Wednesday, 26 November 2008

Simon Srugi

Tomorrow is the feast of Venerable Simon Srugi (Salesian Coadjutor). He was born at Nazareth of Galilee on 27th June 1877. He spent his entire life as Salesian at Bietgamal agricultural school. He was simple and humble and earned God's gift of healing. He had the ability to care and nurse the sick especially the poor and those who had serious sicknesses and could not afford the services of a doctor. He was a man "standing erect" to the Muslim community. They lauded him for the comfort, hope, joy and peace he offered to the poor who were sick. Blessed Michael Rua visiting the Salesian confreres called him a 'saint'. The epitaph on his tomb sums up his life in these words: Fellow citizen of Christ, who to copy in himself the humble and meek figure of Good Samaritan, gave himself everywhere, to everyone in everything.

Now that's some mettle!

Sunday, 23 November 2008

Live life than fear

Anna asks Fynn: What's the difference between two and three? And what's the difference between three and two?

Well, it may apparantly seem that the answer to both the questions is the same. But not necessarily.

Thinking about this during the sermon today, another similar thought arose in my mind which clarified things a bit for me. For an instance, 'love of life' and 'fear of death' may mean the same. But they characteristically mark out the basic attitude by which one lives one's life. For one who fears death, he'd die every moment. What a pitiable life he'd have to survive.

But for one who loves life, he'd never fear death. He'd rather live life than live fear!

Saturday, 22 November 2008

Something amiss...

After writing that bit about my interaction with a youngster from the Parish, I had this nagging feeling that something is amiss... I got it right only this evening while listening to my mother scolding me for not taking the herbal prescription that she has been prescribing for my cold since one week!

It then struck me, that my whole interaction was more than just a 'friend catching up with another on the latest happenings'. Neither was it about 'being a friend or preaching'. It was purely the mother's genuine concern for her son, that drove me to talk with the youngster for so long and with such focus.

Knowing that lady's struggle over the years, I really feel she deserves better at this age. And what struck me most was her agony - not at her pain of having to work and foot the bills herself but that her son was not happy and contented. Her pain was that her son was not at ease and that something was troubling him and she couldn't helplessly stand and watch him throw his life away.

Truly, only a mother knows best!

Mister God... is empty

Here's one analogy from Mister God that I need time to digest and live.

(p. 43) ... God is empty... (discussion preceding this conversation is that of object getting their colour - by absorbing all the colours except the one that we see it as its own colour - but that is exactly the colour which is not its own!)

A flower that didn't want the yellow light was called yellow by us because that is what we saw. You shouldn't say the same thing about Mister God. Mister God wanted everything, so he didn't reflect anything back! Now if Mister God didn't reflect anything back, we couldn't possibly see him, could we? So as far as we are concerned,so far as we were able to understand what Mister god was, we simply had to admit that Mister god was quite empty. Not empty because there was truly nothing there, but empty because he accepted everything, because he wanted everything and did not reflect anything back!
...
This is what we were being asked to do, throw away our pieces of colored glass and see clearly.

Mister God... rhyme and rhythm

Some interesting reflection on the Church and liturgy from today's reading of Mister God...

"He," she said indignantly, pointing an accusing finger, "told me to get off the grass." Anna said (during their walk in the garden).

"Yes," I replied, "you're not supposed to be on this bit of grass."

"But it's the best bit," she said. ...

"Them words that say keep off the grass - them words are like that church we went to this morning."


...

Inside a church Anna danced; it was the best bit. Church services, therefore like the Keep Off the Grass notices, did not allow her to have the best bit.


While rhyme and rhythm are necessary sometimes they do throttle the spontaneity of a lively spirit. Even in religious circles how often we want all our confreres to toe the line (in formation houses especially - I'm sure if my student, Ratna is reading this bit he'd be smiling now!) But it is exactly these 'lose spirits' that bring life and fresh breath to living!

Catching up with old friends...

Had a glimpse into the life of one of our staff members this afternoon as the cook shared her burden of sorrows with me. I've known her son since many years now. I once conducted a summer camp for the children of this Parish and he was one of the participants. He still has great respect for me and does meet me often.

The mother was moaning the fact that instead of helping her in this old age of hers, he is sitting idle at home waiting for the ideal job to start working. Luckily I met him soon afterwards and had a small 'talk' with him. Of course, it was no big counselling. Just two old friends catching up with the latest happenings. But I did make a mention of this point and as a friend encouraged him to make efforts to see that his mother does not have to suffer in this age.

