Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Seminary Day 2010

Finally it's over!! The seminary day and all the excitement (and confusion) about it is over. I did manage to keep it simple and dry. Luckily not very many guests turned up...! The Bishop arrived an hour and half late and so everything got delayed. But I have no complaints, since he spared us the sermon... he did not say a word, neither did anyone else! Thank God!!

Anyway, it went on well. I was happy for most of the Brothers did their role well. I was following up the second years in the hall and they did a swift job of putting things back in their respective places in just one hour... neatly!
That's the third course address to the Bishop...!
That's the archbishop of Visakhapatnam, Kagithapu Mariadas, whom we felicitated for his golden jubilee of Ordination.
After the Mass, the felicitation programme, we had the lunch
This was the special counter for the fruits salad and ice cream... the most sought after item in the menu.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Prepare and Prevent

Fr KT Jose has been reminding the Community ever since two days that it is better to prepare and prevent than repent and repair. I think that is a quite a good motto for advent. However, my advent begins only after December 19, the day the Brothers will be leaving for their Christmas holidays. By that time, I wish to complete all my corrections and also catch with Navajeevan. It's been long since I even stepped in there.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Intensity vs duration

This evening I put fire under the very .... of some of the Brothers. I was really cool about the preparation for the Seminary Day. I never pushed or yelled or even reminded emphatically about any programme in preparation for the mega annual day of the Seminary. But today I put my foot down and by gosh...!! what a performance! I just glanced at the second year students dance in the afternoon. It was anything but a dance. But after the 'firing' session, and by night, it was near perfect!

I very well know that I've been delaying this whole hullabaloo with the sole intention of getting the Brothers to focus on the most important aspect of this present state of formation: philosophical studies. Rather than have a month long preparation, I just started exactly a week-long preparation. The results are practically the same. And as Thathi said, this strategy of an intense preparation rather than a prolonged one is best for any activity with young people... except study and assimilation. Perfectly true!

'Singers' with a vengeance!

Amidst all the excitement and tension of the Seminary day, Fr Wilson's remark about the gift of music was very relaxing.
Even those not gifted with a good voice or a sense of music sing, if not for love of music at least for revenge at God for not having blessed them with that grace!

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Kids in the Church

As usual this morning's Mass in the Parish was a real act of penance! The only consolation was the small kids and their pranks. There was this small cute girl who was comfortable moving from person to person to receive its quota of affection and pats and kisses and whenever she found someone not looking up at her or ignoring her (most of them with their heads bent) would gently sit infront of them, bend and peep to see if they were sleeping! Gosh it was fun. Luckily before she reached the Brothers, she was distracted/attracted by another child holding a mobile phone. She royally went up to her and with a single sweep of the hand, the mobile had a new owner! The other child just did not know what happened!

Then there was another small fellow strolling up and down the aisle as though inspecting the guard of honour. He was least bothered about anyone trying to get him to stay still in one place. Nor was he concerned with the strange looks and glares of the elders. He was all by himself and enjoying every bit of it.

Looking at all these kids, I'm reminded of Chris and I'm sure he is doing similarly crazy and funny things.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Evaluation learnings

The Council that we sat for since the past three days was indeed a good experience. It was basically for evaluating the Brothers based on their performance in the Seminary thus far. On the whole, there was a sense of satisfaction that there is an ambiance of striving for excellence. But there was also this strong feeling that very many are too steeped or mired in their lethargy or basically lack the minimal of motivation to carry on.

Given all the discussion and opinions we shared, what I liked most was that we had the good of the Brothers in mind, always. At every juncture we kept reminding ourselves that they were the centre of our efforts and endeavours. Another strong fact that kept emerging often is that the Brothers are more frightened of their own companions than of the staff. There are very few who, first of all have a stand, and fewer still who are willing to stand by their own opinion rather than fall for the view of others, knowing very well that what others want them to accept and voice out is not true or beneficial. I kept asking myself: if today they cannot stand for what is right and just amidst their own companions what and when will they fight or stand on behalf of the poor and downtrodden?

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Learning what is not...

