Monday, 16 May 2016

Preventing theft vs Preventing becoming robbers

After two grueling days of doing all sorts of things and thoughts and loosing my peace of mind, and sleep and even temper over the growing tendency of theft and thieving by the boys, among themselves, tonight's goodnight was the climax.  Not that it is now over! It is just a beginning but a collective effort now.  Not individuals working for different purposes and ends but collectively arriving at a decision to curb theft.

While I had a discussion with all the boys (all 110 of them) and most of the caretakers, I kept saying to myself that the goal is not merely to prevent theft or robbery, but to help boys stay clear from becoming robbers!  As the instances of theft having been rising, I also realised that the 'new' thieves caught were once victims.  They now felt forced to 'join the gangs' or wanted to take revenge!  Therefore I was keen on forming character than merely preventing some random acts.

The easiest solution would be to lock it all up and intensify the scrutiny and "policing" but that's only a prevention of an act not the formation of character.  My focus therefore was on appealing to the conscience while ensuring that certain procedures and policies are in place.

Saturday, 14 May 2016

Standing Tall


Preparing for the sowing

Reading the testimony of a Korean missionary in Africa, I was amused by his frank and open sharing about his maiden experience outside his own culture.  He shares some of the significant things that stand out for him as a person coming from a different culture altogether.  He also adds the fact that there were missionaries from his own country to the particular place that he is currently posted at... and wonders how the place could still be so 'remote' in development and growth.

I was specially struck by his optimism.  He went to the country expecting that the seed sown by his predecessors would have now grown into a huge tree only to realise that they did their best and had only prepared the ground... he was to do the sowing of the seed!

We all have expectations and dreams about very many things in life.  Not all are realistic or actualised but it is better to have dreams than none!  Greater are those who do not get discouraged but are willing to see the new and different possibilities that reality offers in contrast to ones own dreams and expectations.

Friday, 13 May 2016

Paradox

One of the million paradoxes of our times:
The US debating and deliberating who should use which bathroom (based on gender)
vs
India getting its citizens to use bathrooms (instead of opting for open defecation)

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

Descent of the Holy Spirit

Practically this whole week's readings, office of readings, scripture passages and all the intercessory prayers somehow lead to the event of the Pentecost.  A curtain raiser on the Holy Spirit.

The image of the whole feast of Pentecost too is a bit dramatic!  I guess there was no other way of expressing somethig which is not so common a phenomenon.  The flames landing on each individual!  Somehow I find it odd also.  Not the event but the interpretation and the way this descent of the spirit is treated by very many in the Church.

It is a top-down event!  God giving and we receiving... now that's fine with me.  But what I find it difficult to understand and accept (or even accept and understand) is that the moment that 'flame' lands on one, the whole person is 'ablaze'!!  Too dramatic!  Too charismatic (pun intended!)!

I'd like to see the picture as a spark which triggers.  Now for a spark to trigger off a fire, it has to feed on something.  If the spark lands on a sheet of ice, don't expect fireworks or a furnace!!  But if it does fall on something even remotely inflammable, not necessarily petrol or jet fuel but even something that can catch fire, if not immediately but after a while, then fine one can expect a fire, sooner or later.  Bereft of that basic requirement of 'combustibleness' no spark can launch a fire!  If it did, then there was something else that caught fire, not the 'ice'!

P.S.: Sparks are in galore!

Stealing

Something that struck me as a bit odd found among the Asian and African continents is this peculiar habit of stealing among children.  Not that it is not prevalent among children of other continents, but something that is more of  a blot than a passing shade.  I was reading the testimony of a couple of missionaries; one from Korean in Africa and another from the Philippines in Pakistan.  Add to that my own experience of stay in Kondadaba (mind you among Brothers!) and here at Ramanthapur itself (with street children).

The first time I heard of stealing among the seminarians in Kondadaba I was quite shocked; only to be told that it is quite a regular phenomena. Often the one stealing is not caught. Even is one is caught, he is not reported (for fear of him "losing his vocation" - as if he was sure he had one!).  In that sense the boys here at Ramanthapur are a little better off. Not only in the art of stealing but also in the honesty of reporting!

