Monday, 22 May 2017

Travel in India

Had a long conversation with Fr Des, the Rector here at Farnborough - well, more of him talking and me listening than a conversation in the real sense!  But was happy to spend time with him.  He was narrating all his experiences during his visit to India, Trichy and Bangalore.

The things that stood out for him, from what I gathered, from his long enthusiastic and excited sharing were, the food, the colours, the hospitality, the warmth of people and orderliness of children in the institutions, and of course, the 'chaotic' traffic and 'crazy' travel!!

Speaking of traffic, I can hardly imagine what it must be for an European to travel by road in India.  Here things are so orderly and patient that travel by any given road in the whole of India would be near fatal for anyone with a heart condition!  

Healthcare for the elderly

Being at Farnborough among the senior Salesians of the Province of Great Britain and seeing some of them struggling to walk, sit, stand and coordinate their movements, am reminded of Br Dennis back in my home province at Guntupalli, Vijayawada.

Here at Farnborough the elderly Salesians have all the necessary facilities for their ailing health and stay. Back in Guntupalli, I wonder if Br Dennis has any of these luxuries or anything at all to ease his aches – except the bottle! However, I don't think Br Dennis would feel the absence of these luxuries, because I know not if he knows that Salesians have 'retirement homes'. Not knowing that there are places is better than knowing that there are places and that one can be therein. Left to me, should there be such places? Perhaps yes, but not cut off from active Salesian apostolate. That way the old tradition of 'no retirement' for Salesians makes great sense.

As for me, I certainly would not wish to end up at this stage! Do all the good I can and then rest in peace, for good!

First day of community meals

After my arrival in England, today was the first time I had all the three meals along with the whole community. Someone at table was fooling me, when I shared this with them: “First time you are having all three meals??”

Back in Chertsey, soon after Mass each one disperses in different directions for their daily work. For lunch, there is only Fr Sean and me at home. It is only for supper that we all gather together. Thus today for the first time, I sat for all three meals with the community, and even though it is retreat time, we talk and chat.

Here, I don't think they appreciate or even encourage silent retreats!

Mass cards

During Don Bosco's time, there were prevalent the custom of Mass cards: something boys or people would use to keep track of their participation in Mass, by getting the priest to endorse the card after the Mass. Don Bosco, somehow never introduced those in the oratory or among his boys. He certainly was far ahead of his times, in recognising that Mass is something you attend out of one's own personal desire to meet the Lord rather than fulfill an obligation. As a boy he was eager to participate in Mass, receive communion, even at the expense of foregoing breakfast. He encouraged the boys to Communion, not by routine clockwork but out of a personal experience of the Eucharistic Lord.

Sunday, 21 May 2017

British Summer

Look at these photos! It is of a park in Farnborough. I went out there for a walk after reaching the Salesian house and meeting the confreres. Of course, nothing too great about the place itself. But guess what time it would be?

It was 08.20 pm!! And there still was bright sunlight!! This is really really very weird for me. The sun being up and about till quarter to nine in the night – and can we still call it night??

At last…

At last got to see the plant AND the flower of a particular variety… at Farnborough. At Chertsey we have the plant but was not sure what kind of flower it would yield. Saw the same plant in only one of the houses in the vicinity but that too was no better than the one I have in our garden. So was not sure what to make of the plant. Coming to Farnborough, I saw this particular plant and it flowering right beside the dining hall.

Then for the first time in my life saw a violet coloured rose!

At Farnborough

Drove down this evening to the St John Bosco house, Farnborough for my retreat. Would be here for the coming week making my retreat. It was a good drive, following my google maps directions. However, in two particular places I was a bit lost. The phone was making me go round and round in the same route! Till I decided to see the larger picture and follow the road signs. From then on, it was fine.

I guess I need to remind myself that relying solely on technology is not good! Have enough and more experiences in life of that!

Organ donors

Last night I stayed up a bit late to receive Sr Mary ____ FMA who was coming to give a talk to the Salesian cooperators today.  While I gave her company during her supper, she narrated some of her most cherished memories of this place, Chertsey.

I knew that this place where we Salesians now have our residence was actually of the Salesian Sisters, but what I did not know was that it was their Provincial house for donkeys years.  For almost 7 to 8 decades this was their Provincial house!!  And Sr Mary recalled that the place where our Chapel is, was their Chapel too but made of tin for many many years ... and it is there that very many of the Sisters made their perpetual profession!!

