Wednesday, November 12, 2008

The irresistable pull of irrational behavior

Commander Jacob Van Zanten, Head of Safety, KLM Airlines, one of their most experienced pilots, revered by his peers in the industry, could do no wrong. But, he did.

Having got diverted to Island of Tenerife because of a situation of La Palmes Airport, Canary Islands, Commander Zanten of KLM 4805 obsessed with several concerns. His mandated rest period kicked in 6 hours. There was no way a replacement crew could be flown into La Palmes to pick up the passengers for the return trip. A stay over would mean accomodating the passengers in a hotel overnight and huge loss to the airline. Besides, his cherished always on-time record was at risk. There was fog that was fast descending on the airport. Zanten threw all caution to the wind (most surprising for the Safety Head of an airline) and took off in thick fog without clearance for take-off from Air Traffic Control. To his horrow, 500 metres into his run, visibility being near zero, he spied a little too late a 747 parked on the runway (obviously lost in the fog). Too late to stop and too early to take-off, he attempted a take-off all the same and did not quite make it over the parked 747. Over 300 died in the flaming inferno that ensued.

I know of many instances in my life when I have been the victim of the irresistable pull of irrational behaviour.

To be cont'd.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

What's a break without a book

Having opted to take a clean break from work this is how I spent it to date.

Mornings are generally for spiritual books starting with Bible and related like Care for the Soul by Thomas More or If tomorrow never comes by Anthony Yeo or The Way by Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei Founder - a christian organization focussed on reflection on christian life, which has been misrepresented for cheap titillation by Dan Brown in the Da Vinci Code. These books continue to give me insights on how to lead a rich and connected life.

This typically would be followed by brushing up on my discipline of strategic marketing communications. How to Advertise by Kenneth Roman and Jane Mass of Ogilvy fame (my alma mater of advertising), Strategic Brand Management by Kevin Lane Keller, one of the better books on the subject after Advertising Management by Rossiter and Percy. With my abiding interests in Brands and Branding, a book by the same name became part of my reading list. The book is a collection of articles published by The Economist by subject matter experts and prominent names such as Chuck Brymer, ceo of ddb (and earlier with Interbrand - both OMNICOM companies). a new brand world by scott bedbury gives you a practitioner's insight into two of the world's most famous recent brands - Nike and Starbucks.

I also recommend the book by MG (Ambi) Parameswaran on research (based on his personal dialogue with late Ramesh Thadani) and Anand Halve on planning great advertising. Of course, the book on Subhas Ghosal with his memos (to Stephen King, particularly) and speeches plus his life in advertising is a great read. For me the T-Plan, the OMI Blueprint and DDB's Brand Foundations and Springboard (including the updates) are bibles of advertising to be cherished and visited every now and then just for the pleasure of internalizing the pr0cess.

Having brushed up on the basic one moved on to more specific subjects: Insider SEO and PPC by Andreas Ramos and Stephanie Cota that was gifted to me by Position2 an organization specialized in this space, for whom I had conducted a workshop on branding. Another remarkable book is Marketing Payback by Robert Shaw and David Merrick which guides you on measures to use to ascertain ROI on marketing spends. In the process, you also get to brush up on the basics of marketing communications, in context. A supporting book I am currently reading is Return on Customer by Don Peppers & Martha Rogers Ph.d.

Knowing my interest in reading my colleague and friend Bijoe George who heads Rapp South operations suggested that I must read Execution by Larry Bossidy and Ram Charan which I have (along with several of Ram Charan's books, latest being What the customer wants to tell you). I particularly liked the strategy development and review part in the book, which is one of the three key processes along with people and operations.

A Fortune interview with Ram Charan was fascinating. He does not have a family (or a home he can call his own though I believe he picked up one recently because he got fed of people tell him to own one). He is available to ceos of Fortune 500 companies 24/7. He stays at the Astoria in New York when he is 'home' and has his laundry delivered to him by FedEx, wherever he is, by his two secretaries working out of an office in Texas.

His typical day would be breakfast in New York, late lunch in London and dinner in Paris and 90 winks on the plane heading to another destination. He comes from a joint family of some 11 siblings he being the youngest. His book dedications are to them who through their sacrifice made his education possible. He does not disclose their location somewhere in Bihar because of fear of kidnapping. He intends to donate all his wealth to charity after keeping some aside for his siblings who continue to lead a small-town life of old.

Evening hours catch some news on TV, say the rosary with the family, eat dinner with them, and get back to some light reading but mostly non-fiction.

From Beirut to Jerusalem by Thomas L Friedman. The book provides an amazing picture of what it is like to live in a war-torn district and the menacing existance of palestinian and jews - an issue that will ever remain centrestage. It makes you feel guilty of one's idyllic existance. His writing style inspired me to once again go back to The Flat World and also pick up his other book on globalization, From Lexus to Olive Tree.

Given the crisis on Wall Street, I thought it would be of interest to read about and by the man who had played a major role in how the modern financial markets have evolved. Sandy Weill's The Real Deal provides some real insights into this sector though not necessarily why it is such a mess (given the book was written couple of years back). Sandy Weill, as you would know, was the erstwhile chairman of Citigroup after its merger with Traveler's Group. Closer home, Bangalore Tiger by Steve Hamm provides a detailed view of Wipro and how the company and its chairman operate. Good insights on how to build a world class organization and become a global player.

My FBI by Louis Freeh (director, FBI, for 8 years across three presidencies: Bush Sr, Clinton and Bush Jr) provides shocking details of the state of FBI technologically before 9/11 and of course the strained relationship between Clinton and the FBI director. Since his appointments by President Clinton, Louis Freeh found that he could not socialize with the president as the president was being investigated by FBI for one scam or the other (Whitewater being one) or some indiscretion (Monica Lewinsky being the most famous).

This blog is an offshoot of my interest in writing and hence I simply could not resist picking up Language Instinct by Steven Pinker, which as the title suggests is about how we pick up a language, especially children, who learn words from the environment but the construction of the sentence is all their own.

In all this reading, I had to constantly remind myself that I should also be looking for a business to head after Rapp Collins and hence the Personal Balance Scorecard by Hubert K Rampersad and Richard Nelson Bolles's What color is your parachute got passing look in.

