Friday, 29 October 2010

Forgetting Don Rua!

Well the day began and it ended... well just before it did, I was wished: "Happy Feast!!" I immediately looked up at the calendar before me to see what feast was it today. Finding none I asked what were the wishes for? "Of course, for Don Rua", came the reply. I said, "Oh, wow!! So it was his feast today... Oct. 29."

For a moment I felt guilty of having totally and absolutely forgotten about it all. Though talks and mails and animation materials and pictures of Don Rua were surfacing everywhere, that his feast day was today, completely skipped my mind. But I know Don Rua will not feel the least bad that I did not remember and wish him (not because he is dead and gone) but because, true to his spirit I spent the day wearing my **** off!! In the morning cleared up quite a few things in the office (including the whole mystery and solution about cooking gas and all related stuff), then rushed to meet the Archbishop. Thank God Fr KT was with me, or else I'd have been throw out of the first floor the moment I had uttered "Don Bosco Navajeevan". I guess the Bishop has not forgotten some of his bitter experiences of the past. Anyhow, that went on well and then came the drama in the bank. I had to withdraw a huge amount and neither was I the account holder nor the signatory nor the beneficiary. So the bank personnel had to do some cross checking till they were convinced that I was no conman!!

Had lunch at 2.30 pm and reached back to Kondadaba just in time when the Brothers began their mission sunday game. Evening prayer, supper, movie, paper correction... and to top it all the report on the Mission congress and the whole discussion with Fr Sojan for the Sabbavaram inauguration.

Now I don't have the least of guilt of having forgotten Don Rua on this special day! Anyway, just like you, dear Don Rua, am proud to be a Salesian!! Hope to be at least half of what you were - which led Don Bosco to trust you so much! That would be a great achievement ... "If I had just a few more of him, I'd win the world!"

About Don Rua

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Values, before and after!!

Yesterday's programme at Beach Blossom's was good... just as I planned and hoped it would be. It was meant to target those people who do not send their children to school. I got the crowd on the main road, just as I envisaged it would. I also kept the programme crisp and to the point - message laced with entertainment and not entertainment overriding the message. So when Gopi wanted to put up another dance after the planned programme was up (in exactly 35 mins) I refused. Later I heard another staff member explaining this to a collegue. "Brother did not want to distract people from the message already delivered or send out mixed signals. Hence he did not permit the performance of a film song." That was great consolation. If a lay staff could grasp that and explain it to another without my telling it, it means progress! Not only were values spoken of and enacted on stage, they were passed on even off it!

Differentiating Care and Protection from Formation

Everytime I come to Vizag and have to get back to Kondadaba, I end up with a different opinion about both the places!! At times, I feel that this work here in Vizag, with the 'street children' is difficult... not my cup of tea. The task at Kondadaba is more cut out and merely formal. Other times, I feel this is more meaningful and sensible but with its own hazards, which I fear I will not be able to really do justice to. One of those dilemmas was out in the light this evening during the staff meeting. With all my 'disciplinarianship' felt that study of the boys needs more focus and attention. But then this isn't a boarding!! But wait!! When most (95% of them) are not street children why then treat them so. But the question that came up during the discussion, what when we get new children, straight off the street. Our rigid timetables and organised structures would scare the wind out of them. And I immediately responded, that this timetable does not apply for them, at least for two weeks or more, till they start feeling at home here. I got to keep that in mind with the three boys who are new now to the Navajeevan. One of them is quite happy and cheerful to be with other boys. One just landed up from Bihar this morning, and to his bad luck he speaks only hindi and none of the other boys speak hindi. I'll have to keep an eye on him especially. Another one who had come from Mumbai the other day vanished the second day. Hope this fellow does not repeat history!

Making sense of DBNJ, Vizag

This evening I had called for the staff meeting of the Home staff. It was good that I did. Of course, there were more fireworks than real discussion or sharing of resources. But at least the difference were out in the open and I now know of some more things. However, there was some insightful sharing as well: regarding study, discipline, games, collaboration and efficiency of our work. I was happy that somethings which I intended to share were already proposed by them directly. That way, I didn't have to 'create' the ambience or the theme for discussion.

