Wednesday, 31 October 2012

Building Bridges

Bridge-builders, including Jesus, usually start building a bridege from one side.  You can't build a bridge from the middle as even an engineer will tell you.  You must choose a starting point. What the Gospel is saying, pure and simple, is that wherever you're going to start building  your bride, you better start from the side of powerlessness, not power.  Because if you start on the side of power you'll stay there forever. You really won't build any bridges.  
[An extract from Jesus' Plan for a New World, p. 68].

That's quite a revelatory and challenging thought for ministers of today.  Very true given the fact that there are no neutral positions when it comes to discipleship and commitment. 

Sunday, 28 October 2012

Journey back home

I'm just back in my room after a 30 hour train journey.  Travelling back from Mumbai to Vizag by Konark Express was a humbling experience.  My ticket was still in waiting list and by the time I reached the station and the chart was prepared it had only managed to crawl upto WL 8. Well, I had reached the station prepared: water bottles, newspaper and of course some study of the reservation chart stuck at the train entrances. Till Pune there was hardly anyone in my compartment.  At Pune it got filled in to its capacity. The ticket collector would not even look at my ticket to let me know what the present status was, once told that it 'was' wait listed!

Anyway once people had gone off to sleep, I calmly pulled out the newspaper, spread them out and went off to sleep on the floor. I had a very good sleep, except for an occasion, kick or stamp from some. I woke up at 6.30 fresh and good!   Sometime just before lunch, a kind gentleman offered me his side upper berth to rest.  He was watching me all along and somehow seemed convinced that I was an honest chap. (Praise God!).

I had certainly counted on the generosity of my co-passengers even before I had boarded the train.  Fr Elson had offered help to try and get my ticket confirmed.  But somehow I did not want to cut the line - precisely because, I was fine, I had no lugguage and I was in no hurry. I somehow had the feeling that someone more in a desperate need would need this 'jump' up the waiting list... I hope they did.

My copassengers were very polite and accommodative.  They never grumbled nor squabbled but very generously shared the available space.  Though the train was fully packed I never heard anyone fight or agrue over their place. Something really humbling and consoling, given that I was trespassing their (rightful owners) grounds. Anyway, thanks to God and to all! 

Friday, 26 October 2012

Grace and prayer

One thing of grace and prayer was evident today - not that I did not know it earlier, it only became more clearer!  With grace we believe all things are possible and that prayer can bring about anything, anything at all.  Well, certainly no!  Grace only adds on what you already have.  Grace does not go against nature but builds on it.  It helps the person make the most of our nature. It is just like manuring a coconut tree and expecting it to yield jackfruit!  A well manured coconut tree will yield good fruit, yes but coconuts and not any other fruit.  It will make the tree strong, sturdy and produce better yield but certainly not make it into baniyan tree!

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Animated prayer

For the past three days, the animator has been guiding our meditation and also conducting a prayer session or two, during the day too. Not used to being "lectured" all through the prayer or meditation, most of us participants found the animators instructions or guidance more of a nuisance that a help.  Of course, given our nature, and style of prayer, it would have been our drawback as well.  Poor man, he was only trying to offer some alternative for which we were really not prepared and willing.

However, personally speaking, I'd prefer a brief note of observation and just a couple of instructions prior to prayer rather than a steady flow of discourse. 

Writing exercises...

As part of the programme we were attending, the animator would ask us to write short reviews of the topic under discussion.  Most often it would be about prayer or aspects related to our unconscious self.  Added to that he would expect us to follow the format he had earlier prescribed (replete with single and double underlines).  Most of the time, I would be writing something that caught my attention rather than the expected review.  It was at these times that I would remember my own Brothers who would at times do the same, namely write something that is totally unconnected and unrelated to the asked questions or topic discussed.  That is primarily because they neither understood the question nor the theme, leave alone the professor. In my case, this time round, it was the same!

Wednesday, 24 October 2012

Handling feelings

Towards the end of the morning session, Ramesh asked an interesting question to the animator.  The theme was negative feelings like anger, revenge, hatred, sadness... He asked, "Do these issues which seem to plague us religious, also trouble the lay people?" He had a point in asking this question, namely that the lay people do not seem to be very much troubled by these aspects; whereas for us religious these really make or break our lives!

