Monday, 31 October 2016

Trial by Jury

Yesterday I went for an Evensong (in an Anglican Church) along with Fr John Dickson.  It was in a chapel within a palace, which was built by a Cardinal and then taken over by the King.  Anyway, the Chapel was very old but beautiful, in its own way.  The choir, for which we really went, was made up of boys only. Honestly I don't think I'm a choir-person!  That rests the discussion.

On our way back Fr John was mentioning that here in England the trial is by jury and not by a single judge, as in India.  The jury comprises of a dozen or so chosen from among the ordinary people of the locality, picked up by the local council.  It is this jury that decides whether the accused is guilty or not of the crime.

And who forms the jury? Everyone or anyone!!  It basically is a means of letting every citizen take part in the justice system of the country.  Rather than leave it to a select few, everyone is expected to play a responsible role.  So individuals get a summon for jury duty for a week or so and they have to be present for the hearing and the case.  Ultimately give their verdict.

Sounds interesting!

Sunday, 30 October 2016

Working Single Mothers

Most of the popular songs hardly have any value based message. This one is an exception: in support of single mothers and in appreciation for the struggles of working mothers. Good song! Wish there were more of such songs wherein real-life priorities and values are central.


Saturday, 29 October 2016

At Battersea and London city

Yesterday morning I visited the Battersea community, which is in London city itself. Saju was kind enough to pick me up at the Clapham Junction and then show me around the community, the school and part of the city too.
The Salesian residence at Battersea, London

The Westminister Cathedral

The Westminister Cathedral
I think it has more side-altars than all the number of altars we have in our Salesian houses in my Province! 

A view of a modern building right opposite to the Westminister Cathedral.
Couldn't help notice the amount of glass used in modern constructions - for light and heat.

Another photo of the same modern building - this time with the famous trademark London bus

Right in the midst of all modern and tall skyscrapers was this 'puny' old building.
I guess this is an old building declared a heritage site - or else developers would have gulped down
this prime spot long long ago.
Clicked this photo also for the contrast: the modern building on the side, the posh car in front and the old building, between.

The Westminister Abbey, mother of the Anglican Church in London.

The Big Ben
Was surprised at the amount of security - or lack of it - around this and other official structures.
Am told it has 'increased' after the recent terror attacks!!
Perhaps 'digital surveillance' makes up for the human guards.

The London eye, from across the Thames and the ferry.

One building covered with ivy. Looked really beautiful from far.
Natural changing colours and lively too - all round the year.


The Trafalgar square, London
 The school impressed me immensely.  The wide variety of possibilities to learn and study was amazing.  Honestly if only education of this quality were to be offered in our schools in India, there wouldn't be any need for intermediate or degree studies at all.  One could straight away apply for post-graduation or ph.d.  Besides the quality, the number of courses and options offered is truly unbelievable. With such a wide option range, one could dive into any field of choice easily. It truly opens up the youngsters mind to various avenues of career and profession.  I'm told, Asians and non-Europeans in general make the most of this chance.  Local residents, don't!  They seem to be content with social welfare offered by the government.

The house, a newly constructed one, was nothing less than a 5-star hotel, by any Indian standard. I'm beginning to wonder if that's how all the houses are or is it that we Salesians are used to this posh life?  Am visiting the Salesian Sisters this afternoon at Oxford, got to see. Theirs surely will be much better than ours. So can comparatively guess a common man's house.

The city: Wow!  Neat and clean.  With thousands around, there wasn't any bit of paper, plastic or any kind rubbish found on the streets.  The traffic very orderly, and pedestrians following the rules too.  A general observation: there are much more non-locals than the local Brits in London!  Say this not because of the 'tourists spot' that I visited but from what I've seen in the past three weeks.

The best for the last: As we started back towards Victoria station, I was very amused by this sign board outside a pub... so were quite a few!

Wednesday, 26 October 2016

Jesus and Zacchaeus

What did Jesus say to the man on the tree?
Here's a nice creative manner of engaging children with the Gospel of the coming Sunday.
Check the website: The Kids' Bulletin

Jesus waits...

Here's a nice video reflection of Malachi 3:3 sent to me by Jules:
video
He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver...

Danger to philosophy...