Of course, this is not the complete list, but proof enough that there are some great ways of utilizing a break. Next time around I intend to take in some world travel with the Lonely Planet and my wife beside me.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Google Map of Our House Under Construction before the Urban Boom at Sarjapur

Our house is the unit on the right with open spaces around. We went by our instincts and began construction with only the sun and the wind and an occassional wayward hawk for company. You can see that other developments are in a similar stage. It meant we needed to pull our own electricity supply (yes, we paid for the poles and wire and labor), our own water supply and sewage, and of course our own road. It was a wonderful adventure that has paid off. We are self-sufficient. When the government provides the facilities (roads, drains, water supply) it will be a plus.

Our Home in Bangalore

Jackfuit in the foreground followed by ramphal, orange and gauva in the background
God help me, I forgot which is this lovely creeper which forms an arch on the south side, inspite of my wife (the gardener) telling me a thousand times. Car porch and dining room with stairway to heaven
Courtyard with a creeper running above the charjah with flowers in bloom which drop down
Invasion of the greens on the south side.
Entrance to our home and east facing balcony done in typical kerala 'tharwad' style as well as south side balconey and car porch
Steps leading to the orchard with virtually all fruit trees you can think about. That's the amazing thing about Bangalore. Everything grows as long as you can find water and enough love to nurture it.
Barbeque pit in the foreground under the cherry tree

Driveway which gives us access across two two roads in the layout with kerala 'tharwad' kind verandha to laze.

Film - Story looking for a script - The Painting

As they head out for an outstation audit, a young couple Mahesh and Priya, both chartered accountants, say goodbye to their daughter Sneha and son Rohan, who are one and three years old respectively, On the way, they meet with an accident. Priya falls out of the car on to the road and the Mahesh tumbles down the ravine to the riverbed. They both survive. Some fisher folks rescue Mahesh and a passing truck driver rushes Priya to the hospital. They lose all their identity papers in the burnt up wreckage.

Mahesh and Priya recover but with one problem. They have no memory of who they are, where they come from, and people that they have known from the past. However, their basic faculty in financial auditing is intact. With their recovery, they once again get involved in the profession assisting someone else, as they themselves have no way to prove their professional achievements.

Time passes... Mahesh and Priya regain their professional status. They find themselves in the same city at an auction, bidding for a painting of a girl and boy. They cannot quite put their finger on what attracts them to that particular painting. The painting happened to be of their two children (of which they have no recollection) painted by Mahesh's mother.

Mahesh and Priya bid against each other...taking the bidding to a level where both can hardly afford to buy the painting…but both persist. The auctioneer realizes that finally neither party will be able to buy it and the bid will fall through. He suspends the bids and calls both of them to his chamber. He suggests that they come to some settlement. Mahesh and Priya are hell bent on owning the painting…but they also find themselves attracted to each other.

The auctioneer suggests that they own it jointly and each pay one-half of the bid price and rotate it between them every alternate month. The suggestion appeals to both of them. They ask about the background to the painting and the auctioneer relates what happened.

According to the auctioneer, on hearing the news of the accident, Mahesh's mother suffers a stroke and succumbs to it. To provide for the children's education all the household articles and property is disposed with the painting picked up by the auction house. With the proceeds of the sale, the children, he tells them have been given in the care of an international school.

The story brings tears to the Mahesh and Priya's eyes, but of course, they do not relate it to their own lives. Mahesh and Priya leave with the painting. Priya requests for the painting for the first month and Mahesh consents. Mahesh drops Priya to her home where she lives alone and is fascinated by so much that seems a bit like déjà vu – her choice of furniture and colors of the walls - but he brushes it aside.

Each time the painting moves from one home to another Mahesh and Priya meet and get to know each other better. Meanwhile, Sunil Arora, the boss of Priya's firm gets infatuated with her and finds opportunities to spend time with her on joint assignments. Sunil is good looking, rich and a nice guy. However, Priya is not able to respond to his overtures.

She begins to confide the situation to Mahesh her newfound friend, who himself seems quite unsure of his feelings toward Priya. He encourages her saying that given she is growing old and the guy seems like a good fellow that she should seriously consider marrying him, if he were to propose.

Three of them over time become good friends and Mahesh is introduced to the Sunil's sister Anu who takes to him. They begin to go around as a foursome. Even as a foursome Mahesh and Priya share some intimate glances almost suggestive of why aren't they getting married to each other. It is the eternal dilemma of friends of opposite sex wanting to save a good friendship by not crossing the Lakshman Rekha of probity sake.

Finally, Sunil proposes to Priya and she says she needs to think it over. Meanwhile, the international school invites two CA firms for their annual audits and the two firms happened to be the Mahesh and Priya's respective firms. The firms depute Mahesh and Priya to do the audit at the school, which is at a hill-station. Mahesh and Priya decide to take the painting along with them, as they are likely to be at the school for quite sometime.

They travel together and actually pass the site of the accident and stop at the nearby Dhaba. At the Dhaba, the truck driver, Michael, who rushed Priya to the hospital but afterwards could not do much - recognizes her. Michael cannot sum up enough courage to approach her and tell her that he was the one who saved her life. He suspects that she might misunderstand and suspect his intentions. While he is thinking about this, Mahesh and Priya leave for the general direction of the school.

At the school, they are put up in the residential complex. On the way to the school campus, they pass by the playground where a cricket match is on. At that very moment their son Rohan, who is now around 13 years old, hits the ball so hard that it goes beyond the field and hits Mahesh, who blacks out. He is rushed to the hospital. Surgery is performed but Mahesh stands to lose his sight. Meanwhile Sneha their daughter (unknown to them of course) also joins Mahesh her father around the hospital bed.

The incident simply flips Priya's mind and she is not able to take to the children. Rohan is filled with guilt and feels hurt by Priya's indifference towards him. Sneha tries to make amends by being at Mahesh's bedside but has to leave moment the Priya drops in after work. Priya is unwilling to make amends with Sneha moment she learns that she is Rohan's sister.

Mahesh is discharged from the hospital and is brought home. He is looked after by Rohan and Sneha. The children split time between them through day and night. It is one such occasion that Mahesh gets talking to the kids and they tell their story. Something about their childhood connects with him and he asks them to pull out the painting that is still in the trunk. The kids have a look at it and confirm that it could well be them. Mahesh requests that they call the Priya and relate the story. Priya breaks down on learning about their story and apologizes for her conduct. Mahesh and Priya still do not relate the whole story to their lives.