Reflecting on that question I would say that the issues we face are all the same - religious or not - for after all, we are human beings.  However, why is it a married couple somehow has the grace to live their  trouble marital life in a rather decent manner, while we make such a mess for everyone - including ourselves - in religious life?  Perhaps because we have the best of everything and hence the inability to see God's hand in what we go through.  Lay people are willing to see that because they believe and trust in God more than we do!  

Negative Feelings or helpful feelings?

During the morning session, among the many things the animator of our course spoke, something that caught my attention was this:  We always wish to get rid of all our negative feelings, those things that indicate the deeper pain and hurt.  And the best part is that these negative aspects of our emotions shield us from real danger.  Aspects like anger, fear, sadness, pain ... are all aspects which are there to 'protect the psyche'.

The animator was saying that this is the curse of our 'drug culture', wherein we would like to do away with anything painful or hurting.  We really do not bother to go to the deeper issues which cause these feelings.  We are quite happy to clean up these feelings rather than address the causes that give rise to these feelings.  Worse is when we rationalise or spiritualize these aspects and shove them off the radar (or so we think!).  

Recalling 2003

Last night, the 16 of us Salesian Brothers from the three provinces of Mumbai, Panjim and Hyderabad attending the animation programme at the Provincial house, Matunga, invited ourselves to the school community for supper.  I was indeed glad to meet some of the non-teaching staff of the school - the same who were there when I was part of that community in 2003.  I did remember their names and they too remembered me by my name!  The supper, of course, was in typical Matunga style!

There was also the annual past pupils garba dance going on in the square below.  I watched it for some time and then came back.  Of course, it was all colourful and packed!  These photos were clicked before I began supper - there was still some ground that could be seen.  After supper there was hardly any place for dance!

At Don Bosco, Matunga

Here's the view of the Shrine building and the cupola - the one over the sanctuary and the one over the entrance too - of the Shrine at Matunga (Mumbai) from my room's window.

No escape!

The batch of Sisters who attended the course with our animator, prior to this present course with us, would have landed straight from the moon.  For every half an hour our animator quotes them and all the good that happened with them.  At times, it sounds so silly and mediocre that it puts me off from hearing what he is saying next.

Added to that he repeats his ideas so many times that even if I were to miss it at first or the tenth time, I'm sure he'll get me at least on the 60th time!  

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Doing things better

Today's morning session was on helping us identify fears that cripple us, incessantly and of course, adversely.  I could identify none.  Luckily the animator let a few, like me, to take off for the session.  As the programme progresses, I realise this sort of stuff is not easy and the neither are we Salesians (without due information and personal preparation) ready for it.  Added to that the odd ways of the animator too is making things worse. Given the nature of our fellows, I will not be surprised if he gets disheartened or too angry in the next couple of days.  (He already blew his steam a couple of times already;  but that is turning the whole thing into a comedy).

I wish to do things in a better way, but as of now (exactly now) I'm doing better things (outside the hall)!

Monday, 22 October 2012

Identifying feelings

We began the five-day animation programme for the Brothers of the three provinces of Mumbai, Panjim and Hyderabad today at Matunga.  The first day was very packed... more intense than the retreat I attended last week.  Anyway, let me see what I can draw out of it. While I'm here I also need to sort out the issues regarding the next Brothers' Congress and related stuff which I've been asked to oversee.

Today's sessions were basically a call to focus on our feelings, and not hide or take shelter in our ideas and thoughts.  Using the Esop's fable of the fox and the grapes, the animator was trying to help us delve into our inner beings, to spell our feelings rather than quote our theories and thoughts. As part of it, we were asked to trace the source(s) of any one of our physical illnesses.  I really was struggling!

One thing is sure, I'm no 'feeling-person'; I certainly do feel safe in the world of thoughts and ideas!  