Why steal?  I perfectly understand when some boys steal food or take things because they want money to buy something to eat.  Children as they are, they have no means of looking after themselves as adults who earn money.  So if there is no sufficient food provided, then naturally they resort to stealing, merely to satisfy hunger.  I perfectly endorse it!!  So one of the first things I did here at Ramanthapur was to tell those incharge of the kitchen, especially the cooks: "Children should never go hungry! If they do not have, it is your duty to provide them with what you have. Never deny food to children.  Luxury for none, but enough for all!"  Thanks to that, I was told recently by some staff and even boys that stealing of goods of the house reduced much.

But something that still continues is stealing among themselves... small petty or costly things.  Most often I've noticed it is 'just taking'... not stealing!  They are merely 'taking'!!  Confront them with this fact of 'stealing' and they'll break down as though they have been charged with murder or rape!!  They do it merely as a routine thing, not something maliciously planned out or sketched (though there are a few who do that too).

I figure it has something to do with the way one is brought up.  How one's moral compass is formed over the years, especially when as a child.  They just don't see anything wrong in it.  While in some cultures this notion of right and wrong and the means of differentiating the two is learnt early on in life, in some other places, there is a lot of grey area left for one to learn from experience (often the hard way).  

Why Ascension?

One strange thought has been plaguing my mind since the last Sunday, the feast of the Ascension. Why at all this feast of the ascension?  Honestly speaking, resurrection itself was "shocking" and more than enough - by all human and divine standards!!  Then why this ascension?

It makes Jesus look incomplete or the salvation story look loose-ended unless He went upto heaven.  Why this additional burden on Jesus and the Father to prove his divinity?  Somehow the feast makes Jesus look less divine if he did not ascend.

Thursday, 5 May 2016

Jesus and the winds

Only today did I learn that my little niece is frightened of something:  strong winds or rather the sound of the it.  For the past two to three days Hyderabad has been battered by heavy winds in the evening and some cooling showers after the dust storm the winds rake up.  I was told that at home, to make the place a little more cooler, Mummy and Papa have tied up fibre sheets.  With the evening winds blowing in all directions, those sheets seem to make some eerie sound.  Anet, I'm told, is frightened of those sounds and yesterday when she did not find anyone to hold fast to, she ran to the living room to tell Jesus, "Jesus don't want winds!"

I guess, she has her own rapport with Him - and He with her! 

Talking Prayers

Yesterday as I was standing at the house main portico, when one of the boys came rushing to me and almost literally dragged me to the Chapel. He kept saying, "See, he is talking in the Church!"  Now there is nothing very sacrosanct about not talking in the Chapel.  Our boys do pay due reverence but total silence is not something we ever insist upon.  So this guy being so excited about someone talking in the Church baffled me... till I reached the Chapel and saw Kali, one of deaf and dumb boys, praying.  Well, he was praying in his own sign language and was oblivious of the sounds that he was uttering.  To the one who dragged me in, he was making noise and talking, but Kali was honestly praying!

I guess, not all our boys have yet learnt to pray.  They may have learnt to say a few prayers but not necessarily to pray.

However, the few and spread out prayers of these boys are far more genuine and shorter than most of the Ecclesial dramas that go on in our Churches!  For that I appreciate our boys.  

Of Wants and Needs

While some of our senior boys have a sense of saving money they earn while they learn, most of them have absolutely no desire or will to save or plan for the future.  All that they know and do, as soon as they get some money in hand, is spend it.  And what do they spend it on?  Clothes and phones!!

The former I understand if they do so once in a way, but every month?  The latter, is purchased or attempted to be bought every month!!  There is one boy who is an orphan and has known no one else other than those inside in the house, practically he is living with them all here in the same campus, in the same house and practically in the same section.  But his craze is a new phone, every time he gets some money!

And what's the phone for? Certainly not for talking (if that were the case, any phone would have done and that too bought once).  It is for music, and camera!

I guess this is what it means when wants become needs! 

Of today...

Today is the yesterday you'll regret tomorrow... unless you've already learnt the lesson about yesterday today rather than wait for tomorrow! 

