Monday, 14 August 2017

Celebrating Indian independence day in England!

Tomorrow is the Independence day of India.  I feel ironic that I commemorate it in England!  Not very sure how the Indian press is marking the event, but the press here in UK, especially The Times and BBC have long been publishing articles and running programmes related to the event of Indian independence and the partition.  And of course in none of these programmes or articles that I've read, did I ever come across any indication of justification of the colonising of South Asia.  Most of the articles speak of the pain and the confusion of partition and attribute it to the improper planning and lack of sensitivity of the then British administration.

In fact, thanks to the historical documentation preserved by the British, at least what they wish to make public, I'm coming to know of things I'd never come across in any newspapers or magazines in India.  Of course, I do admit, I'm not a 'history' person to really have moved my butt to know about it either.  Like, the person who really drew the line dividing India and Pakistan, Cyril Radcliffe, had actually never been to India!  That the Rowlatt act was indeed one of the last nail in the coffin of the patience of the Indian diaspora.

Of course, the common Britisher is not very much bothered today about India (or any other part of the world, for that matter).  But most would not like to speak of the bygone era of 'empire'.  More than pride in once being a 'super power' ruling much of the world, there is somewhere hidden a sense of guilt and shame for the deeds of the past.  

The bell

Practically in every Salesian house I've been I've come across a tiny bell somewhere or the other in the house.  I came across one even here in Chertsey.

This small bell always brings back a fond memory of childhood.  As kids, Willy and I used to attend the daily morning Mass in the Salesian house chapel of the school (Motinagar).  And we'd always help out with the arranging for Mass and then after Mass putting things back in the cupboard.  There also used to be a small bell which Mummy had presented to the Chapel and we'd invariably take turns ringing it during the consecration time.  When the new Chapel was built and things shifted, the bell got lost.  One day she accidentally noticed the bell in the school administration office (Mummy was still teaching in the school).  She was furious.  She grabbed it immediately and marched straight upto the Salesian community Chapel to restore it back to its place.  Most probably it is still there!

Another picture which I still hope is present in the community Chapel is the picture of the Holy Family which we as a family had presented to the Salesian community many many years ago.  

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Competence vs trust

Peter was a fisherman, right? He wasn't one of the tax collectors or physicians.  So naturally he should be the one most used to and at home with water, the sea and all that.  However, it struck me that when he asked to walk on water and begins to sink, he calls out to Jesus to 'save him'.  Really?  Being a fisherman he would surely know to swim.  Furthermore the boat was not too far away. He certainly could have made it to the boat.  Why then did he call out for help?  That too from Jesus, a carpenter?

I guess, it has something to do with trust.  Profession or competence does not count. What does matter in moments of great trouble is the trust that I have in the other person.  It is the same trust that makes a frightened child reach out for its mother or father, in case of a fire, rather than a fire-fighter.  Peter's plea for help is typically one of a frightened child.  At that moment of anguish, the child knows not how competent or incompetent the parent is.  All that the child knows is that the parent will not abandon him or her, no matter what.  And that's all that matters.

The trouble with most of us, especially those of us who claim to be close to God and working for His cause, is that we are surely working for His Kingdom but we often forget him.  We work for God but fail to see God and subsequently grow in trust and faith.

Friday, 11 August 2017

Confirmation bias

In my reading during the day, I came across this phrase 'Confirmation bias' meaning, actively looking for things that help your argument and dismissing things that don't.

This is a tendency we find in everyone.  It is often the same bias that prevents us from admitting that we were wrong.  But there is another side of this as well.  Far from acknowledging mistake or error, we go to great lengths to devise strategies that affirm an outright error.  The author of the book Being Wrong, Kathryn Schulz points out five responses people offer to defend their mistake rather than admit them:

  1. time-frame defence: just got the calculations a bit mixed up... but not wrong.
  2. near-miss defence: it almost happened as I said it would 
  3. out-of-left defence: it was almost going to happen as I said, but for that unexpected incident...
  4. I was wrong, but it is your fault: not my doing... if I hadn't listened to your advice, it would have been as I said
  5. better-safe-than-sorry defence: thinking and doing what I did, it would have been wrong for me to act otherwise... 

In all these there is a sort of 'mental accommodation' into which we ease ourselves to justify that what we think, hold, and believe is right, even if we know it is wrong!

McFarland, USA

Last night I watched the movie McFarland, USA.  Am surprised I never heard of it before (given the fact that I have seen more movies in the past three years than I've seen my whole life).  The fact that it is based on a true story is what makes it really inspirational.

