if I am asked to give a reason for my behavior. Honestly, it would be “the risk factor that is involved”. The risk of

  1. Being EXPOSED: How can a man measure the intent of another man? While outsourcing our project we are always concerned about the secrecy of our project information. Often, we sarcastically quote some of our outsourcing partner office’ as “Public Square”, we share them some information and the other day it becomes the talk of the town. That’s why the Bible warns, “A gossip goes around telling secrets, so don’t hang around with chatterers”
  2. Being RIDICULED: It won’t be wrong to say, we live in the most technologically connected age yet we always feel disconnected. Research says, “On social media, people mostly feel more disconnected even though they have hundreds of friends and followers on their channel.” It happens because “a 6 always looks like a 9 from the opposite end and a 9 always looks like a 6 from the opposite end”. This means we often connect with the vulnerable with a personal perception in mind. To become a perfect empathizer the Bible recommends, “Therefore, encourage one another and build each other. For encouraging and building each other is Godly work.”
  3. Being CRITICISED: Criticism always seems negative because of its use on the fallacy of context. Often, the talk is not WHO RAPED HER but WHY THAT PARTICULAR GIRL IS WAS RAPED, definitely, she wears shorts and has allured the man. The fear of being outcasted, criticized, and becoming a public disgrace has always squared the vulnerable exactly when he decides to open up his vulnerability to someone. Whereas the Bible teaches, “Learn to do right; seek justice. Defend the oppressed. Take up the cause of the fatherless; plead the case of the widow.”
  4. Being TAKEN FOR A RIDE: Human heart is extremely deceitful and is beyond measure. Probably, that’s why his world is framed with I, ME, & MINE. He gave him the power of attorney to lead the organization in his absence but when the owner return, he found the servant has built his own organization. The risk of being taken for a ride has always pulled me back from being vulnerable. The Bible counsels, “Take the pain to do what is right both in the eyes of the LORD and in the eyes of man.”     

Time and again when these risks involved in being vulnerable takes me on a ride, with sorrow I warn myself the quote of the Australian Singer Nicholas Edward Cave –

“If you’re gonna dine with them, cannibals,

Sooner or later, darling, you’re gonna get eaten…”

WHY DID THE VULNERABLE CHOOSE YOU?

According to the Clinical Social Worker and American Researcher Dr. Casandra Brene Brown,

What we know matters BUT WHO WE ARE matters more.”

Being a people person naturally many people get the ease to open up themselves and have shown their vulnerability. All most all the time, those sensitive conversations opening line is, “I TRUST YOU”, at times they say verbally and at the other time, I found it in their hypersensitive tones. Well, does it make me feel encouraged? Yes, but alongside I always felt more responsible and had always uttered a silent prayer – “God, help me not to break this man’s trust?

At the end of every conversation, their thank you note starts with the line “thank you very much for listening to my story” or some of them say, “sorry, I took so much of your time”. Does it mean did I favour them? No, rather giving all ear to their stories has always made me feel favoured by them since there might many like me yet they chose to tap me.    

A vulnerable person always shows their love in their vulnerability

Primarily, it is the honesty that we look in love. Vulnerability also looks for honesty. Years back, I was invited to speak at a three days conference and I was accommodated at my ushering family’s place. One evening one of the daughters-in-law of the family opened up and shared with me her story of being abused by her husband. Even she requested me to counsel her husband. But I denied her with reason.I was worried if I counsel her husband, there might be a chaotic situation happening after my leaving, even to the greater and possible extent her husband might doubt her character since she disclosed her marital relationship secrets to a completely new person to him. And lo, in her response to the reason for my denial, she confirmed my fear. She said, “Brother, you are right! Exactly this happened a couple of years back. I asked one mentor person to counsel my husband and it turned worse experience. Since the person was new to my husband, it hurt the sentiments of my husband and after the mentor person leaving, I was verbally abused and was thrashed by my husband.”

As they have shown their love in their vulnerability,

you show them honesty and wisdom in your whereof.  

Are you worried I left her to suffer? Sadly, and practically, yes to the near future because since then she didn’t have any human to whom her husband can listen and repent. I have certain limits to help her. But to her goodness, I did refer her a greater Guiding Light, who is Omniscient, Omnipotent, Omnipresent – God. Out of many of my personal experiences, I suggested her for endurance instead of giving up her marital vow and take things into prayer, seeking God to intervene in her situation because somewhat that she was lacking in her life. From an Atheist point of view, I might sound like a slacker. But being a theist, undoubtedly that is the greatest possible reference where a vulnerable can take refuge and strength. Since Jesus promised,

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.”

WHOSE STRUGGLE IS BIGGER?