At one moment talking to him, in front of the house as people - known people - passed and greeted us, I thought he would feel shy about 'listening'/talking to me. But there we were, talking and chatting away just like friends and even those who heard us would also say they were just talking. He asked about my brother, my sister-in-law and I inquired about his sister and her family abroad.

Young people want friends, not preachers!

Friday, 21 November 2008

Mister God...

Something to think about as I hit bed for the night... from the book Mister God, this is Anna:

..."Dear Mister God, this is Anna talking," and she went on in such a familiar way of talking to Mister God that I had the creepy feeling that if I dared look behind me he would be standing there.

For her, churchgoing and 'Mister God' talks had no necessary connection. For her, the whole thing was transparently simple. you wen to church to get the message when you were very little. Once you had got it, you went out and did something about it. Keeping on going to church was because you hadn't got the message or didn't understand it or it was 'just for swank'.

Mister God can know things and people from the inside, too. we only know them from the outside. So you see, Fynn, people can't talk about Mister God from the outside; you can only talk about Mister God from the inside of him.

Prevention than curing

These days the Somali pirates are occupying front page news in Indian newspapers! All because the Somalis have turned pirates and hijacking Indians or Indian ships! For all those reading about this for the first time, it would be an attack on Indian sovereignty - or whatever. But if one had been reading and knowing about the plight of Somalia over the years, this would not surprise anyone.

Deprived of basic amenities of life, food, water, house, dignity and when survival is the one and only goal of life, these innocent people turning to looting and hijacking is no big deal. At least this way they get to live! Hope those captured pirates are deported... so that they get something to eat at least, even though in prison!

This whole episode shows our human behaviour. We jump up and scamper about when there is a breach of law or rule. But when circumstances leading to this are on the rise, we hardly take notice! Good to follow the preventive system of Don Bosco - prevent than cure.

Provincial house photos

Some photos of the Provincial house paintings... (by Eeyam Joseph)








Thursday, 20 November 2008

Talents and books

The Gospel of yesterday was about the talents and the judgement of the Master. I couldn’t but recall the sms Rabbi sent me just a day ago: Talents in you should be like the spider’s web. They may not be strong enough to hold this whole universe, but they will hold oneself to rule one’s kingdom.

There was also this dialogue I heard in passing today (concerning books): Sometimes it is not we who pick up books but they choose us!

Quite a statement – true and frightening (especially for guys like me who am itching to lay my hands on some book). However, am glad, I at last began reading Mister God this is Anna. Lovely and inspiring!! Very engrossing too.

Wednesday, 19 November 2008

Commitment to Priesthood

I’ve always nurtured some prejudices against Fr Balaraju – may be his drawbacks also, but let me accept it also! However, there are also times when I envy him for certain convictions and lifestyle he follows. Today for instance, the way he prepared for the Holy Mass. He had informed me that he would be celebrating Mass at 10.30. So I set my alarm for 10.25 so that I can rush in and prepare the altar and readings. But by 10.00 itself, Fr Balaraju was out of his room in Cassock. By the time I reached the Chapel, when my alarm went off, I found that he had prepared everything. What’s more he also finished his Office of readings too! Now that’s what I was thinking about during the whole Mass: his commitment to his vocation as a priest. He may falter in very many things but the primary duty of a Priest he was diligent and still in love with. Reflecting upon all these, I too felt greatly touched by the Eucharist today. For I knew very well that it was being celebrated by someone who had prepared well and was diligent about his primary duty as a Priest.

Tuesday, 18 November 2008

Samosas and shame!

I just came across this very funny - and pathetic - news bit from Bihar where a Dutch couple paid Rs 10,000 for four samosas!!! Whew!! To what extent can people go to for making money! Bluff them, at such 'wholesale rate'!! Especially after interacting with Teresa from Devadurga who would really count each rupee she's spending, this news is a real shocker!

Anyhow, the last line of the news bit concludes on a very humourous note: 'Police forced the shopkeeper to return the change, which turned out to be 9,990 rupees.'

Historicity...

Reading Peter Brocardo's Don Bosco: Deeply human and deeply holy, I came across this observation which caught my attention.