Here's one of Rorty's concluding words in his book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature (389):
But the dangers to abnormal discourse do not come from science or naturalistic philosophy. They come from the scarcity of food and from the secret police.  Given leisure and libraries, the conversation which Plato began will not end in self-objectivation - not because aspects of the world, or of human beings, escape being objects of scientific inquiry, but simply because free and leisured conversation generates abnormal discourse as the sparks fly upward.  
This point Rorty gets it perfectly right.  In times and places where food and justice are at stake, no philosophy is possible.  Survival is certainly of prime importance. Philosophy - or rather, philosophizing - is something for the 'good' times!

Jules sent me this picture, which somehow fits in with this thought:

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

Grinding coins instead of knives

Somehow, in all our discussions in the lectures, one thing that seem to underlie or play a subtle role (acknowledged or not, accepted or denied) is that of language.  Therefore really look forward to the course on Wittgenstein the next term.

Anyway here's a quote from Anatole France's Garden of Epicurus
... the metaphysicians, when they make up a new language, are like knife-grinders who grind coins and medals against their stone instead of knives and scissors.  They rub out the relief, the inscriptions, the portraits, and when one can no longer see on the coins Victoria, or Wilhelm, or the French Republic, they explain: these coins now have nothing specifically English or German or French about them, for we have taken them out of time and space; they now are no longer worth, say, five francs, but rather have an inestimable value, and the area in which they are a medium of exchange has been infinitely extended.  
Though sounding amusing and to an extent realistic, there is something fishy about doing away with standards or basics (eg. truth).  Is it the basics themselves or claims of some/most about the basics? Or may be I'm missing something here?

Fighting over 'knowledge'

In the lecture today, discussing Hegel, we came to a point wherein we say that 'knowledge' if it is to be called 'knowledge' has to have the endorsement of the 'recognized' group.  If not, or atleast till then, it is not knowledge.
What is it then?
As per the professor, speaking for Hegel, (know not if the whole of Hegel or just the section where we reached today,) it is not knowledge.

Coming back to the library, picking up my next reading text, here's what I found staring in my face. Richard Rorty's quote to end the penultimate chapter of his book Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature  (p.356):
The word knowledge would not seem worth fighting over were it not for the Kantian tradition that to be a philosopher is to have a "theory of knowledge," and the Platonic tradition that action not based on knowledge of the truth of propositions is "irrational."

Sunday, 23 October 2016

Lush life (Zara Larsson)

Nice catchy song with a sort of hippie lyrics:
I live my day as if it was the last
Live my day as if there was no past
Doin' it all nite, all summer
Doin' it the way I wanna

Yeah I'mma dance my heart out 'til the dawn
But I won't be done when morning comes
Doin' it all nite, all summer
Gonna spend it like no other

Dare to be

The other day during the inaugural mass of the Xavier Catholic Educational Board, there was this particular reflection read out after Communion. Quite apt for the occasion and meaningful too:
When something new begins, dare to smile gratefully,
When there is darkness, dare to be the first to shine a light. 
When there is injustice, dare to be the first to condemn it. 
When something seems difficult, dare to do it anyway. 

When life seems to beat you down, dare to fight back. 
When there seems to be no hope, dare to find some. 
When you're feeling tired, dare to keep going. 
When times are tough, dare to be tougher. 

When love hurts you, dare to love again.
When someone is hurting, dare to help them heal.
When another is lost, dare to help them find the way.
When someone fails, dare to be the first to extend a hand. 

When you cross paths with another, dare to make them smile. 
When you feel great, dare to help someone else feel great too.
When the day has ended, dare to feel as you've done you best. 
Dare to be the best we can. 

At all times, ... 

Friday, 21 October 2016

Love and affection

Came across this particular video on youtube today. Reached here via thinnkaloud

I suppose this is the story of most little ones - be it of the animal species or the human.  They recognize love and affection immediately and bond very fast and thick too. 

Learning differences

This evening we had the Provincial of the GBR Province with us. It was the installation (induction) of Fr John Dickson as the Rector of Chertsey.  Two other priests belonging to the community but exercising their ministry in a parish far off, were present too.  After Mass and supper there was a brief presentation of the GBR Province plan.  Or rather it was more about a method or framework of a proposed plan - along that of the General council.  Nothing new from our past Indian experience.  Comparatively here they seem to still be in the initial mode only! Anyway, what was interesting for me was the priorities of the extraordinary visitor and the recommendations of the Rector Major for the Chapter documents.  Naturally not all points were totally new or different from our Province (INH) reminders.  But certain points other points were stressed.  I had to do a bit of mind-juggling, trying to get out of my Province mode and context to try to 'manufacture' the existing context of GBR based on the recommendations.

