Friday, 31 October 2008

Holy Mass and renewal

Attending Mass with lay people, especially in our small chapel, is always a renewal experience. Yesterday for mass there were three lay people to join in the Mass, which otherwise has only two or three of us (Priests and myself).

To begin with they would not sit around the altar in the sanctuary. They preferred to sit in front of the altar keeping a sacred distance. I realised I'd lost all sense of the sanctuary at all!

From their expressions it was clear that they were fully there in the Chapel carefully following the Mass. I had to make a very conscious effort to stay focused.

Kneeling during the consecration came automatically to them. I had to struggle to decide what to do.

Once outside the Chapel till they entered the refectory they were still in a very reflective mood... perhaps the sanctity of the Chapel still pervaded their minds. The moment I was out of the chapel door, even before I put on my footwear, I was already thinking of what next!

So I really wonder if our participation in the daily Mass makes us better people or more indifferent to the Divine!

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

Diwali yes, but not crackers

My fascination for crackers ended the night I heard Fr Xavier INM speak about the plight of children in Sivakasi. Well, I don't exactly remember his words but that goodnight that he gave in the chapel of Yercaud is one of those that changed my whole perspective of some facts of life, I had assumed as normal.

I never gave this whole celebration a thought, till I heard that the crackers are made by children who never see sunshine! They are herded into lorries early morning and are out of the 'factories' only much after nightfall. Now that's too much of a contradiction - light for some and perpetual darkness for others.

Frankly speaking I've never done much about that information but it has greatly affected my attitude towards this whole feast of Diwali. I remember the year when I was doing my PT in Karunapuram. While the whole community was out in the playground bursting crackers I was in my room. That was the first time I had this tug of war within me: as an assistant I was supposed to be with my formees and by conviction I had decided never to 'celebrate' crackers! In a sense I did both: I explicitly told the Brothers why I was not going to be with them. Some of them still remember that!

Thy will be done

During the Rectors' meeting a thought that flashed across my mind was about my contribution to the world... if any!

When we call ourselves educators, we need to gear our educational system in that line. By merely teaching maths, physics and chemistry we do not become educators, we remain mere teachers. To graduate to the next level we need to make our contribution holistic. We need to see the larger picture and work towards that rather than some petty immediate goals.

I was wondering what is my conscious contribution to the world? Just putting order in the office, file cabinet, correspondence...? Anything more? I had no answer then. More a sense of guilt that I haven't done much... maybe! But then a mail that I received today calmed me a lot. It was from a confrere whom I always maintained a very business like rapport. To hear words of appreciation from him and that I come across as one who values people a lot, was a real surprise. I was trying to recollect what is it that I did for him for which he was so happy. I remembered I had done a couple of things for him - some urgent things in the middle of the night. I thought I was only doing my duty. But I guess, if it were so, I should have said, "sorry, work only during office hours!"

Anyway, as Fr Ivo said, when God wants me to do something more or different from all that I'm currently doing, He will let me know!!

Thy will be done!

Stray thoughts on administration

Some striking thoughts from the recently concluded animation programme for Administrators and Rectors on Accounting and related matters:

Accounting is not for everyone... therefore the need to qualify people in that line.
After the government of India, religious societies are the ones that waste resources most.
Our bills and vouchers speak more about our spirituality than the number of hours we spend in the Chapel.
The way we make use of our property reflects our vow of poverty.
A list of things we have not used in the past one year shows all that we can live without!
What was the objective achieved by the money we spent?
The bottom line of all our financial problems: lack of budgeting and planning.

The whole notion of depreciation was the one that really caught my attention. Sounded very logical and true... but practically wondered how to do it!

Tuesday, 28 October 2008

Christianity is never singular

This morning during Mass a strange thought occurred to me. Why do we still recite the prayers in plural even when there is just two of us, the celebrant and myself. I said to myself perhaps the act itself is such that it cannot be in isolation. Moreover, Jesus is always there!

It was time for the 'Our Father' and just for the kicks of it tried to recite it in the singular 'My Father... give me my daily bread and forgive my sins...' Well, it didn't sound anything at all. That's one of the greatest strengths of Christianity: communion. We/I am never alone!

Monday, 27 October 2008

Mind games...

Last night as I was spending some moments with my family at home, we heard these crackers sporadically. I casually asked if there was some cricket match going on or something. Only then Mummy told me it is Diwali! Wow, I said, I didn't even realise that.

