Sunday, 25 December 2011

Discerning life and birth

The baby Jesus enjoyed the special protection of the heavenly Father from the various life-taking sicknesses and the dreaded wrath of Herod - of course, Jesus had to endure the cold and dust of Bethlehem on his arrival day! However, not very many babies born in this world enjoy such privilege. I remember all such babies whom not even God defends.

I also remember all those who are privileged but do nothing worthwhile with their life, having survived the delicate infancy and early childhood. Jesus, spent the rest of his life, discerning and carrying on His Father's will. His end too was a choice He made in line with the Father's mission. How many of us take the trouble of discerning what God survived us for and of those who discern how many are willing to risk everything to live it out!

Thanks for everything so far and dear Lord, help me on this auspicious day to discern what is it that You want me to do and grant me the grace to live it the best way!

Saturday, 24 December 2011

Dog-God fidelilty

Our house dog, Ginger, has been following me everywhere this past one week. With the Brothers gone, I'm its sole master. All night long it is outside my door and in the morning when I come out it has to do its joy-dance and then lead me to its kennel! But all along I have to follow it. If by chance it does not see me till it is inside the refectory, it retraces its steps back to my room.

Yesterday I left it out before our evening prayer. It also wanted to follow me into the chapel but when I commanded it to sit outside, it did so faithfully but not without some moans and groans and a couple of barks. And then as I sat for prayer facing the tabernacle, it sat at the Chapel door facing me - all the while.

I wish our fidelity to Christ is at least as deep as that of a dog to its master... wherever the master is, the dog prefers to be. It may not be the most pleasant of situations (as it is outside my room, freezing cold) but it is there that it prefers to be - for the only reason, that its master is there!

Swaddling clothes

This morning after Mass we, Frs KT, Wilson and myself put up the altar panel of Christmas in the Chapel. To give the finishing touches Fr KT brought a saree and just bundled it up before the panel. It reminded me of the 'swaddling clothes' that Mother Mary used to wrap baby Jesus up in he came into this world as a human. Today we use such torn and tattered clothes as a fashion statement while very many, like Jesus, had no other choice than that!

As I sit here typing these few lines, I hear all the loudspeakers blasting Christmas hymns from the different Churches around. Tomorrow there will surely be a big crowd here to collect their Christmas clothes! I wonder what Jesus himself would be feeling right now.

Friday, 23 December 2011

The New Islamic-Catholic Saint...

I finished correcting a bundle of exam papers pertaining to the Medieval Western Philosophy class that I took in Bangalore some time ago. As usual there were many 'new insights'. However, I share only the best:
St Anselm was a muslim Philosospher...
If I had any influence, I'd have warmly recommended this Brother's name to the Vatican so that they may appoint him as the head of the department which deals with inter-religious dialogue and canonisation process.

Thursday, 22 December 2011

Gol gappe

When I was in Vizag the other day, waiting for Fr Rector to do some purchasing and waiting outside a shopping mall, I noticed that a guy selling gol-gappe (sort of indian fast food) just outside the mall. Now that's no surprising scene for an Indian market area. What surprised me was the brisk business he was doing right outside a large shopping mall! During the 15 minutes or so that I spend there, I noticed people coming in for a round of this - I've not tasted this myself - at least three posh vehicles. At first I thought that they would enter the mall. No! They solemnly and very leisurely had their share and then drove off!

Perhaps this is how life works... in weird ways and in strange directions. I remember Willy's craze for that bhel-puri when I was in the Philosophate (as a student). Every time I came home for holidays he would rush to get this 'delicacy' for me... knowing very well that I never even taste it!

I suppose this variety of tastes and choices makes life interesting and enriching. Imagine if everyone were like me, wondering what the hell is this all about, then that poor gol gappe vendor would be jobless and would have to search for some other means of feeding his family. Thank God we're not the same!

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Driving along...

It's been four days of continuous driving - of course, not all day and night, but at least for a good part of the day. Yesterday night, I was for once, tired of driving! Among the many positive things of driving, I now know more or less my way around the whole city of Vizag. I can fairly manage to spot, shop and of course, navigate (even through the crazy Kanaka Mahalaxmi temple entrance area).

