Thursday, 31 May 2012

IT woes

My adventures with the Income Tax Officer (ITO) are far from over. I was with him the day before yesterday to submit some documents and request for a date for being present with the auditor.  As he glanced through the papers and accounts he began his round of questions, more or less the same ones that he asked us a month ago.  We are now to appear before him on June 19 ... hopefully for the last time.  I really wish to get this behind me and get on.  It truly has been dragging on for too long a time.... mostly due to our auditor's unavailability on dates already decided upon long ago.  

Pollution tax?

The other day Fr Wilson went to L.Kota with a Brother and on his way stopped to get a pollution certificate for his pulsar bike.  When he realised that the guy there was only giving him a certificate without actually checking the vehicle, he was hesitant.  To his rescue came the computer of the technician which would not print the certificate.  As he rode on, the Brother behind explained the purpose of the fee for the check:
That is payment we make to the government for the pollution we cause! 

Monday, 21 May 2012

Beating around the bush

Our Parish Priest has the amazing ability to prolong for hours any speech or conversation, mind you, any! So the other night when he invited three of us for a farewell dinner, we were pulling his leg about this 'amazing grace'!  Tying to outdo us he said, "Yeah, I know I don't come straight to the topic, I only do some beating around the bush."  However, our Rector immediately responded, "We only struggle to find out which bush!"

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Summer Train Travel adventures

In the last month, practically all the three of us present here in the house, have travelled quite a bit (of course individually and that too in different directions, at different times and in different trains).  That travel itself is an adventure and events during travel never end, is never disputed.  Here are some of the interesting things that we had to share: 

  • The trains are so packed with people, even the reserved compartments (a general observation by all of us).   
  • At night getting into the train which has already travelled some distance is a real walk through the 'minefield'... there are people sleeping in every bit of space available: on the aisle, under the seats, at least two on each berth (which hardly can accommodate one).  
  • If by chance you need to go for your needs during the night you can be sure that on your return you'll find that someone else had usurped your berth!  Waking that fellow up is another adventure!  
  • The Ticket collectors and the squads have a ball of a time these days.  They collect money from every one who enters the reserved compartments and let them continue to stay on, thus lighting the match in an already tensed mood.  Those with reserved tickets claim the seats as their, and so do those who bribed the TTs. 
  • That it is summer is perhaps the best part of the travel.  Add to that the unavailability of running water in the compartment.  Add further to that the rush that ensues at the water taps on platforms once the trains reach a station.  One gets to see people in all sorts of attire - at times with the bare minimal clothing too. During my trip to Coimbatore, I happened to see a Sister travelling in the train.  Every other person in that section (numbering about 20-25, which is actually meant for just 8) was a Muslim in his full attire.  It was quite a scene! (But I should add, the guys never misbehaved or caused confusion).  
  • Unlike earlier times, people have become a little more practical and have realised the futility of carrying heavy pieces of lugguage.  However, squabbles over the placement of lugguage is a recurring event. 
  • The most famous - and infamous - guys are the TTs.  They are eternally swarmed by a big group of people requesting for a seat or berth -- and the rest keep abusing them for taking bribes and making lives miserable during the journey for all, those with reservation and those without!
  • Besides the TTs the only other group of people who really are thrilled about this combo of holiday season and summer are the vendors.  The train may be packed and there may not be an inch to place one's foot, but that does not deter the cool drink walla or the chanawala from making his way from one end of the train to the other - making  a good collection.  
  • As for the pic above, it is just something that one hardly get to see this time of the year - a vacant section!
Well this is only the train part of the story, the railway station and platforms and shops therein are worth another epic!

Taking a distance

Yesterday  I read the necrology of Fr Benedict Vadachary sdb, who was my school Principal when I was in Don Bosco, Sanathnagar doing my elementary studies.  I really do not have very clear memories of him because, it was Fr Lens who was the most attractive and charming. So as small boys, the one who really  mattered was Fr Lens! However, reading the necrology I was a bit disappointed.  It looked very shabbily done.  Not the material quality but the content part of it.  There is hardly anything substantial about his life.  His last few days are mentioned in some detail.  From my reading of the text, I gather it is written by someone who was very close to him and had not taken a distance from Fr Benedict's immediate and delicate situation of his ill health and thereby the 'gloomy' picture painted.

From what I gather, I remember Fr Benedict to be a burly man with wide shoulders, broad chest and a tall personality.  He was truly dark in complexion and the fact that Fr Lens (being one from Europe) was the other Priest with him, made the contrast too clear.  Most often he appeared quite serious but was fond of meeting the boys.  No wonder he spent most of his life as teacher or headmaster.  If I am not mistaken he was one one who appointed the first batch of teachers for the school, some of whom are still faithfully working in the school.