Strange isn't it as to how our senses pick up things we already see in our mind? Some of my confreres constantly hear - and get distracted, or may be even frightened - by the morning chants of 'Om' that fills the air these days for hours long. I barely hear it! Why is it that for some it is so clear that it disturbs and frightens and for others it does not exist at all. But all of us are exposed to it.

For all my Hindu friends - and even maybe others too - Diwali is a grand occasion to celebrate. But here I am as though it is just another day of my normal life. If the occasion in itself were grand and solemn, all of us should have been equally excited. But we aren't!

It's all in the mind...

Time and work

This morning as I took bath, I had this strange flash of idea/question: What was I doing with the time that I'm now spending on administration last year (when I was not the administrator)? Strange, last year too, I used to tell people the work of the Secretary and the web is taxing and hectic. This year with the additional responsibility of administration, I'm still doing fine! That's strange!!

Well, no answers but only prayers: Lord grant me fast that gift of bi-location!

Friday, 24 October 2008

The integral picture

That same ugly double-faced style of life and living gets reflected in every meeting, everytime!! At the end of the touching presentation of Fr Palli on the Orissa carnage, we all want to jump the wagon! But when he began his presentation with the HR education in our institutions, there were no takers! What a double face!

We time and again fail - or even refuse - to see the integral picture. Today the Christians are burned and tortured in Orissa and my blood boils. Where was my blood when day before yesterday something similar happened to some hindus or muslims? Are only Christians human beings?

Most importantly what am I committing myself to, in order to ensure that 'Orissa' does not repeat anywhere, to anyone, anytime? Protests, conscientisation, rallies ... all are fine. But when I am capable and opportunities are provided at doing something more, why see the negative side and list out reasons why we cannot do it rather than see possibilities and opportunities?

Lord, help me see through ...

Exercising responsibility

The whole procedure of/for consultation is an interesting one! First of all, who knows since when, but there certainly exists a sort of aversion to the very responsibility of filling in the consultation forms. Hence most, and to be precise, 70%, don't take the trouble of even looking at the forms a second time, leave alone taking the little trouble of filling it in and sending it back.

There are those - especially the young ones - who take it very seriously and do a 'thorough' job! So 'thorough' that we may have to revamp ALL our houses and confreres every year! Anyway, their sincerity and seriousness at proposing names to the different posts is still a sign that they have some love for the congregation still.

I too was comfortable postponing filling in my form for the reason that I needed time to reflect and do it sincerely - from the fact that I still did not manage to do it, I gather, I was not that serious about it!!! But then filling up the consultation form is I believe exercising our responsibility. Tomorrow when something is wrong, I won't have the guts to stand from a distance and point fingers at others, saying, "It's all because you appointed him!" But fulfilling this task I too am now taking responsibility for all that follows.

Now with regard to the often stated reason for not filling in the form: it makes no difference to those in authority. Well, as long as it makes a difference to me, I do it. That others do not take it seriously, that's their problem. Why should I shirk my responsibility because someone else is shirking theirs?

Thursday, 23 October 2008

My Province

Check out this latest addition onto the youtube about my Province... just another crazy adventure!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008


One of my first contributions to youtube ... done in collaboration with Sheeba.

Multi-tasking and efficiency

Multi-tasking is a real feat these days. And if someone thought I'm good at it (that I am getting sharper or rather, used to it, is another thing!) then they've not met Fr PT Joseph! He's a real entrepreneur! Check out what he is evolving into!

I guess we all human beings have inherited something from our four-legged ancestors, along the way. Adapting to situations and circumstances as per need - and survival - we grow and evolve into something more equipped, better prepared and efficient. And who knows, if those circumstances are relaxed then we may get back to the 'lethargic state' of life as earlier. Well, depends!

So far so good. The three days ahead are going to be real hectic days. Look forward to meeting confreres and extending to them our Provincial house hospitality. My recent trip to Vizag made me all the more conscious that however I try, confreres look at me more as Secretary of the Province than as Castilino. Certainly not a very comfortable treatment as per that outlook. Too much of formality!


The whole effort of this whole morning did not go in vain! At last mastered - at least to some extent - the picasa photos thing! The result of that can be seen on the top right photo slide!

Originally I wanted it on the Province website but then I wanted to experiment with it prior to putting it up there. Now that I know the procedure, I can try it out with the Province website too. Hope it 'clicks'!