Don Bosco is both a saint of the past and the continual summons of what God wants in history. He must be understood in the historical perspective because only history is able to rekindle the past as it is, without disfiguring it. Very true. Rings a bell in my head, as I recall my classes on hermeneutics with Fr Ivo. ... historical distance... and so on.

We often sit in our times and criticise or judge people of bygone days. Very easy and comfortable. But for those living in "those days" in certain circumstances of which we may not even have the faintest of ideas, perhaps what they did and said was the best they could. Therefore good to recall also the context when judging or commenting on the person.

History means not just time, but also context/space!

Monday, 17 November 2008

To Charminar... but not for Charminar!

After many months ventured out into the city, that too to the other end of the city, for some administrative job!! Had to complain about the excess internet bill that we have been receiving since the last couple of months. Thought it would have been easy getting help from the BSNL exchange guys, and my first visit in the morning raised my hopes too. Unfortunately, the second visit brought me back to the ground... Indian bureaucracy! Had to run around all the cabins and offices in the building and listen to all, only to be finally told that nothing much can be done!

Well anyway some experience - besides discovering the route to Charminar! (the BSNL office is just to the left of the historical building!)
But what a pity, I was so lost in the whole internet surcharge bill that I did go round the historical monument twice but failed to really admire it. I saw it last when I was just a kid.

Anyway couldn't help it for the jam-packed traffic of the place. Had I looked up even for a couple of seconds, I'd have run into someone or someone would have knocked me down. Better be on the road than in the hospital!

Sunday, 16 November 2008

Media - tool and message

The message of the Holy Father for today, the 42nd World Communications Day is an interesting and apt one. The Media: At the Crossroads between self-promotion and service.

Now I think that's the real crux of the issue today concerning media. While media certainly is growing in leaps and bounds and creating an impact on society, life, for that matter everything, in an unimaginable way the fact that it also creates ripples and scars where it should be healing wounds and soothing things is also a fact. Reason: manipulation of media by vested interests for self-promotion, at the cost of the others' well-being. Now that's something mean. That is not making the best use of the opportunity available. So I wonder if we are really humane at all. How then can one explain the misuse of such a powerful tool for destruction and spreading hatred!

The tagline of the message provides the icing on the cake: Searching for the Truth in order to share it with Others.

Saturday, 15 November 2008

BIS workshop

This day's online conference of the BIS correspondents of our Province was great. Nice experience. Though many did not turn up the remotely group of 12 was good. Given the fact that most of them were young clerics zealous to do something was an added advantage.

Admire the patience and zeal of Fr PT Joseph. Something that brought to light his deep personality was the short prayer he smsed to me after the thing got over: '...thank God everything went on well.' I had forgotten to thank God altogether. I was rejoicing that it went on well. I say a short prayer of thanks again now as I type these few lines. Thank God!! Thanks Mother Mary!

The sharing at the end of the whole day was another revealing fact. Most of the participants preferred the print media over the other means available - know not if they all understood what they were sharing! However, I liked the 'wait and see' game. To observe how media is used and abused by people with the basic information and knowledge, while the rest of us just gulp down whatever is presented to us.

Thursday, 13 November 2008

The net, the playground and the upbringing

Two outstanding moments of the day: Spending the morning with the ever-fresh Fr PT Joseph in preparation for the online conference day after tomorrow. We did work out a few things... interesting and very captivating, I should admit.

However, a few things that came back to me while praying for him during my rosary just a while ago: What ultimately are we communicating? To whom? Isn't this a merely incestuous enterprise?

Then there was this idea I was so fascinated with... Internet as the new playground. Really? Is it going to take me off from the real world and 'assist' in the virtual world? Anyway, got to deepen these thoughts ... maybe after the workshop on Saturday!

The second enlightening moment was when discussing with Teresa and her Parents who are here from Austria to see their daughter. (She has been working as a volunteer at Devadurga for the past nine months). Just before that sometime in the evening, Teresa handed over to me the money for the taxi... Rs 1000. She was a bit sceptical about the rate ... 'would it be 1 - 0 - 0 - 0!' That's how she asked me. I didn't think of it much. But in the light of the little talk that we had at dinner table, that remark of Teresa made sense...much sense!