She remembered with nostalgia, how the early local vocations were sent to New Jersey or other missions in the States, besides India, and Australia to help with the English language.  Somehow the superiors then did not think much of developing the English province.  They were not too sure of getting quality and quantity vocations from a predominantly protestant context!  So those few who joined were sent to build up already established mission centres elsewhere.

Quite a few were sent to the States because the Italian community which the FMAs (themselves Italians) catered to wanted their next generation to be adept not only in Italian but English as well. Hence the need for 'English speaking' Sisters!  

Thursday, 18 May 2017

Community honesty

Among the many good things that I've experienced and come to appreciate in this country, Great Britain, is the community virtue of honesty.  I say a 'community virtue' because it is something that is prevalent among almost all. I suppose I cannot categorically state that everyone is honest.  There always will be exceptions but mostly, everyone tends to be honest about their public transactions.

One distinct example that comes to my mind is the unmanned service stations everywhere in this country.  At no place have I seen petrol pump assistants.  Each driver has to fill the fuel tanks of his or her vehicle by oneself.  And then go in to make the payment!  Now I wonder how many take off without paying.  It's very easy, because there is enough time to flee, even before anyone in the shop realises that someone has fled without paying.  But I've never ever seen anyone leave without going in and making the payment.

Still Sunday?

Anet, my three year old niece, know all too well that all good things come on a Sunday.  She knows that she gets to put on her best clothes on a Sunday; that Sunday is the day we go to Church (not that she is any way devout, yet!); that everyone is at together that day; and most importantly, all family travel, that too by car, is mostly always on a Sunday.  So 'Sunday morning' is a good thing for her!  Everytime they want to tide over a tantrum, they 'postpone' it to 'Sunday morning' and she is more than satisfied - even if that done on a Sunday itself! 

Was gladly reminded of this, while travelling back home from London this evening, as I read the incident of a little girl in the back of a Church during a long boring sermon asking, "Mummy, is it still Sunday?"

Torn jeans

Oh, the number of young people I came across today wearing torn jeans!! Whew!  Not only the number of them, but the literally ragged state of the pants!  I'd seen some students at Royal Holloway and it was fine. But in London, the number of them was way too many to count.

If only Mummy were to see this fashion statement, she'd have never ever got rid of my old jeans.  They way by far, usable for another generation - even after my use!  The jeans that I saw today were so 'torn' that Mummy would think twice to use as a mopping cloth or a doormat!  Such was their state!
Image is from the net!
I would never dare click a photo of any stranger, leave alone in such an attire!

London graffiti

During my previous visits to London too I did notice something that I've not found in these rural parts where I live: graffiti.  As one approaches the city of London, one gets to notice the graffiti all around the place.  I know not if it has been 'upgraded' or acknowledged to be part of street art, but it does have a creative bend to it.

Of course, not all of what is expressed is any way worth mentioning, but the art dimension cannot be neglected.  Perhaps some of it can very well be classified under calligraphy!

History of London city

One of the places I spent a long time today in London was at the Museum of London.  It has a lovely collection of the historical development of the city of London right since early AD, before the Romans invaded the island.  The most interesting facts I gathered from my tour of only part of the museum are the following:

  • London was initially a Roman project (though contested).  It was actually 'Londinium' when it was founded by the invading Romans in 43 AD. 
  • However, the Roman power began to wane, largely due to the Anglo-Saxon attacks, and the Romans finally withdrew in 410 AD.  
  • By 600 AD the Anglo-Saxon's had named it 'Lundenwic' meaning London port.  
  • By 886 AD, King Alfred considered to be the first 'English' West-Saxon king, named it Lundenberg. 
  • It was the Romans who instilled the culture of bath and hygiene among the local population (thanks be to God!). 
  • A model of the 2012 Olympic torch is at display in the museum.  The concept, the design and the whole work behind the same is beautifully displayed in a large hall.  

Well, that was only from the two sections that I really spent time at.  Then there was the plague and civil war era, the later developmental stages and other interesting areas of the museum that I could not make it to! Was too tired and wanted to travel rather than be in the same place (travel card had to be made use of, you see!).

The timeline of the history of London city...
 A model of the theatre house ... the concept and the architecture is worth admiring.
 Part of the London Wall, originally built by the Romans!
 I guess it is the logo of the city of London... looks grand!

Rumour mills

Having met Maria and listened to his continuous rabble (that characteristic he still retains, since our days together in Shillong, 2005-2007), it was good. I gathered he was quite unhappy with his experiences of the past year and no sooner did we meet, he took off!

