Thursday, December 29, 2011

"I am the master of my fate: I am the captain of my soul."

Just saw an excellent film called "Invictus" on the life of Nelson Mandela. This poem inspired him to endure jail on Robben Island.

Invictus by William Ernest Henley (1849-1902)

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

Monday, October 17, 2011

Occupy Wall Street - I am not moving (a short film)

My dear students, friends and colleagues,

You may be following the "Occupy Wall Street" protests.

Note the irony of this short film:

Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe Pinto.

Pune, India, Monday, 17 October 2011.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

"That hour just before the children came home ..."

My dear students, friends and colleagues,

Many of you, especially women at home, may want to know about various techniques used by great writers to find and make time and get down to writing.

I found this small description of technique in the Carol Shields biography.

Her novel, Small Ceremonies, was published in 1976. Carol Shields was thrilled when Small Ceremonies won the Canadian Authors Association Award. When asked: "How did you find the time to write Small Ceremonies?" Carol replied:

"Everyone asks me this, including my own children. What my children forget is that I did not have a job; they are all raising children and having jobs. But I didn't have a job. I didn't write until they went to school, and I didn't write on weekends and I didn't write in the evening. None of this was possible.

"But I used to try to get that hour just before they came home for lunch, 11 to 12. You know, got all those socks picked up, etc. and then I tried to write a couple of pages.

"That was all I ever asked myself to do.

"Then sometimes, in the afternoon, before they came home from school, I would get back to those two pages, and maybe have a chance to do them over again. But I really only had about an hour or an hour and a half a day. This was how I organized my time, that I would give myself one or two pages a day, and if I didn't get to my two pages, I would get into bed at night with one of those thick yellow tablets of lined paper, and I would do two quick pages and then turn off the light.

"I did this for nine months, and at the end of nine months, I had a novel. I could see how it could be done in little units. I thought of it like boxcars. I had nine boxcars, and each chapter had a title starting with September, and then October, November, December, so it was a very easy structure for someone writing a first novel to follow."

[Interview with Terry Gross on Public Radio, 1 May 2002]

If you come across any other technique, please share it with me.

Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, India, Wednesday, 5th October 2011.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Settling for a pass-fail in fathering

By A.C. Snow, Correspondent, 19 June 2011, News & Observer, Raleigh, North Carolina, USA.

I SUPPOSE it's only natural that on every Father's Day, while not consciously meaning to, I revisit my father, that is, the memory of him.

Also, every Father's Day, I re-evaluate my own performance as a father.

I am even tempted from time to time to call my daughter and ask in what ways I failed or disappointed her as a father. But I usually back off, knowing that she loves me too much to be totally honest. Anyway, I'm not looking for an "A." A pass-fail grade will suffice.

Surely, many of you have experienced that same temptation and warned yourself, "Don't go there!"

Although I'm not complaining or blaming him, it was almost as if I never had a father, at least not in the way that today's kids interact and enjoy their dads.

Dad was 64 when I was born, already around the bend of his life's road. Because I was the youngest of his 10 sons, he had little energy for or interest in me.

I can't recall him ever holding me in his arms. I never heard "I love you," from him, which was not that unusual for those times when the expression was pretty much nonexistent in father-son relationships.

Something missing

A friend once told me that he only heard his father say "I love you" once during his lifetime.

As a little boy, he was playing in the yard when his father accidentally ran him down with a riding lawn mower, breaking his arm.

The distraught father, picked him up in his arms and blurted, "I love you! I love you!"

"It was wonderful!" he said. "Those words were well worth the pain."

In a recent "All in the Family" rerun, overbearing Archie is visiting daughter Gloria in the hospital after she has miscarried her and Meat head's first baby.

Archie sits by his daughter's bed, staring at her, overcome by emotion.

"Daddy, are you trying to say something?" Gloria asks gently. Archie silently nods his head.

"Are you trying to say 'I love you?'" Gloria asks.

Archie, his eyes welling, again nods in the affirmative, whereupon his daughter says softly, "I love you, too, Daddy."

He did care

How great it is that those three powerful words, "I love you," seem so much easier for today's fathers when interacting with their sons.

My father was a good man, a gentle man. It wasn't his fault that I spent most of my youth vainly looking for a father figure.

He was never abusive, either in word or action toward his children. Although I sometimes thought that even negative attention would be better than no attention, I now can't imagine anything more traumatic or tragic for a child than growing up with an abusive father.

In his book, "Dear Dad: Letters from an Adult Child," comedian-author Louie Anderson described with poignancy the pain of living with an alcoholic father and the emotional scars he endured.