Another great advantage of travelling around is that I get to see people and things which I can never imagine or dream of. Like the place where I parked the vehicle last this morning... there was an ATM with a shabbily scribbled note on its glass door, "Out of service" and the guard there very dutifully at his post (God knows what he was guarding!). Or for instance the parking woes... in order to avoid paying the fully parking fee, I kept the engine on and waited for a couple of minutes more after having dropped Fr Devadas at the airport. It was a little over 8 minutes when Fr K.T. returned after seeing him off at the entrance. But the sentry at the exit would not let me pass through without paying the full amount. His argument: "Drop and off, duration is only 5 minutes!"

Anyway, all that important trips related to Christmas are over and all things done and over with. I also pray for our driver Satyam who is admitted in the hospital and is undergoing treatment for pneumonia. Mother Mary help him!

Monday, 19 December 2011

Photos of 2010-2011

Among the many things that I'm trying to catch up before I leave for my Christmas holidays and before I get lost in the plethora of community activities on my return, I manage to finish one: sort out and make a short collage of the photos of the previous academic year (2010-2011). Not that it is totally complete (I need to add captions) but at least it is there.... and here for you!

Sunday, 18 December 2011

Christmas crib

Here's the crib that our first years prepared in a good time of just two weeks of spare time - that's a very rare commodity here at Kondadaba! The facade is that of a candle and the idea being that Christ is the light of the world. They did it beautifully. No extravagance or unnecessary elements just for the sake of it. It looks good. The Brothers too were happy with the final outcome.

Knowing well that I wasn't keen on spending money, they would think a million times before approaching me. And when they did approach me it would be out of sheer necessity. That being the case, I'm happy with what they prepared. Good use of time and ideas - quite economical too.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

Good deeds return

Yesterday while in Vizag for some marketing I went in the photo studio to pick up some photos and an album that I had given a couple of days ago. While making the payment, I realised that the lady at the counter had paid me much more that I had paid her, instead of giving me just some change. I realised that she had miscalculated and then returned the extra. She still wasn't sure (must have had a bad day in the shop). Anyway, she calculated the whole stuff again and gave me the change - but again, more than I was due. I gently told that her that she had again given me excess money and showed the calculation myself. She did not know what to say. I just gave her a gentle smile and came out.

For once when she first handed me almost double the amount I paid her, I had for one fleeting moment to just pocket the amount and walk out of the shop. But then I somehow couldn't and wouldn't. And this morning, that good came around when I overpaid the gas serviceman. I had no idea that I had overpaid him, until he returned after a couple of minutes to tell me, "Sir, you gave me too much!" He could have very well walked off the campus with that excess money and I would have been totally and blissfully unaware of my miscalculation... but somehow he had the goodwill to return the excess.

No wonder people say that a good deed comes around.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

It's a wonderful world


3 Idiots and passion

I screened for the Brothers the movie 3 Idiots tonight. Surprisingly there was a large crowd watching it right till the end. I know not how many of them really understood what it was all about - you see only one (of the 74) of them understands hindi! However, I did put out the summary of the plot earlier and also gave an introduction to the movie.

I asked them to watch and enjoy the passion driven personality of 'Rancho' (Aamir Khan) as he instils accompanies his friends to realise their true vocation. Most of us in life, think we have it all if we have enough bank balance and status in society. Whether our innermost being is truly at rest and are we living the life we are to truly live, is a fact most never even think about. Besides all the insight the movie offers about education and modern youth, this idea of following your passion with determination and joy is something I enjoy most.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Pleeeeese....

Dodging the hectic traffic in and around Vizag today, where I went for purchasing essentials and other petty things, I found ourselves following a water tanker behind which was ... (what you see in the photo). I immediately pulled out my mobile and clicked the photo. Satyam (our driver) was unable to see what is it that I clicked! I told him that it was a wrongly spelt word on the bumper of the water tanker. He asked me I was going to use it to tell the Brothers something about the proper use of language? I replied in the positive and while explaining further, I was struggling for words (in Telugu). At one moment it struck me: if only Satyam was sharp and able, he would have recorded my broken telugu (thank God his mobile does not have that facility) and posted that 'amusing' explanation on his blog (thank God, again, for he does not have one!).