I realised they are from a poor family. This is the first time in 20 years that her parents are leaving their home! They have a farm of 600 pigs which they look after by themselves - just the two of them! They could come away now because their son is substituting them. No wonder, they liked very petty things about India. Teresa too remarked that she liked India and is keen to spend more time in India. Nine months in India and that too with the children all the time can be maddening (As professed Salesians we go mad, what then of these volunteers) Yet she wants to stay back and be of help at Devadurga.

From what I see, she knows what life means, what it means to work, earn a decent honest living... her spirit of service and sacrifice comes from that experience, that experience of which her Parents are very much an inseparable part!

Thank you Papa and Mummy! I cherish most what you are to me!

St Stanislaus Kostka

This morning during the Mass in the convent, Fr Balaraju said something about St Stanislaus Kostka and concluded it with a quote of his. I hope I got it right: "I was born not for life but for eternity."

I thought that was quite amusing. Not mere life but eternity! Well don't get much out of it now... but shall keep it... maybe it will ring a bell sometime, somewhere!

Bombs, religion and renunciation

The news bit about online support for sadhvi, who is accused to be part of the Malegaon bomb blasts is alarming. With all the evidence pointing to her involvement, people are still ready to vouch for her - either she is a true saint or a real crook who has the manipulative power to move masses.

I wonder how many of those hindu brethren who have lost their beloved in bomb blasts support her in this matter.

Its all that blame game and parochialism! Something happens in Sri Lanka and Tamilnadu is on fire. Christians are attacked in Orissa, and Christians all over the country cry foul. Some Muslims create havoc on 9/11 and the world over, all Muslims are branded terrorists. Why is it that only when I am touched do I get so passionately involved. Such occasions really show the breadth of our relationship circle - the real depth of our humanity.

On the other side, with the arrests of some significant group of people in the Malegaon blasts throws light on some important issues. That the MTS could lay hands on some top guns - be it in the army or in religious circles - is praiseworthy. Justice for all! What's surprising as said by one good friend of mine in all this terror blasts and arrests and all is that army officers who have sworn to protect the country are also involved in spilling innocent blood. He said that religious leaders and others who have renounced life being involved in such crimes is no big surprise. But that surprises me - a religious myself! Perhaps these "religious" people never really understood life and its true meaning at all - leave alone have an encounter with the Divine! The question of renouncing life then, does not arise at all!

Goodness and goalkeeping

Here's something from my good friend Rabbi:
Being a good person is like being a goalkeeper - no matter how many goals we save, people will remember only the one we missed.
... truth of life!!!!

Wednesday, 12 November 2008

Discipline and charism

There is this strange phenomena we see everywhere... in the families, religious houses, society... There are those who keep all the laws and rules, of God, man and earth. And then there are those who follow none! Yet people love the latter more than the former!

In families, the youngest in normally the most mischievous, unruly and wild. The eldest is most often sober, obedient and serious. Yet it is the youngest around whom the family revolves. No matter what he is up to, the family is willing to laugh over it and carry on.

In religious houses, the ones most loved by the people are not the ones who are up for meditation early, attend all practices of piety and do all their duties perfectly well but those who through these accepted procedures to the winds and chart their own way... winning people's hearts.

Perhaps that's charism! The world would be a perfect graveyard without that. Yet the former, order and discipline, too is necessary. More than a fine balance of these two, I feel it is the swinging between these two that makes the world and life go on!

Tuesday, 11 November 2008

Of fruits and coal

Am slowly understanding some finer tricks of administration - though, I must admit, I barely follow one quarter of the whole responsibility!

Isn't it surprising that while Rs 250 gets you just one and half kg of apples or sweet lime in a reliance fresh outlet, we can get 50 kgs of Papaya in a real fruit market! Of course, you will have to first of all get out of the city limits, go to the main distribution centre, wade in through dirt and slush, keep an eye open for banana peels and orange skins - lest you have a skating view of the market! - have a sharp tongue to bargain, tip off the guys who carry the fruits after purchase to your vehicle, and what not... But it's worth all that than just royally walk in a 'More' or 'fresh' or what not and pick up some stuff and strut around with that trolley before being handed over the whooping bill.

I suppose the same principle applies to other products as well. The price one pays for a few grams of gold may purchase us tons of coal. Yet, each one has its own value and its own purpose. For someone shivering, out in the Hyderabad night cold - it is quite cold already in Hyderabad - coal is of more worth than gold. He can comfortably start a fire and warm himself. With gold he may purchase a big mansion but lose his peace over maintaining that whole big mansion!