However, one thing that I wanted to bring out strongly was the need to make sure that we get boys to the home - either to their own home or our Home. Children do not belong to the street but the home, amidst the love and care of their loved ones. It is surprising that out of the 26 children here only 3 are really of the street. The rest are from families and here with us for education or upbringing. Hope with this pep talk and drawing up of a couple of plans for the weeks ahead, something concrete and meaningful emerges.

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

Proof of Divinity in religion

The fact that the Catholic Church has survived so many years of scandal and such degrees of insult, is a living proof that Christianity is more a religion of God than of man! It is true that not all the Priests and those who are to be role models are 'scoundrels' but not everyone is a saint either.

I think, perhaps we can say that of every religion.

Sunday, 24 October 2010

Empowering others

What an apt quote from Zig Ziglar, to sum up the experience of the youth day:
The greatest good we can do for others is not just to share our riches with them, but to reveal theirs.
Click here for a couple of more quotes from Zig Ziglar. I am happy I also got a chance to personally meet the youth of several places. I still do not know why Sudhakar and Anthaiah got their youth group to me after the whole thing was over, but I'm glad they did. It gave me an opportunity to share with them something that has been gnawing me from within, especially about their village: helping them make a shift from dependence to independence through empowerment rather than mere charity.

Youth Day

Wow! What a day!! I sincerely thank God for this day... the Youth Day at St John's Kondadaba. I had great amount of anxiety and fear as to what would be the outcome of this one day animation programme for nearly 200 youth of the neighbouring villages and Parishes. What I literally feared was that I had taken upon myself the animation of the day - to be done in Telugu. I feared words would fail me. I feared, I would make a fool of myself. I feared it would be an utter fiasco. However, thanks to the inspiration from Frs KT and Wilson, and certainly a great amount of help from God above... I surprised myself (leave alone the Brothers)! Words, sentences and what not just flowed from my mouth... in Telugu. I know not how much of what I really wanted to say, reached them, but this I know, I did not once feel restricted or held up for want of appropriate words or proper use of language.

The youngsters too were fantastic.... lively, involved and ready to join in for all the learning. Another great difficulty I faced was the choice of animation themes. I really could not zero in on what exactly I wanted to share about. However, things fell in place more or less by last night... that too at 1 am in the morning (after I returned from the launch of the Evangelisation programme).

Rather than speak all the while, I made use of some powerpoint presentations, a couple of video clippings and plenty of games... all as part of the theme and as tools for drawing out a message. It did work out very well.

One of my greatest joys was to see the Youth Alive group members fully active and 'alive'. They indeed did their best in making the day a very memorable one for the youngsters - and in turn for themselves. They planned well, interested in doing many things with great finesse ... and did not resent being pushed to do their best! Satish, was the most interested of all.

A surprise for me was that he quoted one of my goodnight thoughts for the young people... that of being men who can move others to a better life. Thanks to him and his acknowledgment of my impact on his life! All in all, a great day! A detailed report can me read here.

Thank you, Lord!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Preparing for the youth day

For the past two days I've been busy trying to put my thoughts together for an animation programme for the youth (nearly 250 of them) who would be with us for a day on this Sunday (October 24, 2010). I was - perhaps, still am - in a dilemma as to what to project, what to say, what game to conduct, which song to sing, what theme to discuss....! I found myself collecting things without having a clear ideas as to what I ultimately want to communicate. I found that very foolish... saying things without knowing what exactly is that I want to communicate. I think the Brothers methodology for their research papers is contagious!!

Anyway, I was able to pull myself up today (tonight, rather) and have some rhyme and rhythm in my animation. I now feel I've something worth and precise to communicate, rather than 'something'. I wish to basically get the young people to think and act with a passionate zeal to bring about a change, atleast/beginning in themselves. That young people are the light of the world.

Easy money and earned money

These days I've been dealing with a lot of money... mostly currency notes of 1000 and 500. However I realised that constantly dealing with huge sums makes one callous or not really grounded. To a lady needing to undergo a MRI scan, she has to think MUCH!! Not because she has to decide if she needs to undergo the scan or not, but whether she can afford to pay the Rs 7000 bill that will land up in her hand after the scan. On the other hand, I would not hesitate perhaps to spend that amount of money for a confrere who has to undergo some test... or even on myself. After all the amount is there to spend. But for that lady, Rs 7000 is the earnings of two full months of hard labour.