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

The teacher

Here's a very touching anecdote printed in the Delhinet:

The first grade teacher gave her class a fun assignment - to draw a picture of something for which they were thankful.

Most of the class might be considered economically disadvantaged, but still many would celebrate the holiday with turkey and other traditional goodies of the season. These, the teacher thought, would be the subject of most of her students art. And they were.

But Douglas made a different kind of picture. Douglas was a different kind of boy. He was the teacher's true child of misery, frail and unhappy. As other children played at recess, Douglas was likely to stand close by her side. One could only guess at the pain Douglas felt behind those sad eyes.

Yes, his picture was different. When asked to draw a picture of something for which he was thankful, he drew a hand. Nothing else. Just an empty hand.

His abstract image captured the imagination of his peers. Whose hand could it be? One child guessed it was the hand of a farmer, because farmers raise turkeys. Another suggested a police officer, because the police protect and care for people. Still others guessed it was the hand of God, for God feeds us. And so the discussion went - until the teacher almost forgot the young artist himself.

When the children had gone on to other assignments, she paused at Douglas' desk, bent down, and asked him whose hand it was.

The little boy looked away and murmured, "It's yours, teacher." She recalled the times she had taken his hand and walked him here or there, as she had the other students. How often had she said, "Take my hand, Douglas, we'll go outside." Or, "Let me show you how to hold your pencil." Or, "Let's do this together." Douglas was most thankful for his teacher's hand.

Brushing aside a tear, she went on with her work.

The story speaks of more than thankfulness. It is about the hand that accompanies. The hand that 'assists'. The hand that reaches out.


Now for some self-glorification.... for once!!

Some photos clicked by Prashanth while at Kondadaba for the Media seminar... I thought I was seeing Willy, my brother! He too has the same mouth formation when he talks in public - and why not, both of us are from the same company! Think I should see more of myself, besides the two times I see myself in the mirror to comb my hair.

Quotes and minds...

Rajee, my friend has this amusing quote on her gmail account: Imagination, some have it. Others imagine, they have it!

Then there was this quote on the back outer cover of Delhinet: Great minds discuss ideas, average minds discuss events, small minds discuss people.

Now I think many would say that the latter quote has much to do with philosophy and not real life. Not sure if people from the HRD could be positive about that. Anyhow, as with regards to religious life, I'm sure this quote stands good. For most often, when we talk people we only have something negative about them. Rarely do we dwell on some positive aspects of individuals - except maybe during funerals!

Monday, 20 October 2008

Talking to God

Thanks to Cheryl who sent me a book titled 'Mister God, This is Anna' I remember hearing about this book long time ago. But not sure when and in what context. However, I opened it to glance at it before I put it aside to read it for a "leisure... relaxed time" and this sentence caught my fancy:
Anna got involved with everything and anything: her involvement was on such a deep level that very little ever frightened her. She was ready to meet everything on its own terms. At whatever level the thing existed, Anna would be there to meet it. Occasionally she'd run into a situation for which she had no adequate word. She'd invent one, either a brand-new one or she'd teach an old one to do a new trick...

That being said of a tiny little girl was a bit too much for me. Comparing with my life, where I try to get out of the many things I get drawn into, I find it extremely amusing - all that involvement thing.

And then I closed the book. There was the title staring me in the face: 'MISTER GOD, THIS IS ANNA'. I asked myself, do I do that... Do I ask/talk/converse with God?

Sunday, 19 October 2008

The grass on the other side...

The saying that grass is greener on the other side came to my mind when I envied the silence and peace at Kondadaba during my four day stay there. No phone call (because there are no signals at all!) nobody knocking at your door asking for soap, fish or God knows what, no big tensions of what to tell the cooks to prepare for meals, no haggling with the technicians and others for some crazy hook or stand!!! No internet too!!! (Now that deficiency was not that green!)

Felt nice to relive the art of doing nothing on a perfectly beautiful day. But what to do, looks like I've got addicted to this fast paced life... I was bored by the end of the second day!

Furthermore meeting the street children at Fr Sojan's place (Vizag) last night, forced me say to myself, 'I could have very well spent a day with them!'

Anyway, back at home now and life is in full swing!

Editorial style of consciousness

Something that struck me after I spoke to the Brothers at Kondadaba about news reporting and truth content in them, I realised that most often our memory and style of focus is also just like the editorials that appear in every paper. Most often they are very touching and hit hard. But that's for that day. The next day there is something else that is being discussed. What then of what was written the previous day? ... gone with the wind, I guess!