In this collection of bittersweet letters written to his dead father, he mentions the time when he saw a $4.88 toy car in a store and asked his father for it. His dad told him he couldn't afford it, then promptly bought a $5 case of beer.

Anderson said one of the few times he ever embraced his father was when he was helping him to the bathroom as he was dying of cancer.

"Just holding you up, I knew, was enough," he wrote. " It was all I ever wanted ... and as I held you, I remember thinking, 'I won't let you down, Dad. I won't let you down.'"

How did I do?

Some tension between parent and child is normal. Friends with sons tell me that's especially true during the teen years.

As the father of two daughters, I came to realize that granting them freedom as they move from childhood into the uncertain, dangerous terrain of adulthood without being judgmental is a major challenge for any parent.

My wife, recently sifting through and discarding items from one of several boxes marked "Don't throw away!" came across a very wise observation by Khalil Gibran, Lebanese-American author of "The Prophet:"

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself. ...
And though they were with you, yet they belong not to you. ...
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams. ...

This past week, I finally succumbed to that nagging temptation to ask "Honey, how did I do?"

"In what way did I most disappoint you as a father?" I nervously asked at the end of telephone conversation.

Without a moment's hesitation, she replied, "I never had a pony."

I could hear the humor in her voice.

You may email Mr. A.C. Snow at or
if you're in the US, please call him on 919-836-5636.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Children learn what they live ...

If a child lives with criticism,
He learns to condemn.
If a child lives with hostility,
He learns to fight.
If a child lives with ridicule,
He learns to be shy.
If a child lives with shame,
He learns to feel guilty.

If a child lives with tolerance,
He learns to be patient.
If a child lives with encouragement,
He learns confidence.
If a child lives with praise,
He learns to appreciate.
If a child lives with fairness,
He learns justice.
If a child lives with security,
He learns to have faith.
If a child lives with approval,
He learns to like himself.
If a child lives with honesty,
He learns truth.
If a child lives with acceptance and friendship,
He learns to find love in the world.

- Dorothy Law Nolte.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Go placidly amid the noise and haste ...

"Go placidly amid the noise and haste, and remember what peace there may be in silence.

"As far as possible without surrender, be on good terms with all persons.
Speak your truth quietly and clearly; and listen to others, even the dull and the ignorant; they too have their story.
Avoid loud and aggressive persons, they are vexations to the spirit.

"If you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter; for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

"Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans. Keep interested in your own career, however humble; it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.
Exercise caution in your business affairs; for the world is full of trickery.
But let this not blind you to what virtue there is; many persons strive for high ideals; and everywhere life is full of heroism.

"Be yourself.
Especially, do not feign affection. Neither be cynical about love; for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment, it is as perennial as the grass.

"Take kindly the counsel of the years, gracefully surrendering the things of youth.
Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune. But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings. Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

"Beyond a wholesome discipline, be gentle with yourself. You are a child of the universe, no less than the trees and the stars; you have a right to be here.
And whether or not it is clear to you, no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

"Therefore be at peace with God, whatever you conceive Him to be, and whatever your labors and aspirations, in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

"With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful.
Strive to be happy.

Written in 1927, by Max Ehrmann (1872-1945), also referred to as the “Desiredata Poem”.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

When I was 27 - a report to Gunjan

My dear students, friends and colleagues,

Gunjan Chaurasia, one of my most sincere & honest students from SIMC, Pune, batch of 2004-06, completed 27 years on 5 April. As a human being, Gunjan is one of the bravest and gentlest persons I know and -- learn from. Because she tastes deep and strong from the springs of life. I promised Gunjan I would share my life with her, when I was 27, and send her a report as a birthday gift.

Since my other rare students also deserve to read this report, I am marking this email to some others too. Please feel free to fwd it to your friends and colleagues, who can (not may) appreciate what I am sharing with Gunjan.

Report to Gunjan - When I was 27.

My dear precious and brave Gunjan,

You are one of my most precious students. I shall always hold you close inside my heart.

I was 33 years old when you were born in 1984. So let me recreate those heady times for you, so that you may more fully appreciate my five Ws and one H -- when I was 27. Though I am telling you my story, Gunjan, writing about it in the present tense, like in a diary or a letter, this is an illusion for, I have the advantage of hindsight. I was not a journalist then; I joined a Pune paper only on 2 May 1983.


I am 27 today, 5 March 1978.

The mynahs and sparrows are chirping under my window. The sun tries to warm me, but my heart is still as cold as the body of my mother, who died nine years ago in 1969.

