Sunday, 28 February 2010

Truth vs cooking up facts!

Tomorrow is the last date for the submission of the school application forms and since morning I have had quite a few visitors. Though most of them walked in to submit the application, some of them came to 'inquire about the details'. I know that to those who collected the application form earlier, I had assured that we would be starting all the classes from LKG to grade 4. However, now that there has been a change in plans (for which I was rooting since the beginning), I tell those parents that only the KG and Standard I is assured for now. As for the fate of the other classes, is not decided as of now. Though a bit concerned about this "uncertainty" (those who have two children and only one assured of a place and the other 'unclear' are the most tensed) there is a willingness to rationalise and listen.

Over the time I also made this observation: I had no problem in telling all concerned the truth and in plain words and THEY HAD NONE listening to my reasons (or justifications, you might call it). Rather than me fumbling for excuses and making up stories and remembering all these lame excuses, it makes my work easy to stick to what is right and clear. I don't have to cook up facts every time! I know and realise that it is not always easy, but it surely is convincing.

No wonder, truth triumphs!

Friday, 26 February 2010

The devil's dung and Communication

Among the various things discussed during the Social Communication Commission meeting this morning, there was this eternal debate about the 'centre' for Communication. I did the best of what I could come up with: stoic silence!!

Prathap (and several others, including Mummy) always told me that I was a miser. I really am! Therefore you talk of initiatives which involve huge amounts of money besides the amount we already have or have invested, then my mind starts working fast... it works to list out reasons why we should NOT undertake that project! Over the past, especially the three immediate years, I've experienced how money can be the 'deciding factor' - read that as 'spoiling factor' - of things that otherwise could have been done peacefully and perfectly well. I'm not Don Bosco, who really dreamt big and far for his boys, in this matter. And I feel, I cannot be otherwise too.

So if it is a matter of devil's dung and Communication, I'd only stickto the latter, even if it means, I will have nothing else beside myself and my message.

Councillors prior to INH

Another interesting fact that I discovered after our communication meeting this morning... Among those in our Province at present, besides Fr Lens, there were also Fr Johnson Moyalan, Fr Panampara Abraham, Fr Medabalimi Balaswamy, Fr Chinnappa Thomas in the Council of the undivided Bangalore (INK) Province at different times, till 1993... that's when Hyderabad Province was formed out of Bangalore Province.

Fr Lens, Rapport and INK

Another piece of historical evidence about the Confreres in the Province... This one is regarding Fr John Lens... he was in the first Provincial Council of the newly erected Bangalore Province (INK) in 1979. Perhaps he was part of it only for the first term (1979-1982)... maybe, but I'll have to check it out. He was then also the rector of the aspirantate at Gunadala, Vijayawada.

The other piece is about Fr Kollamparambil Joseph. He was part of the editorial team of the newly founded Rapport, the Newsletter of the Bangalore Province, while still a student in KJC, Bangalore. It was then circulated only in the cyclostyled format! Furthermore the name 'Rapport' was suggested by Britto Manohar.

Thursday, 25 February 2010

Salesians 2010

That's the link to the Salesian Magazine (digital form) 2010. It's a great initiative showcasing the Salesian apostolate around the world and a short of chronicle too. Looks great and I am more interested in the digitalisation process and distribution process of it. I'm sure Fr Julian Fox is pushing for this in his own way.

Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Quotes

Here are some quotes from my mobile phone collection (before I erase them all!):
Take your life into your own hands and what happens? A terrible thing: No one to blame!

Most of us miss out life's big prizes: Nobel, Oscar, Grammy's... But we are all eligible for life's small pleasures: A hug from the best friend, a short sleep on a friend's shoulder, a full moon, a glorious sunset, a chat with one we like a lot, a delicious meal, a good joke, an ice-cream, a shower of rain, a silent night on the terrace, a slow walk on an empty road with the person you love most! So enjoy the tiny delights rather than mourn the 'huge loss'!

A moment of patience in a moment of anger can help you avoid a thousand moments of sorrows.

