Thursday, 29 April 2010

At home, to get ready to go home!

I am now at home with my parents, brother's family and especially my nephew, Chris. He's one special species! It's nice to be at home... just being at home.

And then there is also the official list of the transfers' that's out today. So at last it is official... I'm moving out of the Provincial house to Kondadaba (as Dean of Studies). I am also happy that I got to spend a day at least with Kishore yesterday. At present he is in the office getting acclimatized to the office and its workings. With me away for two weeks that will give him good time to explore and experiment. So he can clarify all his doubts and facts before I move out of communication range.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

The paper dilemma

One of my conscious efforts over the last three years has been the use of paper - or rather the reuse of it. With great care I've avoided using fresh paper even to the extent of ridicule by confreres. But I really don't mind. On the contrary, I feel good when people poke fun at me for being stingy about recycling paper and used envelopes. Of my three years in office I managed to collect nearly 60 kgs of just A4 size paper. Of this 35 was purely two sided used and good for no reuse. This I recently sold and 'earned' Rs 175! Even for that my staff was fooling me! Never mind. Another 20 kg I have been using for printing all sorts of drafts and e-mail conversations that go into the files. I still have half of it stacked up in the cupboard under the printer. Another 5 kgs I recently sent across to the Philosophate for the Brothers to use, especially for the third years who will be beginning their thesis work. Of course, from time to time, I've also been setting fire to confidential stuff (that needs to be discarded) but that too after making use of it in some way or the other.

But now I practically waste half an hour (or more) staring at nearly 6000 sheets of paper (single side used) but highly confidential matter. I will no more be in this office (just two weeks left for me to move out) and I don't know what to do with this 'forest'. I don't have the heart to set fire to it (being highly volatile matter, it will certainly catch fire faster, but...).

Any suggestions??

The Buddha and pork

I found this interesting piece of information in Swami Vikrant's book, Indian Spirituality:
The Buddhist ecumenical Council of Vaisali had explicitly ordered that Buddhist monks should not accept any gift from the laity other than food and that too only once a day. They should eat what the people offer, including meat. The Buddha is said to have died of dysentery by eating stale pork meat, offered by a poor devotee, who had nothing else to offer the Blessed One.
Well that's it is a lesson for us to learn, especially those of us who quip so often about food (or lack of 'tasty food').

Friday, 23 April 2010

New Councillors

So at last one of the surprise lists is out... that of the Councillors: Thathi as VP, Sojan as Economer (that's the most surprising by way of the names doing the round) and the rest as councillors: Frs James, Vatti Rayappa, Rayanna and Santiagu. Well an opportunity... utilised or not is their choice... hopefully!!

Rosary and the rosary!

Last night I had to rush out to drop the auditors at the bus stand. Somehow I made it just in the nick of time and they were able to board the bus. On my way back I realised I might as well pick up a few bottles of beer for this evening's celebration. (Were it left to me, I'd not even propose that there be any drinks for any celebrations... anyhow, one of the scourges of living in communities...!!). I picked up a few bottles and dashed back home. Only after supper when I wanted to recite my rosary, I found my rosary missing! Frankly speaking I was perturbed for long. Not that the Rosary was anything special but just that it was convenient and handy one. Furthermore the thought that I might have dropped it in the liquor shop was not very comforting. This morning during meditation as I remembered it again, I said to myself... perhaps if I were to feel just half as bad as this when I don't recite/pray the rosary, I would already have been a saint!!

Anyway, I happily discovered the rosary under the driver's seat of the sumo this morning. Hope to recover also the 'Rosary' within too!

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

My fears and anxieties

As days are flying by I find myself fighting a tough battle with unknown forces and slaying anxieties I am not fully aware of! It is a very tricky situation that I find myself in at present. It has primarily - and everything - to do with the school. What I began as a pastime and an experiment is now proving to be a huge monster whom I find growing in multiples. The responsibilities related to that have double - if not tripled - over the last two weeks. The worst part of this however, is the 'anxiety' of its future. Whether at all it will be what we now envisage it to be, is my greatest fear. Had there been any assurance - and sincere involvement - from within the family, not even this thought would have crossed my mind, but with that assurance not forthcoming, I fear things may get complicated. However, as I had said earlier, not being sure of the future does not prevent me from being and doing the best I can for now. What the future holds is not for me to worry about, certainly not when it is totally out of my control and capacity.