Small frying pan

Two fishermen, one experienced and another inexperienced, went for fishing one day.  Whenever the former caught a big fish, he would immediately stash it up in his cool box to keep it fresh. But whenever the inexperienced one caught a big one, he'd throw it back in the river.  This went on practically the whole day and when the experienced fisherman could stand it no longer, he asked the other the reason for his throwing away the big fish.  The inexperienced replied, "I only have a small frying pan."

The man did not have the sense to either cut the big fish or get a bigger frying pan.  In our lives too we often shrink the world to fit our petty ideas without even attempting to see the bigger picture. 

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Bread & fish vs Bread & wine

One interesting fact pointed out by the author, Richard Rohr in his book Jesus' Plan for a New World, is the overshadowing of the 'bread and fish' tradition by the 'bread and wine' tradition.

According to Rohr, the bread and fish meal stood for surplus (everytime Jesus multiplied bread and fish or there was fish involved, there always was a surplus of it, even after a mass consumption).  Secondly such meals involved the poor and hungry, not those already fulfilled, those who really came for Him and did not think of food and drink and all that - for such as these, He multiplied bread and fish. Thirdly, this meal was always an open meal - out in the open, under the blue sky, in the open fields, along the sea shore (I don't remember all the Biblical references, but I know there are).  Everyone was welcome - everyone!  Not just a select few or privileged ones.  Given these factors, I wonder how this was superseded by the one-time 'bread and wine' meal.  Of course, the bread and wine meal has a personal touch - Jesus says it is HIS body and blood that He is sharing.  Perhaps a combination of all these positive aspects would help us get a better picture of the 'Eucharist'.

And here's what Rohr has to say about the two meals:
The bread and wine tradition lent itself more to cult and ritualization. The bread and fish tradition, if retained, might have contributed to issues of justice, community and social reordering.  
Well, he has a point there. 

Three temptations

Again another insight from the book Jesus' Plan for a New World, especially in the light of what is happening back in my own community (with respect to my own role - or absence of it) and my own reflection on the Preventive System of Don Bosco, which was the theme of the retreat I attended last week...
These three demons are in all of our lives: the need to be effective, the need to be right and the need to be powerful or in control.  Until those demons have been faced and exorcised you will very likely not preach the Gospel; you will preach your own self.  (118)

Christ the Prophet

For the first time yesterday during my journey from Hyderabad to Mumbai, I was reading a book in the train.  Earlier times, I always used to doze off, as soon as the train rolled out of the station.  This time round, I guess, I had sufficient and enough rest in the retreat time and I was quite fresh.  Moreover, I had slept well the previous night - something I wouldn't when I knew a journey was to follow.

While in the train I was reading the book Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount by Richard Rohr.  The early part of the book already gives a clear picture of the author's mind.  The latter half of the book is mostly an exegesis of the Gospel of Mathew.  However, there are quite some insights offered all along.  Among the many that I came across, I found the following quite true.  The author in several ways challenges us to get back to the original Jesus, the pre-Church Jesus, the one who dared and most often went against the established system for the sake of truth and love.  This one is about how we have lost that aspect in the modern days.  Recalling our attention to the triple dimension of Christ (as King, Priest and Prophet), the author has this revealing point to make:
I always wondered why we had feast days and institutions named in honour of Christ the King, many statues and crosses of Christ the Priest, but I have never in all the Catholic world met a celebration or picture in honour of Christ the Prophet.  Something's out of balance. (129). 
I did something to see how true it is (not that it needed confirmation, but for information!): I googled (images) 'Christ the Prophet'.  Surprisingly there was anything hardly fitting the description. As in reality, difficult to even visualize something so earthly and basic.   

No chairs

Being Mission Sunday, the Gospel of the day was about James and John asking Jesus for special privileged places in 'His' Kingdom.  I had the joy of attending Mass in the Shrine of Madonna, Matunga - a place where I spent one beautiful year (about 8 years ago).  Coming back to the Shrine and attending Mass brought back to my mind those lovely memories and some of those incidents.  The one that came most vividly to my mind was that of Fr Ronnie, my Rector who passed away just a few weeks ago. God rest his soul.