Perhaps that's how we work too. Just for the day!

Food and hunger

Two days ago I was reading the Hindu while at Kondadaba and came across this article on the World Food Day. Just before I read that article, was a very touching comment by the news anchor of the ndtv channel. 'On a day when millions go hungry and the world's attention is drawn to the food crisis looming large over the poor, especially women and children, we still don't see it hitting the headlines!'

This article which I then happened to read in the paper was accompanied by this very touching photo. Nothing special but one had only to look carefully and see the hunger in the eyes of the children reaching out to receive a biscuit from the hands of a distributor. Two things struck me very much. The children were not grabbing the biscuits from the hands of the one distributing them. They awaited their turn. At first I thought may be because they are not that hungry. But one look into their eyes would never again make me say that! They were all eyes for the biscuit. They just saw that food. Nothing and no one else!

Lord help me remember that look in the eyes of those children whenever I even think of talking about food or wasting food.

Tuesday, 14 October 2008

Religious Conversions - who and by whom?

The article titled 'Who will speak the truth on religious conversions?' by Emmanuel Dominic in today's DC was a nice piece of write-up. He presents the following logical arguments as a rejoinder to the question the article is titled as.

So far not a single Sangh Parivar member is able to satisfactorily explain the drop in the Christian population - from 2.8 per cent at the time of independence to 2.33 per cent, according to the official census of 2001 - so much for mass conversion and alluring the poor (60 per cent of India is poor and 42 per cent lives BPL)!

... what frightens the Parivar about a small number of missionaries' work, from the meagre 2.33 per cent Christians, against the 82 per cent-strong, deeply religious Hindu community?

... it is amazing to hear the loud silence of millions of beneficiaries of Christian institutions who never experienced the proselytising side of missionaries during their long years of contact with them. From the BJP's Mr Advani to Mr Praful Goradia and Mr Arun Shourie, who have all passed through the portals of Christian institutions...

The media is shy in reporting the scale on which the Parivar is carrying out forceful conversion of Christians to Hinduism at gun or sword point in Orissa...

So ultimately, who's converting whom?

Truth over language

Was surprised this morning to read an article directly challenging the notion of religious conversion and putting things straight into perspective in Deccan Chronicle!!!

I thought it should have appeared in The Hindu long time ago. The article appearing beside the editorial shows clearly the editorial stand. Most often I had considered DC to be an entertainment paper but of late I found myself picking it up first, even before The Hindu. The appearance and positioning of this particular article on religious conversion by Emmanuel Dominic confirms my belief that truth supersedes language. Granted The Hindu is a decent paper with good English and presentation, but not necessarily of the whole truth. Papers like Indian Express and DC may not match up to the standard of The Hindu but they certainly catch up on issues which Hindu conveniently bypasses.

So much for truth prevailing over language.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Business tactics

Running around these days for administrative purposes is a tension-filled job. There's no moment that you can say, "It's over!" Last week I purchased 6 pieces of air-conditioners for the house and had payed the full amount of all expenses, inclusive of installation charges. Then the guy who comes to drop the ACs asks for transportation charges. Today the installation guy says you have to hire guys to drill a hole in the wall and then we'll do the rest of the work. Each one has his own argument to convince me that what they say is real and this bit is not included in the payment made earlier.

But I should say we get wiser by every mistake we make and learn from them. Knowing this would be the case, I had blocked some payment earlier of another accessory. This evening I put my foot down firmly and said, "Nothing doing, you either finish the work and take the due payment, or you won't get a pie!"

Now I don't know what these guys will come up with next!

Daily work and time

Yesterday and today I had the opportunity to meet some people who expressed the same views as me, namely 'no time', 'struggling to balance responsibilities'...

Frankly speaking, looking at their whole work process and the results achieved, I really felt very much consoled. Not just consoled but happy. I feel I fare better!! And I always thought that I was the only one carrying the whole world on my shoulders!

This morning I applied to myself one exercise I often asked some of my students to do when they had this 'no time' excuse: list down the activities that I REALLY had to do. I spent 20 mins and still could not list more than 6 activities I had for today. It is high time I knock off that phrase 'no time' from my memory! There's always enough and more for those who really want to achieve something.

As for life being hard, there was Rabbi's quote: People often say, 'Life is hard'. I wonder compared to what?