One myth that perhaps got busted a little was this:  Since the past three weeks, having heard and seen first hand the life and words of the confreres here, I had somehow come to think that for an Indian to come over here and carry out his ministry would be a cake walk; while most of the Brits would never manage to survive in India more than a week! All for various reasons. Perhaps about that I'll speak some other time. I also remind myself that once upon a time it was these very Europeans who brought the Salesian charism to India!  But the point that I want to make now is that it isn't going to be that easy for any confrere from India to fully get involved in the ministry here.

Perhaps the main reason for this, from what I gathered especially the GBR provincial's talk, would be the standard of proficiency expected of a Salesian to take up a responsibility.  The standards here are quite, let's say, different from that of the Indian context.  I may be a bit pessimistic about the potency of my own confreres but some of them might really mess up things big time here.  Not that they do better back at home; but the thing is that they'd get away with it, very easily.  Here the general public may not be that tolerant, I gather!  I wonder how some of the diocesans from Andhra/Telangana are managing to carry out their ministry in the West, especially some of my own former students.

Anyway, I think I must not be rash or judgemental about these matters.  After all these are two very very different contexts. The basics are the same but certainly not all modalities.  So let me carry on with my observation mode rather than the judgement mode.  

Thursday, 20 October 2016

Education and Clergy in Britain

One of the things of the British system that I'm still to make sense is the education system.  Not exactly the style of teaching but the mode of administration.  Very many here are highly appreciative of the Salesian school. Great! But there is no Salesian on the staff, except for the Chaplain.  The Rector is also the Chairman of the board, I'm told.  The head teacher (headmaster, in Indian terms) is a lay person and so are the 13 other board members.

This is basically the structure of every school, I'm told - at least that's what I understood.  Worse still are the diocesan schools: there is no priest, leave alone on the board, on the staff not even in the vicinity!  So where are they? There are none - at least not available for working in the schools.

I attended the inaugural Mass of the St Xavier Educational Trust of Catholic schools, a new initiative undertaken here, this evening.  There are nine Catholic schools which have willingly come forward to be part of this venture whereby they wish to collaborate and strengthen one another in the education process, especially on the common ground of offering Catholic values and principles.  So there were the board directors of each of these schools, the head teachers, the governors and some teachers as well, I was told.  And of these how many were priests or religious? Just two!!  Only the director of our Salesian school was a priest. The other priest was a guest invited to join this newly formed trust.  All the others, namely head teachers and directors were all lay people!!  Take that ratio of priests and lay persons in the decision making animation body: 1 in 18!

On the one hand I'm quite surprised. On the other, highly pleased and eager to see this replicated back in India!  Surprised that the number is so low.  Highly pleased because priests and religious stay out of the administration circles and more than delighted that only capable and qualified persons are in positions to call the shots in the school.  So what if they are lay persons. A far far better option than some priest who can barely speak one sentence in properly. And what's his qualification to occupy that post: ordination!!

No wonder then that young people, and I mean high school children, are very clear about what they want to become in life.  They see these qualified and competent individuals throwing open the doors of knowledge and values to them.  They opt for possibilities, inspired by those who make this possible.  Naturally if priests and religious are not in this group then, vocations to that life are not growing to fall out of the sky.  However gloomy a forecast that might be, personally it is a better option than young people wanting to become priests or religious merely to exercise power and hold position without going through the grind of earning, to be truly worthy of it.

More to come...

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Royal Holloway campus

After my lecture today I took a stroll around the Royal Holloway campus.  It is beautiful!  Plenty of greenery everywhere.  The buildings are also all spread out, in different shapes, models and locations.  Each professor has his own office.  There certainly are more offices than lecture halls or seminar halls.

What impressed me most was that the whole campus is spic and span.  Nothing dirty or broken or damaged.  Everyone contributes in keeping the place neat.  No one litters the place. There are bins everywhere. The lecture halls are neat and even though the Founders (main) building is nearly 200 years old, it still is neat. Nothing scribbled on the walls or doors.  No papers thrown about.  No dust (that's a natural blessing).  Maintenance of the whole campus must be a huge enterprise, but everything seems to be right in place.

Most importantly, there is nobody yelling and shouting and excited about the numerous works going on in the campus.  There are very very few workers, yet everything is seen to.  Honestly, even at the construction sites could not make out who among those working was the mason, who the supervisor and who is overall incharge (from the University).  Everyone seems to be doing their work, without someone bossing over them or "supervising" them. The work ethic of this place is truly amazing.
The Founders' Building South Grid

The Founders' Building (East wing from the inner grid)

The main building (outside view) from one of the playgrounds

The Founders' Building West view (from the outside parking area) 

Watching...