Wednesday, 4 May 2016

This very moment


A very melodious song I heard over the radio this noon. The lyrics too are very meaningful and lovely.  (from the movie Waqt)
You do not go forward
nor back
all that is, is this very moment.
Unknown shadows cloud the way
Strange hands have surrounded us all
This moment is bright, all the rest is dark
Do not lose this moment, because only this is yours!
Those who truly wish to live, 
pay heed, make the most of THIS moment. 

It is this moment that makes the world mine 
and a heavy burden for the past ages...

To say or not to say...

Having earned a respectable and dignified rapport with my boys of Ramanthapur, I'm now perceived by most as someone who really means what he says.  They like that and are very comfortable to say what they want to say to me too. In fact those whom I've challenged several times in the past are those who now come around and chat with me the most.  Those who merely bluff and are not keen about anything serious, I keep at a distance and that bugs them big time!

With the summer camp on, I'm beginning to see how different the boys from the other centres are.  Not that it is a generalisation, but there are some significant traits of boys from the other centres, not very prevalent here - and quite a few of them are not so healthy or beneficial for all.

The dilemma always is "to say or not to say!"  After all, I'm here for another two to three weeks and neither am I incharge of the camp, nor the dean of studies, but still...

Knowing well that most of the evil that exists in the world is not because of men who do bad things but because the majority who choose not to do anything, choose rather to remain silent and in doing so endorse the evil around them!

Found this nice statement somewhere...
When the battles came, we opted for nice.  We picked polite. We chose silence.  We didn't speak the truth.  We didn't stand up.  Not enough anyway. 

Battle for the Soul

Talking to someone this morning, the person was saying that today we wage a battle for the soul.  It is not the eyes or the hands that are being appropriated but the very soul of an individual, of a nation.

There were/are times when we face some sort of opposition from brute senseless forces. At other times there were/are some random acts of defiance or mud-slinging.  But we now see a change in the onslaught of accusations and the type of thinking that goes behind this sort of maligning.  It is a very subtle game plan with apparently nothing malicious or dangerous, yet a deeper and perceptive look will reveal the sinister plans involved.

Add to this very intelligent agenda of well educated individuals, the provocative interference of bullies.  Often the latter is merely instigated by the former.  The latter is too naive to see the difference and thereby thinks he or she is being a hero, a patriot, a true devotee, a genuine human being.  On the contrary, having given up all sense of reasoning and human understanding, he acts against the very tenets which he claims to uphold and protect.  

Tuesday, 3 May 2016

Trimming the sermon

Thanks to being in the YaR settings, I've been really spared of those long boring and senseless sermons.  Couldn't escape some of them in Kondadaba and Karunapuram (when on Sundays had to sit through those torture sessions in the Parishes).

So the other day while I was thanking God for this grace, of course briefly, I was reminded of the incident where the local priest was found with a cut on his chin. So naturally after the Mass several of the parishoners asked him what happened.  To which he replied, that while he was shaving in the morning he was thinking about the lawn that needed to be mowed and so distractedly he cut himself. Someone in the faithful replied, "Next Sunday, please think of us and cut the sermon!"

Of prodigal sons and fathers

The last three weeks or so have been quite interesting here at Ramanthapur.  Among the many things that keep happening, a new phenomena was the return of the 'prodigal sons'.  More than a couple of boys, seniors who took off some months ago at different times and with no apparent (stated) reasons, began to return.  These boys were among the "leaders" cadre among the boys.  Their departure did create some flutter in the community then.  So did their return!  Several boys who thought that those who took off have made it big, were quite humbled and in a way surprised to see them return all lost and weary.

While many in the community, confreres, staff and students rejoiced at this 'ghar wapsi', I found it quite unsettling.  While other saw it as a sign of our greatness to be able to attract the boys back home, I saw it as a drawback.  For me it basically meant that we "successfully" made them into cocoons, rather than help them find their wings and take off.  Rather than make it on their own, we have incapacitated them so badly that they cannot survive in the world on their own. Imagine:  a child from the street now is not able to live in the society, in spite of having some skill or trade or profession to follow.

For once, I'm unable to fathom the meaning of the parable of the Prodigal son, in this context!
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