The Jainist metaphysics has in it the notion that reality is multifaceted and that it has several parts. And each object or reality has two distinct elements which help one recognise and distinguish one from the other. They are the positive elements (what it is) and the negative elements (what it is not). Naturally the list of what a thing is not is longer than what it is. But I was wondering which of these elements would be ideal for teaching, especially children. I have a feeling it is much more enriching (though need not be speedy) to teach children what things are by sharing with them what it is not than directly and plainly telling them what it is. Why so? In the process children pick up several other things and learn about new things and not just the one thing before them. Furthermore, distinguishing one from the other also is a game by itself.
The Indian philosophical method of neti-neti rings a bell here!

Perhaps this process of negating what a thing is not, is a very intuitive process. Of course, we can just say that a fan is not a tree, but to be able to say that it is not a helicopter is something more formative than the former. Or to say that it is not a living thing... by saying so we have negated all living beings. The search is now narrowed down and further intensified...

Crazy ideas after class!

It is interesting to note how the Brothers pick up their ideas and thoughts... all inverted and odd!! And it invariably happens when I think I have explained it best of all days. The next day I walk into class and revise and lo... I get new theories, absurd concepts, crazy ideas... anything and everything except what I shared and discussed in class the previous day. I wonder how can they think and come up with such 'different' notions with absolutely no link with what was discussed for an hour or more.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Defending God against His believers

In class today, I had a tough time convincing the Brothers (I still didn't manage) that God will not interfere with my freedom. That free will is something God does not meddle with... even though He may be the one who grants each one that free will. They are hell bent on their belief that God knows me through and through and therefore he also knows what I will do next. Telling them that God gives us freedom and lets us be, even to the extent of letting us utilise the same freedom as a tool against Him, was all in vain. Perhaps all this stems from their blind belief in God as a provider. Literally a programmed giver. We pray and He provides, provided we all 'behave'. God is, in another sense, blackmailed!

Listening to their arguments and Biblical quotations (literal meanings drawn from some quotes their know by rote!) I had pity on God... I had to really defend Him from His own 'staunch' believers. Some of the recollection talks and sermons they hear too add to their 'madness' that it is enough to have faith, blind faith and no act or effort or struggle on our part, for God to work in and through us. I do not deny that God is capable of that too, but that should not be an excuse for our lethargy and lacklustre life.

Monday, 15 November 2010

Passionless blues!

Fr Wilson has been very excited about his Sunday trip to the dockyard and the two ships into which he had a royal entry and round... thanks to his cousin who is the lieutenant on INS Jyothi. This night he was sharing the similarities about the life on ship and that in the Seminary. He stated that in both the places there is a hierarchy and a certain level of obedience at the basic organisational structure of the places. He also wanted to say that the difference between the two lay in the level of commitment and the passion alive in the respective places. But I'm not really sure if he stated that as a difference or a commonality.

As for me, I think that's a major difference: On a ship, a warship at that, one cannot survive without being passionate about sea and voyage. Anyone without that passion will be soon back at home looking for 'greener' pastures and certainly not be watching the vast 'blue pasture'! However, in the Seminary most carry on without the least of passion, neither for God nor His people!!!

Perfection or lack of it?

In class today while talking about the idea of the best of all possible worlds according to Leibniz and his arguments against/for evil, we stumbled into a discussion about 'perfection'. While clarifying their doubts and answering their questions, I asked them to give me an example of a perfect being, besides God. They couldn't come up with an answer without ending up contradicting themselves. Their next question was why cannot everything be perfect? Why should there be a gradation of perfection at all? If there weren't any gradation, then there wouldn't be evil automatically. Well, at least Leibniz considered this the best of everything that can ever be.

Then I just mentioned about the movie Bruce Almighty and asked them to come up with a list if each of them were 'God almighty'... with all the powers of God to run the world. Let's see what they come up with.

However, since the time I did my B.Ph. paper on the 'goodness' of evil, I have really been blessed with seeing things differently. What exactly makes the world great: perfection or lack of it? I believe it is imperfection. It is difficult and hard, but better than having everything perfect.

Sunday, 14 November 2010

With the children

Yesterday we had the Children's day at Navajeevan, Vizag. It was all the children gathered together at Beach Blossom's school, nearly 100 of them. We had invited the Circle Inspector of One Town Police to be the Chief guest of the occasion. I was surprised to see him. He appeared more like a school teacher than a police officer... very gentle and serene. Most importantly, no airs about being a police officer.