Sunday, 12 October 2008

Sanctity and sanity

Yesterday afternoon I received a phone call asking me why I have not updated the web page. I asked, "with what?" With information and news about Alphonsa, was the cool reply. I said, why should I do that, what's so Salesian about it? Well, the conversation got to a point where the person was demanding from me some information. I retained my composure and guided him to where he can get the needed information.

Somehow, over the few days there's this euphoria about Alphonsa. True indeed it is something joyful that she is the first woman to be canonised from India. But is all this hungama justified. "we" have a saint. I thought all of us were called to be saints. This whole hungama is in some way for me an excuse to say, "You become saint, I'll rejoice at that. Don't ask me to be one!" Strange but true!

What about those poor tribals and poor people being hunted like animals and burned and tortured in Orissa - no one still knows about it! Not many want to hear about it. 'We are not that kind of people. Others do it...not we!' Aren't they martyrs? Shouldn't they too be exalted to the altars. Poor guys they have no one to focus the camera on them, or write about them. Why? Because so many are busy flying to Rome and watching television to see Alphonsa canonised!

Maybe my own prejudice against Alphonsa but this triple-face attitude where on the one hand we want others to walk down the hard way of sanctity and not us, on the other hand, casually pass by the present 'saints in the making' leaving them to their 'fate' and on the last front rejoice that 'one among us' is a saint today!

Saturday, 11 October 2008

Salesians and work with kids

This morning there was an interesting article in The Hindu. It was about children becoming conscious of ecological crisis and doing their bit. 'Pint size eco-cops can drive parents crazy'. They pore over garbage bins in search of errant recyclables. And, in a generational about-face, they turn off the lights after their parents leave empty rooms.

The logic, as per the author, is that children do not separate what you are doing from what you should be doing.

Reading the article further was very entertaining. However, what struck me by the time I reached the end of the article was the influence children exert in families - at least in educated families. There is this long-standing accusation among us Salesians that we work not for youth, but for kids. While this is true to a great extent, it is also true that it is exactly this period of life that is most formative. Impressions and values learnt in this stage of life are learnt for ever. (The practice part of it is another phase of formation!) Perhaps what is missing is the follow up of these kids who once grown up are left to themselves totally. A little guidance and a gentle follow up would ensure that values and lessons learnt early in life become part of their conscious/rational selves.

Thursday, 9 October 2008

You never know...

I received this very touching story by e-mail sometime ago:

I was born in a secluded village on a mountain. Day by day, my parents plowed the yellow dry soil with their backs towards the sky.

I have a brother who is 3 years younger than me. I wanted to buy a handkerchief, which all girls around me seemed to have. So, one day I stole 50 cents from my father's drawer. Father had discovered about the stolen money right away.

He made me and my younger brother kneel against the wall as he held a bamboo stick in his hand.

'Who stole the money?' he asked.

I was stunned, too afraid to talk. Neither of us admitted to the fault, so he said, 'Fine, if nobody wants to admit, you two should be beaten!'

He lifted up the bamboo stick.

Suddenly, my younger brother gripped father's hand and said, Dad, I was the one who did it!'

The long stick smacked my brother's back repeatedly. Father was so angry that he kept on whipping my brother until he lost his breath.

After that, he sat down on our stone bed and scolded my brother, 'You have learned to steal from your own house now. What other embarrassing things will you are possibly doing in the future? You should be beaten to death, you shameless thief!'

That night, my mother and I hugged my brother. His body was full of wounds from the beating but he never shed a single tear.

In the middle of the night, all of sudden, I cried out loudly. My brother covered my mouth with his little hand and said, Sis, now don't cry anymore. Everything has happened.'

I still hate myself for not having enough courage to admit what I did. Years went by, but the incident still seemed like it just happened yesterday.

I will never forget my brother's expression when he protected me.

That year, my brother was 8 years old and I was 11 years old.

When my brother was in his last year of secondary school, he was accepted in an upper secondary school in the central. At the same time, I was accepted into a university in the province.

That night, father squatted in the yard, smoking, packet by packet. I could hear him ask my mother, 'Both of our children, they have good results? Very good results?'

Mother wiped off her tears and sighed,' What is the use? How can we possibly finance both of them?'

At that time, my brother walked out, he stood in front of father and said, 'Dad, I don't want to continue my study anymore, I have read enough books.'

Father swung his hand and slapped my brother on his face.

