Saturday, 30 January 2010

Some amusing quotes

Here are some quotes which kept me amused all day long...
I don't have to attend every argument I'm invited to.

There are two things I've learnt: There is God; and I'm not Him.

Following the path of least resistance is what makes rivers and men crooked.
The following one was the best!
Sometimes majority only means that all the fools are on the same side.

Forcing sense into politics

I was thrilled when I heard the directive of the court issuing a decree that henceforth any political party calling for a bandh has to pay for the losses incurred that day! Now that's one of the most creative and forceful way of driving sense into political factions which disrupt normal life for their selfish ends. This indeed is a great move and I salute the one who got this idea. Furthermore, today's newspaper has, on its frontpage, the news that a court issued an order stating that a youngster booked under the case of violence during the Telangana bandh pay up Rs 1 lakh as compensation to seek bail! Let's see if those political groups backing this come to his aid... I doubt anyone will. Some lessons are better taught the hard way!

Friday, 29 January 2010

Avatar, human rights and ecology

Last night we watched Avatar ... it was worth watching. Though I do not appreciate sci-fi movies, this one didn't appear to be so. It is basically an alien vs human movie, but with a simple twist whereby, it is the humans who have overstepped the line of sense and sensibility. For me it came across as a movie which basically speaks of the small and voiceless in their struggle against the powerful and mighty. The three best moments of the movie that appealed to me most were the following:
  1. The scene where the Na'vi's are shooting arrows at the gigantic space ships: that's exactly the equation of people in real life when they are up and against the powerful sections of society or bureaucracy.
  2. The next was when Jake softly prays to the 'tree' to take his side and his partner, Neytiri states that the Eywa does not take sides but just sees to the balance of life. Now that's a very sensible stand. No bribing or emotional blackmailing!
  3. The third is when the whole Na'vi tribe are in sync with the nature. This is the part I liked most of the movie - it shows a group of people who are totally in sync with nature. They do not exploit it but respect and co-exist. Even when they have to kill another creature, it is done with respect and regret.
A powerful message on human greed, need to respect nature and the dignity of life - but perhaps the presentation overshadows the message! All the same, the effort to convey a message is praiseworthy!

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Values... more than deeds alone

I see a great deal of energy and effort spent on doing deeds, especially with children and in our educational institutions. Of course, the argument is that children learn by doing. But I also believe that they need to be told WHY they are doing what they are told to do! It is only in this manner that we can inculcate values - which outlast any deed or time - rather than have a long list of deeds and activities.

The recent floods in Andhra and now the earthquake in Haiti are all examples of opportunities when we involve young people in our solidarity efforts with the victims. Rather than just ask them to contribute or collect funds, this should be a moment to rationalise and help them see 'why we do what we do'. Thus later in life when called upon for a social act, these young people get involved for the right reasons and with the best of their creative minds!

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

Online/blogging advertising!

Perhaps the first concrete fruits of what I intended the blog on the upcoming school to be was materialised when Mr Chaitanya (Mugda village, Gandipet area) walked into my office this morning seeking information about the school. I was thrilled to know that he came to know more of the school from the blog!! He told me that he 'googled' the title and then came across this blog which he and his wife read in its entirety!

I look forward to the day when the school blog would be run by some of the students of the school and so will the whole 'net'-work related to the school. For the immense possibilities the net offers, children could very well make the most of it for growth and development, not just of their own self but make a significant contribution to the world... that's my dream for each school kid walking into the campus!

Chris Castilino

Some more photos of Chris' baptism... That's Mr D'Mello and his family... Don (his son has really grown tall... but still the same in everything else, so is Hilda Aunty!)

This is David and his son, Allu boy!

And that is Mr Chris Castilino!!

Monday, 25 January 2010

Of formees and street children

It is perhaps the same challenge when working in a formation house or in a street childrens' home. As far as I see, there is a great lacuna of motivation in both the places: among the street kids, they have seen life and therefore would not be easily convinced of 'working hard' to make it something different; so is the case with most of our formees. 'Why struggle, when this much is enough!?' seems to be an unsaid refrain in the formation set up.