After the programme, I took up animating the children for some party games, as they were not really prepared to handle the whole group together. It was good occasion for me to interact with the children after long. I'm glad I was there and had that time. The whole afternoon (from 3 pm onwards) was once again spent in the office, resolving issues and settling matters!

However, as I spent the morning looking at myself, I was feeling a sense of insecurity! I am wondering what exactly am I doing? I very well know that I'm doing quite a few things, may be too may at the same time or setting into motion quite a few initiatives, both here in Kondadaba and in NJ, Vizag too. But what ultimately am I doing? I really am not sure. I need to get myself straightened about who and what for am I doing all of this, before I find myself lost, lonely and mad.

Friday, 12 November 2010

I'll wait for you

Here's a beautiful song/video that I came across of Joe Nichols, that's playing on my mind since a couple of days. The imagery, lyrics and the sentiments expressed are really very gripping. The singer, Joe Nichols has a very titillating voice. It's nice!

Websites for God

This morning Fr CJ Mathew celebrated Mass for the community. Well he is perhaps the longest serving confrere in the house... a total of 13 years in all portfolios, except that of a regent and a full circle of 6 years as Rector. In fact, when I came here in 2000 for my first year of practical training, he was the Rector. However, his sermon style has not changed much!

Today he called upon all of us to be 'websites for God'... 'places' where people can find information, knowledge and a first hand experience of God and His Divinity. Well that's a novel idea! Technologically speaking, a religious or a consecrated person is one who ought to be a man of God. So he or she should be a treasure trove of godliness and virtue. Well all this makes sense especially in the light of the numerous scandals and scams that go on in religious houses and within the Church.

Sunday, 7 November 2010

Contagious enthusiasm

Now that the inauguration is done with, the next obvious thing would be to get in and occupy the place; make use of the new and better facilities. But no, not yet! The building is inaugurated but not yet ready. There isn't the power connection, the water connection is incomplete, the ventillators and a couple of doors are yet to be done, the sump yet to be built, and so are several minor things needed to call the building complete. So then what was the point of inaugurating an incomplete building? Well for one, that it was due long since and more specially, the main benefactor of the building was in town from Italy for the same. (However, I should add, that several things would never have been done, not in a lifetime, if not for this 'inauguration').

What I liked of this whole episode was the joy of being part of the enthusiasm of the boys. They very well knew that they were not going to move into the new building, yet they were all eager to do whatever it was necessary to make the occasion grand. Some of the smaller fellows may have had absolutely no idea of what was going on, apart from the fact that there was 'something' happening. Perhaps if we had taken the whole lot of them to some other unknown place and area to work and prepare, they would have, but only if they had instructions from us Salesians and the staff. Their attachment is to people not to things or buildings or structures.

Getting over with Nov. 7

It's over!! Here I am at the end of Nov. 7... the date of the Sabbavaram building inauguration. And I'm alive, fine and I think I did manage to do my best. There were 101 factors that were not in my favour - rather, in favour of the inauguration: the rain, the vehicles, the preparation, the whole set up, the confusion, my total ignorance of Navajeevan politics, ... but in the end they didn't matter. It's done! I had thought I'd never be able to make it in one piece. As I now sit to just put down my raw thoughts after the maddening month, that rushed past for this Navajeevan work, I receive this video song, The Impossible by Joe Nichols.
Unsinkable ships, sink. Unbreakable walls, break.
Sometimes the unimaginable things happen.
Unbendable steel, bends. If the fury of the winds is unstoppable.
I've learnt to never underestimate, the impossible.

But truly, thanks be to God and Mother Mary!!

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Another maddening day with a bright ending

I had a hectic day today. But am glad that I'm still on my feet... though my head does not really feel like it is there in its place! Anyway three more days to go...!

The worst agony of the day was having to waste six thousand rupees just because one of those who turned down our invitation for the inauguration of the building on Nov. 7 suddenly decided to make an appearance. So had to recast the inauguration slab within hours of getting the first one... six thousand rupees rotting in the garage without redemption (that's two months salary for most of our staff). That's the whole problem with these dignitaries. Their decisions change the world and the most affected are those who slog it out for a daily bread.