Monday, 10 November 2008

Being and doing... St Paul and Shekar

St Paul in his letter to Titus lists the qualities of an elder and a bishop. Quite interesting to note, he does not give a list of dos and dont's; just a list of qualities the person ought to have... what one should be, in order to be elected an elder or bishop.

Even St Paul knew that anyone with those qualities will naturally do a set of actions which will ensure the strengthening of the faith of the Christian community. Perhaps he was consciously certain that doing follows being!

But during my short 'word-in-the-ear' with Shekar, speaking about how he should be rather than talk only in terms of what he should do I realised some lacunae. Talking and instructing domestic helpers, we need to cover both, being and doing! May be because our understanding of being is different from their grasp of what we communicate. Or worse still, I may be expecting them to live a life of a seminarian!!! Hence the "misunderstanding"!

Anyway, got much to learn from both, St Paul and Shekar!!

Sunday, 9 November 2008

Corollaries or controversies?

This evening I had a very pleasant ride as I drove back a dozen youngsters back to their IBS campus! Then more out of my own curiosity than their hesitant invitation to come in and have a look at the campus, I drove in. They showed me around a bit of their 90 acres plot nearly 25 kms from the Provincial house itself. (For those who grumble Provincial house is out of the city, they should try reaching this spot by themselves!!).

Anyway, what surprised me was the whole ambiance therein. Though just two years old, it is posh. Massive structures, lush green lawns, polished corridors, glass panes all around, wifi connection anywhere in the building, air-conditioned classrooms, ... I realised this is for those who can afford to burn money - any amount! No ordinary guy would even dream to get in there!

Being the first meeting with these youngsters, they were very guarded. Though comfortable among themselves, they kept a 'prudent' distance from me. But they were very cordial though! No complaints about that!

To contrast all these images that were floating in my mind as I drove back home, was the usual image of the water tank along the roadside near the military gate after the petrol bunk turn! That water tank, is the one that all cart-pushers, brick-layers, and rickshaw pullers approach to quench their thirst. I doubt it is cleaned at all, ever since it was constructed!

One the one hand here are young people guzzling espressos and Kinley mineral water and on the other hand these bare-footed school children filling their water bottles with the water from the roadside tank!

Yet all survive, all live their lives. I have doubts if, these poor kids are sadder than their richer generation. At times they may regret their state of life, but sad?

Sanctity of the Church, the temple

The readings of this Sunday are beautifully woven together by the theme of the temple. However, what struck me today as I listened carefully to the Telugu readings during Mass is that all the readings speak about the interrelationship between the temple and the body!

I wondered with such clear indications and analogies how can Catholic faith still be anti-body! Perhaps the evident is not always that evident.

Anyway, referring to the body as the temple of the Spirit, St Paul exhorts the Corinthians to worship the Lord in the true Spirit. But often we get so lost in the temple that we forget that we are there to worship! We appreciate the architecture, the lighting, the statues, the floor, the sanctuary... but miss the One for whom all this is made. We hardly ever utter a word of appreciation for the One all this is made! I wonder then if so much of beautification is necessary at all - given the fact that it 'distracts' ones attention from the REAL BEAUTY!

For the past few Sundays that I've been attending Mass in the Parish, I've been observing two groups of people: the altar servers and non-Catholics who come in frequently. Watching those altar servers go about their work, I'm reminded of my younger days when serving Mass was a real honour. Those days there wasn't even any coupons or special prizes, just the thrill of serving Mass!

But those non-Catholics who come into the Church put to shame those of us 'born-Catholics' by the reverence they show in the Church. Granted that some of the educated ones are dictated by 'ambiance fear' - what others will say if they find out that I'm not one among them. Most of those non-Catholics are purely focused on the One whom they walk in to seek or converse with. Nothing else matters!

I remember Tony D'Mello's anecdote where the king on a hunting trip stops in the jungle to say his mid-day prayers. While doing so, a woman in a hurry runs across his prayer mat, oblivious of the man in prayer - oblivious also of the fact that he is the emperor. The king finishes his prayer, summons the lady and is about to pass sentence on her when she asks, "If I common person searching desperately for my lost husband am so focused on finding him, how come you, the emperor are so distracted when conversing with the Divine Master of all?"