Secondly, both the groups are least interested in personal study, reflection and synthesis. This really is a grave danger, especially for those in formation.

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Viewing more than the keyhole

I was pleasantly surprised this evening when I heard the RJ on a local FM radio station announce a special programme on Jan. 26, our Republic day: a concoction of various cultures in the city of Hyderabad. Now that's something novel, especially when our politicians and narrow minded leaders are bickering over a separate state.

We need such wisps of fresh air, when we let our spirits rise above the petty narrow-minded whims and fancies of politicians... to view the world from a wider perspective than through the keyhole of the room we lock ourselves in!

E-ducating Don Bosco's way!

The latest e-letter of the Communication department from Rome has (among the many other useful and informative messages) this short write-up on DON BOSCO'S WAY... a marvellous online resource on Salesian educative system. Fr Peter Gonsalves from Mumbai Province (presently teaching in Rome) is the mastermind behind it. The site is really amazing and the possibilities it offer are numerous. Especially in a context where "teaching" Don Bosco's pedagogy is an integral element of our apostolate so that all those working with us Salesians gain from the rich heritage of Don Bosco's method, this resource is very handy. It is with this cosmoplitan perspective that don bosco's way has been designed. It presents text, diagrams, illustrations and audiovisuals the richness of Salesian pedagogy.

Hat's off to Fr Peter Gonsalves!

Saturday, 23 January 2010

School visit

I had the chance - really by chance! - to visit a school in the Miyapur area this afternoon. I went as driver to Sr Anna Mary. The school is run by her relatives. I was impressed by their approach and their infrastructure. Nothing much in comparison to the place we have for our upcoming school but the available space is well planned out. The infrastructure too seems to be in place. The advantage they have is that the place is totally surrounded by high-rise buildings. The little time I spent there I saw a stream of parents walking in to inquire about the admission process. Of the couple of things the Principal shared with me, I liked her suggestion: Brother whatever you prepare, by way of promotion material or infrastructure, make it look the best - don't compromise on that! I too am convinced that if run well, this school - or any school, for that matter - will be greatly appreciated and numbers will not be problem. (Well, that's when talking professionally!).

Friday, 22 January 2010

The Lord's anointed

As I read the first reading of the day, a thought suddenly flashed across my mind. It is at that instant when David decides not to lay hands on Saul, even though the latter has been delivered into his hands 'to do as he may wish'. When asked the reason for not doing any harm to Saul, David replies, 'I do not wish to lay hands on the Lord's anointed.'

Now that is quite a lesson for all of us, beginning with me. I speak so in the context of the new Provincial being announced! In a sense, he too is anointed by the Lord. Why then try to speak ill of him or mourn his inadequacies? If the Lord has His ways of going about, He surely will have something for the new Provincial as well - and in the process, something for each of us too!

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Of Telangana, students and Media

The whole drama of the students involvement in the Telanga issue is turning out to be more than just a drama!! I really have my doubts if this guy whom they contest, committed suicide by immolating himself for a separate state. For all my instincts tell me, it is something fishy. Why would a young student from a middle class family die for a separate state? It is utterly nonsensical that he should consider that as his greatest priority in life! Anyway, whatever be the case of that young chap - I pity his parents, though!

First of all, the University should declare classes open and schedule exams. Let those who are serious about they being 'students' take the exam and focus on what is essential for now: studies and education! Then drive out all the anti-social elements who are now taking shelter under the name of 'students' and creating havoc.