By then, Michael, the truck driver picks up enough courage to venture to the school and speaks to Priya and tells her about the accident and how he found her in a coma and rushed her to the hospital. Suddenly, everything starts falling into place including her failed memory. She now recognizes Mahesh as her husband.

She rushes to Mahesh who is still in blind-fold and embraces him and her children. The revelation has a cathartic effect on Mahesh and he too recovers his memory. Mahesh is filled with the desire to see the children who he has only spoken to. The whole family now comes together to pray for Mahesh' sight.

Meanwhile, Sunil and Anu decide to pay a surprise visit to the school to meet Mahesh and Priya. They spot Mahesh and Priya sitting hand-in-hand on a park bench in the school. They are obviously crushed to see them together but decide not to make a fuss. They turn around and head back to their car.

Just then, Priya spots them and calls out. Mahesh and Priya share their story, which appears incredulous at first, but when the children join them it all becomes clear. They too stay back for the day that the bandage over Mahesh' eyes will be opened.

The day comes and Mahesh opens his eyes and sees the grown up children for the first time. He sees Priya as his wife after so many years…and remembers the two lives they have shared…and now starting with the third. He also sees Sunil and Anu and is afraid to think what a blow fate would have dealt them if Priya had agreed to Sunil's proposal.

Seeing the family so united, Michael, eases himself out without anyone knowing happy in the knowledge that he not only saved Priya's life but gave her original family back to her.

Mathew Anthony


Copyright with Mathew Anthony

Christian Writing - This is your day – don’t mess it up


Each day when I set out from my home to work, I pause at the picture of Jesus mounted at a height that is at hand's reach for an adult. I love this picture because Jesus has his palm stretched out in blessing which I 'physically' experience. The suffering that Jesus incurred for us is unmistakable from the mark on His palm – a reminder of the crucifixion.


Before leaving the house, I pray, "Lord, bless this day and make it holy for me. Help me not to fall into sin by causing hurt to my fellowmen by what I say, do or think. Also, bless all my family members".


I tell myself that this day is going to be different. Indeed, it is different, but not as intended in my prayer. It takes very little for me to be unkind and resentful. I often wonder what makes me so. The answer to that question is my perception of the person and problem.


A colossal character error in us humans that is a cause of much of the problem we face in society. We judge a person in an instant based on experiences, influences and unjustified fears and inexplicable feelings of revulsions. Simple example would be someone with unkempt hair and beard is dubbed a rebel and possibly a drug addict, to be avoided.


There are people that we easily take to and there are people who not all the gold in the world will make us come anywhere near them. I am exempting from this discussion people whose physical deformities keep us away from them.


We know it is easy to like people who make us laugh, are genuinely interested in us and always have something nice to say about us and about others. It is not so easy to like people, who appear very serious, appear to talk only about themselves, and every time they have anything to say about anybody else, it is usually about that person's shortcomings and if there are any successes, it is attributed to dubious means.


I see in me a good mix of the two types of people described above. I want to be more of one, but I end up doing more of the other. I also tend to judge people by certain yardstick and 'label' them in my mind. Of course, we need to possess some form of judgment of people to avoid wrong kinds of contacts. However, here I am talking about people who pose no such threat.


Once so labeled, my behavior toward that person is usually consistently good or consistently bad and some variation of the two. Because of these labels in my mind, I willingly accept some in my life, and reject others uncharitably.


Do I like this state of affairs? No, I certainly do not. Nor would most normally brought up people. But, I am simply not able to help myself, at most times.


This inability to conquer this shortcoming can have adverse impact in the workplace and at home. In my line of work, as a communication specialist, a large part of my day goes in persuading people or getting persuaded by people or finding ways to get out of the way of persuading or getting persuaded by people.


The latter, "getting out of the way" happens when I have formed the view that there is no common meeting ground on the issue. Of course, we all know that there is a mature way to disagree without being disagreeable. The reality: all niceties are forgotten in the heat of the moment and all that matters is a display of one's supremacy of thought, leaving behind shards of hurt feelings. The cause is lost as well as the relationship. After such an incident, for days on end the mind will continue to debate, which was more important, the cause or the relationship. Unless the mind is fully discharged of the resentment of the moment, the question will never be satisfactorily answered.


The disagreement is usually on a silly point, provoked often by an uncharitable, hurtful remark, and suddenly the silly point becomes a life and death issue. Words, which on past occasions, in a similar situation, was left hanging at the tip of the tongue, and retracted into the mind for patient massaging, now come tumbling out, to render irreparable damage and a fractured, irredeemable relationship.  A by-product of any such ugly, uncalled for situation is a raging headache, spot of intense loneliness and a few psychosomatic ailments thrown in.


When this happens in the workplace, you can be sure the issue is not just between two warring people. It involves the colleagues of the two people and in some sense the organization as a whole, because invariably it has some direct and indirect implication for the business. A quarreling person is tagged as someone you do not want hanging around you. This affects the person's potential to grow in the organization. Hence, the grace to be calm in a pressure-filled situation is a huge asset.


The same situation on the home front can be worse. You can leave your job and go elsewhere to work. There are no blood bonds. In the home situation, it can be tragic. You are separated from those who are yours for good or for worse. Through marriage, we are no more two, but one in Christ.


I share this personal note with you, because I am certain, if a generally mild-mannered person like me, so often finds himself in such sticky situation, so would many of you with bigger egos and worse tempers than me who are reading this note.


Hence, my daily prayer, "Lord, help me not to fall into sin, by causing hurt to my fellowmen by what I say, do or think". This I know Lord, whether it hurts my fellowmen or not (may be they are more thick-skinned and simply sneer at my effort), it sure does hurt me, and ruins my day. For me, each day is precious, to live in fellowship with God and my neighbor, to achieve God's purpose in my life. Do you have my problem? Then, pray my prayer. The Lord will answer.  He is answering in my life.


Christian Writing - The Sheer Goodness of People


July 26, 2005 – a city of over 16 million came to a grinding halt, literally. A combination of high-tide and incessant rains (highest in 100 years) had people in the resilient city of Mumbai wading through waist-high water to get to their homes. Some started the journey late afternoon and had not reached home the following morning even by sunrise.