Anyway, among the many things we chatted about, he narrated a talk going around about me among some confreres back in India.  It completely took me by surprise.  It had all to do with my coming to Britain for studies.  The sum and substance of the talk was that I finally agreed to go abroad for my studies (that part is totally true) but did not want to go to Italy because I did not like Italian (really??).  Hence I was sent to an English speaking country!  Wow!

Anyway, one consolation is that Maria now knows the fact.  Those holding the mistaken opinion about my being in England will soon know... should thank Maria, in anticipation! 

Travelling around London

Had a very lovely day in London today.  Basically had to go for an interview at the VFS centre for procuring a visa for my trip to Rome, later this month.  I also thought of taking this chance to meet Br Maria (from Chennai Province) who is in London for a visit to his relatives.  We met at East Croydon, had a tasty south Indian thali lunch at one of the hotels and then almost missed my appointment at the VFS centre.  Had to literally run to and from the stations and in between to change trains and the tube!  Not in the past two years would I have run so fast and continuously for almost 20 minutes, twice!  My thighs and calf muscles are aching like hell now.

Anyway, did make it, although a bit late at the visa centre.  Submitted the form and the needed documents.  Had a little bit of trouble explaining why there was no attached bank statement! What was more ridiculous was that they were asking for the bank statement of the 'Salesians of Don Bosco' (the one who invited me) of Rome!!  After a long explanation and then some discussion among themselves they accepted the application.  Hope everything goes on well at the embassy and they grant me the visa in time (by next Friday!).

Another adventure was the maiden use of a travel card.  Wanted to make the most of it, so after the interview boarded the first bus that I saw, travelled till its terminal.  From there took the tube to another station, and ultimately reached back home after changing some 6 trains and visiting a couple of large railway stations.  Besides it was raining and hence no fun in visiting places!

Here are some of the pics...
This is the Finsbury Square Garden just adjacent to the VFS centre.  Beyond the flowers, is a beautiful lawn!  It was nice to see such open green space in the heart of the city.  Everywhere else there was construction going on!
 Here's one of the buildings near the Moorgate station and the combination of the plants and the purple flowers was too good to miss.  It really looked much more beautiful in real... all around the building.
 The Liverpool State station... quite large and with such high ceiling, that too transparent.  Both ends of the lobby have the same design.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Health and safety गया तेल लाने!

Last weekend talking to an elderly couple from the parish, time and again I was reminded of the freak 'health and safety' syndrome of the West.  Here any and every work has to follow the 'health and safety' guidelines.

The couple I was having a conversation with were narrating of their scary experience while visiting Thailand.  They were having a jumbo safari.  They were seated on top of the elephant, on a sort of platform with a short railing (10 inches tall) that too on just three sides.  At one point the elephant was walking downhill.  They recalled that terrifying experience of falling off the elephant! Even while recalling and narrating the event, the gentleman was quite visibly anxious.  A while later, they themselves pointed out how some people in India travel sitting on top of the trains.  I said, though not very often, people do sit on lorries and buses, leave alone ride buffaloes, donkeys and horses without any safety gear.

Here in UK, practically every house has to have the inspection every year, the insurance taken, safety measures (smoke alarm, motion detectors, burglar alarm, fire extinguishers... just to name a few) installed and regularly maintained - meaning paid for.  A couple of tiles from our rooftop seem to have shifted.  When I volunteered to see and if possible do the necessary repairs, I was strictly told by the confreres not to even think of it.  The expert had to be called in, they chorused.  (However, after a couple of days, the Rector, relented, but let me do it only under his supervision.  I completed the job in 10 mins!)  While travelling, every person in the vehicle is to put on the seat belt.  Even if one passenger does not, some of the modern vehicles start beeping! Even to ride a bicycle one ought to wear a helmet, have a front light, a rear red light, and if possible wear a fluorescent jacket!  Most construction workers look like astronauts!

Living in places like India with all its challenges and hardships, actually makes us stronger and more courageous.  We take risks quite sportively - hardly considering them as risks at all.  Those Europeans who dare, call it adventure!  But for most of us coming from developing countries it is ordinary living!

'Health and safety' गया तेल लाने!

Vine and embers

Fr Sean narrated an interesting analogy of the gospel about vine and the branches, using a story.