The Ark

Last night I watched the concluding bit of Evan Almighty on HBO. Quite an interesting sequel to Bruce Almighty. Morgan Freeman again plays God - something quite amazing given the racial factor!! At a moment when Evan Baxter, the Congressman whom God calls upon to build an ark in New York, is all alone doing the work, God has a chat with his wife in the form of a waiter in a roadside restaurant. He asks her a few simple questions: When people ask for patience does God give them patience or opportunities to be patient? The same with Courage! When people ask for courage, does God give them courage or the opportunities to be courageous?


Most often when people talk about the Ark and Noah, they imagine all about God, wrath, anger, sin... But they miss the whole point. It is more about believing than anything else. Noah dared to believe!

The conclusion of the movie - however cinematic - has a good moral: How do you change the world? "One act of random kindness," replies Evan. Yeah ARK!

There's the other instance when a press reporter asks the bearded-robed Evan, "What makes you so sure that God chose you?" Evan replies, "God chose all of us!"

And who said, movies are not good for evangelisation!!

Friday, 7 November 2008

Changeover!

After getting angry with Mallesh for doing a shoddy work with my new computer, I decided to switch over to firefox for good tonight! Not that I did not know about it or did not try it - it looked a bit shabby in comparison with IE. Anyhow, romance with IE is over!!

Perhaps also a nice occasion to get ready for the FOSS training programme in Chennai next month and all the persuasion and promises given to Julian Fox!

Am still getting used to it! Will sure do!

Chiranjeevi and Thankachan!


Here's what Thankachan was all excited about yesterday!

Daily retreat

Past two days something that kept ringing a bell in my ears during the night prayers was the fact that there is a retreat going on here in the house! A retreat!! Sounds just a word but, a businessman that I'm slowly turning into, I only see it as yet another of income fetching programmes!! Well the consolation is that at least during my night prayers I remember to pray for the Sisters making their retreat.

I remember, my Novice Master, Fr Samala telling us that the Retreat is a special moment of grace not just for the ones making it but also for those involved in it. With me playing the host, am I not involved in it? But I hardly realize the grace it is offering me!

Wednesday, 5 November 2008

For love of Philosophy

After calling up someone else and wishing him happy b'day, I finally got NJG today. Speaking to him reminded me of our good old days at Yercaud. Listening to him, I'm convinced he's still the same - fresh, cranky and straightforward!

In fact, being in the presence of such 'liberated spirits' - crack fellows who dared think out of the box, with delightful insights, serious about their effort and enjoying it too - and free thinkers that I began to appreciate the worth of philosophy. Luckily that happened during my first year itself. So I was able to fully enjoy my two years in Yercaud and in Nashik thereafter.

People - especially formators - often say that philosophy is the handmaid of theology. Well could be! However, I still prefer philosophy to theology. Not that I have something against theology but somehow, I enjoy the expansion of horizons that philosophy facilitates. All that squabbling, clarifying, questioning ... all for love of wisdom and an effort to arrive at the truth.

And the best part? Not the end product but the process itself! That's the cream of Philosophy!

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

Preferential choice?

This evening during my walk back home I met a baffled bus conductor with an empty RTC bus at a junction near Himayatsagar looking for someone to direct him. I mistakenly pointed him a 'long cut'!!!

Anyway, I also saw several people returning from work carrying their tiffin boxes - those long ones with a handle! Most of them were young men. But they were also couples - young people again - but with small children on their shoulders! It seemed like their daily routine - go for work in the morning and be back in the evening. Apparently while I was walking to burn my fat, these people were walking (that too after a day's hard manual work) to save Rs 3 for the shared auto!

What of those small children? What if I too was born into such a family? Would I have been here sitting at this computer, gloriously typing away?

Thanks Papa and Mummy!

Monday, 3 November 2008

Conversion as change of heart-2

Well, what I liked best of the frank sharing of Anand Mahadevan (and of the Outlook magazine who dared publish that opinion, whatever the reasons) is the frankness with which it lays bare facts and deep convictions. There is no debate here... no arguments. Just plain testimony of one who was open to being touched by the person of Jesus and is today taking a public stand for Christ (not necessarily for Christianity). We have several people, beginning with our Bishops - may be myself, included - who would stand for Christianity... but the point here is do I stand for CHRIST?