Coming early to the University and sitting by the library window for study, I look out often - especially when tired of reading - to see the different groups of youngsters pass by.  Here are some recurrent things that I observed:

  • No one bothers about anothers' clothing!  There are all sorts of clothing worn by students on the campus.  Of course, all protect themselves from the cold. However, the style is as varied as it could ever be.  There are t-shirts (new, long, old, torn, with text...), bermudas, jeans (some even torn, patched, mixed colours), burquas, coats (of varied lengths), caps, shoes of all colours with socks - without socks,... all sorts of things.   Mummy and Thathi should be brought here to see how useless their lectures to me about "decent" clothes were!  There is hardly anyone wearing a shirt, though.  
  • Girls smoke much much more than boys... that's for certain!  The rough ratio could be 5:1.
  • Students carry their food and drink and help themselves to it, anytime... not only while chatting with friends but in the library, in the classroom too!  However no one litters the place. There are sufficient bins around - each for a particular type of material.

Looking at some of the "weird" types I wonder why at all should they colour their hair pink or red? There are those who go around with such torn jeans that Mummy would not even use for wiping the floor!  Then those hairstyles, mostly unkempt. I guess it is a call to be noticed, to stand out. And they surely do!

Wrestling Hegel

After grappling with Hegel for one full day - or to be precise, the first three chapters of his book, The Phenomenology of the Spirit, - I still am not sure if I've anything at all of Hegel.  In all earnestness I began the day reading the text of Hegel - the translation, actually (from German to English).  Did not make any progress.  I then realized I needed something of a key to first understand what is he saying and then read the original.  I spent the rest of the morning searching for such a text.

I finally find one that made some sense only by supper time - the one by Robert Stern.  So after supper when I began to read it, I just continued reading. It was a smooth flow.  Cannot say with certainty that it offered the best explanation or translation of Hegel.  Perhaps the previously read texts prepared me for this.  Anyway, it was good reading.  It was late into the night that I "finished" reading the first three chapters.  I revised and felt that I'd now a fairly good idea of what Hegel intended to say.  However, an attempt to read the actual translation was too much at that time of the day/night.

This morning I took up another commentary on Hegel, this time the Terry Pinkard book.  Gosh, confusion abounding. Understanding itself was difficult.  What was worse was that those parts I 'thought' I understood, negated or contradicted the exposition of Stern!!

And what is Hegel saying?
We are not 'metaphysical representers' of the world but organisms engaged in historically mediated social practices.  ... not subjects representing but participating in social practices...!

Anyway, too much jargon.  I'm sure Hegel himself would be smiling in his grave - if at all he had one!

Monday, 17 October 2016

Sunday Mass

It is exactly two weeks since I landed in London and in these two weeks, I've attended the Sunday Mass in two different places. The first Sunday I went along with Fr John to the University Chapel.  There were about 50 people, with half of them from the neighbourhood and the rest, students of the University.  Yesterday I went to the adjacent Salesian Parish. Nearly 60% were elderly and the rest were young couples with small children. There was hardly any teenager or youngster at all!

Heartwarming it was to see the young parents come along with their children and the church is always noisy - even during Mass.  Yesterday sitting before me was a family of five: parents and three children.  They reminded me of my nephew very much because one of the boys had a book on trucks and the other had a small toy car to which he clung all through. Must be identity twins of my nephew back in India!

But where are the young people???  Is it that they have all the 'interesting' things planned only for Sundays in this part of the world or is it that Mass is no more 'interesting' or meaningful at all?
Catholic Church of St Anne, Chertsey (London)

Sunday, 16 October 2016

Real philosophy?

For the two courses in Philosophy that I'm doing we're battling with Kant and Rorty!  The former is as dense and muddled as anyone can ever be... yet popular and considered a benchmark in Philosophy!  Anyway, too much jargon, too much going not only above the head but above the sky!  Have seriously been thinking if this is the philosophy that I fell in love with!

Anyway, will hold back my horses - after all it is just a week since I'm here.  Should not plan to bomb all the eggs before they're laid!!  After all, I have almost a year to dabble with for my longer and deeper study.