The movie is about a group of young boys and their coach in the neglected state of McFarland who train and go on to become the best in cross country race.  What touched me was the ease with which these youngsters could take pressure, especially of work.  Not only did they work, they studied and they trained (which is equally grueling)... all at the same time.  And they did it all with a sense of determination and joy.  Liked the movie for it portrays the value of family, of a team, of belonging, of unity, hard work, of enjoying the little things of life, prejudices and values we hold dear...

There is a truth in the quality of life lived by those who do strenuous manual labour.  I do believe that hard manual labour, especially directly in touch with nature, is a great learning experience.  The following clip is a neat summary of my sentiments too (about all those who slog it out, day in and day out, )
Loved also the amusing clips wherein this coach, used to a posh and comfortable lifestyle and setting, finds the ways of his boys used to the hard life of labour strange.  There is one particular scene wherein after being invited to join the family meal of his team, he wishes to thank the father.  Assuming that he does not know English, he asks one of his sons to tell him that he felt honoured to being invited to his house.  The son repeats the same in English!  And the father tells the son, "Tell him, that he is welcome!" ... in English!

Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Dating God can be a nightmare!

A couple of days ago, the incident of a group of priests being asked to leave the pub because the doorman assumed them to be members of a stag party, wearing clerical habit, hit the news and has since become quite a sensation.  However, what surprised me more than the event itself was the news article published in the Daily Mail a few days ago.  Now the Daily Mail is anything but serious news is known to everyone.  Most often it is sleaze and gossip.  But for it to run an article stating why these men chose to be priests was quite amazing and really stood out for me.  I only happened to by chance come upon the article for I rarely pick up this particular newspaper, except for the daily sudoku, crossword and scrabble.

Here are a few points that stood out for me, most significantly about the recruitment and formation of priests:
  • The expense of training a young man to be a priest is enormous and lengthy.  Is the person we have after ordination, really worth the expense and time and energy spent all along?  For the time, money and energy invested, what sort of person should this be?  What quality and mettle would this person be made of by the time of his ordination?  
  • These men are different but not totally ignorant of the world in which they live and work.  They are people totally immersed in its everyday life.  Now that includes movies, TV shows, popular celebrities, trending talks and videos, ... they may not be huge fans of any but they certainly know it all.  They are not ignorant 'saints' who live in some fantasy world.  They've seen the world - they continue to know the world.  
  • The influence of inspirational models ... (in the case of most of these priests, the life and death of John Paul II) it is enormous.  They may not be perpetual models of inspiration, but the trigger they offer in knowing more of Christ and the Church is sufficient enough to 'seduce' them for life. 
  • When scandal and mistakes of past haunt the present it is easy to become depressed or even totally avoid or even label the whole church as 'bad'.  The alternative, choose to become 'good'. 
  • All of these young men had great opportunities for a career in the world.  They did have high-paying jobs.  Yet they gave it up for they truly felt called for something other than career and money.  Now as priests earning a pittance compared to what they earlier earned, they have no regrets about the money.  The contentment is evident in what you have at hand.  
  • What we give up as priests and religious are essential elements of human nature.  But everyone makes sacrifices - even married people.  And are happy to do so.  So it is not what we give up that matters most, but with what attitude we give up what we sacrifice that counts. 
  • Liked the comment of one of the priests: We are dating God, building a relationship.  And God can be a nightmare! 

Read the whole article here.


Have been grappling with the idea of what it means to be 'normal'.  How does one define normal?  Honestly there cannot be a universal 'normal' about anything at all.  Each place, person, context, region and time in history will have something called 'normal' but not necessarily the same for everyone.

More fuchsias

More fuchsias and gladiolas in bloom...

Hidden pitfalls of ministry

Moses as the leader of the Israelites, leading them from Egypt to the Promised land, is a typical pastor, the parish priest, the minister, the religious!  He feels called by the Lord, empowered by Him to take charge of the people, even though he is no better than any other of those who is being led by him, has his own cupboard full of skeletons and memories which he has to constantly battle, sandwiched between Yahweh and the people, at the receiving end of the people's ire and moaning... and of course, he is human.

However, he also typically suffers the same drawback that most of us priests and religious suffer from.  He feels the burden of being the leader.  He pleads Yahweh to let him go or let him die because he cannot take it anymore.  He feels crushed under the complaints of the people and feels that he has not done enough.  He thinks he has failed them.  He easily forgets that it is God who is in-charge.  He is called to lead the people, not to be their saviour.  Quite comfortably he gets into the saddle to think that he is the one who is to do everything and that if he didn't or couldn't, the whole work is going to fail.

Human nature

In the Israelites journey 'back' from Egypt to the Israel does sketch an interesting portrait of human nature.  While in Egypt they were moaning and grumbling but under their breath, for fear of Pharoah and his soldiers whips.  But in the desert they openly grumbled.  They knew Moses did not have a whip.  While as slaves in Egypt they had no freedom, had to slog it out the whole day;  but in the desert all that they can complain about is food!  They had no work, no hard labour but all that they can think of is 'onions and food of Egypt'!!  Really?