I wish the mass media, especially the news channels, take some sensible steps here.
  1. Let the media awake the silent majority to action by portraying the damage being done to the whole state, especially the city of Hyderabad, most particularly to the common man. Let those who want to 'fight' for a separate state do so at no inconvenience to the aam admi.
  2. Stop focussing on the leaders merely threatening each other only on camera with no guts - and common sense whatsoever - to fulfill their primary responsibilities: service of those who voted them to power or whom they represent.
  3. Shift the focus of the camera from the ministers' meetings to the stranded passengers, dying patients, miserable vegetable vendors, helpless students, desperate housewives and thousands of such who live hand to mouth, day to day!
  4. Invite people with a vision (at least, common sense) and conduct debates or air opinions on real issues rather than hold a blame game and end up in everyone shouting at each other.
  5. Portray the good and possible prosperity rather than the cacophony of politicians.
  6. Elicit, support and propagate noble means of getting out of this chaos... I'm not talking of a political solution, but of a sensible solution to these daily bandhs and disruption of normal life.

Thy Kingdom come!

Thy Kingdom come!' ... that was the editorial title of one of the editions of Bp Pierre Claverie's Le Lien in October 1995 (almost a year before he was assassinated in Algeria). I was asked to review the book A Life Poured Out: Pierre Claverie of Algeria and I should admit that I found it very refreshing and challenging. I was reminded of the life and works of Dietrich Bonheoffer, whom I read during my days of Theology in Shillong. The same passionate zeal and courage to stand by what is true and just. Truly a courageous man to stand tall and speak out against anyone (and any religion) that dehumanizes. He must surely have been a man of great depth to have won even the admiration and friendship of Muslim leaders and politicians. That he was assassinated itself is a proof that he was among the best in Algeria! The world and the Church could do more with such men as Pierre Claverie.

Here are some of his quotes:
The Church carries out its vocation and its mission when it is present wherever humanity is torn, crucified, and fragmented... We are indeed where we belong, because it is only in this way that one can see the light of the Resurrection, and together with it the hope of the renewal of the world.

As long as we do not measure the length, breadth, height, depth - the whole extent of the abyss that separates us, we are not ready to acknowledge each other, understand each other, love each other.

In Algeria, it is our good fortune to be pretty well stripped of our riches, our pretensions, and our self-sufficiency... Let us give thanks to God when he restores his church to simple humanity.

The value of my life lies in my capacity to give it away.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Example and invitation

This afternoon we had the joy of hearing a Provincial (that of the Holy Spirit Fathers) narrate his vocation story in the Salesian context. He was all praise for his then Rector, Fr Amaladoss sdb whom he loved very much for his ways of dealing with the boys during his school days at Don Bosco, Katpadi. He narrated how Fr Amaladoss got him to start eating beef when he abhorred it the most!!

Two things he kept repeating, which I knew were the most influential factors in his decision to become a Priest. The first was the example of prayer given by Fr Amaladoss. This Provincial said, he (as a boy) went up to the Chapel not so much to pray but to see Fr Amaladoss in prayer. Now that's quite a compliment for a religious. I wish every boy and every youngster whom we interact with, can say that of each one of us Salesians.

The second was his invitation to join the Salesians... an open and free invitation. This boy who had other plans, on hearing of this invitation, gave it a thought and then decided to join the seminary.

Now that's the power of example combined with proclamation!

Photos of Chris' baptism

Here is a photo of Chris' baptism... I had to threaten Willy of complaining to his son to get a couple of his photos!!

That's Fr KS marking the forehead with the holy oil. Perhaps that was the last moment when Chris was silent. After this he started crying. But Mummy has the conviction that he does not cry during the Mass and prayer (at home)!

Standing behind Willy is Roshni's dad.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Baptism of Chris Castilino

Yesterday was the baptism of my nephew... Chris Jonathan Castilino. Daddy calls him Christ Janardhan!! It was good being home after long. There were lots of people at home: besides the usual 5 (Papa, Mummy, Willy, Roshni and Chris) there were Roshni's parents, and her brother, Mary aunty (who has come to look after the new born)... then in the afternoon there were all the guests for meals. But it was good.