As buses and cars were stranded for hours together, it was a touching sight to see people in the area come out with bottles of water, snacks and tea for those who had last sipped or eaten something 8-10 hours back.


What brings out the kindness and goodness of some people in such situations? Is it a previous experience where they have been recipient of some stranger's goodness in similar situation? Or was it exactly the opposite that when they needed succour and help, nobody stepped forward? Either way or just by the grace of God they have cultivated within them or have been blessed with a helpful nature that goes beyond the call of duty.


We know that goodness has a multiplier effect. Like a ripple which has no identifiable end, goodness too has far reaching effect which is self-propelling and self-propagating. Badness (to do evil), to coin a term, does not have any such momentum. To spread it needs to be stoked, blown over for the ember to become a raging flame. For goodness no such external application is needed. While many of us may not be 'bad', we do suffer from something called apathy and indifference which again is a far cry from goodness as we know it, and hence, urgently needs working on. 


If one-sixth of humanity is Christian – by choice or hereditary – it is because of the goodness of one man and His heavenly Father. The man, of course, is Jesus Christ. He left the comfort and splendor of His heavenly throne, to take the form of man, do good, suffer for it unto death – and rise again in glory.


Jesus' message to us was simple. 'Do unto others as you would have them do unto you'.


Some of us are born with a silver spoon and are not in need of anybody's help for anything. Everything has been provided or will be provided for the asking. With such privilege there is nothing that you need from anyone. In turn, there is nothing that such person believes that he needs to give to anyone. This is one way to interpret – 'Do unto others as you would have them done unto you'. On the other hand there are the poor, the destitute, who have nothing to give (except love which nobody wants and prayer which nobody cares for) and hence in turn should receive nothing.


Lord Jesus tells us two stories. One, of the Widow's mite (Mark 12:42-44): "Verily, I say unto you, that this poor widow cast more in, than all they which have cast into the treasury. For all they did cast in of their abundance; but she of her want did cast in all that she had, even all her living."


The other, less a story and more a statement, Jesus tell us in Mark 10:25 that "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the Kingdom of God." Does it apply to all the rich?


In my reckoning, not to all the rich but only those who do not own possessions, but the possessions own them. They virtually carry their riches on their backs never to be too far away from it. The load on their back is bigger than the hump of the camel. A camel may still squeeze in through the eye of a needle. But, the rich in question, no way.


It is like the lorry driver stuck under the bridge because he was loaded beyond the permissible limit. He tried every means to retrieve the truck except that which would have worked for him. All he had to do was to release some air from the tires.


With the rich too they need to release some "air" from the pomposity to get through the "eye of the needle". But, can they when they want to own every bit of their wealth all the time and not share a bit with anybody else; when they are constantly concerned about either losing it or not growing it sufficiently; when they surround themselves with all that wealth can buy and more than they would ever need. To them the poor are despicable and deserve to be where they are and not worthy of even a farthing of their overwhelming wealth.  


Jesus gives us the example of Zacchaeus in Luke 19:1-10 a tax collector and very rich man who fits the above profile. One encounter with Jesus (story worth reading for the manner in which Zacchaeus humbles himself and sheds all inhibitions to see Jesus by climbing up a tree because of his short status) and he is completely transformed virtually giving away his vast wealth – half to the poor and four times the sum to those who he has cheated in the past. Was Zacchaeus still rich after giving away most of his wealth – indeed! Can the rich to get to heaven? Yes, if they unload their burdens while they are still on earth doing some good while they are alive.


In sum, goodness has a ripple effect with far reaching positive consequences, but "badness" needs to be stoked to keep it burning. The poor and the rich can be good with what they have. To possess wealth is good, but to have wealth possess you is bad. In God's kingdom the more you give, the more you get. You will rarely see a poor generous giver. Jesus gave up the richness of his heavenly throne for the humiliation of the cross. As followers of Jesus we need no other role model to guide our way.









Christian Writing - The Power of Non-Violence


The other day one of my daughters was sitting alone in the room with tears running down her cheeks. She happened to be staring at the Dolorous Face of Jesus and was overwhelmed by the thought of the pain that Jesus was undergoing.


The picture of Jesus with the crown of thorns on the head, and face marred with bloodstains, is an eternal reminder of the power of non-aggression. One act that inspired a legion of saints, martyrs and ordinary people like you and me to endure suffering for a larger purpose. 


The crown of thorns on Jesus' head in the picture had two purposes - to mock Jesus and cause intense pain at the same time. Not too different from what happens to us when somebody mocks us – it invariably causes some pain – at our own shortcomings and at the fact that somebody should find fault with it. Adding insult to injury - so to speak.


Jesus bore the pain and the insults because his fight was not with mortal man but with the tormentor of man, Satan – the one who has brought sin and misery into our lives. Jesus had to die to put to death sin and by His resurrection empower all of us to do the same daily in our life.


The question is how aware are we as to who is our fight with  - against fellow human beings or principalities and powers of darkness? It is certainly not an easy concept to grasp and fairly challenging to practice.


If we have to take a leaf from Jesus' life – it would be Jesus' complete focus on his mission to free mankind from captivity and give mankind its inheritance. The sad truth is that most of us do not believe we are in captivity, and worse still, that there is actually an inheritance that God has kept in store for each and every one of us. Abraham was freed from pagan worship and got his inheritance at Canaan, so did the Jewish people freed from slavery and received into the Promised Land – and so will we, who seek in Jesus.


We ought to know we are in captivity if small things bother us - whether at our workplace or in our family. If we are not able to naturally show kindness, gentleness, patience and charity in dealing with other human beings. If we do not find joy, happiness and exhilaration in our relationships and what we do for a living. If we are obsessed with wanting something at all costs or willing to stoop to sinful behavior to satiate the needs of our body.


As human beings our favorite pastime is to compare – who has how much. If it stopped there, that would be fine – an intellectual exercise. However, it rarely stops there. Most of our idle moments is then spent speculating how somebody else got lot more than we do – and we would not put it past ourselves to weave in a few allegations to explain it away. At this stage, we have moved from an intellectual pursuit to the world of guesswork and character assassination. If unchecked, we can get into an emotional state leading to constant carping and depression at our own lowly state (however many notches it may be above the general population average). 