Anyway, speaking about the apostles asking for special places in the kingdom, Jesus answers, "Surely. Why not? You certainly can be on my right and my left." And after a short pause adds, "However, one small thing I need to add. There are no chairs up there!"  

Friday, 19 October 2012

For a reason

Click here to view the original file
Everything happens for a reason, eh? Read on! 

Sachin's greatness

For quite some time now Sachin Tendulkar (a name that needs no introduction, or a web link), has been in the news for different and varied reasons.  There were some rumour mills doing the round about his retirement (some for it and some, obviously against).  Now there is the whole talk about him being awarded the Order of Australia. Amidst all these, whatever be the case, I do appreciate the equanimity of this person, the phenomenon called 'Tendulkar'.

He has, as always, retained his composure, his focus and his values.  Being a celebrity he certainly does not act like one (at least like the most we know).  Very many people blame him for overshadowing the game of cricket. Well is it his fault that he plays well and that too selflessly for so many years?  One certainly cannot hold that against him.

Everyone, especially those in the limelight, be it in politics or movies or sports, can take a cue from this simple Indian who keeps his head and heart in the right place.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Parish or a Prison?

In Jesus' time there were no parishes, just private homes (and of course, the synagogues). And these homes defined the social order of the day geographically (as is prevalent even today in most parts of the world). Jesus to convey his message had no boundaries and so any home with the possibility of sowing the seeds of the Kingdom was fine with him.  But this did not go well with those in authority and perhaps everyone. He went in and out of houses, for various reasons, houses belonging to the apostles (simple fisher folk), the tax collectors ('traitors'), Pharisees (religious leaders), friends (Lazarus), Chief Priests ...

However, once the Church was established and the Parish structure stabilised, Jesus has been held captive! Neither is he permitted to visit 'other' houses (and I certainly do not mean other parishes, but any house where his presence could make a difference) nor do we move out ourselves.  This could very well be applied to every Christian institution.  The very structure we built to widen our reach has become our prison.  

Don Bosco also wrote!

Of the talks presented today, a point that struck me was something that the preacher stated in passing:  that Don Bosco authored 26 books by the year 1855.  Well, I'm sure they are not some researched thesis that he wrote but could very well contain some booklets.  What caught my attention was that Don Bosco had time - and energy - or rather, made time and spared energy, in spite of and through his heavy and demanding responsibilities, to write and publish books.  Certainly there was no advanced technology or gadgetry or even spare personnel to assist him in this endeavour, so I guess, he had to write, get it corrected, edited and also published all by himself.  All this while he is also running around the street kids of Turin, starting and stabilising the oratory of Valdocco, battling eclesial and civil opponents, seeing to the administration of the trades and daily running of the oratory ... (add to that a million more things!).

And we claim we are too busy to read and write!

Salesian stone age!

For the past few days, since the retreat began, we have had a steady and heavy doze of Salesian stuff basically through the retreat talks (two per day), besides the constant reference to it during the meditation, sermons and goodnights.  Frankly speaking there was anything really new or fresh insight shared besides the ones already present in the books of Teresio Bosco and Peter Stella or even Braido (I wouldn't know if there were some things shared from Arthur Lenti's voluminous works, for I haven't ready any of them myself).

However, I was surprised to hear some of the observations and comments made by some senior Salesians when presented with some de-mystifying facts of Don Bosco and the Salesian charism, which have been in discussion or at least on paper for quite some time now.  Seems to me, they are hearing it for the first time now - and hence, the 'reaction', if one may call it so. No wonder, there is a constant call from those sensible to read and update, at least of our own charism!  

Prayer as life

The morning's meditation talk was centred on prayer.  Fr Maria Charles did try to tread the thin line of hallucination and devotion and try to make prayer as something that helps us come and accept reality rather than treat prayer as a ticket to another utopian world.  Listening to him and his examples from the life of Don Bosco, I was thinking to myself, prayer often is something so compartmentalised in my life. It is something that is normally restricted to the chapel or in times of need.  I do believe that prayer affects life, but does prayer become life itself?  Perhaps that is what differentiates us from stalwarts like Don Bosco.  If only I can pray all the time and I certainly don't mean sitting in the chapel with my eyes closed and hands joined.  If only I can commune with God always rather than make Him an occasional visitor in my busy schedule.  

