Thursday, 31 March 2011

October Sky

This evening I watched October Sky... quite an inspirational movie of a young boy and his friends who are passionate about their dream of making rockets at a time when the Russians had just launched Sputnik. It is about perseverance of a boy in the midst of all adversities, misunderstandings, hardships and challenges. His desire to pursue what his real calling is and realise it. It is about inspiration and courage.

Initially not a very bright student, his new born passion of building rockets sees him take on subjects that weren't his cup of tea (maths and calculations). When faced with lack of financial resources, he along with his friends take up to stealing old unused railway tracks. (That scene where they have just unlinked a rail from an unused track - or so they thought - and then they hear the train coming, is quite hillarious!)

The most piognant part of the movie is his strained relationship with his father who wants to see him take over his job as supervisor in a coal mine and thinks his running after rockets is a waste of time. In spite of the animosity and difference of opinion, Homer acknowledges to his father that he is his real hero. At the end, his father understands him and appreciates his talent.

The friendship among the four of them, each one of a different kind, is quite warming. All driven by the passion to build rockets together. Thus they earn the name 'Rocket Boys'. The role and inspiration of their teacher Miss Riley too is aptly portrayed... her desire to see them go to college and become someone in life!

Wednesday, 30 March 2011

The law and the purpose

The law is for a purpose. So in that sense, the law derives its meaning from the purpose for which it comes into existence. Bereft of the purpose, the law loses its value and becomes redundant. However, I feel that the law in itself has something to offer to that purpose. That even if the purpose changes or looses its meaning, the law continues to have some meaning of its own. The reason that leads me to believe this is that a purpose always has a relevant law for its fulfillment... not any law! If any law were to fulfill any purpose, then there wouldn't have been much of a sense in the world. But then, every purpose gets its due law. Hence 'that' law has to be something special and distinct and furthermore, has its share to contribute in bringing about that purpose to its fulfillment.

An inspiration for today's readings... Mt 5: 17-19

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tuesday's Vegetable Market

Going to the market to purchase vegetables is a new learning exprience every time. There are the vegetable vendors, a breed of people specialised in remembering names, prices and profit margins of every brinjal and tomato. Then there are all those who come to purchase (me included)... a microcosm of the world population itself! Here are some who caught my eye today...

Besides these two (or within these two) general categories of people, one gets to see some poor nomads collecting some throw-away vegetables or those which drop off the baskets and sacks.
There are also some who 'recycle' these, along with stolen livestock, in another corner of the same market!

There are the hotel cooks who make a round of the market to gather all the left overs of the past week - for a pittance. The reason: the vendor has no use of them. All he can do is throw them away. But for the hotel guy, he can very well use these for his kitchen since none of those who frequent the hotel for meals ever step in the kitchen to see what's cooking! He might as well cook all dried and rotten things but in the final mixture of the curry it tastes good! All of this he can purchase for any price that he decides (but not the vegetable vendor).

There are those who collect just a handful of vegetables: families who can afford no more and will have to stretch them till next Tuesday or those who think money is for something greater than silly vegetables.

At all entry points into the market are the 'tax collectors' those who have taken the market place on hire from the panchayat. No one escapes their hawk-vision! Everyone who gets in something to be sold has to deposit some prearranged price at his 'desk'. One can witness more bargaining here than at the stalls!

Brothers return after a month

The second and first course Brothers returned to the Seminary today for their BA exams. They appear quite different after a month of stay at home... most of them weaker and darker than when they left at the end of February. Anyway, to set the tone right, I addressed them soon after the Mass in the evening. I reminded them of a few matters concerning discipline and study so that they do not test waters and then land in soup! To drive the nail into the coffin, Fr KT in his goodnight shared the opinion of some of the Bishops concerning BA studies: those who fail in BA can very well leave the seminary. What good can a fellow achieve if he cannot get through an ordinary BA exam?

Monday, 28 March 2011

When humanity is endangered...