I think we need people who can, first of all, stand by Christ and then authoritatively speak for Christ today. Not merely squabble over Church and Christianity. I certainly agree with Mahadevan when he says that what he acquired that evening was not a religion... it was an intimate relationship with Jesus. How many of us religious can claim that. We certainly would stand tall and shout aloud that we are born Catholics but can we at least whisper in our own hearts these words: I know Him as the pure and sinless Son of a Holy God. And I know Him as a dear friend to whom I pray and talk to every day—about my career, my dreams, successes, failures, finances and even my sexuality. (Anand Mahadevan).

As for Mahadevan's evangelisation and proclamation: If I read a good book, watch a good movie (Rock On is terrific, mate), or eat a good meal at a new restaurant, I would naturally tell my friends about it.In Jesus, I have discovered a truly amazing friend, guide, leader, saviour and God. How can I not tell all my friends about Him? And if anyone does listen and he too comes to believe in Jesus, I am delighted. The world would call it a conversion; I call it a change of heart, like mine.

Lord grant me the strength, if not to claim at least to strive for this grace... to be able to whisper in my heart, that I know You and that You are mine!

Conversion as change of heart (Anand Mahadevan)

Thanks to Aquinas who sent me a lovely article by Anand Mahadevan (editor of Outlook Business) titled 'I, The Convert'. It is superb... simple, frank, open and bold (true to oneself!). We don't get Outlook here in the house, so I logged on to the web to get the article directly from the source. Got through the registration formalities just now.

Here's it for any sensible reading:
I was born a Brahmin and am the grandson of a priest whom I dearly loved. I am educated and my current professional standing indicates that I am reasonably intelligent. I am also affluent and my income would put me distinctly in the upper middle class bracket. I guess that would make me high-caste, rich and smart. In other words, I am not a tribal, or poor or dim-witted. And yet, I chose to become a follower of Jesus Christ.

The world would call me a convert to Christianity. I have no problems with that, though I see my faith more as a relationship with God through Jesus Christ than as a religion. And for the record, I can truthfully claim that no one financially induced or threatened or deceived me into converting to Christianity.

I am fiercely proud of my national identity as an Indian and I am completely at peace with my cultural identity as a Hindu. I retain the name my parents gave me. My wife, who also shares my faith, continues to go by her Hindu name. We have two children and we have given both distinctly Hindu names. In fact, many of my colleagues and acquaintances who may happen to read this column are likely to be surprised. They have no inkling about my faith, for I generally don't go about announcing it. But if someone does ask me the reason behind the joy and hope that is everpresent in my life, I am always delighted to share it with them.

I write this piece to make one point—that my conversion was not a change of religion but a change of heart. To explain this, I need to go back to my childhood in Chennai, similar to that of so many other Tamil Brahmin boys like me. My grandfather, every bit the virtuous priest, had enormous influence over me. I absolutely adored him and as a toddler, always clung to him. He too loved me to a fault. There was no wish of mine that he would not rush to fulfil. But even in my early, formative years I was unable to relate to the religion he fervently practiced. Later, in my school days, I once spent my summer holidays with him in Trichy. Memories of dawn walks with him, for the ritualistic dip in the Cauvery river, cow in tow, are still fresh in my memory. I learnt many shlokas, some of which I still remember. But I never understood any of it and none of it helped me connect with God.

When I was 19, a Christian friend with whom I used to play cricket invited me to his house for prayer. If he had invited me to a pub, or party, I would have gone too. At his home, he and his sister prayed for me. It was a simple yet delightful conversation with God that lasted all of five minutes. I don't remember it verbatim, but they articulated a prayer of blessing on my life, future, career and family. It was a simple affair—no miracles, no angels visiting. All they did was utter a deep human cry out to the creator God and His only son Jesus Christ. When they said Amen, I felt in my heart a desire to follow Jesus.

It was a faith encounter with God that I shall not even attempt to understand, rationalise or explain. I simply accept it. It is my faith. It is what I choose to believe. That evening I did not change my religion, for in reality I had none. Hinduism was my identity, not my religion. It still is.

The Christianity I acquired that evening is not a religion. On the contrary, it is an intensely intimate relationship with Jesus. Over the past fifteen years, I have come to know this Jesus even closer. I know Him as the pure and sinless Son of a Holy God. And I know Him as a dear friend to whom I pray and talk to every day—about my career, my dreams, successes, failures, finances and even my sexuality.