Here's a quote from the same book that I initially would have throw out of the window if it were a hard copy:
In this conception, "philosophy" is not a name for a discipline which confronts permanent issues, and unfortunately keeps misstating them, or attacking them with clumsy dialectical instruments. Rather, it is a cultural genre, a "voice in the conversation of mankind" (to use Michael Oakeshott's phrase), which centers on one topic rather than another at some given time not by dialectical necessity but as a result of various things happening elsewhere in the conversation (the New Science, the French Revolution, the modern novel) or of individual men of genius who think of something new (Hegel, Marx, Frege, Freud, Wittgenstein, Heidegger), or perhaps of the resultant of several such forces. Interesting philosophical change (we might say "philosophical progress," but this would be question-begging) occurs not when a new way is found to deal with an old problem but when a new set of problems emerges and the old ones begin to fade away.  The temptation (both in Descartes's time and in ours) is to think that the new problematic is the old one rightly seen. 
Richard Rorty, Philosophy and the Mirror of Nature 264. 

Thursday, 13 October 2016

Study

For the past one week I've been coming early with Fr John to the University (that's because unless he comes in by 8 am he will not get a parking place!).  Anyway, I spend most of my time in the Bedford library (there is another called the Founders' library). I like the ambiance of silence in these places.  Particularly in this library which has three floors, the one in the middle (the entrance floor) is a noisy one!  One is allowed to talk, chat, sing. All that!  However, the upper and the lower levels are for silent study.  And silent it is!  Everyone practically has their own laptops and everyone is busy.  No one chats or disturbs another.

The other thing is the computers.  There are desktops at each level, plenty of them.  And they all seem to work.  Contrast this to our computers in our formation houses - every day there is some issue.  Here everyone uses it gently and with utmost care.  There is also a section where one can borrow laptops!!

Though there are books on the racks, most students have the digital versions and prefer to read the text on the computers or laptops.  Wi-fi everywhere on campus, and that makes access to information all the more easier - besides the digital library of the University itself.

I guess it is part of the fall out of what happens when students come to study!  I'm sure most of the students also have fun and like to swing it up and all, but primarily when it comes to study, they pour their heart and soul into it.  And from the looks of it, most of chosen their course of study based on their personal interest rather than any pressure or demand... another reason to 'enjoy' study.   

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

Bore the devil to death

A particular priest was appointed the exorcist at the diocesan level by his Bishop.  He was one who was never too good at studies but always had the most long winding sermons, mostly about limbo.  This then became a joke among his companions who would reply to anyone asking, "why him?"
"Because he'd bore the devil to death!"

Driving and traffic

While crossing the road here in London, someone asked me, "Why do you look left and right? It is enough to look only to your right. Unless you are at a crossroad."

I replied, "I come from India!" She did not have anything else to ask or say!

Honestly traffic here in London is quite busy, but very very orderly.  It is a week since I landed in London and my room is next to the road.  I've been out almost every day but I am yet to hear a vehicle honk!  Drivers are very polite and smooth.  They wait, let others pass straight rather than sneak in fast or the little window they get.

I'd be getting a few driving lessons from this weekend - thanks to Fr John who arranged for someone to assist me.  However, with the Indian driving license I can drive for one year.  But as I was telling Fr Sean yesterday, it is not driving that I need to learn, but driving as per rules!
...that's more like an Indian driving scenario!

Monday, 10 October 2016

Biblical Discrimination

In the first reading of this morning, we hear St Paul compare the Christians to the children of the "free-wife" and not the "slave-born".  As I was reading the passage aloud during the Mass, I felt a bit odd and offensive.  Somehow I did not like the disparaging way Paul was speaking of Hagar.  Not only that the way he was segregating those born of Hagar, that too for no fault of theirs, was not something I found decent.

Know not in what actual context Paul was trying to make this point but the idea of one being supreme or better than another because you are born of one woman and not so good or of lower quality just because you are born of another, is not fair.  Perhaps it has something to do with what struck me last night. A mother is a mother - anywhere in the world.  A woman has the same love and affection for the child just as another mother. The modes of expression or degree may vary, but no one can discount the love a mother has for her child.

Getting back to the reading, one cannot and should not hold Hagar or least of all, her children responsible for any wrong-doing.  That she did not continue in the plan of God for Israel does not make her or her offspring bad.  What's more, Yahweh is said to have offered her some means of survival and life.

Why should we human beings feel envious (or claim any other virtue) and then attribute God of having chosen us, above others?  