Monday, 22 February 2010

Articulating a vision for life

As I glanced through the latest volume of the SDB West (from Mumbai) the article by Fr Isaac Arakaparambil caught my eye. I met Fr Isaac sometime ago in Bangalore and his serene and joyful personality appealed to me. Perhaps that's an added reason I found myself agreeing to his ideas. Here's an extract from his article wherein he speaks of the need to primarily have for ourselves a vision of life and then assist others to formulate one for themselves, through Value Education:
My observation is that we do, and we get our teachers to do a lot of activities with our youngsters (sports, drama, music, tuitions, coaching, homilies, good morning and good night talks, value education classes, etc.) but they often end up as activities with no clear focus. The students may pick up skills that help them become confident and expressive, but it does not necessarily determine whether they are able to articulate a vision for life.
That's truly an observation worth taking note of and as Fr Isaac recommends, 'to tie up with people who already have follow-up systems in place when it comes to the domain of vision orientation and value education' especially with regard to our educational institutions... and perhaps our Salesian community life and living too!

I give what I have

It was a very good decision to move out of the Provincial house to have our recollection today. The venue was a neighbouring rehab centre for AIDS patients, run by the Sisters (about 9 kms from here).

Fr Thankachan's reflections were inspiring: We give out of what we have. Drawing lessons from the experience of the Germans who in the height of their bitterness between the East and West were looking for opportunities to humiliate one another, we see how the world looks at us. The East Germans once dumped a truck full of garbage at a West German crossroad. Though inclined to retaliate in a similar fashion, the West Germans 'returned the favour' with truckloads of foodgrains, medicines and clothes - with a small note: We give what we have!

A good exercise in Lent: to look into ourselves and see what we have within us; for that is what we give to others (confreres, people and God).

Sunday, 21 February 2010

Lenten penance!

This morning before the Mass as I saw Fr Sebastian walk around without getting ready for the Mass, I knew there's going to be something ... and there it was... a long sermon by a layman, the charismatic style, replete with "Allelulia". And what was the theme? Lent!!

I cursed my luck for having come for the first Mass and was in two minds whether to walk out and come in for the second Mass or stay on. I decided to stay put. Then I had clearly two options: keep cursing Fr Sebastian (and the preacher?) for this surprise talk or pray! I opted for the second and was happy for the choice I made. Though, weak as I am, I could not but hope once in a way that the wasn't the talk or that the talk would conclude soon, I managed to pray. The best was that I prayed for all those people gathered in the Church this morning and were keen listeners to the talk.

God bless us all!!

Friday, 19 February 2010

Reviving games and history

I consider myself lucky and privileged to have kept my rhythm of games (basketball) for the last one week, without fail. The credit of it goes to Thathi and the youngsters who come every evening without fail. It is really very refreshing and though every part of my body aches (especially my left arm), I am very happy about this new routine.

These days several of our confreres too joined for the game. Nothing odd about that from the Salesian perspective. However, I observed, all those who played basketball so far were once my superiors or mentors. Last week there was Fr James, perhaps the one who first gave us a basketball to play with when I was still in school. Then there was Fr Sony, whom I knew as a school boy (he was getting ready to go to Rome for his theology then). Fr Tom and Fr Cheruvathur were my superiors when I joined the seminary in Gunadala. Now as I play with them, I feel so proud. Never ever did I dream that one day I'd be playing shoulder to shoulder to these great men whom I idolized so much as a boy. Adding greater joy to my pride is that they appreciate my game and take pride in playing together. And I hope and pray that I too may have the joy of playing with my students with the same vigour, spirit and enthusiasm later on in life.

For now, God bless these Confreres and their encouraging presence - then and now!