The inhuman treatment of the Jews through eviction from their homes, separation of families, torture, labour camps, death ... makes one wonder how a human being can stoop to such a bestial behaviour. The worst is that it was not of one person (Hitler alone), but so many who perpetuated it (the Nazis). There may be several reasons why each individual choose to be so and not stand up against a system of dehumanisation. Yet, the fact remains, a whole nation, a whole race was targetted and almost annihilated. And their only crime? Being born a Jew!

The same story continues, more or less, when security forces storm and destroy three villages on Dantewada, Orissa. Their crime? Being labelled Maoists. If this is how each one tries to settle and eliminate every threat, there would be no one left. Each action of one would eliminate some but give rise to more. Everytime a jawan is killed, there are several who are inspired by his bravery and hence willing to join the armed forces. So too, everytime an innocent tribal is tortured and dehumanised, there will be several who would join the Maoists, not for its ideals but as against the armed forces!

Saturday, 26 March 2011

From Mark Twain

Here's a quote from Mark Twain, that I came across while reading something about him. (Just a fitting end to a grand day):
I've been through some terrible things in my life, some of which actually happened.
We live in a world riddled with fear and anxiety. Most of our actions and decisions are based on imaginary consequences, mostly negative ones. Blessed are those who think positively and are able to see and do things for something rather than not or withold taking initiatives.

Unlucky Jesus

Here's an amusing but thought-provoking piece of conversation between two kids. It is from the movie Evelyn.
Dermot (the younger brother): Evelyn, did Jesus have a big sister?
Evelyn: No Dermot, he wasn't as lucky as you!
We look at what we do not have or lack. Children on the other hand, see things as their own. They are the owners of everything. They get to see life big, grand and solemn. They see what grown ups do not because they 'have' everything.

Friday, 25 March 2011

Untrodden paths

The untrodden path is a contradiction in terms. If it is a path, it is not untrodden; if it is untrodden, it is not a path.

Monday, 21 March 2011

Exams and amusement

Here are some more amusing revelations from the answer papers I completed correcting today:
  • No man or scientist have found life.
  • Evil is absence of knowledge... This problem is become mystery in the world.
  • Body comes into this world through evolutionary theory whereas soul comes directly from God.
  • To earn bread philosophy may not be helpful but to beack the bread philosophy is needed.
  • From Anthropology we can realise that man is not a being that we can see and think.
  • Often the relationship (between a person and another) is subjet to objet.
  • Marshal (Gabriel Marcel, is the poor guy here, I guess!) says "Man is problamatic and mystery. Man has no body but man himself is the body. Man is not in the situation but man is in the world."
The best is for the last...
After three years of Philosophy here are the names of some of the Philosophers:
  • Kerkey Guard (that's Kierkegaard)
  • Kierke Gauaard (it's him again!)
  • Plolo (I think that's Plato)
  • Fraud (Poor Sigmund Freud)
  • Ansolme (Anslem is certain to use that against God)
  • Richard Back

Sunday, 20 March 2011

Frozen River

These days I'm feasting on a steady diet of movies that I'd been downloading over the past couple of months. Very selected and chosen. Yesterday was Frozen River. It portrays the friendship and bond that develops between two women from different backgrounds and cultures but similar life-situations. Out of desperation to earn money, they smuggle immigrants illegally into the country driving over a frozen river; their attempts being dogged by the law enforcement officials and family situation. And when finally the law catches up with them and one of them has to go to jail, the decision one makes, makes all the difference.

We often think that life is hard and there is little help. Often only the former is true. Help arrives from different quarters and in ways totally unexpected. And when we get help, it changes our life for ever.

St Joseph, the silent

St Joseph, whose feast we celebrated yesterday reminded me of those innocent martyrs of justice... not the firebrands or the vociferous type individuals who go down fighting. Somehow there is a particular aura about him, he who hardly took a public stand or made a public appearance. But all the while making decisions in which he was not to be seen, heard or remembered.

It is really hard and difficult to be one is such days as ours... yet one is challenged by St Joseph (again silently) to be so, so that through us God and His glory may shine through.