Royal Holloway, and Victoria

On the day that I landed, that's exactly a week ago, and I visited the university (even before I went home), Fr John showed me the statue of Queen Victoria installed right in the middle of the front portion of the Founder's building lawn.
He also showed me the inscription written behind the same statue, with great glee.  Reading it was no joy and that he was keen to take a photo of mine, pointing to the text was not a good joke - at least for me.  Anyway, let me not fake patriotism!

Royal Holloway Chapel

Here's a view of our college chapel.  It was built in the late 19th century and is different from those I've seen anywhere before.  For one, the pews are facing each other and not the altar.  Furthermore, this being an ecumenical chapel, there is no tabernacle.  The art work is great.  But only yesterday did my doubt about the statues in the chapel get cleared.  There are niches above the pews and which were to have women saints etched out.  But, the chief designer died before he could complete that and being a non-Catholic dominated presence, the statues never got to see the light. Only their names bless us from above!

It is also the place where the choir practices. And this is the first time I'm listening to a professional choir live.  It sound very melodious.

Then there is Jacob and Johannes, the two youngsters who help out with the Catholic services.  They are also studying in the same department of Politics and International Relations, as I am, but as undergrads.  Of course, this is their final year.  I also met Arthur yesterday.  He is from Hong Kong and yesterday he was pleasantly surprised to see how few of those ceremonial rituals are practiced here (in comparison to his traditional practices back in Hong Kong). 

A priestess

Last evening was the first time I was preached to by a priestess!  Yes, I attended an ecumenical Sunday service in the college chapel yesterday evening and the one officiating at the service was Rev. Cate. She is the coordinating College chaplain.  Fr John had invited me to join him and for Mass thereafter in the college chapel.  I accepted with the intent of meeting some other students.

So if you really ask me whether there was a difference, in hearing a priest and for the first time a priestess? Nothing really.  Of course, the first time I saw her in the black cassock, the roman collar, the surplice, it was 'different'.  Then I was not sure if she wore a stole or was that a muffler - it was black.  Anyway, by way of the dress it is very difficult to identify anyone here.  With all the warm clothing one wears, there is hardly any noticeable difference even between the two genders.  The ones that really stand out are the construction workers - with their bright fluorescent vests and pants.

Coming back to the priestess, or rather the content of what she said, there was hardly anything different from what a priest would have said.  What's more, she had it all typed out and though she read it, it was more as if she was talking.  The content was certainly prepared by her.

For that matter, all those whom I struck conversation with, either in the college, or in the community or at the memorial service in Farnborough, appeared very knowledgeable and up-to-date with matters around.  The whole quality of one's conversation goes up when one is aware of what is going on and speaking very reasoned opinions.  

Saturday, 8 October 2016

Another Salesian house

This morning I joined the community - of course, four of us went in three cars!! - for the memorial Mass of Fr Francis Sutherland who died on Sept. 24, 2016 in Scotland.  A memorial Mass was held today at Farnborough, the Parish where he served for quite some time.

It was a simple Mass - no extravaganza, whatsoever!  Sermon was read out.  I thought I had heard the main celebrant say during his introduction, that there'd be a short life of Fr Frank shared, but there was none.  Anyway, I had the good fortune to meet some other Salesians of the Province. All in their 70's or more.  I also met a retired head teacher (headmaster) of our Salesian school in New Rochelle, US - Mr John.  He was on a holiday to Ireland and England to trace his roots.  He was sharing with me how he met his aunt and through her some two dozen of his relatives.  He was certainly excited about coming to know of his hitherto unknown people.

The community where we had lunch is also the hospital type home for the aged (besides the school and the parish).  No wonder all 13 were so senior.  I was the youngest. One of them didn't believe when I told him that I was a Salesian - it was all too evident on his face!  Until I told him that I was from India and here to study!  Then life returned!

Only a while ago, talking to Fr Marco it suddenly occurred to me: this province his not many young Salesians.  Fr Marco, himself in his late 40's, was the last to be ordained. There's an ordination this year, he tells me.  So too the community where I had lunch this afternoon was the novitiate, once upon a time.  Now they don't have any novices at all!

Anyway, somehow liked the maple tree in the church courtyard.  For that matter, the greenery of this place has a special look.  More about it, another time.

At the cemetery

This evening I walked along the road of the house to reach the parish church... our own St Anne's Parish. However I found it locked. So I walked on because I remembered seeing the sign board leading to the cemetery on my way back by car, this afternoon.