Sign of things to come?

Last night Fr Jayapaul and myself were watching Br Dennis drag himself with his walker along the corridors of the Provincial house doing his night walk after night prayers.  Every now and then he would pause to catch his breath and to give some rest to his aching legs.  Watching him from the third floor, Fr Jayapaul was a bit angry saying, "As it is he is struggling with every possible disease and added to that his delicate legs. Why then does he have to eat all that he comes across on the table and then do all this exercise?"

Well, I just smiled.  Later as I reached my room I was wondering what state we would be in when we'd reach his age (of 73).  

Wednesday, 17 October 2012

Johnny Bosco, a street urchin?

What was the possibility of little Johnny Bosco turning into a street urchin of his times?  (I'm sure there were plenty of them all over the place in the cities running around and getting into all sorts of mischief.) Well, the possibility?  Certainly great.  Just a cursory glance at his difficult early childhood reveals enough and more reasons why Johnny could have ended up on the streets: father dies when Johnny is just two, the step brother is always breathing heavy on him, the dire poverty of his family, just a ramshackle for a house, no one to support the family,  discouragement and despair at all fronts...

Yet, in spite of all these negative circumstances, little Bosco turns out to be the beacon of hope and transformation for the very group he would have easily ended up being a member of.  How did this little life take that U-turn?  Certainly one cannot deny the role of his mother, Mamma Margaret and her disciplinary upbringing. Add to that the inspirational guidance of Fr Colosso.  Top it all, with the resolve of this young lad to make something of his life and his openness to the Divine... his willingness to be led by Jesus and Mother Mary.

I'm sure the Divine is enlightening each one of us too every moment of our life.  Wish I was more open to this Divine illumination.

Farms hands vs gadgets!

Here at the Provincial house, Hyderabad the confreres have installed a biometric unit for the staff of the house to register their time of arrival and departure from the house for their daily work.  Every morning and evening, invariably there is always a sort of anxiety among the staff as I have seen it in the past three days.  For the office staff there isn't much of a problem. The put in their finger exactly and the machine instantly recognises the print.  It is the farm hands who really have to slog it out with the machine.  A couple of them still seem new to using it and secondly, but most importantly, their hands are so callous that the machine seems not to identify the person!

So much for machines making life easier for us! 

Tuesday, 16 October 2012


Today is the second day of the retreat.  Yesterday itself was quite a drag and hence right after the first talk in the morning, I switched the preacher!  I had brought with me the book Jesus' Plan for a New World (by Richard Rohr) and given the situation that the preacher of the retreat was merely reading full time some theological and Salesian facts, I fell back to the book for inspiration and reflection.  Nothing against the person of the preacher and I know that he is a very capable man wanted all over the region for his expertise, however, I feel this talks very dry and drab.

As if that was not enough, the Rector of the retreat, soon after the goodnight tonight asked me to say a few words of thanks to the Preacher and the Provincial house community at the end of the retreat!  I was praying that no one asks me to do that for then I'd be forced to lie about the preacher in public (at least say what I am not convinced of).  Anyway, I ultimately accepted when after much persuasion, the Rector told me this:
There is still time, perhaps there may be something good waiting along the way for you!  
Well, I certainly would like to leave that possibility very much open!

Jesus' freedom

Having read the passage from the book of Richard Rohr, I spent my adoration time this evening trying to figure out what was the freedom Jesus' enjoyed during this lifetime here on earth.  He constantly referred to God as the one whose commands and wishes he was fulfilling.  He never once claimed to be doing things on his own accord, much less in conflict with the Father.  Was he then a mere puppet in the hands of the Father?

Certainly not!  He would have been a puppet if he did everything he did merely because the Father wanted it.  He truly and fully exercised his freedom in choosing to do the will of the Father. For him that was the best way he could utilise and live his freedom.  He choose to do what his father wanted him to do.  And that made all the difference.