The Emergency that began in June 1975 ended last year, but even now terrible stories are surfacing of political prisoners, who were brutally tortured by terrorists like Sanjay Gandhi and his goons, under the Maintenance of Internal Security Act (MISA). Some of them are my dear friends.

We too have suffered our share of miseries. The local leaders in Kasarpimpalgaon (taluka Pathardi, district Ahmednagar, Maharashtra), where we were doing drought relief work since 1973, got emboldened by the terror, unleashed during the Emergency. If it was not for a kind IAS officer, who tipped us off in time, we would have been also arrested.

So our adult literacy work is in a shambles, and abandoned. I can only console myself reading "Pedagogy of the Oppressed" and "Cultural Action for Freedom" by Paolo Friere, whose 'conscientisation' methodology we used in our classes. "Liberation theology" is a new subject for me now.


Let me tell you a little bit about Vistas, the group we formed in 1973, to work in the villages, after we had passed out of St Xavier's College. We were nine or ten young people in our early 20s. As for me, Gunjan, I used to wear flowers in my hair, which I grew to my shoulders, inspired by the protest song, "When you're in San Francisco, be sure to wear some flowers in your hair."

I could not explain to my father and help him to understand why his brilliant son, a first ranker, and a National Science Talent Scholar, one of only 350 from India in 1969, had chosen to drop out after finishing his B.Sc, and did not continue further studies like his classmates, especially his best friend, Spenta Wadia.

The drought of 1970-71 was one of the severest in the history of Maharashtra. Having stayed in a village for four years, I would not hesitate to call it a 'famine'.

Initially we started with drought relief work, with 'Food for Work' programs, with maize, wheat and milk powder being provided by international funding agencies like Caritas, Casa, Lutheran World Relief, etc. Then we started supplying seeds and fertilisers through Afarm and Afpro. Later we worked with Oxfam on adult literacy and organising youth.

I was mainly inspired by the writings of John Holt, Ivan Illich, Frantz Fanon, Jean Paul Sartre, Will & Ariel Durant, Paolo Friere, etc. I was already influenced by Vatican II and Pope John XXIII, who spoke about Christians standing up for justice and peace as well as the liberation of the poor and the oppressed.

I used to carry a copy of the Communist Manifesto by Marx & Engel. But the only thing I recall was admiration for the beautiful description about the rise of the bourgeosie and the proletariat.

We read feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, Betty Friedan, Gloria Steinem, and Germaine Greer.

The songs of protest by Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, moved us. The names of Led Zeppelin and Pink Floyd were on our trembling lips. With the Beatles, we believed in: "Can't Buy Me Love." We took the slogan "Make Love, Not War" to our hearts and minds.

I was learning to speak Marathi from the illiterate natives, even as I taught them to read and write their mother-tongue.

When we formed Vistas in 1973, I was 22. The world was young and, for me, anything was possible. Still is, dear Gunjan. I was not afraid to stop my studies and go to the villages, where the poor lived. By now, I had decided, on ideological grounds, to get out of the rat race. A topper for years, I discarded competition and its connotation of war, welcoming cooperation among humans as the foundation of peace.


The proclamation of the Emergency in June 1975 by Sonia Gandhi's mother-in-law, the dreadful Indira Gandhi, came as a shock to me. (In 1968, my first year of college, I had been thrilled by her nationalisation of banks and challenge to decaying Congress values.)

I remember, Gunjan, we had taken the morning train from Bombay to Pune. When we reached Pune and saw the newspapers, some of them had blank patches on the front pages. The courageous editors left the columns blank, when the government censors objected. The name of Jayprakash Narayan was like a magic mantra.

Today in 1978, I am 27 and disillusioned. I went hopeful to the villages in 1973. Our raw idealism collapsed in the face of the brutal assault by Sanjay Gandhi. We realised we were soft boys and girls, pampered and spoiled in the cities. Within 20 months, the Emergency (June 1975 – January 1977) made us men and women.

Now my first taste of direct resistance and protest on the streets is in the form of the Committee for the Protection of Democratic Rights (CPDR). I am working to set up a Centre for Education and Documentation (CED), which will set up a library of clippings for use by activists and journalists.
Three friends become journalists: Ivan Fera, Ayesha Kagal and Chaitanya Kalbag.

Yes, I am disillusioned, Gunjan. But I have not given up and succumbed to the temptations of a comfortable job. I am brave. I struggle and learn.


The rest of my story -- in brief. After 1978, I joined trade union work and organising slum dwellers in Bhandup, Mumbai. Then, we formed the Lok Vidnyan Sanghatana for taking science to the people in 1980. I got married to a Pune girl, Kalpana Joshi, on 26 January 1982. Since you were born in 1984, Gunjan, you could have been my daughter.

