Sunday, 29 July 2012

Writing a review

I got the Brothers to write a review of a telugu movie I screened for them on Friday.  Rather than just leave it to their imagination what a 'review' meant, I framed five questions and asked them to answer them. Surprisingly most of them fail to see things as they appear even there (on screen)... leave alone perceive the reality behind the screen-image.  Simple things as the real theme of the movie, most important scene/dialogue, central characters of the movie and their significant dialogues are some of the things I tried to elicit.  Some misfired ... miles away!  Anyway, here's one line (dialogue) written by one of the students which I really cannot but share:
Love does not take ears (years) but it takes birth in friction (fraction) of second!  (The words in brackets are those he intended to mean!)

Friday, 27 July 2012

Corruption close at hand

A few days ago I posted a reflection on how the ones at the door decide who meets the boss inside and at what cost.  What if, the one inside itself decides about the cost?  After making us run about for nearly five months, the Income Tax officer, finally made his request, that too not directly to me but to our auditor:  Rs 5,000/- I thought it would be over with that and I gladly went with that amount covered under a pile of documents he asked for (certainly as an envelope). Imagine my surprise when he lifted the envelope and told me that it was Rs 50,000/- that he asked for and not Rs 5,000/-

In telugu there is a saying which when translated questions thus:  What does one do when the fence erected to protect the crop, starts eating the very crop it is supposed to protect?  Here is an IRS level officer commissioned to curb illegal trade and regulate the justice system and he himself is asking for bribe.  I would have even understood his 'request' if it were to shut an eye about some of the mistakes on our part.  But from our side we have been, and are clean, down to the last bit of facts and figures.  He absolutely had no reason to ask for money (other than proving his character).

At this particular juncture, I'm in a dilemma.  Almost all suggest that we negotiate the price and pay up. What of all my principles and values?  What of all the talks and reflections I share with my students with the hope that they grow up to be citizens and persons of integrity?  Either way, I stand to lose!

Corruption was indeed a very heated topic of discussion... till now.  Now it is personal! 

Nothing but the truth

I watched the movie Nothing but the truth today.  Once in a way, you come across people who stand for principles and pay a heavy price for doing so.  Usually, the former part of the sentence itself is a rare finding!  This movie chronicles the painful struggle of a journalist to stay true to her work ethics.  Having stumbled upon a major story, she investigates it and reveals the truth through her newspaper (Namely, that the President of the US, authorizes a raid against another country, for suspected attempt on his life - in spite of an undercover CIA report scrubbing all links between the assassination attempt and the country in question).

The journalist, Rachel Armstrong (played well by Kate Beckinsale) refuses to reveal her source of information as to who blew the cover of the CIA undercover agent, who happens to be another woman, Erica (Vera Farmiga).  Sticking to her ethics of not revealing the source, she is made to pay the price:  imprisonment, separation from her family, the CIA operative named is killed, her own husband looking the other way, not being even able to see her own beloved son.  In short, her whole life just crumbles!  

It is only at the end of the movie, one comes to know the original source of her story: the small daughter of the CIA operative herself!  It is amazing to see how people are willing to put everything to risk to stand by the truth.  Rachel could very well have revealed the name of the little girl and perhaps nothing much would have happened.  Yet she chooses not to for she had to keep her own word.  

What's engaging of this movie is that everyone in it is right!  There is nobody who is the 'evil guy'.  Each one is doing what he or she is supposed to do!  Patton, (played by Matt Dillon with amazing detachment) the prosecutor is trying to get the culprit who let out the identity of the undercover CIA operative and in doing so risked national security.  The judge acts in the interests of the country and according to the law.  Erica, just wants to know who betrayed her identity.  Rachel too is keen on standing by the truth and not giving into any pressure, personal or public, so as to reveal the identity of her source.  

Long live the truth... and long live those who uphold it... at such great a sacrifice.  

Thursday, 26 July 2012

Healing as only grace

We just had the Marian skit competition this evening after supper.  Surprisingly there were quite a few good creative presentations.  What was more surprising was the way our Brothers viewed 'graces' or blessings.  For them healing of a physical ailment was the most important grace - or even the only possible grace.  Therefore most of the presentation had a scene of healing from a physical sickness.  How I wish we seek, discover, and appreciate the millions of graces we are bestowed with, those over and above our physical well being.  

At Bangalore

This time round, my trip to Bangalore, was quite sober.  Except for catching up with a good friend, there was nothing very exciting or challenging.  Perhaps it was meant to be just that one good at a time!  The seminar on Brotherhood was ... OK. The participants were quite fed up with the already conducted courses and were in no mood for more.  Furthermore, it was such a diverse group that there was hardly anything in common between any two of them.  One did not know English at all, another couple of them were so silent all through that one would have easily misunderstood them as dumb;  another was sarcastic of anything and everything;  another was always under the impression that a couple of the other companions were ought to put him down and hence was always on the offensive;  a couple of the rest were so involved that they only heard what they wanted to hear... and both, heard different things.  Anyway, it is over for now.  