Lee Oswald Harvey, shot John F Kennedy for no other reason than to gain some personal attention, a fallout from being a manic depressive as a result of his belief of not being wanted when committed to an orphanage at the age of three. 


Some people have it (i.e. wealth) because they went and got it by means foul and fair. Others have it as an inheritance from God. They really did nothing for it other than work toward freeing themselves from captivity by grace given by God. By living the Word as close to the spirit and the letter, as possible.  God is more often concerned with our intention, than our accomplishment.  God said that it is not by your merit but by your faith that you are made righteous.


As a preacher shared recently, Jesus at the beginning of His ministry said "Come", and at the end of His ministry, said "Go" – and preach the Good News.


If we are to be free to earn our inheritance, we need to invite Jesus into our hearts. Be filled with the fruits of the Holy Spirit - love, joy, happiness, gentleness, kindness, patience and self-control. Develop a 'non-aggressive' posture to our responses to life's handouts. We need to preach the Good News that others may know The Way, The Truth and The Life and be free to earn their own inheritance from God's treasure trove. 


A man who is meek when insulted will bear it, but will harbour ill-will and wait for the day when he can pay his tormentor back in full…and some more. The man who is powerful will give it back as good as he gets…and some more.


However, there are some among the meek and the powerful, who will neither respond in kind nor bear ill will.  Jesus did it, Mahatma Gandhi & Martin Luther King followed. They all delivered on the ultimate objective of freedom for their people and their rightful inheritance. 


What makes these people different? One, they have a larger goal in life then most of us. Two, they have a role model that they diligently try to emulate. Three, they are willing to make whatever sacrifices to keep to the spirit of their mission without allowing anything to corrupt their progress. Four, their mission is invariably larger than the value of their life, for they know they will continue to live through the mission they have espoused. 


The people that we honor were not necessarily more healthier than we are or more intelligent than we are or had more resources at their command than we do. They were anointed people who believed in a just cause and the manner of achieving it.


As Christian, we have only one just cause – to live Christ-like life. At its simplest, it means not giving into sin. Acts that causes harm to another or to oneself. And, the Reward - freedom and a rich inheritance – a 'free gift' from God.

Christian Writing - The Joy of Life lived in Abundance


The Joy of Life lived in Abundance


First of all, though you have distinguished yourself as a professional you have made yourself outstanding as a family man in this age -- with FIVE children. Would you choose such a big family if given a rewind of your life? Why?


I have always valued family life, but never imagined it would come in such abundance. I valued prosperity to meet out basic needs and did not imagine (again) that it would come in such abundance. Are the two linked? There is no way to know, except to believe that God wants us to have the very best in life, but with our strange ideas (and driven by the trend of the day) we often become a stumbling block for His plan in our life and deprive ourselves of his grace, mercy and free gifts.


Given a rewind of our lives, we would have these lovely five children all over again. How can we not when we have seen them in flesh and blood. Part of the challenges of faith is to believe in what you cannot see. We had our apprehension about having five children, but like wealth, which nobody in right mind will refuse, we too accepted the challenges of raising a large family. I must say God has been good and has supplied all our needs and continues to do so. We do not feel the pinch of raising a large family. Yes, it does put a strain on our time (more so for my wife) and often we are not able to do the things that we want to do. But, a smile and a hug from our little ones more than compensates for it. When our children grow into adulthood and have their children we are in for some rollicking times. 

As a busy executive religion surely makes demands of your already tight schedules -- How do you make time for Christ?


I attend daily mass. I always say an intercessory prayer before leaving home for all whom I know and who have asked for my prayer. When I am with the family, the family rosary in the evening is a must. I get the The Daily Gospel in my email box and I read it almost everyday. I have a good stock of books – Bishop Fulton Sheen, President Jimmy Carter Sunday School Lessons etc. I write for the Renewal Voice and give the occasional talk on the Word of God. That calls for some intensive study. I read Zenit the Vatican eNewsletter nearly everyday and by subscribing to other biblical newsletters like The Berean, I am in touch with commentaries on the Word of God.  And, last but not the least, God's praise is always on my lips irrespective of whether a good or bad thing has occurred to me in the course of the day. When I am alone I reflect on various issues and the divine plan for all of us. I am able to spontaneously share these reflections with groups of people when we gather to pray. Through all this, do I feel I spend quality time with Jesus? The answer is no and I would like to correct it sooner than later.



The most important question: Why Christ? Is He really a crucial factor in your life?


There was a time that I was a Sunday Christian and a good one. I was involved with Parish activities including doing a one-hour slide show on Good Friday for nearly three years at a Bombay parish. I did not know Christ until I attended a retreat by Jose Anathanam in 1993. The retreat opened my eyes to the Word of God. I had never owned or read the Bible before.  After the retreat, the Bible became a constant companion. I read, and reflect, and connect Christ to the daily events of my life. I cannot imagine life without Christ. He is as real to me as my parents, my wife or my kids. I almost have a life-like relationship with Him and He with me. At one point, before my encounter with Christ, I did forsake the Church and tried to know more about Hinduism, Nirvana, and all that rishi stuff, but the pull of Christ brought me back to The Truth, The Way and The Life.

As a person who interacts with the Ambanis, among others, what do you think sets apart a real Christian from others?


Let me answer in the spirit of the question that in my line of work I do meet some very important people (but have not met the Ambanis). Frankly, everything comes down to values. Business is about relationships, but better understood as being about money. There is a right way of making money and a wrong way. As a Christ-centered person rooted in the Word of God, there should be no confusion about the decision we need to take when confronted with contentious issues. However, we may choose to behave otherwise, not just in the case of business but also in our day-to-day life with respect to other relationships. As a Christ-centered person, you will feel convicted when you do wrong. We need to seek forgiveness and resolve never to make the wrong choice again. In the process, we mature as a Christian and begin to witness Christ with our life and commence the redemptive process in someone else's life. So, a real Christian is set apart when he or she takes a course that goes against the flow, not just for the sake of it, but because of the deeply cherished beliefs, which if need to be, can be explained to those who may seem affected by it.

Why do you think the world needs Christian executives at the top of the Corporate world?