Another aspect that flashed my mind yesterday was the decision St Joseph made to stand by Mary, initially was a very difficult and obscure choice. For us to read that he 'dreamt', is quite dramatic. But who among is willing to follow a dream, especially if it jeopardizes all that we have build up for ourselves. So this dream and vision and all is fine, but the decision was ultimately his and for that we revere him!

St Joseph, pray for us!

Some amusing 'facts'

Here are some perks of correcting the answer sheets of the Comprehensive Exam of the third year students (nothing compared to the overall feeling of doom and idiocity with regard to the content):
  • A Christian thinker, Robinhood...
  • Philosophy washed away my brain (as if it were there at all)...
  • Origin of the world through the bid-band...
I haven't yet completed the whole lot, and I'm sure there'll be plenty more!

Thursday, 17 March 2011

A snake for bread

Most often when we ask God for something we expect it to be delivered as a a 'ready-to-use' package. We ask God to give us bread and we expect it good, fresh, sliced and tasty. But God is not so cheap a baker. He is God!! He gives us, each according to what He has already blessed us with, the necessary things in order to get bread. For some He may give a lump of dough, others wheat, some He may give the required money. I won't be shocked if God gives someone a snake (just as in the readings of today, Mt 7: 7-12). Perhaps God has already blessed him with the skill of being a snake-charmer and he uses his skill and the snake to earn money, so that he gets his bread!

God promises 'good things' to all humanity; not ready-made or ready-to-use things!

Wednesday, 16 March 2011

Understanding the Brother(s)

Sitting for the evaluation and sharing information and exchanging views of the Brothers offers very valuable insights into the way the Brothers behave in the community. Just one typical case: One is always very angry and at every moment tries the one-up man strategy all the time. He would pull everyone's leg, or rather shut up everyone by making some joke or mockery of those around. During our staff discussion I came to know that the Brother concerned has this in-built anger especially against his relatives who did not help the family in time of need. Given the fact that his father died of AIDS is a grave cause of embarrassment. Furthermore he hails from the 'lower-strata' of society (I'm sorry for using this phrase, but I do not have any other means of conveying what I mean) both economically and socially. Adding two and two, I guess his anger and outbursts to keep everyone around him 'silent' was basically a preemptive attempt to prevent anyone from talking these issues which are delicate for him. He would ensure that all are subdued when he is around, so that his skeletons in the cupboard may rest safe.

Well, I may be wrong myself, but now I'm able to see the various actions, words, behaviour pattern of the Brother in a different light, from a different perspective given these pieces of information. No wonder, formation is a collective effort. Hence the need for formators to have the communication channels among themselves open and clear.

Tuesday, 15 March 2011

Slippers and spirituality

My slippers, the only pair of footwear that I have for the past six years, has been much in the talk since long. Very many who meet me after long look first at my feet, especially my past students, to see if I'm still with those slippers. Some even have gone to the extent of declaring that I'm so 'obsessed' with this pair of slippers that if I were to get rid of them, it would be as if I would get rid of my spirituality itself.

Well, I frankly see no big issue in what they think or talk. For me, it is a matter of utility. These serve me well and are still in condition. Why at all should I discard something just because it is old?

Tit bits

Yesterday was quite an eventful day: Much to our surprise the electricity department men landed up (true to their word, the previous day) to repair the faulty transformer and cables. It is after a full year of pleading, bribing, complaining, instigating, petitioning that they have done this job. It kept us occupied the whole morning.

Then there was the disturbing news about the cancer of the colon of Fr Devadas. Hopefully with the removal of the big intestine the cancer would be held in check. We accompany him with our prayers.

Then the news and decision concerning the Regent for next year. With Fr Provincial announcing that he would be able to spare anyone, we almost unanimously singled out Satheesh of the outgoing batch as the one, if his Bishop would permit.

Several other petty but interesting things kept me occupied yesterday, enough to send me sprawling on my bed by 9.30 itself - perhaps the first time in months! The discovery that someone was interesting in purchasing some abandoned wood/trees in the campus, that the cashew crop is seemingly quite promising, the awareness (after one full year of stay here) that the plot with cashew tree beside the lake is ours too, the disrupted sittings for the evaluation of the Brothers and the interesting sharing of views, opinions, information about several things of the Community and Province.