Merit beyond the word 'Christian'

The grueling exercise of sitting through the admission process for the school children is an experience of a totally different kind... something I've never had before. While for most of it, it is a smooth sail for I had been doling out instructions clear and strong right since the beginning. I've also not minced words in stating facts or withheld information of anything pertaining to the progress of the school and related matters. However, the worst part of this exercise is sitting with Catholic parents, specially our own Parishoners. In practically all the instances that I had to sweat it out, they are like the cat sitting on the fence: just waiting to see which side is favourable. While they wish to enroll their child in the school (for they are well aware of the quality education children receive at Don Bosco), they would like to save the most. Of course, saving on the financial front is everyone's effort (after all, it is their hard earned money) but demanding that they are entitled to a concession purely on the basis that they are Catholics is very nauseating. Worst still, those demanding are hardly seen in the Church on Sundays!

I've kept a simple principle: no concession for whomsoever... of course, the request for concession could be looked into after a couple of years of the child being in the school and that too on the basis of their overall performance (besides their economic background). Parents - and children - need to earn their merit not demand it, purely because they have the tag 'Christian'.

Monday, 19 April 2010

Lessons in humility

The evening basketball game was a great lesson in knowing myself from the 'other's perspective. The game was on and was playing it slow for I did not want to further aggravate my knee injury. In the heat of the game suddenly Arun came upto me and softly said, "Brother anger doesn't suit you!" I instantly realised what he meant, for I was shouting at some of the smaller fellows to hold the ball properly and to pass correctly. Knowing that Arun was hinting at that shouting, I smiled. Instantly, he too smiled and said, "Yes, that looks great on you!"

I remember when we began playing basketball, I used to take time out after the game to coach a few smaller kids. Once my knees started giving me trouble I slowly stopped those 'coaching sessions' - if one may call them so. Of late when those very kids would join our game, I expected them to play as good as everyone else on the court (those who've been playing for years!). No wonder Chakkani does not want to play on my side... "You give half an hour of lecture for giving a wrong pass!" Well, thanks to Arun, for his 'word in the ear'. I'll keep in mind henceforth too. I feel good that some way or the other, young people teach me lessons.

Prophets who read signs

Being religious we always think - or rather, conclude our thinking and reflection - that we are to be the instruments of God's message to the world. How about going a step further and acknowledging that we also ought to be open to other instruments of God's message, instruments other than ourselves. Even if those instruments are not to our liking or their means of accepting God's word and dissemination of that message is not according to our terms. Today, more than ever, we need prophets who read the signs and are not just content being the signs!

Reminds me of a message I received sometime ago: Either lead or follow or get out of the way!

Lessons in youth ministry

Yesterday's Parish youth meeting was a good learning experience in youth ministry. The Parish Priest wanted to have a youth group and therefore called together all the youth and straight away held the elections for the leaders. As is the case in any Parish of the world, the youth here too are divided on the lines of language and culture. Though this was a known fact to all involved, the realisation dawned only after the meeting that the strategy could have been different in getting them to work together. As was bound to happen, the election ended up in a big uproar and poor Thathi was caught in the cross fire!

The ideal would have however been to first form a group... really FORM a group and only then let the leadership emerge from that. Now there is neither group nor leader. Youngsters need to know why at all is the youth group necessary and what ultimately is the whole concept of a youth group. Thathi was right in his final decision: to henceforth gather the youth for some animation sessions and only after a certain period of time, when they have sufficiently understood what a Parish youth group is meant to be and they know each other sufficiently well, then have the election for the office bearers! So, first build the group and then let leadership emerge.

Friday, 16 April 2010

The communication circle

Sitting in this office, as the Secretary, I've often wondered (also aloud) if sticking stamps, replying to mails, ordering and classifying files and documents... is that all there is to my life? Is this what I am called to do? Well, I never got very clear answers earlier. But of late, people call me and tell me explicitly what difference my actions have made in the long run. It feels good to see that the very same, "menial" things, "irrelevant" jobs, "petty" points when done well and in time, create a lot of goodwill and bring about great works. Perhaps the greatest challenge that I've tried to live up to in this office, so far, has been to keep the communication circle going: I get a message, I respond and see to it that it doesn't end with me. The merit of it is seen clearly when people call me for anything and everything, not because they want me to do that particular thing; but because they know that I will surely listen and see to it that their message or call for help is attended to. Now that's a good feeling to begin the day!