I have the money in hand, but am not in touch with economics. I have it and I spend it. When that what I have in hand is over, I'll ask for more and it's be given. The monthly wage earner does not have money in hand, but would calculate each and every pie that he or she has to part with. He or she knows that if all that is in hand is spent, there has to be another couple of months of hard labour to replace that amount... and in the meantime what about daily bread and the regular stack of bills?!!!

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Of determination and fight...

Speaking about determination and will power to keep on at something, even amidst trials, tribulations, doubts, discouragement, anxiety and fear, here is something that I came across:
It doesn't really matter about the size of the dog in the fight;
what really matters is the amount of fight in the dog.

Inspiration and motivation

Here is an inspirational video about one who did not believe in giving up, in spite of loss and pain. Nick Vujicic is one who inspires people ... without his hands and limbs.
Motivation gets you through the day, but inspiration lasts a lifetime.

Attraction and distraction

Last night I was at Navajeevan, Vizag and I spent sometime with the boys as they were in the study. Prior to that I had reviewed and signed their progress report cards. Some of them had done well while a couple of them had maintained their 'failed' track record. So when I was in the study with them, I looked out for those who had their progress cards marked red. There was one, Venkatesh by name, who was sitting right next to me. Every time I looked up to see them, I found him distracted - or rather 'attracted' by everything except the book before him. So when it was time for supper, he was still with the same page that he began with, an hour ago. The only reason pages were turned, was because of the breeze of the fan!

I thought to myself, most probably very many of our Brothers too would have been so in their early years of school and study. Hence now, even if they are to sit hours in the study hall or the library, lost in books, they are not really studying. Everything else is attractive, except the book in hand. Cannot call it a distraction too because, it can be so called only when one begins to study (in earnest) and then the attention is diverted. Herein, the attention was never on the study material before oneself!

Monday, 18 October 2010

Rephrased fourth Commandment

It has been one of those crazy days when you really do not know what is happening to you and what you are doing or what you will have to do next! Anyway, a good bath in the evening was refreshing.

Fr KT in his goodnight made a nice point when he rephrased the fourth commandment (Honour your father and mother): Love those who take care of you.

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Vocation and Vocation Promotion

I put down here a very striking reflection shared by Fr Joe Mannath about vocation and vocation promotion. It is very much in line with the GC 26 documents which we were discussing during our PC7. ... and which we failed to understand (as is the case mostly)!
Just because someone joins the seminary or the novitiate, that does not mean that he/she is called to that form of life. Vocation (in contrast to the use a number of priests and religious make of the word) is something everyone has. My father and mother have a vocation - and a holy one at that - just as I have. Vocation promotion, if genuine, consists in helping a person to choose before God that path in life where he/she will do God's will best. Or, in simple words, that path is my vocation, where I will be more loving and happier, more true to the spirit and example of Jesus. For most people the right setting is marriage; it can help me to become a true disciple of Christ. What matters is to do God's will and live a holy life, not which group I belong to.

If I forget this, or if I am more interested in the size or the survival of my group (religious order or diocese) than in what a young person is called to, then I will try to keep people in the seminary or religious life, without bothering about whether he/she seems to be really suited to this walk of life. ... A higher number of candidates need not mean more vocations. People may be getting in (and staying in) for the wrong reasons - side by side with those who are joining and staying for very genuine reasons. We must not forget that there are many 'vocations' in the Church - not just priesthood or celibate religious life.