If I read a good book, watch a good movie (Rock On is terrific, mate), or eat a good meal at a new restaurant, I would naturally tell my friends about it.In Jesus, I have discovered a truly amazing friend, guide, leader, saviour and God. How can I not tell all my friends about Him? And if anyone does listen and he too comes to believe in Jesus, I am delighted. The world would call it a conversion; I call it a change of heart, like mine.

But I would never force anyone to listen to me, leave alone financially induce, coerce or con him into believing. That to me is pointless and against the very grain of my faith. But I do have a constitutional right to practice my faith and to preach it without deception, force or bribery. It pains to see such basic rights of mankind being cruelly violated every day in this great Hindu nation.

God bless India.

Sunday, 2 November 2008

Trip down memory lane: Shillong

Remembered Shillong for two reasons today: All Souls day... the annual trip to the cemetery. That is something I'll cherish for long. The beautifully decorated cemetery and the Mass and the number of people who devotionally participate in the main Mass presided over by Bp Jala... that was really touching.

Though their religious convictions and devotional depth can be questioned, the Shillongites are truly a very inspiring lot when it comes to religious practices. They maintain the decorum throughout the ceremony. No talking, chatting, laughing and giggling during the services - whether that be processions or open air Mass or adoration services whatever! All participate very silently and devoutly.

Then there is the lovely singing - what makes it really appealing is that ALL join in. It is not just the choir singing away but the whole group singing away joyfully and in voices. They really make the liturgy very alive with their singing. Really beautiful.

The next thing that reminded me of Shillong is the call from Mas, my friend. I also got the chance to speak to Fr Shaji, one whom I admire for his intellectual acumen and religious discipline. Hard to find such inspiring people these days.

Extending 'feelings'

This day's newspaper carried another sad tale of parochialism and narrow-mindedness of us... the kollywood fraternity holding a day of fast in support of the Sri Lankan tamils. Well, there are so many Indians suffering and dying due to oppression and violence... there were the recent bomb blasts in Assam, I didn't see anyone go on a fast for those innocent victims?

We sit up and start 'feeling' only when our kith and kin are touched. We've grown so callous that the world is no where in our heart-map... leave alone the country. Not even my neighbour is included herein! I hope we at least still sympathise with those unknown people undergoing suffering and pain.

Like someone said, there are no strangers here, only friends we've not yet met. May me meet all!

Saturday, 1 November 2008

Wasting quality time... usefully!

Today after long, I spent some quality time talking to some of the staff members. Listening to them gave me a bit of a boost... not that they spoke about me. But they spoke about themselves! It gave me the assurance that they still look at me as one whom they can feel free to talk about themselves. That they need not evade me or talk some business always (though that is what I talk most often!).

They spoke about their little jokes, some bloomers they enjoy when amidst some serious work, some petty issues that they have among themselves and so on. This time I stayed and listened, laughed, nodded and enjoyed their company. I did not think of any excuse or give them a lousy reason 'to finish some work'. I'm glad I did that.

I skipped my walk but I gained people! Not a bad exchange at all!

Human-animal Communication

Yesterday during my walk along the outer ring road (ORR) I was amused by the goatherd and the shepherd tending it. Once in a way he would grunt or bleat just like the sheep and goat! At times it seemed that he was responding to their voice and at other times the animals seem to respond to his 'blabber'. I was reminded of Santiagu (The Alchemist) who boasted of understanding his flock of sheep. Having to spend the whole day with the sheep, these shepherds ultimately have only them to talk to. So it is quite natural that they 'speak' to one another and become familiar to each others ways of going about. I am sure this bond only gets strengthened day after day.

How about our religious life and life in communities? Why is it that the longer I live with someone, harder it becomes to face him, talk to him, work in collaboration with him? While it should become simpler and easier to do so day after day, the rapport only deteriorates as time passes. Perhaps our sophisticated human communication does not foster that!

If communication is truly the foundation of all relationship and communion, is our human communication really 'better' than the human-animal communication?

Poor St Joseph!

This morning's shared homily was interesting. I still can't stop laughing recalling it. Asked to share something about our patron saint, a cleric named Joseph shared about what he liked about St Joseph - that God CHOOSE Joseph to be the father of his son. A priest corrected him midway saying, St Joseph was only God-father, not father of Jesus. The cleric continued, "Yes, God-father chose Joseph to be the father of his son!"

So much for parenting and English!!
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