Basic premise: we grumble, even if we have everything;  even if we have to grumble of nothing!  

Sunday, 6 August 2017

Garden in bloom

Two shots of the Salesian Gardens in bloom.

The first and only gladiola... In the background are the numerous Clematis Princess Diana and in the basket hanging above are some pink Petunia flowers - I actually found a small stem of it on the pavement in Chertsey about two weeks ago!  I planted the stem and not only has it taken root, it has started flowering!

The Heartsease too has multiplied.  In the backdrop is the blue balloon flower and the pink flower is called the Himalayan Jasmine (which I'm sure is not the real name!).  But I'm glad for the 'unknown' plant/flower because when I first saw it, it was almost dead.  Even after replanting it and taking great care it never showed any sings of growth. Was stagnant!  Since it did not deteriorate, I was hopeful.  And now it has started to flower!  Great!
Am happy to see all the work in the garden bloom into such fantastic colours and lively plants.  But then I also realize that most of these are all growing by themselves.  I really didn't plant them, nor did I take any extra care.  So will gladly settle for being a co-creator than the master of the garden!  Photograph them? Yes, that's me!  

Flashes of radiance

Our relationship with those around is quite strange, especially with those we relate most and intimately.  Most often their presence and their role in our life is taken for granted.  It seems that it is normal or the way it is supposed to be.  However, when that person is no more present in our life then we begin to see the huge crater left in our life and we realize that what was 'normal' or 'usual' was not so.  It was because of the other person's presence and constant support.  Some are lucky to realize this in their lifetime and begin to value the other person more than before.  Not that the person is now exalted to the heavens but we then slowly get used to a higher level of relationship, at a deeper level. Soon even this becomes 'normal'.  That's how things work with us mortals.  And every once in a way there is a sudden glimmer of light and we see things differently.

Today is the feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord.  The apostles were with Jesus all along, listening to his teachings and living with him.  However, the event on the mountain shows Jesus in a new light.  The apostles now see something more special in Jesus.  But soon even that 'special' becomes 'normal'.  Nothing bad or evil in it.  All that we can really hope and look forward to is those quick moments of insight.  Those flashes of radiance which transform all we ever know of those around us.... and they abound!

May we more willingly and often see the radiance of God shine through those around us.
Painting by Raphael

Friday, 4 August 2017

Devil in a bush

A strange name for a lovely flower... 'Love in a mist' or 'Devil in a bush' (Nigella damascene)

One more at Chertsey

Today Fr Kevin joined our community as a new member for the year ahead.  Most probably there will also be another confrere joining us in another month.  That would make our community grow upto 7 (plus the two at Cowley).  Fr Kevin is going to be the chaplain at the school for the sixth form.

Use less

A creative advert...

Thursday, 3 August 2017

As it was...

Fr George Williams, one of the former provincials of GBR and the Regional of the earlier, English speaking region, used to say this at the end of the retreats.
After this whole week of retreat you all will say 'Glory be to the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit' and the following week it will be 'as it was in the beginning!'
Interesting summary of a typical retreat and the thereafter! 

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

In a pub

Imagine a priest in his cassock going to a bar or a even a restaurant in India...!  Any burglar can loot the whole place because everyone would be staring at the priest!  Not so in Europe.  Pubs are a place of socialising and even priests and religious visit it often, sometimes in their clerical dress.  And everyone is fine, beginning with the priests themselves.

I personally still find it odd.  That's certainly because I have a totally different image of pubs and drinking, even if it is 'just beer'.  So when I read this following trending news article on BBC, I almost fell off my chair laughing: Apology to Cardiff priests...

Pehli taarikh (First of the month)

It suddenly occurred to me that years ago when we were kids at home, Papa used to very faithfully tune into the radio on the first of every month at 7 am to listen to this particular song or jingle (I don't remember if they played the whole song or only part of it) on All India Radio.  One of those lovely old tunes and old memories!

Invariably there was great excitement on the first of every month, in anticipation of the salary...

Monday, 31 July 2017

Busy children

Found the following quote of Rousseau on the back cover of the Don Bosco Today magazine of the Salesian Bulletin of the Great Britain Province...


One of the typical Salesian characteristics, anywhere in the world, is the table fellowship.  Meals are a time of real bonding.  There is fun, laughter, sharing of information, exchange of ideas, and at times graveyard silence too!  But it often refreshes one after a heavy days work.