Priesthood: reality vs rhetoric

I read a paper by Fr Joe Mannath on Priesthood and formation (you can download it from the national Salesian website here). It was great! He clearly dissects reality from the rhetoric and pin points some of the grave drawbacks of our formative processes and whole idea of Priesthood itself. I list some of the most important (in fact while reading the printed text, I had a pencil in hand to underline the important aspects, but then I ended up underlining the whole paper - then it struck me that I was reading Fr Mannath!!)
  • For most of the young men coming into the seminary, the change of life style is towards affluence. Add to this fact, the undeniable truth that the seminaries are becoming refuge of the mediocre, of persons who cannot succeed in the tough, competitive world outside.
  • Just because someone joins the seminary does not mean he is called to be Priest. Vocation is something everyone has. Vocation is basically a path where I will be more loving and happier, more true to the spirit and example of Jesus. We must not forget that there are many 'vocations' in the Church - not just Priesthood or celibate religious life.
  • Perseverance in doing God's will is essential; this is not the same as staying in the seminary. There can be good and holy reasons for leaving, just as there are for staying.
  • People basically expect a Priest to be a 'man of God' (this does not mean he is only a liturgist). It is dimension which permeates all areas of one's life.
  • Formation depends 70 percent on the candidate, 20 percent on the staff and 10 percent on the programme. There is no way we can 'produce' good Priests or make sure that a candidate grows into a sincere, dedicated, God-centred, compassionate and effective apostle.
  • Most of the Priests, Bishops and Seminarians have a feudal mentality, where privilege and distance mark their style more than pastoral ministry.
  • To have studied abroad or specialisation in a particular field should not be the sole or even the main criterion of appointing persons as formators.
  • Spirituality and social commitment are not 'dangers' to each other. They support each other. No Priest can ever be totally detached from a social involvement, nor can he avoid being a person of prayer.
  • The family is first formation house. Most of our formation is over by the time we join the seminary!


Today's liturgical readings, call us to focus our attention on prayer. It is something all of us 'think' we know until we are really caught up with something and no word escapes our lips or our mind is too busy to think of anything but a prayer. Fr KT in his sermon, said a beautiful thing: one of the basic and primary requirement of prayer is the ability to listen in humility. This is followed by an adequate and appropriate response to that listening. With most of us the difficulty is basically the first part: to listen with humility. We'd prefer to do the talking and others - even God - to listen. Perhaps then what we say or do, (or do not say or do not do) is a 'blackmail' or a 'demand'... not a prayer.

So what's the purpose of a prayer? Not that God or the other changes, but that I have a better capacity to understand what is going on and have the courage to do it or fight it. Prayer then, is not for something merely I want, but for grace enough to do what is rightful and just. It is an occasion to acknowledge that I can always ask for help (irrespective of whether the help arrives or not, or in the way or time, I want it or not)... a reminder that there is someone other than me who is there and also willing to help.

Saturday, 16 October 2010

Life towards transformation

A quote I heard somewhere just a couple of days ago... it speaks of life and the whole process one goes through to make it meaningful:
Life is a journey - more towards a transformation than a destination.

Thanks to all who helped!

This evening I saw off my parents at the railway station. It was a hectic time for the past three days. Though hectic and a bit tiring, I feel glad that they (especially Mummy) have no more any crazy ideas about my health and my well being. I know that this was not the perfect timing for a relaxed and peaceful time to be with one's family, but as I told the Beach Blossom and Trade Centre staff, 'if we await for the perfect time to take off, we may be never take off at all'! Anyway, I am happy that they were here. I wish to spend some time reflecting on the time I spent with them in the coming days.

And once again, thanks to the many who went out of their way to help and be of great assistance in every way possible, especially Fr KT and Fr Rinoy! They did have a pleasant time!

Chris and 'his' world

Yesterday evening we went out to Vizag (after a failed attempt to board a packed train to Araku in the morning) after lunch. We had a look at Kailasgiri from the jeep, as it was raining - that too after paying Rs 40 for the entrance! The submarine was something all of us liked and appreciated. The we spent sometime at the beach, where Mummy all the while was issuing warnings of not stepping in the water. All the same it was good. The best was once again, Chris! We were all keen on showing him the new, big, solemn and great things of Vizag and all he was interested in watching was the crow (on the mighty elephant statue), the ant on the mirror (while we were showing him the sea!), the thread by which the bell was hanging, rather than the bell and its noise... He was enjoying a world totally his own.

Thursday, 14 October 2010

Castilino's at Kondadaba

It was good to spend the day with my people from home. I picked them up at the station this morning and it was a relaxed schedule. No big hurry to reach this place or catch that bus to see another place or anything of that sort. Just came home, ate b'fast, saw around the seminary, ate lunch, had a relaxed chat with them after lunch, visited the Parish after tea and then had a short evening prayer by ourselves before we went for supper and then another round of chit-chat. Of course, the centre of attention and discussion was Chris, my nephew! He really enlivens home. He has grown much and looks really cute. I was happy to see him most comfortable with Mummy. (Here he is in the kitchen, his favourite part of the house!)