Well, since I owe so much to Don Bosco School, Sanathnagar, I surely am grateful to Fr Benedict for all that he did.  May God rest his soul.  

Friday, 18 May 2012

Cinematic craze

It's been more than two weeks since the latest movie of NTR Jr was released.  However, the admiration and awe for him has always been ... in our kitchen. Of the four working in the kitchen, two of them are die hard fans of the grandson of the great NTR.  Even this evening as they left for their respective homes after the day's work, one of them was informing me that she would be viewing the movie again in a day or two, this time along with her whole family.  When asked she had no particular reason for such great admiration for him.  She even narrated an event, a couple of years ago, when she 'rebelled' against one of the staff here, just to go and have a glimpse of him when he was passing Kothavalasa town.  (They truly have a great respect and would never ever dare question or talk back to any of us on the staff... in such a context, to even challenge a Priest, is quite a daring act).

Of course, the height of such passionate mass following of movie stars is now history... thanks to many reasons.  But the craze that people have towards those whom they watch on screen is something too incomprehensible for me - not the liking part, but the 'fidelity' or 'prioritization' of him/her over everything and everybody. 

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

The Terminal

While at Gunadala with the pre-novices for the past two days, I screened the movie, The Terminal, for them. I took it with me from here for I thought it was good for them.  However, it fit in well with what I ended the session on the first day of my seminary on Communication and Media... namely, Communication is an of the whole person and not just his or her words or actions.  Your whole being communicates.

The movie is about Victor Navroski, a man from Krakosia who gets stranded at the JFK airport in the US due to some political issues back in his own country.  Unable to go back home nor permitted to enter New York, the situation is compounded by his inability to speak and understand English.  Add to that a 'law-abiding' airport authority who just wants to get rid of this 'unacceptable' Navroski.  Forced to live in the airport, Victor begins to not just live his life but also affect the lives of those working at the airport.  He makes friends with the cleaners, the attenders, the security guards, the shop keepers, and discovers love in the person of an air hostess.  He helps a distraught son get medicine for his father cleverly through the customs, facilitates the love and marriage of two of his friends, finds a job and furnishes quite well his 'living place' at Gate 67...

All along he has a personal mission/errand to run.  Towards the end, when he does get an opportunity to finish what he came to New York for, he is blackmailed to get back to his country, in return for the safety of his new found friends.  Victor does not hesitate a moment. He decides to go back home without finishing what he came to the US for.  Once his friends realise what he did for them, they step in and make his dream come true.

Drawing lessons from the movie, in the context of the seminar, I told the pre-novices, that it is the person of the communicator that matters the most.  The channels, gadgets, education, location... may at the most assist.  But what genuinely counts in the long run, is the person of the communicator.   

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Amazing ability

In the introduction to Jesus' Plan for a New World, Richard Rohr explains the inability of the apostles to understand Jesus' language when the latter speaks to them about the leaven of the Pharisees (Mark 8: 14-16).  He then uses a statement, reading which I could not stop laughing.
Aware of their amazing ability to miss the point... (emphasis added)
I can very well connect with Jesus' irritation and impatience... it happens quite often with me while taking class for the Brothers.  That quizzical look on the apostles faces would not have been very different from the one that my Brothers have at times. 

Believing and knowing

Here are the opening lines of the book Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount by Richard Rohr...
We know everything todayAnd believe almost nothing.
It is not reason that drives our lives, But passion or the search for it. It is not words and concepts, But living images that grab our souls. It is not what we know that haunts us at the end, But what we did not know and don't know yet. 
We much make friends with the unknowing, What you know is just ten thousand different things. 
But what you believeIs what you pay attention to, What you care about, What finally lives and matters in you. 
What you believe is not one of ten thousand things, It is that which sees ten thousand things. 
It is not what you know that matters, Or changes anything: It is what you believe - 
And believe all the way through. 

Worth of a person, worth of a word...

For more than a week I've been trying to get a few of the works of the house done with some skilled workers.  However, the task is more strenuous than I thought it would be.  It is not the work itself, but the fact of getting them to work that is really a headache.  What irritates me most is that they have absolutely no regard for their word. They confidently tell me that they'd arrive on Monday morning.  Come Monday, there'd be no sign of them... no call either.  When I call they'd say they're starting or that the driver of the tempo has not yet arrived, or that they're still loading the stones,... The same story the next day.  It is almost the same story, (only the excuses are different), with the stone cutters, masons, electricians!  I wonder how they manage to get work if they never keep their word or time.  Least of all, at least the courtesy to inform, if any delay or inability to keep up their promises.  

Distracted at Mass... who?