As with regards to the clarity of the photo... well it's a photographic evidence of the pollution in the city of Vizag!

Friday, 9 December 2011

Christmas Message

At Mangalapalem, my message for the kids was the following: Gift someone something non-material, rather than something in cash or as commodity, and that too keep it a secret. I cooked up a story and kept them attentive. They were all ears. Through the story I told them how helping Mummy pack lunch for Daddy could be a gift to both of them. How helping someone without their knowledge brings great thrill - and certainly the pain of foregoing or missing out on something for oneself is totally vanquished.

I too wish to follow the advice I left them with: Gift someone secretly. The Sisters were surprised to see this aspect of my personality. They were all set for a very formal and rigid 'chief guest'.

Kids at Mangalapalem

I'm just back from St Ann's School, Mangalapalem where I was tricked into being the chief guest for their anticipated Christmas celebrations. I was invited only to give a short message but the whole programme was not told to me. Anyway, I'm glad I went. Furthermore, I was lucky not to have classes here in the Seminary this day. After long got to see a children's programme - small kids, I mean. Reminded me very much of Mummy and her tiny trots. The angels were the most fascinating. Here is a photo that I could not resist clicking sitting right infront... This pair was the most active and alive one of the whole batch, on and off the stage!

Wednesday, 7 December 2011

Applying thought to...

For my students of metaphysics I gave them an assignment today. I first asked them to list down the various metaphysical principles that we discussed or came across during the course so far. They now need to pick up just two - any two - of them and apply them to the theme of the debate that we are going to have exactly a week later. The debate is about the lokpal bill and its efficiency in eradicating corruption in India. Having said this, one look at their faces would clearly show that they had no clue as to what I was asking them to do. Given their concept of study and learning, applying learnt ideas to life is something they are totally alien to. Their study begins and ends with and for the exams.

I realise that one of the reasons why philosophy appeals to me is that I'm able to see the indepth connections and linkages between thought and life. To me they are just too evident to be ignored. However, I also realise that not all see this connections. Or rather, let me put it in a better way - not all see the same connections. Some see different links while some don't bother to see at all. My attempt is to help them taste philosophy and see that it is not a waste of time. This is possible only when they see that reflection has a profound impact on life and living.

Intellectual impotence

Did you know the reasons for divorce? Well, I thought that I had them all figured out, more or less, till this evening when I was going through the paper of one of my students. Speaking about the reasons for divorce in Hindu tradition here's what I was 'enlightened' with...
The grounds for divorce among some early Hindu groups were ill-treatment, continual quarrel, importance of husband...
On showing him this flaw, he looked at me with such equanimity that I felt ashamed! He was totally oblivious of what 'importance' meant in this context, and as for 'impotence' it goes without saying he had absolutely no clue as to what I was talking. For such is the intellectual impotence of some great guys!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Kandi harvest

Here's the fruit of our labours ... and my first farming experiment! The partly harvested kandi (Telugu word for dal) crop. Hope to get something for at least a month's consumption. However anything more than a 1kg is a profit given the fact that the seeds cost me Rs 650 in all. No monetary investment at all over that. The only other investment was our own labour of planting and weeding it. God provided for the rest! (In the backdrop is our Seminary Chapel.)

Monday, 5 December 2011

Modern Insights

I found some interestingly new historical events and philosophical insights in the class test papers of Modern Western Philosophy:
Father of Modern Natural Science? Aristotle

Name some eminent literary giants of the Renaissance era: Shakes Spheres, Gold Smith, William Words Worth and William Smith.

During the Renaissance we see raped (I pray he meant 'rapid') growth...