Something similar is the following lovely jugalbandi (duet) between husband and wife about monthly income and expenses, each one accusing the other for the latter!
Those bygone days, every song was meaningful and contextual.  The lyrics and music both close to reality and the heart.  

Rain day

An article in today's newspaper laments that nearly 10% of todays young people have never seen a live cow.  A clear 20% have never ever been to a countryside, leave alone seen agriculture or farming or animal husbandry.  True indeed.

I laugh my head off when I hear that my nephew and niece have such special days at school: 'Rain day', when they asked to get raincoat to school, so that they can go out in the rain!!  And at home they are prevented from playing in the rain. 'Nature day': when they get to see come cows and poultry in a farm - far off!  I remember when we were kids we were taken once in a while to the zoo to see the wild animals.  Today kids are being taken to see domestic animals!!  Days are not far when we'd have 'neighbours day' when we will see and greet neighbours for once!  Gone are the days of climbing trees, playing in the rain or the scorching sun, eating fruits on the tree itself (even without plucking them!), sliding in slush and dirt, getting bitten by all sorts of ants, insects and reptiles, walking barefoot all over the place, getting bruised playing it rough on the 'playground', riding a cow or a buffalo, stealing fruits from the neighbours farm, 'hijacking' a fallen coconut and trying to peel it with bare hands...

Am happy that my people back in Hyderabad have shifted home.  The present place is close to a lake and is still rural in some ways.  At least that way, my nephew and niece will get to see and live with some animals, birds and insects, and know how thrilling life close to nature can be.    

Jesuits and Pope Francis

Today we celebrate the feast of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits.  And from the little that I know of the Jesuits, I'm sure they're not as fanatics of Ignatius as we Salesians are of Don Bosco!  Good for them!

During Mass this morning Fr John prayed for Pope Francis.  It was only then that I re-remembered that he is a Jesuit.  However, his beautiful exemplary life witnesses Christ and the Gospel values more than his congregational lineage.  So no complaints.  It also occurred to me whether Jesuits do or did approach him for any special favours for the congregation over the last couple of years of his pontificate?  I don't think so.  The Jesuits wouldn't do that.  And even if they did want to, knowing the person of Pope Francis, they'd not approach him!

They're only few people of real calibre whom you know for sure what not to approach for! 

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Fishy meal

Last night for starters during meal we had sushi!  This was the first time for the three of us at table to eat sushi.  I had only heard of it being the favourite dish of the Japanese and knew that it was something about fish.  But on our platter at table there were a different varieties and shapes of "sushi".  So Fr Sean and I were thinking that perhaps the most common element of it all, being white would be the sushi.  Because I was under the impression that sushi is a type of fish!  After meal, Katie asked me how I liked the taste? I answered that I honestly did not find a taste at all. It all tasted like rice to me!  To which Katie replied, yes there is sticky rice in it!  I replied surprised, Really?  She was surprised and said, "Vincent, of all people, you should know that it is rice!"  "Then where is the sushi?" I asked in all my innocence.  That's when Katie patiently replied that the whole thing is called sushi, rice with bits of raw fish.

Okay! Another new thing learnt!  

Sabbath into weekend

Yesterday while reading the first reading of the Mass, about how Yahweh instructs the Israelites to keep the Sabbath holy and why, I was distracted.  The immediate thought that came to my mind was how did the the one day of sabbath turn into two days of 'weekend' in Europe which is predominantly Christian?  That too if it were to remain one day of weekend, I'd still see the connection, but two days?  Saturday and Sunday?

Perhaps one of the miracles of Jesus like turning water into wine, turning sabbath into weekend! 

Thursday, 27 July 2017

Clematis Princess Diana

Found out the name of the creeper and the flower growing near the garage door...

It is Clematis Princess Diana!
And how did I come to know? Found the label with its name and pic under the bush growing at its root.  

Mixing means and goals (2)

The Bible, dogma, doctrine, magisterium, tradition... are means to help us understand and live close to God.  They can be compared to a map.  Just like a map, they show us the way, offer us a route to follow.  However, the map is not the road, nor the journey nor the purpose of our journey.

But is not all of the latter found in the map, to some extent at least?  Yes, indeed.  However, it would be foolish to give up the road, journey and the purpose of travelling merely because one is enthralled by the indicators of these on the map!

Yet that is what we often do: give up loving and living close to Him, in our obsession to follow him.  We forget that God is a person, a living being, not a set of rules, principles and beliefs.  

Imagine the world differently

Am embedding a beautiful video of the L'Arche community (Japan), calling our attention to the world of the differently-abled and appealing us "normal" people to be normal!