When I walked in, I found the small cemetery quite old.  Was a bit puzzled to see no 'fresh dead'!  However, at the end of this small plot was a small gate leading to another plot. A bigger cemetery.  I strolled around but had to return fast because it started to drizzle.  From far I could see another bit of the cemetery with more bright colours. Gather it is the latest plot.  Another day.

One nice thing: I found the tomb of a few Salesians and Salesian sisters among the tombs.  The FMA's tomb had this nice statue of Mary Help of Christians too. So there would have been a time when Salesians were buried in the parishes they served.  Given the duration Salesians have been in England (more than a century) they would have acquired a "private" cemetery somewhere much early on.

Friday, 7 October 2016

On wings of prayer

Over the last one week since the time I got confirmed that I would indeed making it to London for my studies, I have begun to realize how many people have been praying for me.  Honestly I did not pray that I get this opportunity or that this comes through. I was quite indifferent.  But very many - indeed very many - were keen that I go!  I guess if at last it did come through and I'm here in London for my studies, it is what the Lord wants of me.

The sense of responsibility too is indeed greater now - I feel myself responsible not just to my Province and confreres who made all the efforts for my studies in London but also all to those who prayed for me, especially for this intention.

So this couple of days that I'm here, I've honestly prayed for this group - I'm sure I'm not even aware of all involved!  All the same, I pray for this group of relatives, friends, and well-wishers.  I pray especially for my boys at Ramanthapur for I known for sure, they still would be praying for me.  

Philosophy and life

Yesterday the whole morning I spent reading a book of Richard Rorty, as preparation for the class. I had missed a couple of classes and was therefore trying to reach up to the page to which we were expected to read before this week's class.  Somehow I never managed to reach that syllabus.  More than once, I felt like shutting down the computer (if it were a printed book in hand, I'd have thrown it out the window)!  It was truly very very high or intense ... very intellectual.

While in class, the professor who was keen to finish reading the text but gave much room and space for all the doubts and objections raised by the students, said something very honestly.  He said Rorty himself felt disgusted with "philosophizing" after some time.  In fact, he made some very cutting remarks again philosophy - after he had written a couple of books, including the one above-mentioned book.  Towards the end of his life he spoke more plainly and in very simple language about democracy!  Those books were read by different groups of people but the first one was only picked up by the philosophers.  And which did make a real difference in life, the professor asked.  Certainly the latter, he himself replied.  The professor went on to say, it is guys like me who write books and publish them are called philosophers, but the one's really making a difference in the world are someone else.  Surely the issues of Brexit, or Aleppo or Haiti are far more important and meaningful than mind, and epistemology and language.

After a brief pause, one of us, softly stated, perhaps we've to find a balance to which the Professor replied, "Hopefully!"

Dressing and character

Before taking off from Hyderabad, Benny accompanied me and helped me select and purchase shoes for my stay in London.  It was a difficult adventure, first of all given the fact that I was trying on shoes after 23 years!  Secondly the price of each one was so exorbitant that I felt I was buying some jewellery and not mere footwear! Anyway, thanks to Benny's guidance I ended up buying three pairs of shoes.

While at the airports (Hyderabad and Mumbai) I had enough time to squander and so took liesure walks up and down the ails, watching people. (Did not like to walk around the shopping areas, felt a bit of nausea at the glitter and futility of products on display.) One of the things that I was looking at was the footwear worn by people.  Was trying to see if their footwear (and to a certain extent their dress too) was proportional to their character.  Not that I have some x-ray vision to scan and guage their character... but all the same.  One thing too evident was that those who most flaunted their goods, were the most shallow by way of character.  Others around did not exist for this sort of people at all.

Most were lost in their own world of cell phones.  There was a certain guy who had come in a very very simple attire. He wore the same rubber slippers I normally use (at the airport I was wearing sandals!).  From his movements and looks, I gathered he was not a frequent flyer, or could have been flying one of his first times.  While he was very conscious of not getting in the way of others or drawing attention to himself, on two occasions I saw him reach out to others instinctively: once when a child was about to stumble and on another occasion when a senior man in the wheel-chair was struggling to stand up.  There were others around the child and the elderly person, but were not much moved - they did not move at all!  But this gentleman was concerned and attempted to help.  Now if his footwear were the the criteria of his character, he'd be rated the lowest; but if one were to grade him by his actions, he'd be most noble among all those present there.  