For the past few days the two of us here in the Seminary, due to the absence of any Priests here, have been attending Mass in the Parish Church. Not that there is a big attendance there everyday.  All together we are just less than a dozen (including the Priest himself)!  One of the regular participants is a small boy. He would be about 9 or 10.  Added to that he is not really normal.  But that said, he is very very lively.  His eyes are so bright and one can evidently read his heart and mind from his mere looks.  He usually sits right before the altar on the men's side.  But those whom he comes with are all girls and they are on the other side of the aisle.  Thus invariably his attention is divided between the altar and the other side.

Today there was a group which joined the Mass - a new group of families. I've never seen them here before... must have come for a pilgrimage.  Among them were two blind men, being led about by two teenagers.  This particular boy whom I mentioned earlier, today had more to watch than the Mass.  Most of the time he was watching all around the congregation with a gaping mouth and being seated right before the altar, one could not but avoid looking at him.  Looking at him, his expressions and his dancing eyes, I could clearly 'see' what was going on behind me.

When I started to write these few lines I wanted to write how distracted the boy was, because there was something more interesting than the Mass going on.  That what was going on at the altar, he 'knew'. What was happening around, was something new, interesting and different.  But now as I conclude, I realise, how distracted I was... instead of concentrating on the Mass, I was gladly 'distracted' by the boy!

Saturday, 5 May 2012

An owl a day...

Yesterday afternoon I found an owlet near the administrator's office.  It was unable to stand or fly and presuming that it was ill or dying and that the afternoon heat was bad for it, I took it into the office and trying to help it.  I gave it some water and put it in a cool dark place in the room.  Then I tried to see if there is some help tips on the net.  It was then that I came to know that owls do not drink water.  The water content needed for their body comes from the blood of the rodents and other small creatures they eat.  Furthermore, if the owlet is sick and the parents sense that it would not survive long, they stop feeding it and it is abandoned... I prayed that this small one wasn't!

I wasn't very sure it would survive very long because there was hardly anything I could do for it.  Late in the evening, I decided that it would be best to put it back in its own nest (a long tunnel in the building crack), just in case it had earlier fallen off it by mistake.  Sometime later, I heard the parents hoot and late at night, just before going to bed I checked to see if the owlet was still in the same place where I'd put it.  It was not there.  I prefer to believe that the parents had taken it in and is now in good hands.  

Thursday, 3 May 2012

You be Jesus

Here's something that I read today and couldn't stop laughing since...

A mother was preparing pancakes for her sons, Kevin 5, and Ryan 3. The boys began to argue over who would get the first pancake. Their mother saw the opportunity for a moral lesson. 'If Jesus were sitting here, He would say, 'Let my brother have the first pancake, I can wait.' Kevin turned to his younger brother and said, 'Ryan, you be Jesus !' 

Imprisonment by agreement

One of my Province confreres today expressed how lucky I am, being a Brother, at not being able to hear the confessions of Sisters.  While sharing his experiences in the confessional he stated that very many of the Sisters experience real hell here on earth in their convents... and yet he said, 'I don't understand why they opt for this "imprisonment by agreement"! 

I guess that is an option we all make for our own reasons. Furthermore, why we stay on too has numerous reasons.  It all depends on how each one perceives it and is willing to live it to the best.  

Inwardly obsessed Church

I came across an article which listed 10 warnings of an inwardly focused Church. One of them was 'greater concern for change than Gospel'.  Now that was something I was not sure about... till I read what the author meant.
Almost any noticeable changes in the church evoke the ire of many; but those same passions are not evident about participating in the work of the gospel to change lives.
The rest of the warning signs were quite evident and some are as follows: programme driven, focussed on entitlement, budget and expenses not beyond oneself, discord within and prolonged meetings! As for that  last item on the list, I wouldn't like to differ a bit! 

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

It's been a hard day's ... work

It truly has been a hard day's work today.  It took practically the whole day today to break the cement flooring of the Reading Room (that would be the size of a volleyball court)!  And then I also cleaned up both my offices: that of the dean and administrator.  It was good being on my foot the whole day long, with all the Seminary staff and the outside workers too.  Perhaps that was the only reason we finished what we aimed for today.

All along, the guilt of having to break such a strong flooring in order to put some fancy stones was bearing heavy on me.  This will certainly be my only regret of the year... truly an unnecessary expenditure. 

A catacomb experience

For once I had a personal experience of participating in a Mass as though I were an early Christian and we were having the liturgy in the catacombs, in hiding from the Romans.  Well my reasons were totally different from that of the early Christians, but the experience was none the less same.  I know not but how 'free' that celebration of the Mass was.  There was always the fear of being discovered by the persecutors and therefore so many things to bear in mind all along.  Yet, that was the real cradle of Christianity.  Faith grew from these catacomb-meetings.

Another aspect I found reflecting as I participated in Mass was the grace of forgiveness.  I thought I was more cruel than God Himself.  While He surely would have forgiven and moved on, I still found it hard to forgive and reconcile myself to the fact that 'this' still is the reality.  
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