Monday, 14 March 2011

Fair Game

I just watched the movie Fair Game, directed by Doug Liman. Rather interesting one given the fact that it is an American movie which uncovers some of its own dirty politics, especially the great debacle of the accusation of the US government against Saddam Hussein and the Iraqi government of producing weapons of mass destruction (WMDs). The acting by Naomi Watts and Sean Penn is superb; sober, restrained but making a powerful impact.

The best I liked about the whole movie and its message was the willpower of Joseph Wilson to fight it out, to stand by what is true, even if it meant standing against the most powerful in the world, standing alone, standing with everyone and every bit of the system working against you. That really calls for guts and perseverance.

As someone rightly commented on the movie: "...Fair Game brims with righteous anger." I wish very many in the Church and other sacred institutions and places which exert influence on policies which affect the world, also have such guts to stand by what is true, come what may.

Sunday, 13 March 2011

Debasing ourselves!

The vandalisation of the statues on Tank Band, Hyderabad on the day of the 'million march' was perhaps the most foolish act that those involved could do. A clear proof that those involved in this desecration were hooligans who have no regard for anything good and noble. Those statues which they attacked were of great poets and writers, men and women who helped Telugu reach its prestigious place in literature.

Such acts do nothing more than debase ourselves and show how low we can stoop.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Chris

Last evening in the hospital the Castilino tribe came to visit me - and Fr Chacko too. Chris is getting used to me and was not so frightened of me as he was when we met in Karunapuram last month. He is more or less like Ginger, our dog, here - whoever plays with him is good and useful. Mummy tells me that most of the while he prefers to be with her. Roshni is sought only when he is hungry! Willy is wanted when he wants to play or sleep on the floor. Only Papa needs to run behind him as Chris always finds himself in odd places putting Papa's favourite things on the line of extinction: audio cassettes, CD player, tape-recorder, and his beedi and matchbox! But I can also say that he is quite pampered too. He just demands what he wants and where he wants to go by pointing to those little pointing fingers of his. If no one bothers to comply by his 'directions' his yells bring down the place.

An adventurous journey

I am safely back at Kondadaba after a dash to Hyderabad (and a crawl back to Vizag!). I accompanied Fr Chacko who was not that too well to Hyderabad. Fr Provincial and Fr Sojan decided that he fly to Hyderabad at the earliest and I was asked to accompany him. I tried to wriggle out as to why accompany on an hour long flight... anyway, I agreed. It took only an hour from Vizag to Hyderabad and even longer from the airport to St Theresa's Hospital. Amazingly one very stark change in Hyderabad which I could not help notice: it is turning out to be a night city. Till 11 am, driving from the airport to Sanathnagar we could not spot a decent coffee shop. Oh, boy Fr Chacko of all things wanted a cup of coffee and there were no shops absolutely open.... till Ameerpet. Wherever I stopped, they would say they'll open up a little later... later than 11 am???

The trip back to Vizag was the most adventurous! I boarded the bus at Imliband bus stand at 8.30 pm yesterday - just reached the bus stand 2 minutes before that. It was scheduled to reach Vizag latest by 10 this morning. However somewhere around midnight it broke down and we were stranded on the highway for three hours till another bus came and took us to Vijayawada. From there, after a two hour wait, we were asked to board another bus which was scheduled to get us to Vizag by 2 in the afternoon. Fortunately there was a traffic jam about 5 kms before Kovur and we were held up on a deserted spot for three hours. We finally made it to Vizag at 6 this evening! Just two hours short of a complete day and night!

Anyway, I was quite sober. Luckily I did not have deadlines or commitments to keep in Vizag for which I had to hurry. Others were not so lucky. So I kept my cool and had a good nap all along the way.

Tuesday, 8 March 2011

The Song of Sparrows

I watched a lovely movie today... The Song of the Sparrows. It is a Persian movie directed by the acclaimed Majid Majidi. I loved it very much for its content and humanistic presentation of life. Reminded me very much of Papa.