There was a Jewish woman who had stopped going to the synagogue.  After a few days of her continued absence, the Rabbi visited her at her home.  When invited inside, both of them silently sat at the fireplace for a long time.  After a while, the Rabbi picked up a tong and from the burning fire picked out a burning ember and placed it outside the fireplace on the stone floor.  At first the ember glowed brightly because there was nothing else around it so bright.  However, after a while it began to fade out and soon died out.  The fire from which it was pulled out continued to burn with intensity.

Our christian faith has a strong communitarian dimension. While each one is exhorted to deepen one's own spiritual life, the witness that we live out is primarily as a faith community.  Besides the witness value, the community also offers each one a supporting and encouraging presence.  All the more true of a religious community!

Missionary zeal

The apostles and early disciples of Jesus were truly a brave lot.  They traveled extensively, often to far off unknown places, encountering a totally different culture, language and people, carrying with them and witnessing a 'strange' doctrine.  They were often misunderstood, looked upon with suspicion, treated with prejudice, imprisoned, tortured, mocked at and also sometimes accepted.

And as if these 'extrinsic' factors which were well beyond their area of influence or even grasp, were not sufficient, the inner turmoil of those already professing allegiance to Christ and His gospel... and the church.  The Greek widows complaining of them being neglected in the rationing of alms.  The Pharisees challenging the entry of pagans into the christian faith, asking them to be circumcised and adhering to the Law of Moses as pre-requisites.  The dissensions and betrayals of those claiming to be close collaborators.

Then, I suppose, they also had their own inner demons to fight. Personal anxieties and tensions, likes and dislikes that constantly found themselves pitted against that what they preached, their own fledgling faith...

Truly, if they did all that they did, that too with such passion and zeal, as is evident in what history stands witness to, then how strong and deep was their conviction of their love for Jesus.

Costly laugh

One of the news headlines of today reads:
Diamond earrings sell for world record $57.4m

Whew!  What a price!  I wonder if anyone wearing them would be easily identified as wearing that 'world record' earrings?  So the one wearing it should either go around telling everyone that the earrings cost so much or must carry around their neck a placard stating the price of the worn earrings.  And once others would know the price, I doubt if anyone would anymore be interested in looking at the face of the bearer of those earrings - all they'd be trying to do is figure out what's so special about those earrings.

Harvested from the mines in South Africa, the ones who really found these (uncut) diamonds would not even be aware of this price at which they were sold.  Most probably that person(s) would not even have a pair of decent clothes or footwear.

Imagine all the basic life-goods that hefty amount could buy for those living in utter despair and poverty in a famine stricken land or a war-torn refugee camp. Yet people are willing to splurge such prices on a piece of jewelry, which would hardly be worn, leave alone in public places!  Even if one did wear them, they'd be laughed at in the first instance for the two earrings are not of the same colour!

No guarantee either that those earrings would add to the inner beauty of the person wearing or owning those.  If it did, he or she would see their futility and not need them.  If it didn't, what a waste of money! 

Sayings of Don Scaboletti

Here in the English province there was a priest (God rest his soul) who had a queer way of looking at things.  He would call a young cleric and say that there are things he needed to know as a Salesian.  And one among the many things he would occassionally tell the cleric(s) was the sayings of Don Scaboletti (never mind, if there never was a 'Don Scaboletti').  Here's one of the famous sayings:
Never approach the Rector for permission while he is having his morning coffee.  And always approach him for two permissions.  One, an insignificant one, merely to test the mood of the Rector.  If he is in a good mood, then go for the real permission.  If not, make a silent retreat! 
Already now, some senior Salesians bemoan saying, "Those were the days of permissions!"  A few years from now, young Salesians will ask: What do you mean by 'permissions'?! 

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Roses in the garden

It has been quite a few days since I left the house.  Hence didn't notice some lovely roses blooming in the front of the house.

What's surprising is that the front garden has never ever been watered, except by the light drizzles that we had over the past weekend.  Yet these flowers are in full bloom and plants look really healthy and thriving.  I guess, they've all got used to the British weather!

The following are growing behind the house! If only Mummy were to see the size of these, she'd have me take these back to India!

Actually, they're not roses in the garden, they're outside the garden!  Nonetheless, wherever they are, they're a sight to behold.

Fuchsia magellanica

Another lovely flower in our Salesian Garden...
They are a type of fuchsia but growing on a shrub.  The scientific name of it is Fuchsia magellanica.  A very strange combination and colouring pattern.  The flower growing upside down with a bulb of totally another colour.  All the same they look lovely.

