Monday, March 27, 2017

Not heard!

In my various training interventions with the deaf and mute, I observed two distinguishing characteristics. Firstly, they were good at grasping my communication. Secondly, all the ones I met looked half their age! Persons who were forty years old looked just twenty. The faces of parents looked young enough to be teenagers.

While the first seemed logical the second seemed intriguing. But, over the years I realised that the reason was that they had ‘not heard’ a single negative comment or discouraging statement or a humiliating condemnation. Hence they had lesser reasons to frown, sulk or get angry. This resulted in a less strained face.

Now look at the children who can hear. They hear a lot of negatives and judgemental statements. They hear more ‘don’t’s than ‘do’s. They keep hearing unfair comparisons with others. Such, damaging talk leads to negative self-esteem or doubts in self-worth. Just imagine if children had ‘not heard’ undesirables.

The spoken word can be a severe blow. Hence sages have recommended restraint while expressing the negative. Of course, it is pertinent to note that besides the word, the tone too carries the potential to undermine the recipient. We must choose to ensure that the regressive is ‘not heard’!

Self-esteem helps soar like a bird…
When the judgemental is ‘not heard’!

- Pravin K. Sabnis

Monday, March 20, 2017

Defeat Death

A young man was seized by an existential dilemma. He felt life was futile since death was not in his control. He believed that every effort of his would be in vain if death were to make an unsolicited occurrence. Hence, he decided to commit suicide. 

As he walked to a cliff edge, past memories kept flashing in his conscious memory. Eventually, his mind moved to the future. He began visualising the reactions of people to his death. His imagination projected a refrain, ‘he killed himself!’

He realised that his demise would be of his chosen method and at his selected time and place. Obviously, he had a say over his death. He turned back from his tracks and moved on to take head-on the challenges of life… and death!

So often, we give up on doing things we like to do just because we are convinced of the certainty of failure. This is similar to giving up on life, just because death is a certainty. Let’s not worry too much about defeat or death and the uncertainties that surround them. We must overcome the negative to nurture positive possibilities.

Bhagat Singh wrote, ‘Jeena hai toh marna seekho yaaro’ (to live well, learn to die). At the age of 23, he happily walked to his gallows along with his colleagues and he showed us how to embrace life by defeating death! Even though his death day was advancing, he did not give up on life, putting every minute to appropriate use.

Defeating death is all about moving beyond the vice of ambiguity. When we defeat diffidence we discover possibilities. The one who is halted by the sceptre of death will always be blind to the ways to be alive. The glorious uncertainties of life are far more empowering than the destabilising certainty of death.

Life is full of possibilities fresh…
Choose to defeat death’s crash!

- Pravin K. Sabnis

Monday, March 13, 2017


Leaves sprout… flowers bloom
Trees smile and chase the gloom
Spring is here to spread the cheer
Shed your inhibitions, have no fear!

Here’s the flavoured milk, say cheers
For the veterans, open the bhang & beers
The fire’s going down, bring more wood
There it lies where once the tree stood

A full moon looks on as winds stoke embers,
in the season of spring, trees get dismembered
Wood chars, so does the plastic trash
flowers singe smearing earth with ash.

Next we get to spray the colours everywhere
Made from mud, paint and chemicals not very rare
But don’t you mind the itch and the stains
It won’t happen till spring comes again!

(a poem written on 3 March 2007)
- Pravin K. Sabnis

Monday, March 6, 2017

Circulus In Probando

Last May, I saw a video by a teenager daughter of a martyr soldier. I was all choked up by the predicament of a two year old child who grows up to hate an entire community and an entire country because she believes that they killed her father. However, her mother makes her see the larger perspective and Gurumehar Kaur grew up to be a soldier of peace.

One of the lines, on a poster that Kaur holds in the silent video is now being put out in isolation of her larger cry for peace... of course the twisting of truth is a reaction to her current opposition to the student union politics... but the majority of the trolling is carried forward by those who had not seen that particular video. Some have insisted that she be punished, banished and a few want her brutalised.

The trolls are using a method used in arguments - called ‘Circulus in probando’ (Latin for 'circle in proving) – actually, a logical fallacy in which the reasoner begins with what they are trying to end with. The components of a circular argument appear logically valid because if the premise is true, the conclusion must be true.

For instance in the case of the young girl, the ‘Circulus in probando’ goes like this
She said the enemy country is not guilty of the crime.
We know that the enemy country is guilty of the crime.
Hence, she is guilty of supporting the crime!