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

Religion and eco-consciousness

One of the good insights that I picked up while reviewing the papers of the students of Philosophy, was this: the intrinsic relation between religion (formal and institutional) and eco-consciousness. I now understand the anxiety of Fr Joshtrom when he speaks of ecology and the need of the Church to get involved in speaking about the need to preserve nature and its resources. Religion (at least institutional religion) has long harped on the idea that the world is a passing world. That we are but 'pilgrims' on a journey. The destination is what we must set our eyes upon!! In the bargain, we miss out the grandeur of nature. We turn a deaf ear to the cry of nature for survival. We are so 'lost in heaven' that we never notice the extinction of species after species of plants, animals and bio-life.

If only we start realising the divine in and around our nature... and not just in the 'heavens above' or stay aloof from the destruction of nature, saying this is not 'our' concern; that this is not the subject-matter of religion... , the world would be a better place for all living beings to grow. Religion, especially Christianity, can and should consciously now speak up and stand for 'natural causes' - lest there be only heaven and no earth!!

Making the best of whatever at hand... even of hell!

I just finished going through the B. Ph. papers sent to me from Karunapuram for their final defense on Feb. 19, 2010. It was good trying to break my head trying to understand what they have understood. At times, when thought they were telling something new, I realised it was a grammatical error in the language and not some new thought!!

Even in these four papers that I corrected, I notice clearly a sense of discipline - or lack of it. All of them have the same amount of time and resources at their disposal, the same professors and the same ambiance. Yet the final outcome is not always the same or similar. It varies mostly according to the interest and effort put in by each individual. This is where my basic problem lies: why is it that when most of us join the religious/ Salesian life and profess to give of our very best, we withhold our best!! I understand it when not everyone can do a scientific paper the best but there should be something that each of us can do our best. What is that? Do I invest all my talents and energies into that?

I know that not always the situation and the context is the most ideal. But can I make the most of even that hell?

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Needs and energies

Fr TV's reflection this morning was inspiring and simple: We spend most of our energies in fulfilling our primary need. If that primary need happens to be food, then we end up spending our whole time, energy and thought centred on food. (Something the disciples were upto in the Gospel of this day!) If our primary need is God and His will, we would make every effort to discern His will and constantly be with him.

Sunday, 14 February 2010

Blessed are those who do not hate!

It was nearly a month ago that I decided to stick to matters that are relevant while speaking rather than enter is loose talk that often begins by an innocent grumbling session. Though I've been successful to a large extent, as I review my own resolution, I realise I can do much better. So I decided to stick by it for some more time, till I have to make a valiant effort to think or speak otherwise!!

Confirming my belief that the more we grow and the higher we go up the ladder of responsibility the more guarded and defensive we become. We tend to always "protect" ourselves... from God knows what! Children, on the other hand, are least bothered. They like to explore, see things anew, they are not intimidated or too self-conscious. There is the interesting conversation in famous novel The Jungle book, wherein Mowgli is "taught to be civilized" and at one of his 'classes' he hears the word 'enemy' and he asks, "What's that?" He gets the reply, "the one you hate." And the immediate query from Mowgli, "What's hate?"

Who knows Jesus must have spoken of other beatitudes too, which were somehow not recorded and this one would surely be one of those: Blessed are those who do not hate, for they shall always be child-like!

Friday, 12 February 2010

History of the Provincial house

Our lunch with Fr YM Joseph was an interesting one. He narrated his experience of purchasing the whole plot of land, where we are now, as the Provincial house way back in the 1980s. We couldn't believe our ears when he stated that he bought the land at a price of Rs 3000 per acre - we cannot even dream of one square yard for that price today!! Just Rs 3000 per acre. He had then bought 17 acres of land for a total price of Rs 50,000. He also mentioned the name of one Colonel Mathur (a Maharashtrian) who helped him with this land deal. The land originally belonged to the army. It was a vineyard, with a borewell and an open well. Since the output of water was not sufficient, the army wanted to sell the land. Fr Joseph, coming to know of this bought this place for establishing a Catholic community here. Thus we now have, St Michael's colony, the Salesian Provincial house (that's the photo), the Provincialate (+ a hundred more activities within) of the Sisters of Charity.