Computerized forgiveness

While in the train all day and night long and taking a walk on the railway platforms whenever possible, the announcements struck me this time round.  Those of us who travel frequently by train would have certainly noticed this often.  Whenever there is the public announcement system and a train is delayed, the computerized voice states thus, after having announced the delayed schedule: "The inconvenience is deeply regretted."  Funny, a computer should say that! 

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Unholy nexus

I was at the doctor's clinic yesterday evening with a confrere waiting for our turn to meet him.  Along came a Medical Representative, all neatly tucked and with a tie and all that.  He had a 'short' entry into the doctor's office, a shortcut gladly facilitated by the receptionist.  Perhaps the only good thing about this interpolation was the duration in which the medical rep finished his interaction with the doctor... he was out in less than 2 minutes.

However, as I sat there I could not but think of the unholy nexus between the facilitators and the middlemen.  It is the receptionists who decide who should meet the person in authority and when ... and of course, at what price!  The one inside - the real boss - may quite well know all this threshold politics yet will not interfere, perhaps because it does make his work easier.  At the end of the day, the receptionist is happy, the doctor is happy, so is the medical rep... the only one sulking is the one who is following the queue system!

What level are we religious working at?  The receptionist who takes a bribe and pushes up the list a new entrant or one who would be just to all those aspiring to meet the doctor or use his/her discretion to 'screen' the entries as per the urgency or... 

Amul Prem

Very lovely tribute to Rajesh Khanna who passed away yesterday...

Monday, 16 July 2012

Called and sent

It is very easy, given our state of life (and formation) to believe that we are doing all great things.  However, the readings of yesterday were a good point of reflection to know that it is He who calls us, and sends us out. We only have to heed His call and put in our best.  Amos who is questioned about his origins makes it clear that he did not come to prophecy of his own accord - he was called and SENT.  Paul to Ephesians elaborates the kind of relationship to which we are called and then sent out - adopted and graciously blessed with an abundance of grace.

The Gospel again witnesses to Jesus' sending out of the disciples.  Quite easy to forget that it is He who sent us.  Or rather, it is convenient to forget His call, His mission and His presence.  

Priestcraft vs Priesthood

Fr Maliekal in his sermon this morning, stressed the need to move from priest craft to Priestly vocation. The former being some pietistic understanding of Priesthood (say like, Priesthood is for celebrating Mass, praying well, 'saving souls', 'preaching the Word of God'...). Most of us have this particular understanding of Priesthood... at least most of the Brothers here.  That Priesthood is much MUCH more than that is something they fail to see... perhaps they do not 'see' it in reality, in the here and now.  

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Love and admiration

Nice quote on the board today...
To love is to admire with the heart and to admire is to love with the mind. 

Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Alcohol and Nerotics?

While on Kailasgiri, here's an information board I couldn't resist taking a picture of...
Don't PULK flowers...
Alcohol & NEROTICS???
CIGRETTE BUTS (and what of 'ifs'?)

To hell!

We spent some quality time together as the staff today.  One stayed back due to ill health and the remaining five of us went up to the Simhachalam temple (it has become more complicated now than when I first visited it about 11 years ago), the Rushikonda beach (just to wet my feet), Kailasgiri (in spite of the dry spell, I should say that the place is kept rather neat and well) and finally to Ross hill (where the MSFS community treated us very kindly and happily).
Fr T.V. Jose (Professor), Fr Balaswamy (Spiritual Director), Fr Maliekal (Rector) and Br Anil (Regent)
We had ample time in the jeep to share and talk all sorts of things - even pull each others legs!  The best joke of the day was one shared by Fr Maliekal.  
A Priest celebrating Mass was offered some money to pray for the repose of the soul of a lady who passed away sometime ago.  Though the Priest prayed during the Mass, he did not make a public announcement of it to the congregation.  The man who offered the Mass was not at all happy. He kept nagging the Priest as to why he did not announce it, to the point where the Priest all desperate reached into his pocket, pulled out the Rs 7/- (that's all was given to him) and handing it back to the man said, "Here, take back your money and let your wife go to hell!"

Selective perception

There is some crazy talk going around in the Province concerning an ailing confrere who is still recuperating. His health issues are talked about more as mockery and entertainment than a serious concern for the person already battling with his own demons.  However what struck me this morning, after the initial phase of anger on coming to know of such ridiculous thrash, was the thought that these confreres knew nothing about the how and why of how this particular confrere became a victim of this illness.  Neither were/are they concerned about wishing his speedy recovery. They just want to wag their tongues for no valid genuine reason - exact offshoots of unemployment!  (Even a dog would not twitch its tail without a genuine reason).  