We had a simple Mass in the Parish Church at 11 am. Fr KS was kind enough to consent to come and baptise the child. He has been Willy's good friend since long and perhaps the one Salesian who has been closest to our family. Then Fr Rayappa (the Assistant Parish Priest) and Br Chilakapati Paul (he happened to come to meet Fr KS).

During the Mass, I couldn't but help noticing the several people who came into the Church to spend sometime in prayer. Some would even went up the altar to kneel and pray at the foot of the huge cross hung in the background. Everytime I see such people, I invariably end up questioning myself: is my little faith any way stronger than theirs? And every time I fear the answer to that question!

The God parents were Roshni's parents: Mr Stanley and Ms Roslyn D'Souza.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Living up to the demands of our vocation

For our Spiritual Reading this evening we read that section of the autobiography of Don Bosco (Memoirs of the Oratory of St Francis de Sales), wherein he speaks about the conversation he had with his mother prior to his departure to join the seminary:
My dear John, you have put on the priestly habit. I feel all the happiness that any mother could feel in her son's good fortune. Do remember this, however: it's not the habit that honours your state, but the practice of virtue. If you should ever begin to doubt your vocation, then - for heaven's sake! - do not dishounour this habit. Put it aside immediately. I would much rather have a poor farmer for a son, than a priest who neglects his duties.
I wish every one of us re-reads these powerful words or hear these words every now and then. There was a time when young men feared joining the Salesian way life for fear of not being to live up to the religious fervour. Today I have a feeling some join, precisely because they do not fear anything: they join because they really do not want to live to that spirit. Just do something and float along! That poor farm lady knew very well what it meant to be a Priest; no wonder Don Bosco had no doubts as to what he wanted from his Salesians - as he demanded of himself!

Life is invaluable because of imperfections!

Sometime ago I remember watching the movie Seabiscuit... a lovely take of trust, courage, perseverance and success... great lessons in life! One of my favourite dialogues of the movie is the one which Tom Smith (the trainer) delivers when he meets Charles Howard for the first time. Commenting on the pony that he is treating for a broken leg, Howard asks Smith, why is he treating it and Smith replies:
Because I can.
During the same conversation he makes the most powerful statement of the movie (again referring to the same pony):
You don't throw a whole life away, just because he's banged up a little.

The desire to be 'like others'

All of us have this desire to be 'like others', to be 'normal'. It is only young people who want to be 'different', something 'special', what others are not! Perhaps it is due to our fear of 'standing out' in a group. We would not like to noticed and therefore prefer to be just like everyone else. This is if we see that 'standing out' would be hazardous or bring along with it risks that we fear facing. But if this 'standing out' is going to be prestigious just for its own sake, then we do not mind.

The people of Israel of old, as we read in the first reading of the day, were in this sense a bit queer. They ask Samuel (and God) for a king, just like the 'other nations'. Perhaps they too wanted to be 'normal'. Or they must have thought that having a king who is more efficient than Samuel (the Prophet) would be an added feather in their cap. They failed to see that it was actually Yahweh who was running the show through Samuel.

A good lesson for us all: not to be swayed by the exercise of power, but realise the source of power and respect it.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Sankranti and light

Today is Makar Sankranti, the harvest festival of the Hindus. I'm glad it is now, not so much for its religious significance but for the political peace that it has brought about. Not that it is going to last for long, but it is a welcome break from all the confusion and turmoil that has been created in the state for the last month and more! Hope this gracious feast helps the politicians see the light (the feast centres around the Sun god!) and resolve issues without adversely affecting the lives of the common man.

But I do miss the kites this time. The rain god seems to be angry ... it has been raining since yesterday morning!

Wednesday, 13 January 2010


Strength does not come from winning. Your struggles develop your strength. When you go through hardship and decide not to surrender, that is strength.
That is something akin to what 'God' tells Evans in the movie, Evan, Almighty!
When we pray for courage, does God give us courage or opportunities to be courageous? ...
Nice thought!

Sharing knowledge!