Surrogate motherhood

It has been a while since I put something down on this site. The net was down and to an extent my mind too (though not because of the former)! I am just finalising the details of the school and I now feel like the surrogate mother who is not sure if the baby it is carrying will ever get to even complete its first cry. Yet, knowing very well this fact, I cannot discard the child. It is difficult but I give it the best I can, as of now.

That's perhaps one of the drawbacks of our religious life: never get to eat the fruit of your labour. Yet, in it lies also one of our greatest strength: Trust in God and fellow confreres.

Sunday, 11 April 2010

To dream and survive on dreams!

These days everyone is talking about the transfers. With practically everyone being told to 'be ready', the guess game is getting all the more intense day by day. I also realise how different people see themselves and the roles they play in the various communities, fulfilling the different responsibilities entrusted to them either by the Province or by the local community. Then there are the 'dreams' and 'plans' and 'ideas' about the 'next' place.

An article in the paper today was quite in contrast to all this. It was about the plight of the poor in the various parts of the country for whom the only thing they possess is their dreams. And what are their dreams? One solid meal atleast once in a life time, one cake of soap to have a bath, one piece of decent clothing, one good harvest, one heavy rain, some fresh vegetables for their kids... that's all. Just that. Nothing more! Not even the faintest hope that just any one of these would ever become a reality.

While some dream all the time, for very many dreams is all they have! Some dream and others survive because they dream!

Friday, 9 April 2010

Being passionate about ...

Before the Easter Vigil I spent time reading the book of Richard Bach, Jonathan Livingston Seagull. I had read it long time ago and rereading it was again refreshing. Somehow some books never completely exhaust what they have to offer in one sitting! Every time you read, something new emerges. What struck me this time was the willingness of Jonathan to sacrifice and take risks. Nothing, not even expulsion from his clan could dampen his spirit for adventure and learning. He was ready to undergo any hardship and put up with any challenge to follow his heart. He was really passionate about flying.

Here are a couple of quotes from Richard Bach's other books...
You teach best what you most need to learn. (Illusions)
Every person and events of your life are there because you have drawn them there. What you choose to do with them is up to you.

Of burnt biscuits and perfection

When I was a kid, my mom liked to make breakfast food for dinner every now and then. And I remember one night in particular when she had made breakfast after a long, hard day at work. On that evening so long ago, my mom placed a plate of eggs, sausage and extremely burnt biscuits in front of my dad.

I remember waiting to see if anyone noticed! Yet all my dad did was reach for his biscuit, smile at my mom and ask me how my day was at school. I don't remember what I told him that night, but I do remember watching him smear butter and jelly on that biscuit and eat every bite!

When I got up from the table that evening, I remember hearing my mom apologize to my dad for burning the biscuits. And I'll never forget what he said: "Honey, I love burned biscuits."

Later that night, I went to kiss Daddy good night and I asked him if he really liked his biscuits burned. He wrapped me in his arms and said, "Your Momma put in a hard day at work today and she's real tired. And besides - a little burnt biscuit never hurt anyone!"

Life is full of imperfect things... and imperfect people. And that's what makes life so beautiful and worth living!

Wednesday, 7 April 2010

On leadership and politics

Quite contrary to the opinion of all those with whom I went for the movie, Leader with me last evening, I liked the theme. A bit hyperbolic but inspirational and challenging, nonetheless. True to his calling, Shekar Kammula has once again challenged existing protocols and taboos, only this time, it is the vast political system of the state. Here are some of the features that caught my attention:
  • The theme throws a challenge to the existing political structure and functioning, centering on the qualities of transparency and honesty.
  • Political nuances and the ugly side are portrayed but the picture is not gory.
  • The emphasis is on nurturing genuine leadership not grooming politicians.
  • Without 'preaching' the message of the movie is conveyed convincingly.
  • There are just two songs in the whole movie... that's a real relief!
  • Finally, politics whatever one may say, remains a dirty game! No wonder Don Bosco was very clear: No meddling in politics while at the Oratory.