The conclusion of the day was good. I took some time to chat with the boys waiting for their turn to take bath at Sabbavaram. Boys, at last... if not the first!

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Boys back at home!

Last evening was a happy one, not for all the complaints and squabbles I had to listen to, but for the reunion of two children with their parents. Yesterday afternoon when I reached Navajeevan, I found two new boys, Akbar and Ahmed. They had run away from their Madarasa and were keen on going back to their parents in Kharagpur, West Bengal. In the afternoon I sent two staff members to the Madarasa where they boys said they ran away from. The staff couldn't locate any such hostel at the place mentioned by the boys. Then in the evening, I asked them to call up the home mobile number the boys gave, just to assure the parents that their children are safe with us. The moment they heard news about their children there were shouts of joy and tears at the other end of the phone. It also turned out that they were just living here in Visakhapatnam itself. Within half an hour the parents and the children's uncle were at Navajeevan. After speaking to the staff they came to meet me. They were so grateful and happy to have their children back. The father could not move from the auto as he had a broken leg and a crippled hand. He broke down when I went to meet him on the road and assured him that his children were fine and that they could take them home without any formality or payment!!

One joy to negate all the negativities of the whole day's work and disappointments!

Darker nights but brighter stars

I spent the whole day in bed today!! Call it luxury or misery or both, I just couldn't help it. My whole head was like a big crude piece of lead weighing a ton!! Added to that my nose and throat were sore like hell. So for once I did not hesitate to swallow a tablet this afternoon. I just cannot afford to be down again tomorrow. So I guess God has His own ways of making me take medicine and not take pride in avoiding it.

And in the mail that I received from Fr Koshy this evening, this is what I found at the end of it...

The darkest stars have the brightest stars.

Prayer as a wheel

Prayer is not a spare wheel that you pull out when you are in trouble. Use it as a steering wheel, that keeps you on the right path throughout your life.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Human will vs circumstances

It has been raining since Friday afternoon (that's four days continuous) and there is no sign of any let down either. Everywhere there is water. Yesterday afternoon, I had the Israelites-Red Sea experience... nearly five times I had to get off my bike and push it through knee deep waters flowing across the road. Thank God, there were always some children or young people to assist people like me all along. If not, there is every possibility that due to the force of the flowing waters both the person and the bike would be carried away!

However what amuses me is the grit of people. Left to me, I'd just sit back in my room and 'enjoy' the rain (if I didn't have the inauguration of Sabbavaram coming up this weekend) - 'all the days of my life'! People outside too did the same... till Sunday. On Monday morning when the rain did not show any signs of leaving, people were out of their house, back to work!! How fast we get around (and over) situations and do not let them hamper our life, when it is a matter of survival and sustenance!

Overseeing and investment

Overseeing the construction work at Sabbavaram, has put me in a dilemma. The work is slow, unsteady, all in patches and nothing synchronised. What pains me most is the time and resources spent on that ... they no where match the outcome!! To make that match, 'someone' has to be there... constantly pulling the masons and others up, giving them directions and definite orders, making sure that deadlines are met and the quality of the whole structure is not compromised. That there is the contractor and a supervisor appointed by him is as good as saying that there is a tree behind the building! Nor am I saying anything new here. 'Someone' ought to be there in person. But my dilemma is, who is this 'someone'?

I remember hearing a couple of years ago that the JMJ Sisters have (had?) a Sister who was incharge of all the constructions in the Province. She had her own team of masons, carpenters, welders, suppliers and all that jing-bang and she would be there to make sure that the building being put up (a JMJ institution, of course) is near perfect. Can we too follow suit? But on the other hand, did we become religious for this? If not one among us, who then will feel the work as 'our' work and get things done right?

However there is another dimension of this whole process that is nagging me. Why at all spend so much on cement and bricks and paint? Why not invest it in people? Make use of existing structures or adapt our expertise and services in such a way that most of our energies is not spent on putting up buildings, in the first place, and the rest, in maintaining those... but on empowering people.
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