Sunday, January 1, 2012

Future is not past

The other day when I was in the midst of seminar, at the peak of the motivation I was giving to those assembled there, someone asked me: Who has inspired you most?  Without a moment’s hesitation I replied: my mother. She had worked hard to see that her 7 children did not die of starvation or diseases. Without her hard work I would have been dead and gone long back.
We were so poor that I had to work when I was five. I had to complete weaving one bamboo mat before I could be free in the evening. There was no square meal any day (except on festivals) and we were hungry, emaciated and half naked. My father was less concerned with the family and the children compared to our mother. She would work from dawn to dusk weaving bamboos at the same time looking after all the 7 of us, feeding us whatever little she could afford and getting us help or rustic medical aids whenever we were sick or in trouble.
There were times when I longed for 1 cent to buy a sweet. How hard I had wished for 5 cents (when I was in the fifth grade to watch a circus show arranged in the school! There were times I would wait for an ordinary Marigold flower at the gate of my class mate’s house.  (As I was very poor I never felt like entering the house and he never invited me in) 
Every day I worked and worked and went to school at the nick of the time without having proper food, clothes or reading a newspaper. I passed matriculation without knowing one English sentence correctly. Envying those who knew the language well, I vowed that I would master the language. As my family could not afford to send me to college, I sought the help of my parish priest who admitted me into the petit seminary for ecclesiastical studies. In the seminary, we aspirants had to converse either in English or Latin. It was a golden opportunity and I started devouring English words and phrases like a lover. I used to read anything I could lay hands upon noting down every beautiful word and phrase.  I would write down ten difficult words every day in a piece of paper to study and to commit them to memory on the way to the urinal or on the way back from the dining hall. I would sit glued to the old radio in the study hall to hear news from BBC.  As I wanted to develop the correct accent, it was important to listen to English spoken best. This practice continued for more than 5 years. Even while I convalesced in the infirmary, I used to devote my entire time (there was a lot of it as I did not have to go for mass, classes and prayers) to improve the language.

 I started writing one page a day starting with simple topics like ‘my mother’, ‘my father’, ‘my school’, ‘my village’ and so on. In about three to four years what I had written in loose paper was enough to fill 5 volumes or more. I appropriated difficult words and phrases by using them in sentences and even in the conversations I had with the fellow aspirants. I was rather obsessed with the study of the language and in a few years I could command it. Words would cascade down in an incessant flow and I had developed a style of my own (These days, as I do not pursue ‘everyday a page’ writing habit, I feel I have lost the sheen of writing I had so painstakingly developed). But even today I am very comfortable with English and I can continue speaking to an audience for a full day or two uninterruptedly and in good command.
The journey from an ignorant undernourished half naked boy to a  position of strength  in a foreign language and professionally which emboldened me to become a trainer and conduct seminars in a number of foreign cities is a testimony to the principle, ‘the future is not the past after all.’

‘The rags to riches’ stories of people are all well known to all. The biographies of Henri Ford, Andrew Carnegie, Thomas Alva Edison et all had inspired me when I was a little more than a boy. The life of Abraham Lincoln who was so poor  that he had to go to the forest, cut down trees and fend his family from the age of 9 (when children of his age were comfortably nestled in schools) has ever been awe inspiring. I had read Napoleon Hill’s book, ‘Think and Grow Rich’ when I was twenty and I have continued reading it for the last two decades (whenever I felt a ‘little down’ in life).

 Later I came across the lives of thousands who have overcome penury and made themselves immensely rich and famous.  Some of them stand out in my mind like Wilma Rudolf who was born in a hut to colored parents and who was struck down with polio. Her mother’s encouragement, her incessant attempts to stand up and walk on her legs without the support of crutches is still awe-inspiring. She became one of the greatest athletes of all times by winning 3 gold medals in the 1961 Rome Olympics in running. She proved beyond doubt that future is not the past after all.

Dhirubhai Ambani's life and success story has impressed me too.  It is very rare that you see people rising from nowhere to the top, especially so in an underdeveloped society where the society believes in Karma or pre-destiny. His life is a perfect example to showcase the rags to riches story. He was born in a relatively poor house with 7 children. He started the great company Reliance with just $20) in his pocket and made it the biggest corporation of India. He once said, ‘24 hours of a day 7 days of a week, 52 weeks of an year I have Reliance in my mind.’ Anybody can achieve success in this way in any enterprise.

Helen Keller was blind, deaf and mute. She did not dwell on her disabilities nor appealed to the sympathy of others; instead she inspired the blind and the crippled to live their life to the full. How difficult it was for her to learn even one word without eyesight, hearing and speech. But she mastered the language and wrote inspiring books in the Braille system and enlightened the blind, the deaf and the mute.

The future is not the past. It is not always the well-fed kids who are sent to the best schools and given every comfort who succeed in life or who climb to the very top.  By and large it is the poor, the disadvantaged and those who have to surmount difficulties who scale the heights and sit atop the peak. All the poor and the entire disadvantaged do not do so.  There are millions born poor or crippled (mentally or physically) who continue to be in the same state. The main reason could be their ignorance of the fact that one can overcome one’s hardships and rise up from the lowest levels. Many of them tend to believe that they are destined to poverty or sickness and they wallow in the mires. But if their thoughts can be redirected from very young days to believe (like in the case of Wilma Rudolf) that ‘whatever the human mind can conceive and believe it can achieve,’ they will have a totally different future which has nothing to do with their past. Thoughts are all important and one’s success or failure, one’s poverty or riches are very much dependent on the dominant thoughts of the mind.   Dream, consistently dream, a bright and prosperous future or anything you cherish and it is almost certain that it will materialize. 
  I have to agree that there is a lot of luck in one's life: the country, state and house one is born into, the educational and economic status of parents, their connections and ability to promote their children and much more. One's intellectual capability, energy level, physical appearance, confidence levels and social skills are all, to a large extent, transmitted from parents and early home environment. But there is no point in crying over the bad luck (that is how the game of life is played); let us try to better ourselves with whatever we have got.  The simple reason is that our future does not depend on our past. We can create the future of our choice by simply dreaming what we want continuously, perhaps, until we get them.  And when you dream, don’t forget to dream big. 

Stop looking towards your past and keep gazing at your future. Let your life be always forward and not backward. Whatever has happened has already happened.  What is in store in the future is all that matters.
Again, let us not regret by looking back; nobody has ever gained anything by doing so. It is a sheer waste of energy. Forget that which are behind. It cannot bind nor influence your future without your permission. Your days to come will not be rosy if you are tormented by the agony of the past. Stop trying to change the past; it will always remain as it was. The more you turn your attention on the past events the less will be the energy left to look forward, to plan and work for future events. The dreams of the future are not built on the events of the past.

If you are sad and depressed it will be about something which has already happened. If you live in your past you kill your future. No one can have a bright future if he thinks about the past, its misfortunes and follies

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