'Why do you have a spirit so damn weak? Even if it means I have to beg for money on the streets, I will send you two to school until you have both finished your studies!'

And then, he started to knock on every house in the village to borrow money.

I stuck out my hand as gently as I can to my brother's swollen face, and told him, 'A boy has to continue his study; if not; he will not be able to overcome this poverty we are experiencing.' I, on the other hand, had decided not to further my study at the university.

Nobody knew that on the next day, before dawn, my brother left the house with a few pieces of worn-out clothes and a few dry beans. He sneaked to my side of the bed and left a note on my pillow; 'Sis, getting into a university is not easy. I will go find a job and I will send money to you.'

I held the note while sitting on my bed, and cried until I lost my voice.

That year, my brother was 17 years old; I was 20 years old.

With the money father borrowed from the whole village, and the money my brother earned from carrying cement on his back at a construction site, finally, I managed to get to the third year of my study in the university.

One day, while I was studying in my room, my roommate came in and told me, 'There's a villager waiting for you outside!'

Why would there be a villager looking for me? I walked out, and I saw my brother from afar. His whole body was covered with dirt, dust, cement and sand. I asked him, 'Why did you not tell my roommate that you are my brother?'

He replied with a smile,' Look at my appearance. What will they think if they would know that I am your brother? Won't they laugh at you?'

I felt so touched, and tears filled my eyes. I swept away dirt and dust from my brother's body. And told him with a lump in my throat, 'I don't care what people would say! You are my brother no matter what your appearance is?'

From his pocket, he took out a butterfly hair clip. He put it on my hair and said, 'I saw all the girls in town are wearing it. So, I think you should also have one.'

I could not hold back myself anymore. I pulled my brother into my arms and cried. That year, my brother was 20 years old; I was 23 years old.

I noticed that the broken window was repaired the first time I brought my boyfriend home. The house was scrubbed cleaned.

After my boyfriend left, I danced like a little girl in front of my mother, 'Mom, you didn't have to spend so much time cleaning the house!' But she told me with a smile,

'It was your brother who went home early to clean the house. Didn't you see the wound on his hand? He hurt his hand while he was replacing the window.'

I went into my brother's bedroom. Looking at his thin face, I felt like hundreds of needles pricked in my heart.

I applied some ointment on his wound and put a bandage on it, 'Does it hurt?' I asked him.

'No, it doesn't hurt. You know, when at the construction site, stones keep falling on my feet ...Even that could not stop me from working.'

In the middle of the sentence, he stopped. I turned my back on him and tears rolled down my face. That year, my brother was 23 years old; I was 26 years old.

After I got married, I lived in the city. Many times my husband invited my parents to come and live with us, but they didn't want.

They said, once they left the village, they wouldn't know what to do.

My brother agreed with them. He said, 'Sis, you just take care of your parents-in-law. I will take care of Mom and Dad here.'

My husband became the director of his factory. We asked my brother to accept the offer of being the manager in the maintenance department. But my brother rejected the offer. He insisted on working
as a repairman instead for a start.

One day, my brother was on the top of a ladder repairing a cable, when he got electrocuted, and was
sent to the hospital.

My husband and I visited him at the hospital. Looking at the plaster cast on his leg, I grumbled, 'Why did you reject the offer of being a manager? Managers won't do something dangerous like that. Now look at you - you are suffering a serious injury. Why didn't you just listen to us?'

With a serious expression on his face, he defended his decision, 'Think of brother-in-law. He just became the director, and I being uneducated, and would become a manager, what kind of rumors would fly around?'

My husband's eyes filled up with tears, and then I said,
'But you lack in education only because of me!'

'Why do you talk about the past?' he said and then he held my hand.

That year, he was 26 years old and I was 29 years old.

My brother was 30 years old when he married a farmer girl from the village. During the wedding reception, the master of ceremonies asked him, 'Who is the one person you respect and love the most?'

Without even taking a time to think, he answered,' My sister.' He continued by telling a story I could not even remember.

'When I was in primary school, the school was in a different village. Everyday, my sister and I would walk for 2 hours to school and back home. One day, I lost the other pair of my gloves. My sister gave me one of hers.

She wore only one glove and she had to walk far. When we got home, her hands were trembling because of the cold weather that she could not even hold her chopsticks. From that day on, I swore that as long as I live, I would take care of my sister and will always be good to her.'

Applause filled up the room. All guests turned their attention to me.