Apparently seems paradoxical, that surrender should be the greatest means of living out one's freedom but sitting before the Blessed Sacrament, I couldn't but believe it.

Need working space and liberties?

Whenever we embark on a new initiative we always make sure that it will not die an instant death.  We would ensure that there are sufficient resources, facilities, personnel and whatever it takes to makes sure that we do not fail.  Add to that the fact that we would like to do things our way.  We expect the superiors to be kind to us (since we are on a pioneering mission), understand us and have an extra soft corner for us.

Contrast this with the working style of Jesus:
Our notion of freedom as options and movement is a pleasant luxury, but not what Jesus is seeking when he goes into the desert, when he seems to limit himself in terms of family, marriage and a place to “lay his head”, when he even accepts the limitations of a short ministry among uneducated people at a low period of religion in a country occupied by a foreign oppressor! That is not much freedom by our definition, but more than enough for him to say “the kingdom of God is among you” (Luke 17: 21). 
[Richard Rohr Jesus' Plan for a New World: The Sermon on the Mount (Mumbai: St Pauls, 2009) 28.]

The same God?

For the goodnight thought, Fr Selvaraj was sharing his vocation story. Emphasising the fact that he was the only son in the family, he remembered the pressure upon him from his near and dear ones of joining the diocesan seminary instead of a religious congregation so that in the future he could support his parents in their old age.  He mentioned a relative Priest who tried in vain to dissuade him from joining the religious order and then took up the matter with Selvaraj's father. After a long presentation of pros and cons (evidently pros of diocesan life and cons of religious life), Fr Selvaraj's father asked the Priest one simple question:
Will it be the same God who is now, later too?  
The Priest had no reply to this question.

Monday, 15 October 2012

Who is in charge?

During his homily this evening, Thathi said something insightful. I'm sure he was hinting at something very practical and concrete rather than saying something for the sake of saying.  Talking of youth ministry and Don Bosco's style he highlighted two points.  First of all, he said that Don Bosco took the first step towards the boys. He did not sit and wait for the boys to approach him or come to the place where he was.  He reached out to them in their own situations.  He encountered the boys in their contexts and this encounter was so meaningful that they would then flock to him.  However, the fact to be noted: he initiated every encounter.

The second aspect was something that caught my attention. Thathi said, once boys were with him, he trusted them and entrusted them responsibilities.  Know not if Don Bosco had a sort of fear if the boys would live up to the demands he was placing on them, but he certainly did share and entrust all that he started to them.

That got me thinking: Are we training our young people to take charge or do we act and behave in such a way that we remain 'in charge' always? If so, then boys will always be boys. No leadership or transformation is possible because we will always treat them as kids and look at ourselves as the sole visionaries and custodians of their well being.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Teresa vs Teresa

Our neighbouring parish is celebrating its feast today. St Teresa of Child Jesus is the patroness of the Parish (the actual feast was on October 2). Talking about the Saint, Fr Maliekal recounted an interesting conversation he had a couple of years ago with the vocation promoter of the Carmelite Sisters, to whose order St Teresa belonged.  The Sister seems to have said, speaking about the vocation coming in and going out...
The little Teresa with all her innocence and simplicity brings the girls in and the big Teresa (referring to St Teresa of Avila) with her interior castle and all that stuff frightens the girls out of the convent!  
That was really interesting. However the Sister had a point:  young people are easily attracted to simple, direct and short things of life.  But when things become complicated or involves complex reflection and scaling the heights of meditation, quite a few back off.

Well, there's no denying nor affirming this fact... just a matter of life! 

Saturday, 13 October 2012

Double Masks?

A couple of days ago I met the students to ease out some tensions in the community.  One of the Brothers, quite worked up already by the discussion in progress, very seriously stated that 'double masks should be avoided'.  Well, now that I more or less know what they mean and what they talk, I was able to understand what he was telling.  He wanted to make a point that, in the community no one should wear masks or be double faced.  In his eagerness to express, he merged the two forms (double faced and wearing masks) to say, "Double masks."

Anyway, point taken!

Knowing or not knowing...?