Monday, 9 July 2012

Milking the community

Yesterday I had a call from one of the confreres who is serving as Principal and administrator in a particular house.  He was narrating how the domestic helpers were trying to bluff him. Here are the instances...
The cow which was regularly yielding about 6 litres of milk suddenly began giving only two litres. When asked how come, this sudden reduction, the reply was: "It looks like the cow has realised we are running short on fodder and today is the last bit of it." 
Even those two litres never made it to the table.  There appeared only one litre!  When asked, the cook replied, "Well, milk evaporates when heated!" 

Sunday, 8 July 2012

Dead Truth

The dead, unlike the living, never lie.  Of course, they do not talk much, but when they do, it is only the truth.  
A quote from the movie, Afghan Luke (Everything is true, except the facts)

Saturday, 7 July 2012

The lost or those about to lose

In the gospel we have the parable of the lost sheep.  The shepherd going after the lost sheep leaving behind the 99.  Well it makes a lot of sense and does convey the concern of the shepherd for all his sheep.  But what guarantee that when he goes out to search for the one lost, the other ninety nine are going to be just there waiting for him to return?  What if another one or a couple more decide to take a walk or explore the surrounding and subsequently get lost?

I'm not one competent to answer all those questions.  However I face a more or less similar dilemma now. I stand to risk losing some if I am to take care of one; but if I turn my back on this particular one, it sure is lost for good.  I therefore, turn to The Shepherd to show me the way and be my strength.  

Friday, 6 July 2012

Shifting base & focus

I shifted to the Administrator's room sometime just before the Brothers arrived after their summer vacation.  Till last year, I was in the Dean's room/office and would be present in the administrator's office only after meals for any financial transactions.  The rest of the time, whenever not involved in class or assisting the Brothers in the study hall or library, I would be in the Dean's office.

For all practical purposes, it seems all fine.  However, I've very well noticed that this shift of location and base had indeed shifted also my focus.  Given the fact that there have been enough and more events that have occupied my mind and space in the past one month, I cannot deny the fact that I'm now more functioning as the administrator than the dean.  Castilino, the administrator is superseding, Castilino the dean!  For some it may not make any sense but for me, I find it odd.  I certainly desist this administration role and would anytime prefer to be with the Brothers for all their activities than be the PR for all and sundry (that's another role I've to play, with my room being the closest to the main gate). 

Wednesday, 4 July 2012


During the final talk in the presence of the doctor, the ailing confrere and myself were treated to a wonderful piece of advice.  The confrere said that he wished none, not even his enemies, would suffer from this ailment (bipolar disorder).  The Doctor immediately disagreed.  He explained thus:
This is just  like any other disease... just like any machine undergoes wear and tear.  This ailment too is one wearing out of the human body.  In fact you should be happy that it is this. For except for a brief moment of spurts of energy, for the rest you are perfectly normal like any one of us. You have no diet restrictions, no precautionary measures by way of food or life style or anything.  You can eat all you want, go places, do all that you wish to do, without any restrictions at all.  All that you need to ensure is that you take your medication regularly.  This is far better than dying a thousand deaths everyday and everytime.  Say for example, a heart attack leaves you vulnerable for life... no strain, strict diet, regular exercise.  The same with all other ailments: diabetes, cancer, tumour...  Furthermore, you should be grateful that God has blessed you with so many concerned people to look after you. That you have an organisation which backs you up and offers you such formidable support.  
Such encouraging and optimistic words were truly very soothing and convincing.  

Confrere returns

After a little more than two weeks of anxious time and scrambling and scratching our brains, we are indeed glad to God for facilitating the recovery (though not complete) of our confrere whom we had to rush to the hospital on Monday two weeks ago.  He joined the community a little after lunch and is well at home already.  Truly we now have the single task of ensuring that he does not trip on his medicines.  I have the medication with me and I need to follow him up on this.  We just cannot afford to take chances with him again!

Prior to accompanying him back home from the hospital I addressed the Brothers last night itself.  I presented a brief history of the confrere and concluded asking them not to judge him only on the basis of his violent outburst on Sunday (two weeks ago). More than a command or a request it was basic information and I'm glad I did it.  Some sensible guys saw the point I was trying to make.  Those frightened, not even God incarnate can save!

Thank God!  

Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Horses' horns

While talking to the young priest who visited the Seminary today, I was reminded of an incident in class concerning this Priest, years ago when he was a student here and I was the Assistant and professor. For something I was giving the example of blinders put on the horses.  Trying to enable the students to understand the word 'blinders', I put my hand beside my eyes and explained to them that it is something the horse have in order to keep their vision straight ahead and not get distracted by all that goes on around it.  Even before the class could hear my last word, this particular Brother blurted out, "Horns!"  The ensuing laughter lasted that whole morning! From then on it was very easy to refer to that Brother, especially given the fact that there were a couple of Brothers with the same name - he was known as 'Kommula Bhaskar' (name changed); meaning, Bhaskar with horns!