Here are some of the titles suggested for the work of Nicholas Copernicus (the original is On the Revelation of Heavenly Bodies):
The Salvation of heavenly bodies
The revolution of heavenly bodies
The Re-evaluation of heavenly bodies

This is for Teilhard de Chardin: Teilhard said that Christ died for no one. (no wonder why the Church was after him!)
These were the best of the lot...
Of the three major developments during the Renaissance here's the most mind-blowing (originally, the invention of the printing press, the invasion of Constantinople and the Reformation led by Martin Luther):
The invention of the Muslims
The investigations of the Muslims
The Protest March against Muslims (Protestant Movement)
Muslims conquered Noble Constant (Constantinople)
Muslims invented on the Constentnopele

Sunday, 4 December 2011

... say it with hay

Last week I proposed to my community an idea that was implemented while I was at Matunga, for our preparation for Christmas. The idea was given by one of our school boys' parent. The idea is this: For every good deed you consciously and joyfully do, you drop in a straw (just one) at the altar, anytime. At the end of the Advent season, the straw thus collected (a representation of the good deeds done in the Lord's honour) will be used in the crib, in the exact spot where baby Jesus will be placed.
I distinctly remember this idea catching up with the children at Matunga like wild fire. Within a couple of days, another basket was added to collect hay at the altar. Children in their innocence and eagerness would be very sincere and so enthusiastic about doing a good deed - however small or petty it might be.

Just another way of reminding ourselves of the need to prepare - and that too worthily - for the Lord's b'day!

Discerning God's will

The central figure of the Second Sunday of Advent is John the Baptist... a very remarkable character. Straight and clear about who and what he is. No bending backwards. No scheming. Just a clear and single aim: preparing the way for the Lord. Thinking of this, I wonder if life was very boring for him? Just one mission in life, nothing more, nothing else! Far from boring, it must have been very very adventurous. That he had this special commission does not mean, he did nothing else... just that everything he did or said was coloured by this priority of preparing the way for the Lord.

Another important feature that struck me today of this person, John the Baptist, is his recognition of himself. He discerned well what God wanted him to be and do - that he did best. Most of us, try to be Jesus Christ, the Saviour or follow a hero or a model and try to be like him/her, emulate our elder siblings, wish we were more like our favourite teacher or leader. In this whole process, we barely take time to see who and what we are within. Imagine a world in which everyone became Jesus Christ! I believe each one is called to play his or her role. And wisdom consists in discerning what is it that God wants me to be and do.

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Carved forever!

This evening three of us from Kondadaba attended the blessing and inauguration ceremony of the Salesian residence at Peddaboddepalli, Narsipatnam. When I saw the commemorative plaque my hand instinctively went for my mobile camera... here's why! Check out the last thickest line...
Now this is called carving memories (or mistakes) on stone!

Here are the photos of the newly inaugurated building and the blessing...

Friday, 2 December 2011

Living rightly

It isn't living that is important, but living rightly!
That speaks for itself, I guess.

Efficient cause of a book?

Trying to elicit an example for my explanation of Efficient cause and its types (Principal and instrumental), during my metaphysics class, I had to face this:
One of them stated that book is the effect and the book binder is the efficient cause. I asked him if there could be any other efficient cause besides the binder. Very soon one of them replied, "Salesman!" Everyone burst out laughing!

Happy for the crunch

For everyone outside Kondadaba, at least in the Province, being the Administrator here in this house is a really coveted position. Not just because it is not strictly a Salesian house, but somehow the idea that this is a well furnished and financially well off community has been prevailing long since. However, this year the picture is totally different. Of course, none would believe that. But I have accept that being the administrator here has been a real blessing. With such a financial crunch, my basic conviction of religious life is proving true: life with the least amount of money will be more truly religious and the focus will certainly be on aspects that really should be the focus. Furthermore lack of surplus funds - or even adequate funds - brings the community closer to one another and really binds individuals in work.

The response of the community too has been really great. The personal semester evaluation was truly very revealing... not one of them complained about food, not one! This is the first time in my religious life that I do not hear one complaining of food - and that too when I'm the administrator! (I remember the dread that overshadowed the Brothers in Karunapuram when someone stirred a rumour that I would be appointed as the administrator there, soon after my practical training.) The way the Brothers, Fathers and staff have pitched in their efforts and taken this financial crunch is truly very encouraging. I'm sure this would not have been possible if we were to have ready cash at hand!

Thank God for this financial crunch... we are able to work better, pray better and relish every grain of rice that reaches our mouth.
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