He recalled with great enthusiasm the joy of having purchased land, his one month stay under the banyan tree (which still exists), beside the open well (which has now been closed up) in a large tent put up by the army personnel. There also was a trench (15inches X 15 inches, recalls Fr Joseph) around the tent to prevent snakes from entering the tent. He had a cook and a daily provision of a water tank - all supplied by the military. He used to get his altar boys and stay with them in the tent, especially on weekends. Kali Mandir then was just one single stone - nothing more! As time went by, the army personnel learning driving would collect stones and pile them there. Today it is a full-fledged temple managed by the army.

The real Laura Vicuna

I was pleasantly surprised when I saw the article on ANS about Laura Vicuna and her real face! After so many years of having seen her picture, now comes the original photo. That's interesting. What amuses and surprises me is that the Salesian Sisters dared to find out the original face of Laura, knowingly well that it would be very different from the one popularly known.

For me, this makes great sense... to be able to see and appreciate people in their reality and not some 'make up' face. I wish we start seeing Don Bosco too in his natural state. He may not be Tom Cruise, but he is Don Bosco and he matters more to me than his face!

Monday, 8 February 2010

About the true God

Here's a short quote from the collection of Anthony D'Mello (Seedlings):
If your God comes to your rescue and gets you out of trouble, it is time you started looking for the true God.
I'm still wondering what exactly that means but I guess Tony is trying to save God from us!! Too often we rely solely on God to do things for us that we make ourselves 'handicapped'. Thereby everytime there is something difficult, we wait for God to intervene, without making the least of efforts to do something for/by ourselves.

Sunday, 7 February 2010

A chapter concludes...

This evening Fr Noel left for his holidays...! The conclusion of one era in the Province of Hyderabad. Fr Balaraju is all set to take charge. Though the official handing over ceremony was on Feb. 5, the excitement and the guests were still around, for the real functioning to begin. Today was a Sunday. Hopefully, Fr Balaraju will occupy the Provincial's office tomorrow.

A Chapter ends, another begins, life continues! Interestingly, very many are curious to know my 'fate'!! They keep asking me if I'm continuing or not in office as Secretary.

Whatever it be, THANKS to Fr Noel for his trust in me in appointing me as the Secretary. And thanks to that appointment, I got a chance to delve deeper in the digital world, by way of web coordinator and other related matters. God bless him!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Falling in love with a language

I received a long mail this morning from one of my former students who is now studying Chinese! Here is here experience in the initial stages of this herculean task:
these days i am more busy because i have lot of home works to do. you know i began to learn the characters and so i have to practice more so they give more practice sheets. i am trying to finish it but still not finishing. when i finish one full page and look back and see some flowers.. yes seems to be flowers in the garden. i learned to write my name. it was very difficult. but then the sounds shows good meaning... every week i have exams.. speech practice..each word has got six sound up, down, middle, law, falling, and rising. you know first days when we began to say the speech our whole body was moving according to the sounds..it was really interesting. no one laughs because all are in the same boat..if the tones are not correct the meaning changes only teacher understands and so not much laugh during everything will be when the teacher explains.. for example instead of God if we are not attentive the word can sound as pig... oh horrible..right?
From my little experience of learning a new language, I've learnt that whatever be the initial difficulty, there comes a point when we really fall in love with the language. We suddenly develop a strong attachment to the language... all the more at a very deeper level once we start talking to the native people in their own language. My stay in Shillong and learning Khasi has been a great experience which I still cherish.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Children, again

As I run about seeing to the various things for the evenings' celebrations, I can see the two children who have been with us since yesterday, do all sorts of things ... just having a good time by themselves. At one point two of them were carrying around the smallest one in a flimsy piece of cloth like a hunted animal!!

Then I came across this blog about a mother and her four kids a while ago... truly hilarious and amazing! Kids will be kids!!

Thursday, 4 February 2010

Growing beyond the known

Here's a saying that I'd very much agree with:
Unless you try to do something beyond what you have already mastered, you will never grow. (Ronald E. Osborn)
... and I'm having a blast of time 'growing', especially these days! Of course, there is also the other higher and more demanding step I've to take... growing out of my 'comfort zones'.