Pursuit of happiness

Does one have a right to be happy?  I suppose it is not as urgent or essential as the right to life.  In that sense, it cannot really be claimed to be a 'right'; a privilege, a bonus, maybe.

But almost everyone does seek happiness and wellbeing.  There's nothing wrong with it or bad about it.  And why should one not seek to be happy?  There is no sensible reason one would avoid happiness or give it up, unless it is for some greater happiness.

However, which is correct: right to happiness or right to pursue happiness?  The latter makes more sense.  Everyone has the right to the pursuit of happiness, not to ready-made happiness!  None can claim that he or she has the right to be happy, without any effort.

The matchbox

This morning during the meditation a certain analogy came to my mind.  Know not for what and why.   I think it was about God and graces.  It was about a matchbox.  What if I handed to someone a matchbox full of match sticks and told them never to use it but to carefully preserve it.  However, they are keep it on themselves all the while.  They ought to preserve it and see that it does not get wet or soiled.

So the one receiving the matchbox is puzzled.  What's the point of having a matchbox which one is never supposed to open or use.  Moreover one is to preserve it carefully.  Does not make sense.

On the other hand, it will not make sense if one is presuming that it has match sticks.  Or that it has fresh unused match sticks.  Secondly that matchbox is only used to light a match and start a fire  (perhaps there are other uses of a matchbox which I haven't explored or thought of).  It is also possible that I'm not to use it but perhaps others can.

Feel like Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden!

Saturday, 13 May 2017

Real purpose of religion

Most often we use religion as a balm, something that will soothe our pain and sorrow.  Something that will make us feel good.  But the real purpose of religion should be to make us good, not make us feel good.  Came across this distinction reading some article recently (forget where).

I think this is what we like about religion: it makes us feel good.  We are more than happy at this stage and never think of anything beyond it.  I suppose it goes the same with God.  We want God to make us feel good.  We approach the Divine so that we feel good.  The question that we really need to ask ourselves is whether religion or God really makes us good; not just help us feel good.

If only we make that shift from feeling good to being good, we would have taken a step in the right direction to know what true religion or God is.

Finding meaning in prayer

I distinctly remember that prayer service in Yercaud, wherein three of us in the community were asked to share about the Rosary.  Two of us were students and when the third person stood up to speak we were surprised: it was Fr Stan, our Principal.  By all common standards, we did not expect him to be speaking about the 'graces' of the Rosary.  Not that we considered him some sort of atheist or agnostic, but just a gut level feeling.  But I still remember his concluding words:
I pray the Rosary not because it is good and beautiful or that it fulfills my wishes.  I pray it because it helps me find meaning.  So is there a possibility when I will stop praying the Rosary?  Perhaps I will... when I find a more meaningful prayer.  Till I find a more meaningful prayer, I'll stick with the Rosary.  
I'm still struggling to make sense of the prayer! Or maybe I'm praying it for all the wrong purposes, as and when I do pray.

Search for meaning

Didn't realize till this morning that it was the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary.  Only when I was flooded with messages of 'happy feast' did I begin to ask myself what feast is it today.  Then there are those who send the picture greetings. From them I deduced that it has to be the feast of Our Lady of the Rosary/Fatima.  That's when all the news and things I'd been reading about Fatima, the Pope's visit to Fatima, requests for rosaries and all that fell in place.

Living here in the UK, and viewing the way people live their lives, most of them totally not bothered about God or anything divine, a great number even boldly questioning anything and everything spiritual or even moral, I am beginning to see how it can be so 'serene'.  Am not very willing or keen to blame one or the other thing that has led to this state.  Wouldn't want to be judgemental about it.  But I see how easy it is to slip into this mode of 'just living one's own life'.  When the whole culture around you is like that it does not take long for one to adopt it.

Back in India, there are a million things that will constantly remind you of the religious, spiritual or divine aspect.  Whether for good or bad, is secondary, but the fact that there are reminders at every moment and every corner, explicit and in your face, cannot be denied.

But would also like to remind myself that if one has truly experienced the Divine, then every aspect will naturally be a reflection of that Divine.  If we have only limited ourselves or bluffed ourselves with some religious sentimentalism then we'd look for reminders in all the wrong places.

On this day of the feast of the Rosary, am not very keen about the secrets of Fatima or the canonization of the children,... would like to remind myself of the meaning that the Rosary has offered to people of all walks of life.  Above all, the soothing presence and grace of Mother Mary which continues to bless people all over.  For the peace and meaning that people derive in approaching Mother Mary, assured that she listens.  