I also have to appreciate Frs KT and Rinoy for their hospitality, even though today is Rinoy's b'day and KT has a hell of works to see to. They always had time to spare to take them around, talk to them, make them feel at home. Thanks to such loving and supportive confreres. The Brothers too did their best in making them feel at home.

I was only wondering if I was fully present in the 'now'. I know there are quite a few things which I have to see to. But by being anxious or tensed about them while being with my parents, helps nothing or no one. So, I guess I better concentrate on my people tomorrow and take on the rest of the matters later.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

Priesthood vs Priest craft

Fr Maliekal's sermon this morning was quite challenging: to decide between priesthood and priest craft. Most often the priestly garb - and life, as a whole - is 'utilised' for a purpose, mostly for something as silly and mean as a special chair during festivities, rather than lived truly... like the Pharisees and lawyers of today's Gospel... (Luke 11: 42-46) who are 'hurt' at Jesus' words and then Jesus rubs salt on to their wounds. Our vocation to religious life and Priesthood is something that is carried on our sleeves rather than in our heart. It goes to our head (literally) but does not come out in our words and acts of charity.

I like this passage because I very well understand the position of Jesus and that of the Pharisees and lawyers too, who are at the receiving end of Jesus' wrath. How and why? Just come to Kondadaba and you'll see it practically being enacted every other day!!

Lessons on gratitude

Last night a thought crossed my mind. Two days ago, I had arranged for the distribution of the prizes for the first semester. Those who helped me pack the prizes were surprised at the quality and quantity of them. They said, 'this is too much!'. Yet, I did not cut back on the list. But what surprises me is that none - not even one among the 83 Brothers - who received the prizes came and said a word of thanks! Neither to the administrator who financed it, nor to me who facilitated it.

As I thought about this, I was wondering if I need to point it out to the Brothers... just as a help to grow in the art of gratitude and acknowledging the good being done (even if it comes from someone not appreciated!). But somehow I could not find sufficient rationale to point out this to them.

And today, here's a note from Fr Ivo's blog ... all about expecting gratitude. And I quote something that struck me from therein...
George Kollashany in a Goodnight long ago on the street boys ministry: Those for whom we have done least by way of material benefits are the most grateful. It seems that what they appreciate most is the fact that we have treated them as equals. Often we forget this when we bring these boys into our institutions.
The key to this dilemma then is not whether to expect gratitude or not, but to ask oneself with what attitude was that kind act done. If done for gratitude, then it loses its merit of being a 'kind act' and if done without expecting gratitude, then whether someone thanks or not makes no difference. I hope I'm right with that.

Tuesday, 12 October 2010

Circumstances or Convictions

There are different ways of living one's life. Some live according to circumstances and some by convictions. I was thinking as to which of this life style is the most appropriate. Sometimes I think we need a neat combination of both. But a life of conviction is surely the most difficult of all. That's for sure...!

Jesus, as the carpenter

One very amusing distraction just about when the recollection talk began this evening...
Was Jesus the best carpenter in Nazareth in his days??

I wonder....! Because I remember a while ago, someone sent me an email of a 'mysterious' person making a splendid stairway in a convent chapel (read more of it here). Though it said to have been done by St Joseph, but I guess, being 'his son' Jesus too would have learnt the trade.

A shallow talk

This evening's recollection talk was a real test of patience. I was reminded of another Priest whose sermons were a riot, literally a laughing riot, a couple of years ago. Well, at least today's preacher was serious about what he was saying. However, it surprises me as to how people, especially Priests after so many years of formation and learning, act so fickle and cheap.

The worst was when he was parading his ignorance and thanking the Lord for delivering him in the last minute in the exams! What an inspiration, that too when we on the staff here are driving the Brothers to sweat it out in the class and study hours. The Brothers, simple and gullible that they are, will be the first to fall for such dreamy ideas about prayer and spirituality!

Monday, 11 October 2010

Salesian Brotherhood and search for identity

This evening after supper, I had an interesting conversation with Fr Maliekal. It was concerning the Salesian Brothers at Karunapuram and their whole quest for identity. When Fr Maliekal began the conversation asking my opinion as to how to help them find this 'identity', I laughed out aloud and when he further said that he was feeling the pressure of 'creating this identity' for them, I couldn't stop laughing. I explained to him in just one sentence: identity is never formed in isolation but carved out from relationship. The Brothers at Karunapuram want to clarify what exactly is their 'brotherly identity' then they ought to mix and intermingle with the clerics. Never in isolation and separation will there be an identity created. The more we call for separation and division, the greater chasm we create between these two forms of living the one Salesian vocation.