Mixing up means and goals

In our enthusiasm to be devout and spiritual we tend to often fail to grasp the real meaning of being so.  We comfortably - and obstinately - settle for the means rather than the goal.  The means is something truly good and noble but we turn that into an end in itself, forgetting that it is supposed to lead us to the living God.  One simple example: the Bible.  The scriptures are meant to help us come closer to God.  However, it is also possible that we get so lost in the Bible that we forget God!  For those who contend that the word cannot be separated from God himself, need to ask themselves ' Is God so fossilized in the written word that he can no longer speak and make himself known through other means?'  If so, then they've never really understood God; some may have perhaps made the Bible into their God.

We Christians run the same danger of the Jews in Jesus' time.  The Jews then were sure of the scriptures, knew exactly what God was like and what he wanted.  But there comes a man named Jesus, saying and doing all the wrong things, and yet claiming to have been sent by the very God whose 'laws' he was breaking!  Today we are so 'full' of Christianity, that God himself may find it hard to enter our lives.  The readings of the day (God appearing to the Israelites on Sinai and 'blessed are your eyes, because they see, and your ears, because they hear') are a stark reminder of waking up to this reality, rather than blaming those gone by for failing to notice the presence of God amidst them.

All that we say or do is for us to feel the presence of God.  Trust that He can use any and every means to reach to us.  We are only called to be open to His message.  Not be fixated on something so stubbornly that we block out not only any further communication from him but Him altogether!

Wednesday, 26 July 2017

Getting a handle on reality

I liked the sort of conclusion the author of the article 'Is linguistics a science?' arrives at - or atleast I think is what the person is ultimately stating.  In a way, seems inconclusive or stating nothing new or grand.
The years-long immersion in Pirahã culture and the struggle to understand it had a profound personal effect on Everett. His encounter with their concept of truth made him rethink his belief in God and eventually become an atheist. His renunciation of universal grammar involved a similar disillusionment, since he had worked within the framework for the first 25 years of his career. 
Yet Everett’s study of the Pirahã falsifies neither Christianity nor universal grammar, since they are not designed for falsification in the first place. They are both a way to try to get a handle on reality. The first asks that you take a set of assumptions on faith because they are the truth. The second provides a set of assumptions for generating a line of enquiry that might at some point lead to the truth. I’m not sure whether you can call yourself a Christian if you reject the foundational tenets of Christianity – but you can certainly reject the assumptions of universal grammar and still call yourself a linguist. 
In fact, a drive to debunk Chomsky’s assumptions has led to a flourishing of empirical work in the field. Even as a foil, villain or edifice to be crumbled, the theory of universal grammar offers a framework for discovery, a place to aim the magnifying glass, chisel or wrecking ball, as the case may be. Archetypes of all kinds can simplify and exaggerate, and universal grammar is no different. But whether as a structured mythology or a catalyst for conflict, it nonetheless helps us to reach a deeper understanding of the world.
[Article and picture as found on Aeon; emphasis added]

To be scientific: validate or invalidate?

I was under the impression that something to be scientific a hypothesis needs to be proved or disproved.

However, it appears that according to Karl Popper's criterion of falsifiability, the capacity to disprove is what makes something scientific.  The idea is that if you go out looking for confirmation of a theory or hypothesis, he said, you are almost certain to discover it. By contrast, good theories or hypotheses are those that allow you to search for contrary evidence. It is possible to conceive of an observation that would conflict with one’s expectations. The capacity to be disproved is what makes a theory scientific.

[Came across this insight reading the following article on Aeon: Is linguistics a science?]

But I guess, any process that involves a systematic and immersed study, either to validate or invalidate, could be termed scientific.  Haven't read much about the falsifiability criterion but seems self-defeating, in a sense.  On the one hand, it keeps at bay the danger of 'assumption', of making something so fundamental and basic that it cannot be challenged.  While from another perspective, if challenged and proved wrong, then is no more valid.

Whatever it be, if in the ultimate analysis, the whole endeavour makes me a better person, willing to see the world in a better light, then that's it!  

Creepers, survivors and thrivers

Am yet to identify this flower. It is from a creeper.  A couple of 'experts' had a look but were unable to identify the flower.  Surprisingly the creeper is small and not a large dense bush.
Then there is this particular plant.  Again, yet to be identified.  In winter it sheds all its leaves and looks 'dead' with just the its branches.  Only with the onset of summer does it start to sprout the leaves. And they look good.  Another amazing feature of the leaves is that once they fall, the colour slowly turns into bright flourescent orange! 

Unfortunately it is growing in the lawn and John wants it out of the way!  I had initially tried to grow it from its branches.  Did not succeed.  However, a couple of weeks ago noticed small plants sprouting from its roots.  I've successfully transplanted one (behind Our Lady's statue - and placed an old bench on top of it, to save if from being trampled by the fox that visits us at night!) and another in a small pot.  There are a couple more growing on the ground still.  Need to shift them to small pots and then cut the big plant.  

the small plants sprouting from the roots
With good steady and slow rains for the last three days, this particular balloon flower (Platycodon grandiflorus) is the largest that has bloomed on this plant so far! 