Mochi

On my way to London, at the Hyderabad airport, I saw this shop. Selling footwear. Nothing unusual.  The same post airport shop.  But what caught my attention was the name... Mochi.  In hindi it means 'cobbler'.  And as if the name wasn't enough, it also had the traditional tool of the mochi for its logo. 

It is a typical Indian name and a profession which not everyone appreciates, at least not the ones in it.  Those in the profession of making footwear for others are treated as one of the lowest category of people in the (caste-ridden) society.

What amused me was that if a real mochi, were to have managed to reach to that shop - somehow making his way through the security and all that blocks - he would have been thrown out in a jiffy or certainly got arrested.  But the name... mochi! 

Royal Holloway, University of London

Here are some of the pics of my college, here in London. These pics are only of the main building called the Founders' Wing.  I'm told that the one who built this structure had a special liking for castles and this one is modelled after the French Chateau Chambourd in the Loire Valley.


The rest of the structures are all of the modern design.  And further constructions are on on the campus.  To have a complete tour of the campus, click here.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

First Impressions while in London

My first blog post from my new community in London!

I arrived here in London day before yesterday after a rather smooth flight from Hyderabad via Mumbai. After landing and clearing the immigration check, I was received by Fr John Dickson, the Rector of the Salesian Community which I am part of.  He has been very supportive and helpful for the last few months, ever since I started the procedure of applying at Royal Holloway, University of London.

Here are my first impressions of the place:

  1. Lovely greenery!  The location of my university and the Salesian residence is just beautiful. Makes me feel as though am living in one of those picture postcards or desktop backgrounds! 
  2. The house is very simple but beautiful. The college building is majestic and splendid (more of it later).
  3. Fr John and the University staff were generous in their help and assistance.  Coming from India where the general apathy of government offices and staff is well known, it was a pleasant surprise for me that I was given full and detailed instructions and support at every counter or office that I went to.  Not only me but every one who approached the support staff received the same warm supportive assistance.  Fr John has indeed been extremely helpful. 
  4. On the first day itself, I visited the college chapel and a couple of other offices along with Fr John.  First thing that struck me was that each room - yes, each room - had a collection of books.  Even the sacristy of the college had a rack of books.  Even in my room there are books (left behind by the former occupant).  Each of these places had books about every topic.  So they were not merely for specific utility but even of a wide range. I gather that here people read...  and read a lot!  

There's lot more... but in due time.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Gandhi Jayanthi

My last post from India for now:

This time something I came across on Random Thoughts.  It is in the context of our nation "celebrating" Gandhi Jayanthi today.


Read her exact and apt words here...

Agonizing Uncertainty

This morning after breakfast I visited the neighbouring Sisters' convent and wished some of the nuns who knew me for quite some time.  I took some more time with those in the infirmary.  Invariably each of them would ask when are you coming back.  At first I was saying, "after three years" and then I could see their expression. I could see a sense of 'death' - that they would not be around that long!  For the next few whom I met in the infirmary, I told them I'd be gone "only for a year."

I guess at that stage of life when you know death is round the corner, any talk or promise of an extended period always makes them fear that they'd not make it to that time.  No one knows when one will die but that awareness of death coming around anytime soon, is no consolation - it is more agonizing.

Anyway, they were glad that I took time to visit them to inform that I'd be leaving.  I was happy too! 

Saturday, 1 October 2016

Vehicle Insurance

Had a strange idea this morning ... about vehicle insurance! I wonder why on earth would I get such an idea right immediately when I got off my bed.
Anyway, most spend such an amount every year on vehicle insurance.  I doubt if at least one-thirds of vehicles insured meet with an accident or claim for the insurance.  What about the money invested by the remaining rest two-thirds?? So what came to my mind was this: instead of giving the money to a insurance company, why not ten or fifteen friends get together, invest a certain amount and put it in the bank. From the interest of what they have put in, they could even employ (or pay something more to an existing employee) to do the paperwork. If, by chance, some vehicle meets with an accident, the money is allotted accordingly (perhaps not the whole amount).  Every year they could punctually deposit their contribution to the common account.  In case of no eventuality anytime, the whole money is still with you - plus the interest!  After an agreed duration (say 5 to 10 years), split up the money and start afresh.  Unfortunately if one among the group wants to break away, prior to the agreed duration, he takes only his investment, leaving the interest (of his share) in the common fund itself.

Well, I'm not an insurance agent, least of an economics student, so know not if there are any serious pitfalls of this arrangement. My crux was that the money, if not claimed, is not 'given away' to some unknown third party.  
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