During the birth of Jesus, there were the shepherds who did not know what was happening around them.  They had no clue of what it was all about. Yet they were curious and their curiosity led them to the manger.

The three wise kings, on the other hand, knew of things to come and were eagerly looking forward to know it.  They knew well that they did not know enough.  So when they got the hint or the clue, they were more than eager to know it fully well. So they landed at the manger.

As for the rest of the population, they did not know and neither did they want to know.  They were blissfully ignorant and perfectly contented in their state of ignorance.  The question I asked myself this morning during the Mass: Which category do I belong to?  

Friday, 12 October 2012

English Vinglish

I watched the hindi movie English Vinglish today (directed by Gauri Shinde).  Overall it is a welcome movie: refreshing and of course offering good insights and values (self-esteem and family ties).

The movie traces the life and struggle of a simple Indian housewife, Sashi (well essayed by Sridevi), to earn respect and dignity which is being denied to her by her own family, only for the reason that she is not proficient in English.  She is called upon by her sister for her niece's wedding to New York and once there secretly enrolls herself for a four-week of English class. Constantly helping her is her second niece, Radha (lively performance by Priya Anand).

The climax is wherein she delivers a simple but heartfelt speech in English addressing the newly married about how to keep alive a marital relationship, especially when the bond is weak or any one of the partners try the one-man-up attitude. This really shocks the rather unsupportive husband and the indignant elder daughter out of their stupor; but as one deeply in love with her family, Sashi holds no grudges or anger.

However, there are a few exaggerations (call them, 'cinematic liberties'): the resentment of the daughter towards the mother who does not know English, the cold attitude of the husband towards his wife, the ease with which a rather coy Indian woman gets used to the American scenario... Of course, anyone - even one who does not know Sridevi - would right away know that she knows English much better than she pretends not to know!

All these are more or less overshadowed by the steady focus on the story, simple music, good supporting cast, the decent presentation of family values (especially understanding, concern and sacrifice) ... One of the main values presented is the need to trust oneself (Towards the end, Sashi thanks one of her classmates for helping her love herself).

Faith ...

We commenced the year of faith yesterday... I'm not sure, if I have... anyway, I was reading up a couple of articles ushering in this special occasion.  While reading it, I was reminded of a particular quote I read sometime ago somewhere. It reads thus:
A bird sitting on the branch of a tree is not afraid by the shaking branch, because the bird trusts not the branch but its wings. 
True enough, what trust I build within me is much more strengthening than anything that I can rely on outside of me.  Comparing the quote and the context, I was thinking, where is Jesus for me? Within or without?  

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Don Bosco's idea of presence

More than ever, I've learnt the most memorable lesson in Salesian assistance this year... and the paradox of it is that I've learnt it through my own absence!  Don Bosco, in that sense, was a true formator.  He knew what would be some of the most essential elements involved in educating a youngster to values and higher things of life.  Thus he qualified, presence of the formator (educator), amidst the students and that too a very loving and concerned one, as one of the most essential ingredients of a healthy formation ambiance.

While physical absence or prolonged disappearance from the community is of no evident help, mere physical presence with no sense of the ground reality is of no use either.  Add to that several other little but important things like 'a word in the ear', reason (as one of the triple elements of the Preventive system), teaching by example, consistency in expectations from the pupils... and formation becomes truly an enriching experience for all involved.  

Starting afresh, healing wounds...

After much delay and scouting for opportunities, I grabbed time this evening to meet the Brothers to access and quash some of the simmering going on in the community which have held the whole peaceful and joyful ambiance at ransom. I sincerely prayed that the best for the whole community may emerge, rather than me saving my skin or in the process of reconciling the staff and the students, widen the rift.  Now that we collectively spoke it out, I'm glad that at least it is out in the open and - hopefully - not festering anymore within.

If I were to summarise the sharing of the students it is basically a difficulty of adjusting to the new staff. Add to that some gossip and loose talk and we have a perfect recipe for a 'civil war'.  I began the discussion by speaking as a member of the community - not as Dean or Administrator - who is adversely affected by the vitiated atmosphere prevailing in the community for the past few weeks.  On my part I also acknowledged that my physical absence from the community and the resulting lack of involvement in the community affairs had indeed been a very negative influence on the community.