She came to our family as our daughter-in-law in her early twenties. Being an Indian village girl, she was very kind, loving, hospitable, shy, submissive, traditional, and naïve in nature. For her, our family was her entire world. But who knew that her happiness of marriage won’t last long? She lost her husband just after 7years of her marriage. Being the elder and only daughter-in-law of the family, she had to take responsibility of her aged mother & father-in-law and her two baby girls (one 3years old & one 5months old). She had to deal with all these when she was just a 26-year-old, typical Indian village girl. Words will always fall sort to explain the pain & struggle she went through. Often all our encouraging words and comforts were just momentary. We were just able to wipe her moist eyes but undoubtedly none of us was there with her in those uncountable dark nights when she soaked her pillow with tears. But hats-off to her courage and maturity, the way she dusted and rose up from each of her pain is incredible. Dealing alone with her struggle she reflected the crown of glory she wore. She bagged it all and we witnessed.

In the beginning probably, some of such perspectives in mind the LORD God said, “it is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper who is just right for him.” So, the LORD caused to the man to fall into a deep sleep and took out one of the man’s ribs and made the woman. And the man exclaimed, “this is the bone from my bone and flesh from my flesh!”

As growing kids, one of the sincerest prayers my Dad always taught us – “God, give me neither poverty nor riches; feed me with the bread of my portion. Otherwise, I may have too much and deny You, saying, ‘Who is the LORD?’ Or I may become poor and steal, profaning the name of my God. If you want strength in your struggle, learn from those who are in the worst situation than yours.” Well, such a prayer was contrary to my ambitious teen mind at that time.

At comfort zone, some good advice often sound sanctimonious.

We only realize when being squared by suffering.

One night while on the way back from that cousin’s place the LORD God was loud & clear questioning in my heart, “ARE YOUR STRUGGLES BIGGER THAN HER?”

That’s the reason, Jesus (the God of the Bible) said,

“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.

Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.

Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.

Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God.”

WHO I AM – WHY I AM ADMIRED?

One of the absolutes of human life is, each human being is intrinsically designed and holds a definite purpose. This definite purpose designs their life patterns. It also becomes the compass of their ethical and moral belief system. Probably that’s instigated, the American Author, Educator, & Activist Parker Palmer to pen,

“Before I can tell my life WHAT I WANT to do with it,

I must listen to my life telling me WHO I AM”

Recently I was asked by one of my board members to help him with technical assistance in a 2days seminar. I was able to help him on the first day but on the second day I had to go on my family vacation, so much prior to the session, I compiled all the information, made the presentation in a couple of formats, and handed him in a thumb drive. But alas, due to some technical glitch he was unable to make the presentation. The next day when we met, he said, “yesterday, if Avinash would be that Avinash whom I admire, I won’t have failed.” Going further he appreciated one of my leadership traits which inspired me to reason his words rather than complaining him of dicing the blame-game. He said, “to succeed in your work, you always come with a three-fold strategy. If one strategy falls apart, there are two more strategies to succeed. That’s why I admire you. He was right! That’s what I ignored, I didn’t use my other two options and as a result, he failed to resolve the technical glitch.

To understand “Being WHO I AM” and “WHY I AM ADMIRED”, I had an imaginative visit to a Potter’s workshop. I found too many pots there, each of them was of different designs, different shapes, different prices. I enquired about the difference and all that the Potter pointed me was “each clay pots are designed for a particular purpose. It is for that purpose people admire them, for that purpose I designed them differently, for that purpose they are of different shapes, and for that purpose they are priced differently.

The Bible says,

“You are like the clay in the potter’s hands, and I am the potter.”  – this is the message of the Lord.

THE WARMTH OF XENIA

Xenia (Greek: ξενία) is the ancient Greek sacred rule of hospitality (corresponding to the Latin concept of Hospitium), the generosity and courtesy shown to those who are far from home or associates of the host. The rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host expressed in both material benefits (e.g. gifts, protection, shelter) as well as non-material ones (e.g. favors, certain normative rights). The term is often translated as “Guest-Friendship” or (“Ritualized Friendship”) because the rituals of hospitality created and expressed a reciprocal relationship between guest and host. Hence, it is also known as “Guest-Friend”.

One of the prime motivations of living an itinerant lifestyle is the warmth of xenia. The veracity of xenia is, it never appears in the same way. It has its unique appearance in every home. It’s been more than a year yet the warmth of Xenia in my first visit to Shillong is so tangible! Whether it is about the caring nature of my cab driver Mr. Naresh after my arrival at Guwahati Airport and at midnight waiting almost an hour for someone to receive me at Shillong or at my departure from Shillong, the warmth of Xenia wrapped in that tiffin box given by Dr. Aunty Veera & Uncle Lumlang, each of those tiny days, small incidents, casual friendly talks, and good-bye hugs have enabled me to bag what is the love of hospitality.

“Love cannot remain by itself – it has no meaning.

Love has to be put into action and that action is service”. (Mother Teresa)

Action is the tangible output that is primarily sourced by Love. LOVE PRECEDES ACTION. It is the sacred love for others in our heart that convinces our mind to go an extra-mile, which reflects in Xenia. Often, we consider love as an emotion whereas love is chiefly an action word. And the Bible puts it like this,

“Love is Patient and Kind. Love is Admiring. Love is Cordial, Love is Forgiving.

Love rejoices in justice. Love is consistent, Love has faith, Love is Hopeful,

and Love endures through every circumstance.