With money comes power to influence. Global corporations today rule the world, not presidents and prime ministers. The latter come and go. Corporate chieftains have long innings to do good or damage with immense wealth and power at their command. A corporation with Christian governance philosophy can do a host of good to reduce inequality in the world in every area of life. We know with right values comes prosperity. It may take time but it will come in abundance and stay forever. The Catholic Church is a great example of that. We need lot more John Paul 2s as Corporate honchos in the world of today.

What would be your warning and advise for Christians who are on the way to the top in the Business world?


Have the conviction of John Paul 2. Say it without mincing words, but carry the people with you with a life that stands testimony to the belief. The young loved John Paul even though they did not buy into his views on contraception, abortion, family planning etc. The ability to balance convictions with driving business success is key to reaching the top of the corporate ladder for a Christian. Having convictions but delivering failures is no use to anyone. Several of the American Presidents were (and still are) great Christian. Jimmy Carter being one of them.

Interview with Mathew Anthony, General Manager, Rapp Collins India, Mumbai.

Christian Writing - Not all fear is bad – so choose the right one!


Fear is a normal part of life. But, it was not always so. Adam and Eve did not know fear when God created them. And, unfortunately so (as will become clear later). They were overcome by fear moment they bit into the forbidden apple. They sinned and fear came into their life. Ever since fear and sin have gone hand-in-hand.


Fear begins early in life. Sometimes as early as when the child is in the womb.


The child in the womb often carries the scar of the mother's fears. A child born with fear etched in the mind tends to react very differently than a child who is born free from fear. With this understanding or otherwise expectant mothers are always treated with tender loving care – so that the child in the womb will be blessed with a sense of comfort and assurance from all concerns.


This is more the ideal than the reality for families living in cities with the constant pressure of financial obligations and hundred-and-one-things to do. Often, expectant mothers because of necessity or from career concerns or responsibilities at home "work" late into their pregnancy. This can adversely affect the child, unless the expectant mother is acutely aware of the situation and is able to be of "good cheer and free from fear". This can only happen if the expectant mother and the family as a whole is prayerful, and is living in the joy, peace and happiness that only Jesus can give.


The fear passed on by a "restless" mother often manifests itself in the child in various ways. Getting cranky at the slightest "provocation" is perhaps one tell-tale sign. (Equally true of adults who come from an "adversarial" environment). As in all cases, there are exceptions. In some cases it is a living nightmare for the parents as they do their best to pacify the child. Again, prayer and presence of Jesus in their lives can change everything – for we know that He is a Master of everything.


Now, let's hark back 2001 years.  


Mary was "deeply disturbed", not fearful, when the angel of the Lord appeared to her.  Mary was born without sin and hence there was no sin in Jesus. Mary was without fear at the birth of Jesus, and later, Mary was without fear at the foot of the cross. It is by Mary that Jesus was born free from fear. It is this sinless nature that gave Jesus the fearlessness to take on Lucifer after fasting for forty days.


When the shepherds and then the kings came to pay homage to Jesus in the manger, Jesus was a picture of peace – a peace that passes all understanding. Joseph and Mary, for all the hardships they had to undergo before Jesus was born, and soon after, when they had to flee to Egypt – were at peace and free from fear – even though danger was always imminent.


It is said of Joseph in Mat 1:19 that he was a man who always did what was right. He did not want to disgrace Mary publicly (when he heard that Mary was with child), so he planned to break the engagement privately. But, we know that was not to be. Again, Joseph heeded the angel's words, rather than allow destructive thoughts to enter his head.


Hence, we can summarize that not all fear is bad.


There are the positive and negative forces of fear. We know that it is the positive forces of fear that pumps "adrenalin" to our brain and helps us respond to danger swiftly enough to avoid it. Our eyes clasp shut in nanosecond when it "fears" danger lurking in the form of a particle heading towards it. 


It is the positive nature of Mary's fear of the Lord that made her remark, "I am the handmaiden of the Lord". It is this spirit of fear that we need to cultivate and nurture. Fear born of humility when we ponder the "awesomeness" of God almighty. Perhaps, it is important to point out that it is not hard to lose this sense of fear in the "grind" of daily life. Every action of ours stands testimony to whether we truly fear God or it is just an interesting notion.


So, fear in itself is not bad. In fact, the right kind of fear does us a world of good. After all fear is an emotion that is created by God for our survival, and more importantly, for our salvation. Unfortunately for them, Adam and Eve lacked fear of any kind  - including God. They sinned, and discovered the negative forces of fear. Mary and Joseph were blessed with the positive forces of fear and the world was blessed with Jesus.


What is the dominating fear in your life - that off the World or of God? Negative Fear or Positive Fear? Whichever sphere we are in, it is good to realize it and plan to invest ourselves with the positive forces of fear that comes from God.


We need to develop the fear of God in our daily life as mentioned earlier – not when we are faced with danger. It may be too late then. Prayer and fasting, as was the practice with Jesus, is a great way to develop the fear of God. When we have achieved this transformation – it will manifest itself in everything that we do – and our children will be blessed likewise – as Jesus was from Mary and Joseph.


May you be blessed with the fear of the Lord!






Christian Writing - Quality of life matters more than the quantity and manner of worship

Benny Hinn Ministry received a tumultuous response in Mumbai in the second week of January 2004 with over one million people attending the prayer service. It would be good to understand this phenomenon and especially in the context of recent trend of people ostensibly devout Catholics, and especially Charismats, leaving the Church.


An aged lady who received a healing for her back in her testimony praised and showered blessing on Benny Hinn, and in the same breadth complimented him for desisting from saying anything negative against the Catholic Church or Mother Mary.


The lady was essentially trying to reconcile conflicting emotions - her perception of Benny Hinn as being anti-catholic and her need for healing based on Benny Hinn's reputation. She feared that her love for Mother Mary and the Catholic Church would be compromised by going for the meeting and was greatly relieved that she was not put to the test. 


But, unlike her there are many who have abandoned the Catholic Church for reasons ranging from finding the church uninteresting and uninspiring to questioning the very nature of worship. 


Recently, my wife and I met an old family friend, very devout and hitherto very involved in the Charismatic movement. He has now left the church. The reason: Jesus is the resurrected Christ and hence cannot be put on a wooden or plastic cross and hung round our necks or placed in a tabernacle. Furthermore, since God commanded in the Old Testament against graven, the icons in the church amount to idol worship.