It basically is about a down-on-luck family man whose values and life-style are challenged when he loses his job in the country side and finds a lucrative one in the city. Though tempted to give in to the pressure and opportunities to be what he is not, he stays true to himself. Values of honesty, hard work, love for family are what he holds in great esteem. The accident that he meets helps him see things a bit closely and the way the family rallies around him when bed-ridden is very touching. The elder daughter promises him that she can hear (with a repaired hearing aid) when she actually cannot. His son starts to work and earn for the family. His wife too chips in. The anguish of a father to see his children take on his role and responsibilities is very touching.

Thanks Papa for the years you've slogged day in and day out, in the sun and in the rain, in health and in the worst of health... all so that we, your beloved will have a brighter future!

The receiver and the received

There's a Buddhist parable that runs something like this: One day as the Buddha was sitting under a tree, a young, trim soldier walked by, looked at the Buddha, noticed his weight and his fat, and said: "You look like a pig!" The Buddha looked up calmly at the soldier and said: "And you look like God!" Taken aback by the comment, the soldier asked the Buddha: "Why do you say that I look like God?" The Buddha replied: "Well, we don't really see what's outside of ourselves, we see what's inside of us and project it out. I sit under this tree all day and I think about God, so that when I look out, that's what I see. And you, you must be thinking about other things!"

There's an axiom in philosophy that asserts that the way we perceive and judge is deeply influenced and colored by our own interiority. That's why it's never possible to be fully objective and that's why five people can witness the same event, see the same thing, and have five very different versions of what happened. Thomas Aquinas expressed this in a famous axiom: Whatever is received is received according to the mode of its receiver.

[This is an extract from Ron Rolheiser's website]

Monday, 7 March 2011

A crazy meeting, after long!

I had the misfortune of attending one of those crazy meetings today, this time in the Bishop's house for planning the Archbishop's Golden Jubilee of Ordination. Gosh!! What a confusion. After two hours of discussing back and forth, we arrived at exactly what was stated right in the beginning by the chairperson (and which was vehemently opposed then).

Besides, this was another confirmation of the fact that talkers are never doers! Those who talked, only talked since when it came to volunteering and proposing something positive and possible, the big-mouths were invisible. In fact, it was embarrassing to see lay people more zealous and pleading the Priests to come forward and take initiative.

This actually teaches us that that the best way to shut up - hard and for good - those who only talk is to propose their name for a serious responsibility. If not, cut them short and ask them to own up or propose something possible and concrete.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Mother-tongue

This evening I spent some time with Fr TV Thomas and here's one of his collection:

Why is there always a mother-tongue but no father-tongue?
Because the father hardly gets to use his tongue!

Authority from within

Yesterday's gospel was interesting. The Pharisees wanting to know under whose authority was Jesus saying and doing all that He was upto. Jesus put a question back to them, as to under whose authority was John the Baptist functioning? The Pharisees, to save their skin, feign ignorance. The answer is crystal clear. John the Baptist was truly functioning from a dual authority. He was commissioned by God for a specific task and secondly he lived an integral life. Thus he derived his authority from God and from himself.

There can never be any greater authority that this deadly combination: God and within. To be convinced of what one is and is upto, and to live in conformity with one's thoughts, words and deeds is a great source of power, strength and authority. Such figures are always a big challenge to the rest of the world who find no crack or point of leverage to bring down people.

Calling a spade a spade

Yesterday morning, Fr Anithottam was sharing with us that the people of Andhra will never refuse or deny a clergyman anything, even if they do not intend to do or give what has been asked for. The response is always positive, even if they have no intention or possibility of doing, giving or complying to the request. The reason: it is considered bad manners to say 'no' to a man of the cloth. So you invite someone and they would say, 'we'll come' - they may not even be in town on the invited day; to another you tell to hand over the borrowed drill machine and he'd reply, "I'll get it today itself." It may be days before you get to see the drill machine.