Which cycle?

A past pupil of the Seminary visited us today and was sharing about one of his companions during his days at St John's, Ramanthapur.  This particular person, is today a newly ordained Priest and here's what happened while he was giving his liturgy exam. The Professor asked the Brother, "How many cycles do we have?"  The Brother replied, "Our diocese has no cycles!"  The professor was surprise and repeated the question.  The reply was still the same!

The professor was asking about the liturgical cycles and the Brother could remember only the peddling cycles!  

Monday, 2 July 2012

Far from home

The last one week was quite a hard time to pass by for my parents at home.  That was because my brother, sister-in-law and the small brat took off for a week to Mangalore.  Papa is so used to having that small fellow ruin his every work and plan; but not having him around, is worse, says Dad.  Mummy too was eager to hear his voice everyday.  And that agony was intensified because Chris (that's the brat's name) was so busy hunting the house kitten (something we do not have at home in Hyderabad) in Mangalore that he was not keen to even speak to anyone over the phone.

No wonder people say, staying at home does not mean, one is 'at home'!  

Good old days at Yercaud

Call it coincidence or grace, I had the good fortune of meeting one of my seniors from The Retreat, Yercaud.  He was one year senior to me during my two year stay in Yercaud and he belonged to Chennai Province.  Now he is no more a Salesian but has joined another congregation and in preparation for his diaconate.  After lunch we spent some time recalling all those good old things of Yercaud.  The companions, all the staff members, the funny moments, those incidents which none of us will ever forget and of course, where and how life has moved on after Yercaud (in brief).  As we were sharing our joyful memories with another of his companion, he started to share about one particular experience of his with the administrator then.  The moment he started, I started laughing for it was perhaps the biggest joke of that year.

This particular Brother was in-charge of the farm which consisted of a large coffee estate and nearly two dozen cows and one bull. It so happened that during his time, the bull died (or was sick, I'm not sure).  So the Brother approached the administrator with the request to get another bull for crossing and increasing the livestock.  The administrator, who was a big time comedian, answered instantly, "That is why we have put you there!"  When the community heard of this private conversation, we were all laughing away for the rest of the year. 

Sunday, 1 July 2012

People of God and all God's people

Fr Maliekal for quite some years now has been using this phrase:  people of God and all God's people.  I know not if he read it somewhere or if he invented it himself. However, ever since then it has helped me grasp something which has been vital in understanding God, His ways, Human beings and our ways.

'People of God' commonly refers to the chosen race - then the Jews and now the Christians.  Well, this is what 'we' think God decrees - no authoritarian claims for this reading of God's mind.  However the next part of the phrase, 'all God's people' is a more wider and wholistic understanding.  The latter part leaves out no one.  And frankly speaking none, not even the Pope can say it is not so!  For each person is created in the image and likeness of God, whether Christian or not!  Religion does not precede life. 

Context lag

Our new spiritual director, arrived yesterday in the wee hours of the morning.  Having spent the last seven years in Europe and the States, the whole thing of Kondadaba was a bit new to him - though he did spend two years of his early life in this very institution as a student.  Our discussions with him are interesting, especially given the fact that he is noticing things we take for granted.  Coming from a very different set up, certain things are difficult to understand the how and why of.   The culture/context lag will take much longer than the jet lag.

As we entered the seminary, one had to get off the vehicle to open the gate and he innocently asked if it is not on power and the remote. When I told him that it isn't, he suggested that we could go for it.  I could not but laugh.  Who on earth would want an electric, fortified gate and that too of all places on earth, for Kondadaba seminary. Anyway, I politely told him that we barely have power and an electric-powered gate is totally out of the question.

During lunch he was sharing how he felt odd when asked to share his reserved seat with a couple of other people (most of whom did not even have an ordinary ticket!), in spite of him have a certified reserved seat in the train.  For us this is not something new or out of the way, for him it was.  However, he has been very accommodative and has not made any fuss regarding anything so far, though I know that he does feel awkward at times.

Anyway, wish to see more of things that I have taken for granted, from the eyes of someone who sees it differently.  


Last evening I was in a book store purchasing a dozen dictionaries for our first year students.  As I waited for the packing and bill, a young boy walked in and asked for eraz-ex (the whitener solvent).  The man across the counter replied in the negative. He walked out and as he crossed the glass panes I got a better look at the boy.  As my mind started to think, the shop owner asked me, "Do you think he asked for the spirit for its intended purpose?" I understood what he wanted to say.  He continued, "I do have eraz-ex but not for him.  As a matter of policy we do not sell such things when we know for sure that the boy is going to use it as a drug and not for any study or art work.  I said to him that if I were in his place, I too would have done the same.

Perception, decisions, judgements... 
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