It is pertinent to note that the first line is a twisted fact if you check out the video where the teenager blames the leadership of the other country too ... but if you accept the premise as true, the conclusion appears true too...

On social media, the use of ‘Circulus in probando’ is common. In fact, even decent disagreements with the girl’s stand evoked similar methods of trolling. It is hence necessary to examine the primary statement to escape the vicious vice of the logical fallacy of circular reasoning. What seems logical may well be falsehood if the foundation of an argument is an untruth or a misrepresentation.

If premise is faulty, inference may well be tragic
We must not yield blindly to the circle of logic!

- Pravin K. Sabnis

Monday, February 13, 2017

Live Mic

The trainer was conducting a session on Interpersonal Communication. He was urging the participants to be courteous, dignified, open minded and responsive. He was recommending certain best practices to ensure the absence of hurtfulness or aggression in the interaction especially during conversations on the telephone.

In the break, the trainer went to the washroom. While there, he got a call from his secretary. For no reason, he got abusive and started heaping humiliations on her. All the participants in the hall were aghast. They had heard every word as the trainer had forgotten to switch off the microphone connected to the collar of his shirt!

The mic is always on for those who preach, those who take centre stage, those who take the high moral ground… major microphone gaffes have exposed the two faced behaviour of people who have diametrically diverse conduct in public space and private space. Such revelations of unacceptable inconsistency have felled many an image.

It is about core character and how we behave in different spaces at different times. It is pertinent to note that the mic is always on and we should remain aligned to our values that must remain constant whether on stage or off it. The live mic is a test of character that is confirmed by constancy in actions… whether we are what we project ourselves to be!

The live mic is surely a real check
Of a consistent act on every deck!

- Pravin K. Sabnis

Monday, February 6, 2017


Poet-saint Kabir wrote the following simple yet profound lines…
‘Bada hua toh kya hua… jaise pedh khajur…
Panthi ko chaya nahin… fal phi lagte ati dur’
(So what if you have grown tall… but like a date palm…
You have no shade to offer and your fruit is out of reach)

A date palm grows tall to an impressive height, projecting eminence and a distinction of its own. But it does not provide shade to weary travellers. And its fruit grows so high that one cannot easily pluck it. Using this analogy, Kabir raises questions about our vain personalities.

What good is the eminence that arises from our achievements, if it is not useful to others? Kabir insists that our personal growth should not distance us from usefulness to others. The trees which offer shade to the weary and fruits to the hungry are preferred to those which only grow to self-centred prominence.

We aspire to grow. But if our growth is useful for others our achievements become worthwhile for others too. Any growth that is only of value to the owner is not worthy of applause and appreciation. Hence we must ensure that the benefits of our personal growth are shared with others.

Greatness is not just in growing tall...
But ensuring that we are useful to all!

- Pravin K. Sabnis

Monday, January 30, 2017


A 2005 movie directed by Jahnu Barua, explores the downward spiral of a retired professor, Uttam Chaudhary (portrayed by Anupam Kher) as he falls victim to dementia. He begins to insist that he killed Gandhi by accidentally playing with a toy gun into which someone else had placed real bullets. He keeps repeating the line which is the title of the film: Maine Gandhi Ko Nahin Mara (I Did Not Kill Gandhi)!

The roots of his illusion are in a childhood incident of playing darts on balloons filled with red water and placed on someone's picture. That day someone placed Gandhi's picture on the balloon that 8-year old Uttam popped just as his father arrived. The same evening, Gandhi was assassinated. Uttam’s father’s blaming created a permanent scar on the young child’s sub conscious mind.

Uttam’s psychiatrist and daughter use a mock court trial to point to him that he is not the culprit. A gun expert says that a toy gun (which Uttam believes he killed Gandhi with) cannot kill anyone. A relieved and liberated Uttam turns track to ask everyone, ‘aren’t we responsible for the killing of Gandhi on a daily basis?’

While the film deals with the fear and uncertainty that a victim of dementia goes through, it is also a metaphor for Gandhi who is reviled by some. Falsehoods are repeated to tarnish the one who inspires so many across the world. It is pertinent to note that many who justify the assassination of a great man are ignorant of his writings or are fuelled by hate.

How did Gandhi get reduced to just a road, a stamp, and a statue? 'You remember me only on two days, October 2 and January 30,' cries Chaudary on behalf of his beloved leader. We must emulate the one who is worth emulating in terms of his simplicity, courage, and love for all. We can be better human beings by keeping alive the thinking and actions of Mahatma!

It is wonderful to keep the Mahatma alive
His thoughts ensure humanity will thrive!

- Pravin K. Sabnis