As if to confirm this was the event in the night. A Brother's mother and aunty landed up unannounced around 9.30 pm about an hour after our supper. One of the first things I asked them when they showed up at that hour was if they had their supper and both of them cheerfully and immediately replied that they already had their supper after the function they had come to attend nearby and had only come to the Seminary only to rest for the night. I asked the Brother concerned to give them a guest room and wished them well. A couple of minutes later the Brother comes to me saying that they did not have their meals and if he could provide them with something! Why then did they not tell me and Fr KT whom they met earlier and who had also enquired about their meals? Just like that!

For me, I'd like to call a spade a spade. There is no great virtue in camouflaging or redefining a spade just for the heck of it.

Guarding the milestone

We were sitting for the evaluation of the Brothers the last couple of days and while commenting on each of the students and their overall behaviour according to the various sectors, I could not but help myself say this about one particular Brother (concerning his weekend ministry to a neighbouring village):
He is diligent in his ministry... of guarding the milestone along the roadside!

Friday, 4 March 2011

Jesus and the Temple

Jesus' anger against those who had converted the Temple into a market place is quite understandable. However, what I wonder more is what would He do if He were to arrive now and see the 'Temple' the way it is... corrupted not by outsiders but by the very custodians of the law and the spirit, full of scandals and scams again, not by anyone but the leaders and animators of the Church.

The APBC meeting would have got over today, and I wonder what great important pastoral decisions they would have arrived at besides sharing the 'loot' and debating mere administrative matters.

Thursday, 3 March 2011

I am Sam

This afternoon I watched the movie, I am Sam. I found it very touching, splendid performance by Sean Penn as a mentally challenged father, greatly in love with his small daughter and fighting for her custody. Moving reflections and images of what parenting and family is all about. It is very disturbing to see yourself torn between the love of father and the concern for the future of the child. But as they always say, love triumphs!

What I like best in the movie was the way Sam is able to touch the lives of others, Rita (his lawyer), his four friends, Annie (his next door neighbour), Randy (the lady who wishes to adopt his daughter, Lucy) and above all else, Lucy (his daughter). It tells me that we 'normal' people often think we got it all sorted out. That we know best! But here is someone who is not so. In his 'deficiency' Sam is gifted with a special grace. He sees the inner and deeper need to love and be loved. His values and ideas are simple and truthful. Nothing to hide, nothing to fear, nothing to withhold.

Much to learn from children and those differently-abled.

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

At Muniguda, Orissa

Walking through the ransacked convent and Church at Muniguda, Orissa I was trying to picture to myself the actual day. As Aquinas showed me the video and led Fr Wilson and myself through the destroyed Church and convent, I found myself rather calm and resigned. It was easy to get agitated and angry but somehow I could not. The hatred that led to that riots in December 2007 is still difficult to comprehend. To review them years later in a peaceful atmosphere was another experience: one of retrospective evaluation, of trying to find out the real 'why'?

The Church debris has been cleared (the photo is of last year) and plans are underway to renovate the Parish Church which has now been handed over to the Salesians. However the convent has been untouched since that day in December 2007. The burnt records, jeep, cots, chapel, kitchen, rooms and the corridors still bear a silent witness to what happened that day in broad daylight. However one may walk through those corridors or watch videos, the agony of those who lived that day there and had to flee for their dear lives can never really be fathomed or understood.

Being at the mercy of others

Travelling in a reserved compartment, and that too in an already packed one, without a reservation is always a risky affair. Not so much for fear of being penalised or fined but because you are totally at the mercy of those who have an authorised, valid ticket. The place rightfully belongs to them and one can only request for place, for some adjustment. To consent or reject is totally their choice. It is something we can only request for, hope for, but not demand. A very wrong tendency, when we the unreserved ('underserved') are a majority, is to 'feel' that they 'should' give us place.

Going by train to Muniguda, Orissa the other day in a similar fashion these were my thoughts for an hour of the four-hour long journey. It was easy to look upon those who had reserved a ticket and were keen on preserving a decent space for themselves, as 'stingy' and 'rude' people. However, a closer and realistic view of the scenario would show that we who did not have an authorised ticket in a reserved compartment and demanding place were the real rude ones!
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