Tuesday, 6 April 2010

The thrill of loving what you do

The post-resurrection tomb scene is an interesting one. There are the frightened guards, confused apostles, anxious women, (still) scheming elders of the religion, amused Romans... quite a sort of people in various moods and modes. Among all of these, the person of Mary Magdalene stands out for me the most. I see in her the perfect growth of a human person through the various stages of life to reach the culmination of it here at the tomb. Having blessed abundantly by Jesus, she follows him everywhere, even to Calvary and now here she stands at the tomb, still wanting to be with Jesus. All she wants is to have his body so that she can take it and perform the last rites. And when the Lord appears to her, she is thrilled. She holds on to him for she is too excited to think of anything else. Yet, at His word, she leaves. She is entrusted with a task and she is delighted to carry it out for Him.

Several times after that enactment of a Presentation Sister in Karunapuram (way back in 2002, all aglow, proclaiming, "I have seen Him!!") I tried to imagine a scene wherein someone indifferent or against this whole idea of resurrection, crossing paths with Mary Magdalene. They surely would have been made to shut up with a mere look of hers. The fact that she was a woman in a Jewish, would have not made any difference to her. For her all that mattered was that she had 'seen the Lord'. What more, she knew that He trusted her with a task. There was nothing greater than that for the her to live and die for.

Monday, 5 April 2010

Me... in the next year

Today I had a definite word about my placement and responsibility for next year. Nothing different or surprising, for I already knew what it would be. Now that things are clear and settled, I'm at ease. Perhaps, giving it a thought earlier, did have a positive impact on my mental preparation for what I heard today.

Anyway, the less said the better... more and official communication, in due time, very soon!

About marriage, media and RTE

A quick word about the two top news stories these days: Sania Mirza's marriage to Shoaib and Kapil Sibal's declaration of the Right to Education (RTE). Regarding the former, looks like marriages had been on a hold since the last century and this is the first after ages!! Give her a break... let her marry whomever she wants to. Why is everyone trying to extract every bit of information and track every move of her family and that of Shoaib? Looks like the media too has nothing worth to capture!

As for the RTE, ... great!! It is rarely that one can applaud the Government, this is one such rare moment. All said and done, the move is to appreciated and the stand of the minister convincing. However there are many hurdles in the practical implementation of the same. The greatest as I see is what I read in the paper the other day...
the RTE is different from the others enshrined in the Constitution, in that the beneficiary cannot demand it nor fight a legal battle when the right is denied or violated.
Ensuring the implementation of the right, is therefore the double duty not of the beneficiary but of the society. That's easier said than done. Nonetheless, for once the government has something to be praised for.

Saturday, 3 April 2010

Easter message

I knew Rabbi would come up with something different as his Easter message and I was right. Here's what he sent me just a while ago:
In almost every situation, Jesus' job was to turn things around. There is a little girl dying, he turned that around. People were dishonouring the temple, he turned that around. Finally, death overcame but by Resurrection he turned that around. In fact, if Jesus is our Lord, why wait? Let's turn things around.
That's quite typically Rabbi!!

Friday, 2 April 2010

Thanks to Sheeba!

This evening Sheeba came to wish me goodbye. She was leaving Hyderabad to pursue her higher studies in Media. It was good having her work in the DB DIGITS office. Besides the many qualities she possessed, I admired most her willingness to learn and collaborate in any initiative for the growth of the apostolate. She never treated her responsibilities as work - but as a privilege.

Of my three years working with her, I never heard her use the words, 'No' or 'cannot' for any work entrusted to her. I know very well, that she was often entrusted with work way off her expertise or field of specialisation, yet she was always eager to learn and explore. Thanks to that willingness and enthusiasm - besides the usual remarks, reminders and observations she used to offer, once in a way - my task was made much easy. I could conceptualise and she would work out the technical aspects. Furthermore she would even come up with great ideas and suggestions for improving the task at hand. Banz used to call her 'Secretary of the secretary!'

Thank you Sheeba and God be with you!

Our Priests

Fr TD John sent me the song yesterday and it suddenly occurred to me that this could be well made into a video and here's it at last!! This is the first time I did the whole thing all by myself in a new programme altogether. It was worth it... a tribute of love and appreciation for my Confreres.
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