This is indeed an area for scholars to debate and find the right answer and not the scope of this article. For instance, God commanding Moses to make an image of a bronze serpent and raise it up on a pole so that all who were victims of a plague will see and be saved – a precursor to Jesus' death on the cross and the resultant salvation for mankind – is a graven image that God himself proposed.


However, in such arguments, one fears that the essential tenets of Jesus' message are likely to get lost. Jesus asked, "Who is my mother or my brother or my sisters? He also provided the answer saying "those who do the will of God."


David had two opportunities to kill King Saul at close hands. David's response in both situations (Sam 26) was: "who can put forth his hand against the Lord's anointed, and be guiltless?" David was a man after God's own heart and was very particular about observing what is right in God's eyes. Therefore, it is contingent on us to be careful before we condemn men of God whichever side of the equation they may be.


When David sinned, and famously so, by committing adultery with Bathsheba and having Uriah killed, he accepted his punishment humbly and penitently. When his son felt fatally ill, as punishment for his sin with Bathsheba, David put on sackcloth and fasted, pleading with God for his son's life.  However, when the child died David accepted God's judgment without remorse and went back to his normal life astounding his people.


What is remarkable about David is his constant thanksgiving in all situations. David did not desire to be king. God made him one. He, of course, desired to avenge the insult the philistine Goliath was heaping on God's people, and God empowered him. God had a plan for David; David acted knowing God is completely behind.


As much as God had a plan for David, he has a plan for each one of us. He wants us to have the best and Jesus gives the examples of the birds of the air and the lilies of the fields, how they do not have to worry about a thing. While the reward is free, it is still corresponds to what level we are obedient to God's commandments.


Jesus said, "Love your enemies and do good to those who have done you harm. Judge not and you will not be judged; condemn not and you will not be condemned; forgive and you will be forgiven; give and it will be given to you; good measure, pressed down, shaken together, running over, will be put into your lap. For the measure you give will be the measure you get back." (Luke 6:27-38)


The Catholic Church reflects on this commandment all the time. It is however up to each individual to pay heed to these commandments and follow it to the T if we want our share of the rewards. When we fail to do so, our share of rewards is curtailed. A healing or an unexpected blessing is God's way of giving us a second chance to complete repentance. The healing or blessing can be ours when we receive Holy Communion or share private time with the Lord before the Eucharist or at a Benny Hinn prayer meeting or while we are engaged in our day-to-day activities. God is always looking over us. Therefore, what is important is the quality of our life more than the extent, nature and dimension of our worship. The latter cannot substitute for the former. Irrespective of the church we may choose to go to the fundamentals of this law will not change.


If we know how to love one another (forgiveness and charity of heart being its key components) and to give thanks to God at all times for all the wonderful things that he has done in our life, no matter how painful our life may be in many respects, any church is a fulfilling, enriching church.



Christian Writing - Parenthood and the Gift of Children

Parenthood and the Gift of Children

Excerpted from Sex, God, and Marriage, available FREE in e-book format.

Children, obey your parents in the Lord, for this is right. "Honor your father and mother so that it may go well with you and so that you may enjoy long life on the earth." Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.
Ephesians 6:1–4

We live in a world where the structure of family life is undergoing profound changes, in rich and poor countries alike. The concept of family as a stable, cohesive unit is fast becoming outdated. We are even afraid to define what a family is because we do not want to offend anyone.

For years, psychologists have warned of the effects of broken marriages, teen pregnancies, violent homes, and other social ills, but their warnings have been given in vain. Now we are reaping a bitter harvest. All this makes it more urgent than ever for us to rediscover God's original intent in creating man and woman, and in blessing them with children.

Having children today requires courage.
Modern society despises the family. It is difficult for a family with several children to find a house, and in many places it is impossible to rent an apartment, even if there is only one child. Children are simply not wanted. Many people think it regrettable to leave jobs or other pursuits to have children, and they often look down on women who choose to stay at home to raise children instead of pursuing a more "acceptable" career.

Having children in these times certainly takes great courage, but that is what faith means: not knowing what lies ahead, and yet still trusting that God has his hand over all things and will have the final say. More than ever, parents need to trust God. The health of a society (and the health of any church or movement within society) depends on the strength of its marriages. Where there is reverence for God, there are strong and stable families, but as soon as this is lost, there is rapid disintegration and decline.

Those who know what it means to see a child smile for the first time, to love him or her, and to feel love in return know something of the greatness of God and the nearness of eternity in each child. They know that their child is like no other, and that no child could replace this one in their hearts. They will also realize what an awe-inspiring responsibility it is to bring a child into the world – a responsibility that only grows with the child – and will sense that they are too weak and sinful to bring up even one child in their own strength.

But our recognition of inadequacy should not lead us to despair. It should make us realize how dependent we are on grace. Only the adult who stands like a child before the grace of God is fit to raise a child.

On what basis should a family be built?
If we think of starting a family, our first question should be: on what foundation? Complete dedication to Christ and his church is the only dependable foundation. On him alone can we build a rich and fulfilled family life that will withstand the forces that attack it from outside.

It is the task of every couple to bring up their children on God's behalf, to represent the creator. For the small child especially, father and mother stand for God. That is why the commandment to honor father and mother is so vital to the upbringing of every child from the start. Without it, the commandment to honor God has no real meaning. Actually, every child has an instinctive longing for the security of father, mother, and God. It is terrible, then, when parents do not fulfill this longing, when they see parenting merely as a role and are not truly fathers or mothers. Children will sense such hypocrisy wherever it occurs, and they will become resentful, bitter, and rebellious as they grow older.

The same is true if a couple lives in dissension – if a woman does not support her husband's task as head of the family, for example, or if a man does not love and honor his wife. When children cannot find a picture of God in their parents, they have trouble finding a secure and healthy foundation for their later lives. They may even experience emotional difficulties.

Recently I counseled a family I have known since their four children were very young. The parents had all the right intentions, yet they were divided over whose role it was to lead the family. While visitors and outsiders were presented with a peaceful enough picture, within the family tensions and rivalry developed. As their children grew up, the parents were too disunited to lead them properly, and thereby set a poor example for them to follow.