As someone rightly said, had the superiors sent me to Karunapuram as coordinator of the Brothers, I would be thrown out of the place within a month and that too because of orders straight from Rome!! According to me, the whole idea of 'creating an identity' for Brothers in contrast to that of the clerics, is a 'Roman' idea, which is really very detrimental to the whole Salesian congregation ... now that's my personal opinion and conviction. Doing things separately, living separately and acting separately (as though always on the look out never to let anything match with that of the clerics) in no way gives anyone any identity. It is formed in the concrete living out of the vocation in a context... aided by convictions and principles.

Sunday, 10 October 2010

Riding two boats at a time

It's been almost a week since I've been handling both Kondadaba's chair as Dean and that of Navajeevan in Vizag. I realise it is getting harder and harder by the day. Things here at Navajeevan do not seem as simple as they appear. I am yet to know the names of the boys here at home!! Caught up with the administration and the other 'idiotic' things, the real purpose of the whole work - the boys - are perhaps the last one's to be reached to. Anyway, I really do not know how best to do justice to this task... and of course, the other at Kondadaba too! I really feel like I'm trying to paddle two boats at the same time.

Formation vs Street kids apostolate

Working with street children and seminarians is almost the same, except for the difference that the young at risk, know that you have no other agenda with them besides their welfare, while the seminarians have only their future as the only goal. That you happend to be there is their only problem. The street kids know that you do not mean anything bad for them and even if they are 'angry' with you for a while, they soon come around. Not so, with the seminarians.

Thursday, 7 October 2010

Herculean, the Hilarious!

I received an e-mail today and when I read the last line, I almost fell off my chair laughing:

Due to unprecedented delay in receiving data from certain Arch/Diocesan offices, we regret to inform you that the publication of The Catholic Directory of India 2010 is slated to be released in December, 2010. You shall receive your copy/ies as soon as it is ready .

Since it is a hilarious task, we seek your continued support and kind patience.

Eliciting commitment

This evening I had a long chat with all the Brothers. It was my first such session as the Dean of Studies, during this whole year!! Those who hear this may be scandalised but the fact remains. However, it was good that I talked to them and let them share their views and opinions about matters concerning my responsibilities. I basically wanted to hear from them their share of contribution to making things better than sitting and waiting for others to do it for them. And I did extract that... though not as easily as I thought it would.

But after the house assembly yesterday and the discussion I had with them today, I realise that very many of them are willing and keen to strive for better things and are in fact really good in all aspects. It is only the few disinterested who pull down the whole spirit and dampen all efforts at excellence. So when those who are good within but lack the courage to stand for something, hear some encouraging words and reasons for change, they are willing to join in. That is a great consolation for those of us in formation.

Wednesday, 6 October 2010

Taking responsibility

Taking responsibility is something most of us shrink away from. We always feel secure and safe when "I" am not the one responsible. But worse are those who claim for privileges without taking any risks or any responsibility of what they are upto or entrusted with. The primary reason we shirk responsibility is that is a headache or in blunt words, a pain in the ****. Yet unless we start taking responsibility we do not grow, we do not change, we do not progress. In other words, we die! We only breathe and walk about without a thought, without a bit of life in us, that we can pass on to another with dignity and pride.

Community assembly and catharsis

We just concluded the house assembly, meant for the evaluation of the first semester. It was great... not the content of it but the challenge part of it. The content was as ever: staff-bashing! But this time, I'm happy that most of the challenges we posed back to the students were sharp, precise and challenging enough to those really serious about their vocation. I know that it would be hard for them to digest what happened this whole evening. But if they are sincere about their call, they would give it a thought. Or else tomorrow would be just another day, with the same story.

A few good points of the proceedings of this evening:
  • The Staff put up a united front.
  • There was no meek receptivity of everything said and done - both of the part of the students and on the part of the staff, especially with regard to matters expressed.
  • Some sincere guys feel good that what they 'feel' is explicitly stated by someone at least.
  • I got a chance to explicitate some of my deepest concerns regarding putting forward the best.

Getting to know Mahesh...