Accidental beauty

There are some small plants growing around some places in the garden.  I let them be, for they looked different from the predominant weeds.  Some of them turn out to be weeds but some have turned out to be real wonders.  Here's an accidental beauty! It is called Viola tricolor L and has several common names (Johny Jump up, heart's ease, three-faces-in-a-hood...).

Tuesday, 25 July 2017

Hay fever

One of the many pleasant memories I have of my 5 years of stay in Kondadaba was the continued learning of the local language.  Well it was Telugu, but not the same Telugu as elsewhere.  Most of all, it was a constant 'upgrade' trying to understand what Apparao our gardener spoke.  (I was better; Fr KT Jose who was there for 12 years still could not follow most of what Apparao spoke and neither did Apparao understand what Fr KT spoke!).  Anyway, the adventure was always enriching and entertaining.

Being here in the UK, one gets to pick up typical phrases and sayings of English particular to the British.  'Hay fever' is one that I learnt today.  In my usual existing vocabulary it would be 'pollen allergy'.  There are some who struggle much or little, especially the following morning, after a couple of hours of work in the garden.  Here in UK it is referred to as 'hay fever'.  Those allergic to pollen end up sneezing, blowing their noses, struggling for breath, eyes turning red or struggling to keep them open or close them...

Places in heaven

Preparations for the 500th anniversary of the Reformation have already been underway since long here in the UK.  Not only Protestant but also all the Churches are trying to get involved in some way or the other in reflecting on not just the event but its aftermath as well.  Hardliners always swing to the extreme and call for greater clarity between one's own Church and other denominations, falling back on the founder's distinctive characteristic.  Like the Orange Order (Ireland) calling on Protestants to refrain from using "RIP" for the dead as they deem it is a prayer for the dead - something they find superstitious and bad.  After all, as per their belief all that one is to earn, of course by faith alone, is here on earth.  Nothing more can be achieved after death.

Anyway, that was what I was distracted with during Mass when I heard the words of the Gospel wherein Jesus tells Salomi, the mother of James and John that the places on either side of him in heaven are for those the Father has allotted.  Is it that they have been earmarked for someone and no matter what or how good one strives to be, one can never ever secure those?  Well, I don't think so.  That they have been allotted does not mean the one's who will occupy them has been finalised down to the particular individual.  But basically the characteristics and virtues of those who get to sit there have been made clear.  It is like the reserved compartments in trains wherein those who have planned their journey, bought the tickets in due time and have paid the required amount are eligible to occupy. Those passengers do not own those seats but are worthy to use them for having fulfilled the requirements.

However, let me also add that I don't think, for those people who really 'deserve to be at the right and at the left of the Lord' in heaven, it really matters where they sit, as long as they are in the presence of the Lord! It is a strange paradox: for those whom it matters, don't deserve; and for those who deserve, it does not matter!

Monday, 24 July 2017

A philosopher risks life

For once, heard something good of a philosopher... rather philosopher doing good for the world in practical terms: French philosopher Dufourmantelle drowns rescuing children
She believed that 'life begins with risk'.  (Photo source)
Dufourmantelle died trying to save two children from drowning.  An advocate of taking risks, she died living out the principles she spoke about! 

Synthesis of Community life

I have come across the following passage from the Thessalonians (1 Thess 5: 13) earlier as well. However, this particular version of it stood out very much as a perfect synthesis of community life:
Try to get along with each other in the community.  Warn those who are doing too little, encourage those who are anxious, and reach out to those who are burdened.  Be patient with each person and sensitive to individual needs.  When you get on each others nerves, don't answer back without thinking.  Look for the best in others, and try to bring it to the surface for the good of the whole community.  Stay cheerful whatever happens, thanking God for everything.  This is the way people are called to live the life of the risen Jesus. 

Driving test: Passed!

Great news and achievement: I passed my driving test today!

Being the 24th of the month, I knew Mother Mary's special protection would see me through the test today.  And I did!  I was also greatly happy when I got the same examiner who took the first time I appeared for the test, Matt.  He certainly is very pleasant and responsive.

On reaching back home I showed the certificate first to Fr Sean because he was kind enough to spare some of his time and come with me on a couple of drives to offer guidance.  During supper he surprised me with a card!

Sunday, 23 July 2017

All heaven declares...

The music of the hymn 'All heaven declares the glory of the risen Lord...' is very soothing.  Am not very much touched by the lyrics but the music is quite good.