I found it hard to speak, 'In my whole life, the one I would like to thank most is my brother, 'And in this happy occasion, in front of the crowd, tears were rolling down my face again.

Love and care for the one you love every single day of your life. You may think what you did is just a small deed, but to that someone, it may mean a lot.

Jesus and humility

Reading an article by Fr Tom Karthik sdb, I came across this interesting interpretation of the incidence of Jesus meeting the Samaritan woman.

Jesus does not even make her feel that she needs him. He sheds his superiority and makes her feel that it is He who needs her help.... She pretends to know more than him. And he lets her have her way initially to make her feel comfortable in his presence, then tries gently to make her understand his point of view. ...

Showing respect to another is not necessarily a sign of inferiority, but a sign of understanding. Christ by showing his dependence on her, let her feel her importance and mildly brings her to understand his point of view, no force, no humiliation, no suspicion but tells her that he has water different from what is found in the well that will take away her thirst once and for all. He accepts her first and now, she accepts him. The table is turned and it is now she who is asking, "Sir, give me this water that I may not thirst, nor come here to draw." She now feels that it is she who needs him, while it was just the contrary up to now.

What's more interesting than my joy at finding this interpretation was the literal fight that I had with a guest. After reading all this 'showing respect', 'humility' and what not, I couldn't but argue with him!!

But that argument was good... all because of a communication gap!

Tuesday, 7 October 2008

Who I am (song)

Here's a lovely video that I found on another blog: da mihi animas!

Regaining control...

The events, interactions and experiences of this morning forced me to reflect as see if I'm being driven by money - if my actions are being dictated by currency.

To my surprise, I found it true. I was being dictated by money - at least in the past few days. And the 'excuses' that I took shelter in was 'we' or 'you'. So I did a simple exercise: I asked myself some hard questions and avoided the plural word. Sought replies in the first person singular: I!

Well, what then? I just took charge of myself. Said I decide how I act and behave rather than let others and circumstances decide for me how I behave. Still trying...

Sunday, 5 October 2008

Wobbling and healing...

I've been going through the life story of someone of whom I've heard much and from different people. As I kept making notes and concluded this day practically the whole life story, I cannot but forget the words of Fr Ivo on the day of my M.Ph. defence. I should say, though he was my reader, he was my guide too. It was him that I approached most for my paper - he was also my Rector then. The theme was such that I couldn't but be affected, spiritually. I distinctly remember him reading from his paper the remarks: '... at times you stray away from the precepts of the Church and Philosophy, at other times you are on track. Most often you wobble... and that wobbling has saved you...'

Frankly speaking having done the paper on religious plurality and shaken my own foundation of faith, I was very much blank after the dissertation. While I chose the theme for a greater personal clarity, I ended up becoming more and more confused. Perhaps that was the reason Fr Ivo then suggested that I do a complete course of theology in due time. My study of theology was a great enrichment... (but that, sometime later).

Coming back to this person about whom I was reading. His wobbling saves him. At times I felt angry at him for being so foolish. At times I could not but sympathise him in his agony. There were also times when I did not know what to feel at all! But something that strongly stands out is his sustained struggle to rise above those things that kept him bound - mostly those bonds that he had woven around himself! I think this struggle is what makes us all 'wounded healers'.

Religious formation

This morning even before I got off my bed, a strange thought crossed my mind: Forced conversions surely do take place - not amidst poor,rural and tribal settings but in the seminary!! Even during the Mass this morning I was wondering how come this strange thought emerged in my mind - that too first thing in the morning!

Life in the seminary can certainly be a forced conversion when one is forced to be what one is not just 'to fall in line with the rest'. Formation is actually a tricky walking across a bridge - from the side of a egocentric life to the other side wherein you begin to first see Christ and his people. There is a very high danger that this getting across is either forced or enacted. But what is actually demanded is a person choice and individual responsibility. There has to be a great degree of passion and effort to joyfully make this journey. And unless the 'conversion' takes place this way, the whole process is nullified.

Conversion is primarily a matter of the heart, not just of the state of life or affairs.

Saturday, 4 October 2008

It's good to be home!

Today was special!!! Truly. Was surprised right in the morning when my community solemnly wished me on the Brothers' day and what's more, Fr Noel presented a bouquet he made himself! That was very very thoughtful of him.

Then there was this whole hungama of the grocery to be bought, ac's to fitted, the animation talk I accepted at Auxilium school, the mails I had to send today, the trip to the bank and what not!! Now I sit here, tired and straining my eyes at the computer but happy... my list for today is all ticked off!!