Full-time journalism came in 1983. I started teaching journalism in 1987, and at the Symbiosis Institute of Journalism and Communication (SIJC) in 1990. After 13 years in Maharashtra Herald, Pune, I left in 1996 and joined to set up the Corporate Communication Dept at Deepak Fertilisers. So, though I disliked it, I did internal PR for seven years. No choice: just a job.

When I came to teach your lovely batch at SIMC in 2004, my dear Gunjan, I had just returned fresh from Goa, where I was editor of Gomantak Times for one year.


I hope you like my birthday gift to you, my dear brave, precious Gunjan. I enjoyed writing it, though I cried when I recalled the trying times. But crying comes before laughter. Just as the winter precedes spring. I see a lot of myself in you, when I was your age. Twenty-seven and in heaven -- daring to build a heaven on earth. A happy life for all, not after but before death.

Happy birthday, Gunjan.

Remember, anything is possible. Dare to dream. Believe in yourself -- my gentle and brave and precious Gunjan.

Peace and love,
- Joe.

Pune, Wednesday, 13 April 2011.

Friday, March 4, 2011

This is me, Joe Pinto, since 1967 - for the smobs of 1967

My dear family, students, friends and colleagues,

After being a boarder in St. Stanislaus, Bandra, during 1961-63 in stds VI-VII, I joined St Mary’s (SSC), Mazagaon, and was there during 1963-67 in Stds VIII to XI. I passed out from school in 1967, winning the Esso Prize as the best all-rounder. I got my first pair of long pants to wear at the prize distribution ceremony and Vullu Uncle gave me a Sowar Prima wrist-watch, as a present.

I finished my B.Sc. with Chemistry from St Xavier's College in October 1971. In December, the war broke out with Pakistan, resulting in the formation of Bangladesh.

Then, I took a break from my studies.

From 1973 to 1983, I worked as a full-time volunteer in Maharashtra with:
1. a rural development agency in some drought-prone villages (1973-77)
2. a science popularisation organisation (1978-83)
3. a trade union and a slum-dwellers organisation (1977-83).

By 1970, ie, the third year of college and at the age of 19, I had had decided, on ideological grounds, that the competitive “rat race” was NOT for me. Since then, I prefer to compete only with myself. So the spirit of cooperation, team-work and peace pervades what I have done during the last 40 years, am doing and may do in future.


I moved to Pune in 1983, after getting married on 26 January 1982 to Kalpana Joshi, a Pune girl. I stopped chain-smoking, as a wedding present to my beloved wife.

Our only child and the loveliest daughter of my life, Pallavi, was born on 23 October 1987.

You can say I am based here in Pune – for now.

Since 1983 to 1996, I worked with Maharashtra Herald (MH), the one and only local English daily in Pune - and one of the greatest local dailies the world has known, if you fondly imagine (as we did at the old MH) that "Pune is the centre of the world".

During 1990-93, we were in Leeds, Yorkshire, England, where my wife did her Ph.D. in Electrical Engineering. I took three years leave without pay from MH, to take care of our daughter, who was three years old then. I recommend such a sacrifice to all fathers.

During 1996 to 2003, I was part of a team that set up the Corporate Communication Dept at Deepak Fertilisers, Pune, and was editor of
its unique newsletter "Mile Sur Mera Tumhara (MSMT)" for seven years.

Then I went back to print journalism, as editor, Gomantak Times, Panaji, Goa, during 2003-04.


Side by side with working at the Desk in Maharashtra Herald, since 1987, I have also been teaching print journalism as regular visiting faculty
in the Pune University Dept of Communication & Journalism and other mass communication institutions, including Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC), in Pune. I teach mainly “Editing” and also Feature Writing, Current Affairs and Development Communication.

I have hundreds of journalism students, all over the world. But only a few of them, I call “my sincere and serious students”. If you are my student, you can earn this honour, by starting to awaken and listen to that inner voice, namely, your conscience.


Today, my wife Dr Kalpana Joshi is Reader, Dept of Electronics at S.P. College, Pune. She also holds eight (8) patents -- three US and two European -- in microwave engineering.

Pallavi (23) is working as a software engineer with Marvell Semiconductor in Pune, since July 2009 -- her first job.

My mother was killed, on 2 May 1969, in an accident, before she could turn 44. Out-living her by 34 years, my father died on 26 March 2001, five days after he celebrated his 78th birthday in hospital.