Saturday, 22 July 2017


Fr John invited Br Vlastik and me to watch the movie Dunkirk at Vue in Staines today.  Personally it did not really impress me at all.  Perhaps I am comparing it to other historical war movies which were more appealing.

Anyway, was amused by the first comments of people as they walked out of the theatre after the movie.  But before that I think the director and team need to be congratulated for speaking of a rather 'not-so-glorious' moment of British history.  Dunkirk is not about the victory of the British army or navy, as most movies normally are, but about the pitiful retreat of the British army from the marauding Germans.  Truly knowing the context of the war, helps much in understanding the movie better.

Now for the comments...
It is normally I who used to choose boring movies. Today it was your turn. 
The boats were the real heroes. 
Had to shake myself up a few times from falling asleep. 
And the best one...
It was as lame as the warships! 

Fastest liquid

The other day we were discussing about milk.  Know not how on earth we reached that topic, but there we were talking about it. Fr Marco stated that in some parts of Italy you could get milk straight from the farm.  All you need is a container of your own.  Of course, it is dished out from a machine.  Fr Sean recalled that in his younger days farmers would come around the houses selling milk.  Straight from the dairy. There was nothing called processing or skimmed milk.  It was just milk.  Of course such a practice would be totally abhorred here in the UK at present.  The 'health and safety' motto would never ever allow such practices!  To which Fr Sean replied, "Well, I survived this long drinking that milk supplied by the farmer!" (He is 84 today!).

I maintained a wise silence, with images of how milk is transported and distributed back in India, playing in my mind... and in a way repeating to myself Fr Sean's words!

To wrap up on a lighter note:
Do you know which is the fastest liquid?
It is pasteurized (past-your-eyes) much before it reaches you! 

Friday, 21 July 2017

Critical press

Compared to India, here in the UK, the press enjoys a much more free hand.  The freedom of the press sometimes borders vulgarity, direct insult and even outrageous comedy.  The following are some of the cartoons published in well known and reputed newspapers across the country.  They all take a shot at the none other than the Prime Minister, Theresa May, directly (for her role in the Brexit process).

Honestly I can't imagine such cartoons of our Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi appearing in large colour print (and originals sold in auction!) in our daily papers.  Not only the cartoons, most likely the paper itself may never appear again!  Even if it did, it would be under a different editor or set of journalists. Even if none of this happens, the offices of the newspapers are sure to be vandalized and the offenders never caught.

That people have a right to know, is perhaps the most underlying principle journalists and editors here in the UK go by.  While some newspapers are full of gossip, there are papers worth their ink and even these do not spare some fun and chastisement of those in power.  However, I guess they also ought to be careful of the veracity of what they print, lest they be sued and end up paying through their nose.  Not only the public views and policies of these politicians but even their private lives are not spared from appearing on front pages.  Such high levels of scrutiny by the press of each and every word uttered by the political leaders, ensures that there is a wide range of views expressed and issues discussed in public domain.  

The Lord hardened Pharoah's heart...

The first reading of the day begins with this statement:
"The Lord hardened Pharaoh's heart..." (Ex. 11: 10)
Honestly if only Yahweh did not do this, there'd be no Passover, no slaughter of the Egyptians at the Red sea and no hurried exit from Egypt.  Just that one act of making Pharaoh obstinate resulted in all this following confusion.  So why did he do that?

Some would prefer to believe that he did that in order to fulfill his promises to the Israelites; or to show them his greatness.  These could be 'good reasons' but not 'valid or real reasons'.

The fact is that he didn't!  Yahweh, the almighty could inspire Moses and Aaron and lead them to guide the Israelites out the Egypt, but he could not and would not change the heart of Pharaoh.  That was something beyond his own nature... to meddle with the decisions of human beings.

So then, is the Scripture wrong in making that statement.  Well, can consider it one of the many anthropological modes of expressing an experience of God.  

Thursday, 20 July 2017

Indian Politics

An amusing but interesting insight into the current Indian political scenario...

Preservation by isolation?

The idea of 'getting back Britain' through Brexit, has quite a few who wonder what exactly is to be 'got back'?  I personally am not sure - blame it on my political ignorance!  However, one thing I know for sure, the English were the most 'geography thirsty' people in history.  After the Romans under Alexander, if there was any country which had colonies dotted across the globe it was the British.  If at all, anyone can really talk of 'getting back' it is these colonies which can speak of it in the truest sense.

Britain has barely been alone in any of its quests or ventures outside its shores.  It has always been piggy riding on its power by making others do things for them.  Looking back at the history of India, those Indians who fought in the first and second world war, barely made it to the history books.  Most of these men fought under the British flag and yet I wonder if the names of these men were ever recorded anywhere at all. Having seen some interior villages of England, the names and memory of those who went to war, especially those who died, from that particular village are fiercely protected and proudly displayed.  Well, I guess the Indians did not count - they were dispensable non-entities.