Two most important things of today:
Feast of St Francis of Assisi... a real radical guy who stood by what he was convinced of and at the same time inspired others. I remember reading a quote some years ago and thought it was perfectly true: It is good to live with convictions, but when you live up to all your convictions, you become difficult to live with. But here's a man who enthused such a new way of living the Christian call. Hats off to him!
Today my whole community was there for supper - the first time this year! Just the six of us, all by ourselves and perfectly at home.

Friday, 3 October 2008

Religion and fear...

The memorandum submitted by Bp Jala - of which I came to know from austraLasia! - in a way puts on the table one of the most tricky questions avoided thus far. If we Christians are willing to introspect, then I suppose the question posed by Bp Jala would be a pointed question for the Hindutva groups to ponder upon: Does not the Hindutva opposition to Christian activities come rather from the fear that many of the deprived communities may be so empowered as to assert their own rights and resist exploitation?

This is truly something that everyone needs to introspect. I remember Claudi asking me the same question some years ago during a session: "What are you afraid of?" Then, it caught me unawares but it lead me rightly to the core of the matter and address that rather than go around beating the bush.

I often keep asking myself this question since then. Done well, this really hits the nail on the head as to what exactly is the issue at hand.

Thursday, 2 October 2008

Faith and religious vocation

Hearing this evening for the second time about a Sister who met with an accident several years ago and how she survived the accident and the incident that took place thereafter in the hospital, provoked in my mind the same question again.

That the Sister, while recuperating in the hospital from a near death-accident, was told by a famous doctor to throw away the rosary/crucifix stating that, that was the cause of her suffering. How she replies back saying that he is free to think whatever he wishes but for her the Cross remains life-giving and meaningful.

Later the Sister left religious life! I was wondering how could one say such beautiful and convinced things and then discontinue? What happened to her faith? But I also know that after leaving the congregation, she remained a spinster and has done much good. The answer that came to my mind was perhaps her faith as a Catholic had nothing much to do with her religious vocation. Analysing myself I realised I had monopolised faith to religious life alone! Some how I had associated religious life with superiority of faith. When this Sister left, her faith was intact, only she discerned and felt that religious life was not her vocation.

Faith after all is much more than religious vocation. Each one of us is called/gifted with it. May be in the eyes of God, what we do with it is what defines us, not necessarily our religious vocation.

Beauty and the beholder...

I've heard the phrase, 'Beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder' several times. These days watching the amazement and joy in the eyes of the women groups that are undergoing some women empowerment programmes here in BIRDY, I'm having my doubts about the completeness of the phrase. These women, most from rural settings are all awestruck and completely mesmerised when they first see the Dream Park here in the Provincial house. Much more when they see it with all the lights and fountains and waterfall at night. Looking at them, I cannot resist looking at the Dream Park myself - though I see it everyday!! Just to see what's new? Then I realise as days go by these very women sit around the Dream Park and continuously chat on their cell phones... the number of those watching the Park keeps reducing, till another new group comes in.

So I was wondering if beauty is in the eyes of the beholder or only the first time beholder?

Wednesday, 1 October 2008

St Theresa of Lisieux

Here's a nice short video on St Theresa of Lisieux...

I remember hearing about her for the first time when in my novitiate. I was really fascinated by her story. Only after that I realised that the Parish to which I belonged to was of St Theresa!!! Imagine coming to know that the patroness of my home parish - where I was born and brought up - after 17 years!! However, I all along the way knew Don Bosco!

Attitude towards life ... and death

Yesterday's reading for the Mass were interesting ones. On the one hand we have Job cursing at his imminent destruction and death. On the other hand there is Jesus enthusiastically 'setting his eyes upon Jerusalem' - knowing very well that only death and destruction await him there. It reflects one's attitude towards death and suffering which in turn reflects back onto how one lives one's life! Job did not know why he was rich and therefore when he was down and out, he said, 'Hey this is not meant to be so!' Jesus, on the other hand knew very well - and was convinced too - that He had his life and mission clearly carved out. All the rest fell in place from that perspective.

In the ultimate analysis it all depends on what attitude we have towards the meaning in life - and death - that meaning or purpose we discover for ourselves. Once that is clear, however vague or troublesome the journey maybe, it is never "too much". We sail and sing along joyful and enthusiastic!

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