Since 2 August 2005, nearing six years now, I am with Bharatiya Jain Sanghatana (BJS) as master trainer, in designing, developing and delivering, training and empowerment programs for trustees of educational institutions; principals and teachers of schools.

I survived a heart attack on 2 September 2006. Now it’s over four years.
And I’m OK -- lucky to be around and still be here with you, my family, students, friends and colleagues.

On 5 March 2011, I complete 60 years, on the one and only beautiful earth we care for.

Have a look at my blog “Against the Tide”. Especially read “Memoir of my Mother” and give me your comments. I plan to bring it out as a book.


This post is a copy of the catching-up piece that I prepared for my school-mates of the Class of 1967, from St Mary's (SSC) High School, Mazagaon, Mumbai, while we were planning to hold a reunion on 11-1-11. This is also for the record.

Your support is my strength.

Peace and love,
- Joe Pinto.

Pune, Friday, 4 March 2011.

Along the line, partly – 25 random things – FB note

My dear students, friends and colleagues,

When Kajal Iyer tagged me on Facebook to write 25 random things about myself, I listed 25 random things on 14 February 2009. The following is an exact copy of that FB note:

1. I am the eldest son of a railwayman, transferred from place to place, so I know what it is to settle down and what it is to be on the move.

2. I am also the eldest son of one of India's greatest playback singers, often called the "Lata Mangeshkar of the Konkani stage" in the late 40s -- Amy Pinto, nee Mary Therese D'Cruz (1925-69).

3. When I was in college, I used to have long hair up to my shoulders. Later I even had a beard.

4. The protest movement against the Vietnam War is a part of my growing up years - a deep and permanent influence.

5. My first crush was virtual: on a character -- Agnes -- from a Charles Dickens novel "David Copperfield".

6. Though a non-veg by upbringing, I can't stand chicken.

7. Now, I'm pure veg and low-fat, with a little fish once or twice a month.

8. I can't remember a day when I was not in love -- with words.

9. The greatest human love in my life -- after my wife Kalpana, ours is a love marriage -- is my daughter, J. K. Pallavi.

10. What would I give for all the money in the world? A chance to meet my school-mates when I was a little boy at Jabalpur and Nagpur (1956), Solapur (1957) and Manmad (1958-61)

11. I used to be a great one for winning prizes in school, till my mother learned me the lesson: "If you have the guts, compete - only with yourself".

12. I am waiting for the student, who can exceed me, who can dare to go beyond imagination.

13. I am playing my second innings now. After surviving my heart attack of 2 September 2006, life is new and fresh. I'm lucky to be alive.

14. Besides love and peace, compassion for the poor moves me -- beyond tears.

15. If there is one thing I have to learn -- NOT to hate the "chhote shaitan" on two-wheelers on Pune roads.

16. The red mud, swaying coconut trees, fish curry rice, the lilt of my Konkani mother tongue, a few drops of kaju feni, cotton -- these are a few of my favourite things.

17. My favourite movie critic, Pauline Kael of the New York Times, who dubbed the "Sound of Music" as the "Sound of Mucous". Read the review.

18. What do I miss about Mumbai (I won't call it Bombay to pander to the imperial English)? The trams, when I was a little boy; uncrowded local trains on a Sunday morning; the common crows, sparrows, mynahs; textile workers and their great struggle against the robber mill-owners; red flags in a morcha at Azad Maidan; the heady mix of faces and tongues from all over India; the discipline on the roads; above all, the couples clasping hands in municipal gardens ...

19. What do I NOT miss about Mumbai? The idle rich, gambling on the stock market, who have raped the city; the skyscrapers that blot out the sky; the private cars that kill worse and more than terrorist guns; the curse of the Shiv Sena that has brought shame to the glorious descendants of Chhtrapati Shivaji ...

20. I remember the three years in Leeds, Yorkshire, taking care of my three year-old daughter, while my wife did her PhD.

21. My mother, confined to the four walls of her home, teaching us -- her Class of 3.

22. Let me pay tributes to my father, Denis John Pinto (1923-2001), the most upright and fearless man I have known, who faced suffering and deprivation because "Honesty is the best policy"

23. My friends, without whom I would have not known that friendship can match up to love.

24. I am grateful to Mother Earth, whom we do not care about.

25. The approaching age of retirement - I shall be 58 on 5 March this year.

This is a list of 25 random things about myself. I have copied it from the FB note 14 February 2009. This post is for the record, since "Journey Unbegun" is a source-blog of various reference material.

Your support is my strength,
- Joe Pinto.

Pune, Friday, 4 March 2011.