Even the very idea of segregation of a population, a strategy Hitler made use of to the hilt through his concentration camps, was actually of the British minds.  It was first used in South Africa during the Anglo-Boer war.  So now when Britain wants to exit the European Union, this idea of 'preserving itself' appears strange.  A sizeable English population does not really appreciate the multi-coloured reality London is turning out to be!  Even if these non-white Londoners swear by and live their allegiance to the English law, they are not considered 'English'.

If Brexit is a ploy to fortify itself against everything 'non-white' then Britain ought to remember that a compound wall not only prevents outsiders from coming in, it imprisons those within!  

Holiday season

The schools in England, almost all of them, conclude the academic year tomorrow.  And with that the holiday season begins!  Going to some place away from home is one of the essential features of English life, I guess.  So everyone keeps asking me where am I going for holidays (as if I was working all along!).  When I plainly reply that I'm not going anywhere, they are quite surprised and say, you should go!  Coming from a place where taking holidays is a distant dream, there are not even 'weekend getaways', I find their surprise amusing.

And holidays and 'taking off to some distant place' is not a feature only of families with small children, but everyone, even priests!  Some just take off!  Lucky are those parishes where he makes some alternative arrangements for the days he is away.  Some just announce and leave it to the parishioners to arrange for priests, if they wish to have mass in the parish for those days.  No wonder, we've been receiving several calls for 'supply' (chaplaincy) over the last few days - mostly from lay people!  

Happy b'day: Fr Sean

Yesterday we also celebrated the b'day of Fr Sean.  The actual date was almost two weeks ago. But since he was away in Ireland to be with his only surviving sick sister, we could not celebrate it earlier.  He turned 84 now.  Given his age, he is still perfectly fine and healthy.  Good for him he did not agree to go to Farnborough.  Like me he too does not have any responsibility in the community, other than being present!  However, he does much more than me for certain! He is an early riser... is up by 4.30 am!! (just a couple of hours after I've hit bed!!). Every weekend he drives about 200 miles to assist at a Parish of his long time friend.  He is the delegate of the past pupils and knows practically each boy who passed out of Bootle and Blaisedon (where he spent most of his years) from years back!

The past one month has been hard for him as he lost his younger brother and sister within a span of three weeks. Yesterday while thanking the community for our support he said that the fact of their death really did not hit him till someone recently asked him where would he go now for his holidays?  His brother and sister were unmarried and lived in their parental house which has now been put on sale.  His only surviving sister, a Nun is in Ireland itself.  Reminded me of what some other Salesians used to say, 'Once the parents are no more, going home for holidays for us religious is no more the same!'  

Back from the dead: fuchsia

One of the many fruits of my work in the garden:  'resurrection' of a fuchsia plant from an almost dead stem.

Anyway by now I know which is a plant and which one not one best in the garden.  Bit by bit have cleared quite a bit of the garden of the 'wild' growth of some of them.  In fact, those cleared bits look somewhat like my head: bald and clean!  

RIP: Fr Ivor Netto

Yesterday was the funeral of Fr Ivor Netto, at Shiplane Cemetery Farnborough.  It was the first time I witnessed the burial here in England.  It was quite sober and quick.

I had met Fr Ivor on two previous occasions.  The first time was during the memorial Mass of Fr Frank Sutherland, my first visit to Farnborough.  The second time was in the month of May when I was making my retreat at Farnborough.  In the month of June I had contacted Fr Ivor for some help with editing a text of someone else.  He had agreed to complete the task by the end of the month.  However, his sudden death due to a stroke towards the end of the month, left me wondering how much of the work he did complete. So with permission from the administrator of the house, I did manage to hack into his laptop only to discover that he had not started it at all!  Anyway, God rest his soul.

Burden and strength

The Israelites were slaves under the Egyptians till Moses, under Yahweh's guidance, leads them out of slavery.  The first reading of the day, records God instructing Moses to go to the people of Israel and the Pharaoh to tell them of the end of their slavery in Egypt.

Interestingly the gospel speaks of burden and yoke.  The Lord does not say that He will take away the burden.  Instead He says, "My yoke is easy and my burden light."  There is no talk of taking away the burden or difficulty.  But only the assurance that neither will be too much to bear.

In our moments of difficulty and trial we often pray that the difficulty be taken away, forgetting that a genuine prayer would seek for strength and courage to go through the difficulty.  Even in the garden of Gethsemane, Jesus prayed that the cup of suffering be taken away but if it was His Father's will, he was also sure that the Father will give him the necessary grace to endure.
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