Discussing this morning at table, about the Jubilee of the Bishop of Guntur, someone mentioned of an audio devotional CD being released for this occasion. Some of us felt, so bad about this all! These days everyone is producing and bringing out a CD - just like that!! I believe it is time we start moving from a stage of collecting and gathering to sharing and involving as many as possible. It is here that the internet serves best! Though not everything is free, most of the stuff is! Rather than carry around, hundreds of CDs, DVDs, files and papers and what not ... just put it on the net. Let everyone have access to knowledge and information. Why horde it up? And for what?

Council day out!

The past four days have been quite fast moving and touching different activities too. On 9th there was the Provincial council - the last one for Fr Noel as Provincial. By tea time we were already on the road towards Nagarjuna Sagar for a day out as the Provincial community day. We were at Sagar till tea time the next day. It was really good. Fr Noel, through his contacts, made the necessary arrangements and it was very relaxing. For my part, I got to drive!! After my Mangalore trip in 2008, this was the longest I drove in a single day - perhaps some 200 or more kms.

On 11th evening Fr Balaraju decided to go for a movie after supper. The telugu movie, 'Katha' was decided upon. I better not say more than that! It was horrible! Same old theme, retold pathetically!

Friday, 8 January 2010

I already have all I need

Fr Koshy send me a 'forward' with a list of '20 powerful beliefs that will push you towards success'. Not anything new but quite good insights for one to reflect on. I would say it is quite a comprehensive list. Of the many things that caught my attention, I would like to single out the last belief listed, which I firmly approve of, basically from my little experience in life and as a Salesian: I already have all I need. Much of efforts seem to be lost in the aquisition of things. The belief that I already have all I really need does work wonders. You feel so full that you cannot but start sharing all you have. You no more 'work' and 'struggle' but every act becomes an act of charity and every moment such a joy!

Education, ecology and happiness

This morning I came across a news article which states that Costa Rica is the happiest nation on earth. Though there are no real means of 'quantifying' happiness, all possible means of survey and experimentation saw Costa Rica top the list. The primary reason cited for this was the decision of the country to disband its military some years ago. The government decided to invest in education rather than in artillery and it has worked wonders. The second most important reason is the ecological balance that is preserved in the country. It is said that the country only narrowly exceeds the limit of natural exploitation.

Now there are two important features that have proved to be the success factors of a whole nation: education and ecology. Time to learn our lessons!

Thursday, 7 January 2010

A visit to the hospital

After much postponing and forgetting, I finally did visit Nandu's father in the hospital. He has been in there for the past 6 days with no response or even opening his eyes. He has two blood clots in his brain and from what I gather, the family has given up hope. With no financial resources, they have no choice. They seem be just waiting for the end. It is sad, to see one's own father on bed, neither living nor dying and you helplessly standing by his side. The very thought of re-imagining the hospital scene with my Daddy and me in Nandu and his father's place is frightening!

But it was good that we went and paid him a visit. Not for his father but for Nandu and his family members! May God give them the strength to go through these moments of angst.

Tuesday, 5 January 2010

A joint action for division!

All over the state, in every newspaper and every local TV channel, there is nothing but this mega drama of the Telangana-Andhra being enacted in the most chaotic manner. Ever since this issue was raked up - thanks to KCR and his followers - the state has been in turmoil. Of late there is the whole talk of the JAC - the Joint Action Committee. What a parody!! Every corner of Andhra Pradesh now is holding JAC meetings to decide how to divide the state - what a lovely "joint action"! Every 'joint' wants to stay and live apart!

The worst part is that students are dragged into this political game. Rather than concentrate on their studies and future, they are all up in arms about the statehood and the division of it. That's the standard of education we 'suffer' from. I'm not adverse to taking stand and fighting for a cause - but it should be something worthwhile and done in such a way that it makes great sense to me and is for the welfare of others. Not because, some politician wants to have his whims and fancies fulfilled. How can politics be so stupid and still popular? I really don't understand or maybe, I don't want to understand!