Calm amidst the storm!

The past two days have been the most free days for me in months!! And I gratefully made best use of the time: I did the long pending book reviews (and sent them across). Furthermore I started exploring and doing quite a bit for the website of the Province, for that of the Salesian Psychologists' Associations' site and also for the Salesian Vocation Promotion network. The best part of the thrill of completing these long pending tasks is that all is being done when everyone around is running all over place in preparation for the installation of the new Provincial. Another interesting fact is that since I'm the Secretary, everyone assumes (and believes!) that I'm the most busy man around... and I let them!! All said and done, it's great to feel relaxed and seeing long pending tasks fly off the table!

Children

The excitement in the house is running high, with the new Provincial set to take charge tomorrow and the one laying down office, doing the packing. Adding greater masala to the whole scenario is the steady arrival and presence of guests, mostly relatives and well-wishers of the two. (Confreres, of course, would not think of arriving before 5 pm tomorrow - Frs PE and Selveraj are the only two exceptions) . The best are the children who come to the Provincial house for the first time... They are like calves let free the first time in an open field, just when they have starting walking about... they run, romp and jump all over the place with total freedom of mind and body! As I type these few lines, I can see two of them outside my office in the lawn ... carefree spirits and totally at home!

Tuesday, 2 February 2010

Shutting others out=imprisoning ourselves

The whole drama being enacted by the Shiv Sena about Mumbai belonging to the Marathi manoos is going overboard! The only thing I don't understand is how come people take pride in parading their stupidity, that too so 'bravely'? The more dividing lines we draw, the greater we imprison ourselves. The Shiv Sena fails to realise that the walls they build to keep non-Marathas out of Mumbai are the very walls that will imprison them and shut them out of the rest of the world!

Salesian community blues!

It was heartrending to hear the woes of the contractor of one of the newly built houses. Luckily he was a shrewd guy and knew how to handle things. Anyone else less capable or gossip monger would have had a ball of a time with all that was happening around the inauguration of the house!! This is one thing that I learnt right from my childhood days at home... never wash dirty linen in public. Whatever be the case, never ever let matters of the house go beyond the four walls of the house. I still wonder, where does all the good will, lessons learnt since the aspirantate and the vows we profess all along, disappear just when I have some difference of opinion with my confrere?

Monday, 1 February 2010

Labour and food

I took a walk to the construction site this evening and was struck by the hard work of the labourers there. Men and women, carrying heavy loads of sand, pebbles and cement. When I looked at their children gladly rolling in the sand or having a meal or trying to sleep, it struck me: what a fate, those who are now building the school will never get to even enter the same school once it is complete, leave alone get their children admitted into the school. Fr TV Thomas too made the same observation this afternoon at table. Karl Marx had a point when he made his theory of exploitation.

However the most touching incident of this evening was when a mother gave some food to her small son: just some rice put in a small bowl and then some curry which surely must have been cooked early morning. I couldn't but contrast that scene with the table that was set for yesterday's feast meal in the afternoon. Here was a small child happily eating just rice and curry and we had to have a large table with so much of variety that we hardly tasted half of what was set before us to appease our hunger - the same mortal hunger!

Deceased Salesians and Fr VT John

Today we remembered and prayed for the deceased Salesians, especially from our Province... Frs VT John, Benji and Br Gabriel. Of course, there is also Br James T and Fr KC Jacob. I had the good fortune of living with the first three and I have great admiration for them all. They had their defects but somehow, Fr VT and Fr Benji stood out among the rest - each for their unique virtues and style.

Fr Balaraju during his goodnight shared a beautiful thought from the life of Fr VT John. It is said that on his ordination day he added two special resolutions to his project of life: To make Mass the centre of his life and to love it and make it loved by others. That's a very beautiful resolution. Looking back and from experience I can tell that he did live that resolution till the last. I was fortune to have attended his last Mass - along with Prathap (just the three of us) in the sacristy of the Philosophate in Karunapuram. The next day he was sick. He passed away the day after that.
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