Three things last forever – Faith, Hope, and Love –

and the greatest of these is Love”

A few years back, for an official purpose, I had my first visit to Kandhamal, one of the remote places in the state of Odisha. By the time, I reached there it was midnight, there was no mobile network, and unknown to me a couple of hours prior to my arrival the local govt. authorities declared that area as “no activity zone during the night” due to Mao’s activity. As I left the bus and was making mind to wait till the sunlight suddenly, I saw a man on a bike from the dark forest road asking, “Are you Avinash?” Thank God, it was none other than that good godly man whom I was looking for. Later I realized he had to sacrifice his whole night rest and risk his life just to receive me.

Someone penned rightly,

“People will forget what you said, forget what you did,

but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

A guest is mostly at a strange place and is aloof to our culture. Making mistakes and putting the host in a problem is not their intent rather it is the output of their mere ignorance. Excusing their flaws and giving them comfort is only possible when we shift our perspective and pose ourselves WEARING THEIR SHOES.

A tale goes like this;

In a small-town, a poor man always begged at a rich man’s palace gate and the rich man always treated him just like dogs. He threw morsel at him and mocked him. Unfortunately, both the rich man and the poor man died on the same day. The rich man went to hell and the poor man went to heaven. From hell, the rich man cried out to God,

Richman: God, it’s too painful here, it’s unbearable. Could you please take me to heaven? Why did you put me in hell, what I have done?

God said, I visited you but you treated me like your dogs and threw morsels at me. You mocked my condition.

Richman: God, when did I do that to you?

God: I visited you through the poor man. And you did that to me all that you have done to the poor man.

The Bible says,

“Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins. Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay. Don’t forget to show hospitality to strangers, for some WHO HAVE DONE THIS HAVE ENTERTAINED ANGELS without realizing it!”  

HOW LOVE & JUSTICE WALK TOGETHER

One of the most used YET less understood word is LOVE. Probably, that’s the reason each of us has our own definition of love! Whereas it is the power of love that brought us into existence, it is the warmth of that love that made us feel secure when our mom for the first time put her arm upon us and we stopped crying, it is the language of love that we first learned, and it is the love we witness at the death bed of our dear ones. Moreover, it is the legacy of love that is indomitable and immortal. And explaining love the Bible says,

The greatest of all characters is LOVE.

Once two prostitutes came to king Solomon to have an argument settled. One of them said, “this woman and I live in the same house. I gave birth to a baby while she was with me in the house. Three days later this woman also had a baby. We were alone; there were only two of us in the house. But her baby died during the night when she rolled over on it. Then she got up in the night and took my son from beside me while I was asleep. She laid her dead child in my arms and took mine to sleep beside her. And when I tried to nurse my son, he was dead! But when I looked more closely in the morning light, I saw that it wasn’t my son at all”. Then the other woman interrupted, “it certainly was your son, and the living child is mine”. ”No”, the first woman said, “the living child is mine, and the dead one is yours.” And so, they argued back and forth before the king. Then the king said, “Let’s get the facts straight. Both of you claim the living child is yours, and each says that the dead one belongs to the other. All right, bring me a sword.” As the sword was brought to the king, he said, “Cut the living child in two, and give half to one woman and half to the other!” Then the woman who was the real mother of the living child, and who loved him very much, cried out, “Oh no, my lord! Give her the child – please do not kill him!” But the other woman said, “All right, he will be neither yours nor mine; divide him between us. Then the king said, “Do not kill the child, but give him to the woman who wants him to live, for she is his mother!” And justice was established.

LOVE & JUSTICE GOES HAND-IN-HAND. As a child, I always complained if my father loves me how can he punish me? If he loves me, doesn’t he realize the pain of punishment? But as I grew up, I learned “Love is not in the absence of Judgment but in the very presence of it.”

TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE, LOVE HAS TO BE SACRIFICIAL. It is only the love for the child that gave courage to the real mother to give away her child to the other woman instead of dividing the child into two. Love cannot be understood without understanding the value of life.”

TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE, LOVE EXPOSES THE TRUTH. While in prison as the last wish before his execution the son demanded to meet his mother. As his mother comes closer, he whispered to her, I wish if you have scolded me that day when I brought the stolen pencils and chalks from the classroom, I won’t have ended up like this today. The story is so evidential to learn Whoever loves us they never pamper our lie rather they expose it.”

TO ESTABLISH JUSTICE, LOVE HAS TO BE SACRED. For example, involving in sex before and beyond marital boundaries seizes the sacredness of the marriage bed and is an injustice to the spouse. Sacredness is the epitome of justice. Compromising sacredness fails justice. “Sacredness in love is justice to one another.”

LOVE & JUSTICE BRINGS LIFE. From an in-depth study, the child was treated as a mere product until the sword entered the judgment room and the child’s life came to risk. As the sword was about to come out of the scabbard, love took the screen. And it is because of love, truth enfolded and justice was established. That’s why Gandhiji said, “Where there is LOVE, there is life”.