We ended on a note, wherein I exhorted - I explicitly told that I am not demanding or expecting, just a fraternal call - to personally take responsibility for what I do and believe in rather than wait for some models.  The final decision we collectively arrived at - or I helped us arrive at - was to individually do what I can do best, not just for myself but for the whole community as well and that too not just with today or this moment in mind, but the future.  

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Where was Lazarus?

While completing my set of reflections for the coming year for the Claretian Tear Off calendar, I was caught badly by this question I asked myself: Where was Lazarus when Jesus was crucified?  No Gospel or any other tradition makes any reference to Lazarus post his meal with Jesus (after Jesus raises him up).  What exactly did Lazarus do during the whole passion of Jesus?  Did he at all appear on the scene or hide himself, for the gospel of John (12: 11) clearly states that the Jews were after his blood too?

I really would like to know what happened to the character or more precisely what and where was he during the crucial moments of Jesus?  

To be vs to live

Just to be is a blessing. Just to live is holy. 
Abraham Joshua Heschel

Monday, 8 October 2012

Where to... ?

I went to the hospital to 'finish up' with this lump under my ear, which has been irritating me for quite a while now. Unfortunately it wasn't to be.  The doctor who was supposed to operate upon me fell sick!  I'd have to report again on Wednesday, hopefully. 

While at the lab, and later, waiting for nearly two hours, I could not but help watch several people come to the hospital with bag and baggage.  Most of them looked like they were from Orissa. The bag and baggage suggested that they were prepared to spend some time in town because most probably their loved ones were or would be in the hospital for some time.  The immediate thought that crossed my mind: what of those who cannot afford to come all the way from Orissa and cough up the hefty hospital bills?  

What if the one who was to do the surgery on me (mine being the most ridiculous of all!) was to do some urgent operation for one of these? Would they also end up waiting for a couple of days?  I surely had my vehicle to get me back home and a home that was atleast reachable within two hours of travel.  What of these people? Where'd they go?

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Corruption within!

Last week, I walked into the Income Tax officer's office and with my head hung in shame, handed him an envelope of the bribe that the auditor negotiated with him from the initial Rs 50,000/- that he asked for.  I ultimately handed him half what he had initially asked for.  I was told by all those with experience and wisdom to cough it up rather than resist - even if there was nothing wrong or faulty on our part.  However, I showed no sign of pleasure or esteem for him during my short stay in his office.  He did try to make some small talk, but I was in no mood for it.

Time and again, there is this strong temptation to curse him (of course silently).  But somehow the feeling he will get what he deserves (whatever it be, good or bad) even without me uttering a curse, consoles me and prevents me from letting him meddle with my peace.  

Battling different fronts

Within the past two weeks the price of diesel and gas cylinders have gone up considerably.  This certainly burns a big and deep hole in my already torn pocket.  Stretching myself to last the financial year would be a real challenge.

However, more than the financial avalanches hitting us, there are things in the community which I need to attend to... that too immediately.  The poisonous talk of a few has really sickened quite a few in the community.  I need to address this at the earliest... hopefully on Monday itself.  For now, with the exams on, I would not like to come down heavily on those I know for sure are the kingpins behind this whole corruption of ambiance.  So I'm playing it cool, as if I'm following their 'dictates'.  I know not how this will turn out but I hope it will be for the good of the community.  

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Examination amusement

I conducted the Indian Philosophy semester exam yesterday for the final year students... and here are some of their insights... (text in parenthesis is mine)
Mahatma Gandhi studied law in Latin.
Jiddu Krishnamurti's main achievement was prohibition (ban on liquor).
Aatmiya sabha means Friend of society (It originally means 'Society of friends')
Service of man is servicing of God. 
Swami Vivekananda is in Bengal. As a child he used to learn many things.  
Raja Ram Mohan Roy was fed up  with Hinduism. 
These have nothing to do with Philosophy but still proved to be the best!
If we do not help the poor, they will become what they are! 
We were slaves before the Britishers because of our empowerment. 

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