The curse of institutionalisation

Sitting this morning for meditation, a thought flashed across my mind. Try as hard as I may, I found my mind wandering in and out of my office, my computer, my daily plans, list of 'to-do' and what not! So rather than try to 'empty my mind' I brought Jesus into this hectic drama! I asked myself, 'What would Jesus have done had he been staying in the Provincial house here?' The first and the most immediate visual that popped up in my mind was that of Jesus calmly strolling out of the Provincial house, into the midst of people. The images were all of Jesus waving to people, giving 'hi-fi's to youngsters, walking into the houses of unknown people to have a word with them... just like that! Then late in the evening come back to the Provincial house ... only to sleep.

I don't think he would have worried about his computer, his office, the diary and daily programme of 'to-do', the courier guy asking if he has to take any couriers, him directing the gardener to weed that section or pluck those tomatoes and sell them, discuss with the cook what to cook for supper and for how many, worry about when to pay the next internet, phone and electricity bill, whom to send to pick up the calendars which arrived at the road transport ... Jesus surely would live and do His work with the people and not get lost in running the Provincial house!

That's the curse of institutionalisation!

Sunday, 3 January 2010

To be led by the light... by faith

It is surprising to notice that only three kings (or four of them, as the legend goes) "see" the star! Equally astonishing or even more, is the fact that they decide to follow it, to God knows where and for what! But they did follow! That's faith. That's what really counts in the long run. To be able to take the first step, not sure if I'd be able to move ahead or whether I'll even be able to find ground beneath my first step. It is true that the wise men followed the star, but they were really wandering in darkness, led not by the light above but their faith within. Most often we fail in our journey of life or keep going round in circles because we rely more on the light outside than the faith within!

To be part of making history!

TV has a knack of drawing people in to help him out with his work. I've watched him do this with others and now he's got me for the school! Since yesterday I see myself drawn in for the school work, in a big way. At times, I too fear what would be the future of this project, but I take it as another lesson in trust and hope - something, I'm learning the ropes of very tangibly these days! Let's see how things proceed. Frankly, I don't mind getting involved in this, for it is totally a new field of apostolate for me. Not that I'm going to managing schools, but this pioneering of an institute especially one with such a high expectation. I wish to fill in that lacuna which others do not see or bypass (religious, I mean): planning and chronicling of minor factors which sometime or the other prove to be of great relevance!

Luckily, Fr Sebastian did not announce about the issuing of the admission forms in the Mass this morning. That would have got lost in the confusion that followed with regard to the election of the Parish Council! What a fiasco! Anyway, as I see it, the school will be received well; may not go down with the Catholics very well, but there are others who are eager to be part of Don Bosco!

Saturday, 2 January 2010

Professionalism and Charism

There is so much that can be done and that too with finesse! Today, practically the whole afternoon, I spent browsing hundreds of websites related to the CBSE schools and governance. I realise most of them have a professional approach to the method and philosophy of education that they impart to children through these schools. Some, I gather, are nothing but another name-sake educational institute. But sincerely speaking, I was quite impressed by the minute details one particular school has seen too. It looks like it has been in this field of education for quite long. What's more, I found out that it is in the vicinity of the Provincial house itself! Gliding through their website, I find them quite sure about what they are upto. That's really a good thing. They don't seem to be wasting their time doing 'something'. They are clear about their method and their goal, as well.

Reflecting about our own upcoming School, I realise, we are yet to adopt a professional approach. And that is easier said than done. The danger however is to balance between professionalism and the charism of Don Bosco. For the group of young people we have been catering to, a clinical professionalism will not be the ideal; whereas, that does not prevent us from adopting a procedure that is professional and of high standards. For the envisaged School here, it is more of an academic standard than a basic essential education as provided by Don Bosco. The dividing line is very subtle and it is surely going to be a tight-rope walk for anyone to balance both these values.

Friday, 1 January 2010

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