Last evening I enrolled the first boy during my tenure (though temporary one) at DBNJ, Vizag. He was Mahesh. He would be around 9 to 10 years old. To his misfortune he landed in hands of those who did not know hindi at all... but luckily good hands (Childline). When they brought him to NJ, I managed to strike a good conversation with him and get a few more details but far from anything complete. I even bluffed him telling that the musical programme that evening was to welcome him (it was infact a youth group celebrating one of their member's b'day). He was so thrilled by the 'reception for him' that he would every now and then come into my office with a broad smile. I think he'll stick on. But one never knows...!

Anyway, felt glad that I could make an impression on a child, that too a lost one for something good. Hope to be able to trace back his home in Maharashtra. Furthermore, used my broken and miserable Marathi to ask a few questions but when he answered them, I was at a loss!!

Propelled by the title SDB

I spent the last two days - my maiden days - at Don Bosco Navajeevan, Vizag... that too as the director. On my way to the place, I said to myself ... what a fate. I take charge of a place, built up by someone and I'll be the 'boss' of people who have a working experience of more than half a dozen years in that institute (add to that another half a dozen years of work experience elsewhere). And what propels me straight away to the director's chair? My title: SDB!

God help me!!

Teach us to pray

Lord teach us to pray!! Fr Rinoy began his sermon, asking a simple question: "Did you ever ask anyone to teach you to pray?" Well, certainly I didn't! We often 'teach' others to pray. Seldom do we attempt to learn to pray ourselves. Anyway, what matters most is that we pray... how, where, when is all relative, in the final analysis. The most important however is that we PRAY! As Harold Kushner would say, we pray not that things may be different, but that we may be better equipped to understand the situation and context.

And the best definition of prayer (as said by Fr Stan): Not telling lies to God!

Sunday, 3 October 2010

To Vizag for the street children

For the next few days, I will be in Vizag in our street children's home replacing Fr TV Thomas who is in Hyderabad recuperating from his spinal surgery. I was just thinking to myself yesterday, I never got to work in a Street Children home, in spite of my repeated requests to the Provincials... so far. And here I am, in the Philosophate, as the dean, without an assistant and venturing out to help out in the management of the Vizag Shelter Home.

Anyway, I am sure God has something in store for me to learn. Let's see what best I can do.

In an ambulance, to the hospital

This evening I had the chance to travel in an ambulance for the first time in my life... of course, luckily it was not for myself, but for a Brother who broke his leg while playing football. And what a drive it was to the hospital. The lights were not functioning; nor were the brakes in condition. Add to that the traffic jams at Pendurthi and NAD junction; not counting the road construction along the way! But what surprised me most was the callousness of the other vehicle drivers. Very many would not give way, in spite of the ambulance sirens wailing loud and clear. Not an inch, not in any way out of the way!! The silver lining however was several children whom I saw riding pillion, desperately telling their parents who were riding the bike or the scooter and tapping their shoulders to get out of the way. Some sensitive taxi drivers and bike riders immediately would give way and even block others trying to get past ahead of the ambulance.

Anyway, I thanked God for it was not a desperate case that needed to reach the hospital immediately. We could afford to get delayed. But if it were someone who needed immediate hospital care, the ambulance would very well have been his coffin as well!!

And the other thing - almost a miracle - the ambulance driver and attender strongly refused to take a single pie, in spite of driving us all the way to Vizag, to a hospital which we wanted to go - and not to the nearest Government hospital.

Self-worth and formative ambience

Yesterday we had the cultural day in the seminary. It was good. Though as per 'tradition' this was supposed to be a day to showcase talents, in any and every form, I altered it to make it a little more meaningful. When I heard what the impression and learning experience was of the Brothers from this event in the past, I realised, it was purely for entertainment... one full day for real foolery and making mockery of oneself, in order to make others laugh, I was absolutely not for it. Hence I slowly 'tailored' the planning to bring in some sense and sensibility, especially for oneself. Narrowing the criteria of performance to showcase the rich cultural heritage of Andhra Pradesh, I managed to restrict the number of entries and what surprised me further was what happened once the programme began. To my great surprise and edification, the first few who appeared on stage for song, speech and other competitions, were well prepared. Seeing this a few who intended only to make a fool of themselves, silently withdrew their names at the announcer's desk. They must have realised, that not all were foolish like them to get on stage without any preparation. I very well know that in order to gain the approval of some or make the group laugh some would stoop low to any extent. To add a sense of decency, another great help was the presence of the parents and relatives of one of the Brothers. I think their presence with us for the whole programme was very formative. None would demean themselves in front of parents, and especially women folk - this I learnt yesterday morning.