Now their children are adults. They are all lovable, bright, and talented, yet they are floundering. Because their parents never dealt with the elements of mistrust and disunity in their marriage, these young adults now find it very hard to trust anyone. Like their parents, it is difficult for them to be sincere and honest with themselves, and they always need to feel in control. Sadly, they don't realize how this cuts them off from other people, and they have become lonely and disillusioned. Worst of all, they are wholly unrealistic in their expectations and seem to think the world owes them success.

It is of greatest importance that from the first day of a child's life he or she is surrounded by love and by reverence for God. To the same degree that children experience the love their parents have for each other, they will find the inner security they need in order to develop and grow.

In questions of discipline, it is best if a husband and wife are fully agreed as to what they expect in terms of behavior. Children should not have to decide which parent is right. Their position should be one of trust, not judgment. They look for consistent boundaries and for the security that comes from unity, love, and mutual respect. These things are the basis of true love for children.

Children need living examples, not religious words.
The first five years of a child's life are formative, and therefore the best time for parents to bring Jesus and the gospel alive to their children. This can be done quite simply by telling them about Jesus' birth, death, and resurrection. All these things can move the hearts of children at a surprisingly young age and awaken in them a love for God and for Jesus.

We cannot bring our children to Jesus, however, if he is only a figure in our Bibles. Children will always want to come to Jesus, but they will instinctively rebel against false piety. As German pastor Christoph Blumhardt once put it, "If we try to drag children into the kingdom by means of our religiosity, they will flee from our pious homes as fast as they are able." Therefore we should be careful not to put our children under any religious pressure or plague them with talk about sins they can neither understand nor commit. We want them to have a childlike attitude toward God, toward Jesus, and toward the Bible. It is of no use, for instance, to make children learn even the shortest passages of Scripture if God does not speak directly into their little hearts. Rather than try to "teach" children faith, it is much better for their parents to live their faith by example in a spontaneous, genuine way. When our children see that we, their parents, rely on God for everything – when they see us thank him and obey his commands – they will feel an inner urge to pray and to follow him of their own accord.

Our task is to guide our children, not control them.
Raising children requires daily discipline, but we should never forget that caring for them in God's stead means guiding, not controlling, them. Children must be encouraged to overcome themselves and look beyond their little worlds from a very early age, and they must learn to love and respect others. They cannot be left to swing with every mood and follow every selfish whim without restraint. Clear directions and consistent boundaries are always necessary. In fact, discipline is the greatest love we can show them (Heb. 12:10–11). But it is never loving to coerce or crush them.

We must remember that every child is a thought of God (Ps. 139:13–17) and try to understand why it is said that "a little child will lead them" (Isa. 11:6). In guiding our children, we cannot and should not try to shape them according to our own intentions or plans. We should not force on them anything that has not been born into them, awakened from within, or given them by God. God has a specific intent for each child; he has a plan for every one, and he will hold to it. Our task is to help each child find God's purpose for him and fulfill it.

Carrying out this task means continually exercising self-denial in our own human efforts to lead a child. Sometimes, it may mean refraining from tearing children away from their own thoughts. Blumhardt notes how quickly we hurt our relationship with children when we interrupt their thoughts and happy disposition and attempt to influence them by our ideas or advice: "When left undisturbed, children learn obedience and respect best of all."

Naturally, we must be on guard against permissiveness. Flabbiness is often a fruit of an unhealthy emotionalism between parent and child. It inhibits the childlike spirit because it subjects the child to the spinelessness of an adult who has lost the clarity of Christ. We must always watch that our children are free from such false ties.

True authority strengthens and stimulates a child.
Children must never feel ill-used if spoken to or admonished sharply. They need to learn to take themselves in hand and face up to what has happened when they are shown to be in the wrong. They should not give half-answers that could mean this or that. Yet even if a certain sharpness toward children is healthy, impatience is not, especially when it results in corporal punishment. That, my grandfather Eberhard Arnold writes, is a "declaration of bankruptcy."

We reject both the harshness of physical punishment and the power of manipulation: both are forms of authoritarianism that fail to take the child seriously as a bearer of God's image. The one fails in mercy, and the other in honesty. Both fail in love. True authority stimulates and strengthens what is good in each child by leading him to make his own decisions between right and wrong. Only when we lead children by trusting them and loving them will they feel the desire to struggle against the evil that tries to work in them and in each of us.

I thank God that I had a father who could be very strict with us children when necessary. Like any child, I rebelled at times against his strictness, but I always knew it was a sign of his love for me. From early childhood on, our parents instilled in us children the value of the fifth commandment, to honor father and mother. We knew that if we did not love and honor them, we were actually dishonoring God.

As for my mother, my father insisted that we children show her respect. He would not tolerate disobedience to her. Only in later years did I realize his wisdom. It is the father's task to uphold respect toward the mother, since she carries the weightier burden in raising their children, especially when they are small and sick.

Though my father could be stern, I never once felt threatened by him. Whenever he reprimanded me for doing something wrong, I could count on his complete forgiveness and love once I had accepted my responsibility and wanted to make amends. I knew that the wrong I had done would be forgotten, and that I would be able to make a fresh start.

My father showed me the significance of loving authority, an authority that only God can give. In each child's heart is a longing to hear a "no" when a "no" is needed, and a desire to set things right when he knows he has done something wrong. True parental authority gives inner security to a child, because it provides the child with the stability of set boundaries.

Most fathers and mothers do not intentionally mislead their children, and when they do mislead them without meaning to, they are no less likely to suffer the consequences then their children. Some parents are confident about their child-rearing abilities, and others are not, but there are times when both will throw up hands. When this is the case, it is vital that they find the humility to ask someone for help – whether a close friend, relative, a teacher, or a trusted pastor or family counselor. Of course, such help must be enlisted in such a way that it reassures the child in question – and not at the expense of a relationship with him or her. It is vital to remember that even the best expert assistance may, at the end of the day, be a hindrance – not a help. I say this because ultimately,  "successful" parenting is not a matter of capability or wisdom, but of grace. My father writes in this regard:

Christ calls us to become like children, and this means we must drop everything and become completely dependent on God and on one another. If we as parents love God with all our heart and soul, our children will have the right reverence for us, and we will also have reverence for our children and for the wonderful mystery of becoming and being a child. Reverence for the spirit that moves between parent and child is the basic element of a happy family life.