Gives me ideas... perhaps the next time there is a programme of this sort, it would be good to invite someone from outside. Those keen on some foolery and mockery - even of oneself - can have their way during recreation or family circles.

Furthermore, the organising group, Speed n' speed too did a simple but decent job. I was quite surprised to see that they pulled off this event without much confusion and tension.

Faith and presence

In the past week I have had two invitations to attend the Parish feast in two different places: at Muniguda (our own Salesian mission in Orissa) and at Narpam (one of the substations of our Kondadaba Parish, here itself). Both of which I do not intend to attend. Reason: I dislike crowds. I like some peaceful and short celebrations which are more personal than directed to no one in particular. However, I intend to visit these places some other time. But what was brought to my notice was that me visiting these places some other time is totally different from being present when they are inviting us. I really did not know the difference till the person stated that being called for an occasion has a significance greater than just being present. It means strength, prestige, power... and faith too. I really did not understand, till this morning, when one of the old ladies who invited me to Narpam said, the greater the presence of Brothers and Fathers, the greater the witness value to the local population. Of course, there is whole ball game of name, fame and prestige to say that 'so many' attended the feast, but I also realise this aspect of enriching the faith of the people has some truth behind participating in large numbers for feast and other public occasions. However, I now know it, but am not fully convinced of it.

Friday, 1 October 2010

For Fr TV!

Today we finally heard that Fr TV will be on the operation table tomorrow morning at 8.30. It was something that he was postponing for the past year. It finally caught up with him. He has been constantly complaining about his back and didn't want to undergo the operation because no doctor would give the guarantee of a recovery even after the operation. But day before yesterday he was badly off. And Fr KT had to rush him all the way to Hyderabad yesterday morning. For today, I wish the best for Fr TV. I've spent four years with him, and the last three years were quite enriching (the first one was in the novitiate). During the past three years in the Provincial house we were almost like friends. There was much we shared, talked, discussed and worked up. Perhaps of all the confreres in the Provincial house, we two were the closest.

Anyway, may his operation go on well and he be well on the road to recovery.

Sports Day at Kondadaba

The Brothers are all involved actively in the Sports events since morning. The Youth Alive group has done pretty well in animating the day. Though not perfectly planned, they have somehow mastered the art of organising games without much confusion. Will help them greatly in the future too. The Brothers too are alive and very much talented. Surprisingly those who never managed to pass in Philosophy, practically none of the exams he managed to get through, is doing very well in chess. I wonder how this is possible.

I was happy to be with them this whole morning in the playground. I realise spending time with them, talking to them, about things dear to them and getting to know their 'inner circle' of discussions and thoughts bridges the gap between the formators and formees much. I know all this is said by Don Bosco and the Preventive System. It is only that when one experiences it first-hand, does it become so vivid and real. However, I find it increasingly difficult to be all over the place for long. My knee is troubling me much but the desire to be close to them too is too tempting to resist.

Unquestioned integrity and Professionalism

Discussing about the mega debacle of the Common Wealth Games being held in Delhi, there is a lot of talk about the belling the cat. Who exactly and for what reasons, are the present state of affairs, the way they are. Most of the accusation is pointed to the leadership and the corruption prevailing at the top level of administration and organisation. Comparing this leadership with that of E. Sreedharan, the man who is at the helm of the Delhi Metro Project, Rajdeep Sardesai uses a very apt phrase to describe the difference: Unquestioned integrity and Professionalism.

True indeed! In today's world where everything seems corrupted, from the milk sold in the market to the nuclear warheads being engineered, the one thing that really matters most is integrity. In the past few days too, there have been several incidents in the Seminary here where some of the students have questioned several aspects of the community life. However, most of them hesitate when it comes to this aspect of integrity. It has also offered me rich opportunities to show the chinks in their arguments. Brothers come to me to settle their disputes. I resist and desist. The reason (which I make clear to them): when I get involved in giving a solution, that becomes 'my solution'. But on their own when they have to sort out matters, it becomes 'one's own' discussion.
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