Friday, 12 May 2017

Birthdays/death anniversaries

This evening it suddenly struck me that the number of confreres that I have on my province (INH) birthday booklet are lesser than the number of confreres this province (GBR) has on its necrology list.  And the number of confreres on its birthday list is a little more than the list I have of deceased confreres from my province!

No wonder I have someone or the other to pray for who celebrates his birthday back in my province, everyday!  And here they have more often than not, more than one to remember the death anniversary of, every day of the year!

Salesians came to Great Britain during the term of Don Rua (as the Rector Major) that was before 1910.  And Salesians came to India more or less around the same time, in 1906.  So if I were to compile the list of all the deceased Salesians in all the Indian provinces over the years, it would certainly be more than that of GBR.

However, it is sad to see the decline in the number of vocations not just to Salesians but to religious life in general, and to practicing faith itself! I really don't fear a similar fate of Salesians back in India.  Given the religious sentiment of our nation, I doubt if we'll ever run short of personnel.  But what I am doubtful is the quality of personnel.  Of the latter, I fear. 

Thursday, 11 May 2017

Wedding anniversary

Today is the ninth wedding anniversary of Willy and Roshni, my brother and sister-in-law.  It was on this day that they were married in Mangalore, at St Lawrence's Church (Attur).  I had the joy of being the chauffeur and the family photographer!  The most uncomfortable thing was I had to wear what Mummy wanted me to wear - and mind you, I was then almost 14 years a religious, a perpetually professed Salesian, teaching philosophy, and at that time the secretary to the Provincial!  Nothing of that counted when Mummy ordered!  And later she was ordered by her sisters as to what to wear!!

Anyway, I remember the excitement at home, the hustle and bustle of the place, getting ready, decorating the car with my cousins, meeting all those 'strangers' (who knew us, but we hardly knew anyone)... That my parents and I didn't have much to do was quite relaxing. My uncle was seeing to all the arrangements and we would literally follow his instructions.  Willy himself was quite serene and during the Mass he was not disturbed by anything around.  It has been how he has been participating in the Mass over the last few years - devout, undeterred by any confusion or disturbances around, focused and silent.  For that day, he had already arranged and wanted to have the nuptial rite in English and not in Konkani as the rest of the Mass - he said, he wanted to really understand and fully consent when he took the vow.

The Church was full and so was the hall during the reception, thereafter.  I knew not even a quarter of those present.  But it was evident that everyone knew everyone!  That was one major event in which I - or for that matter, my parents - had no role in the organisation.  Thanks to our Uncle who saw to every detail of the whole event or process, I should say, given all that went on before and after the day.

Anyway, wish both Willy and Roshni all the best and God's abundant blessings on this special day of their life together.  

Moving on

Back in India, it is transfer time in the Salesian world.  These are the days of farewell gatherings, handing over reports, final messages, packing, and of course, loads of gossip doing the rounds.  I've been asked a couple of times by people of the place if being moved from place to place, just when you are establishing roots and setting up things, is painful?  I've never been too perturbed and some found that a bit disturbing.  They knew quite well that I was fully present and involved in the work I was entrusted with.  That my heart and soul was there with them was beyond doubt. But to find me relaxed and quite comfortably resigned to moving on to the new place was a bit of confusion for them.  I guess it is mainly because we know that no one is going to be in one particular place or responsibility for ever.  Moreover I know that I'm not going to some absolutely unknown or god-forsaken place. After all, I'm moving to another Salesian house.  It's like shifting house.  All the same, I cannot deny that there is within - always - a feeling of uncertainty, anxiety and a bit of fear too.  

Wednesday, 10 May 2017

Available also in white

On the back of a van which was so covered with dust and dirt that one could hardly identify the colour of the vehicle, someone had scribbled
This vehicle comes also in white!

Sepoy Mutiny

Today is the anniversary of the First Sepoy Mutiny held in 1857.  Ironically while in India, never gave it much of a thought.  Not that I remembered the date today and had some special celebration commemorating the day.  But found it mentioned in one of the newspapers here - just a mention of the day.  I wonder if any of the Indian newspapers or news channels remembered this.  More about the rebellion which lasted almost a year and half... here.

Somehow, being in a foreign land, that too, the one against whom India fought for independence, being reminded of such a historical event is nostalgic.

Tuesday, 9 May 2017

Doing nothing

After more than a week of lounging around and doing nothing - literally nothing at all, it was good to get back to serious reading, at least for the whole morning.  Any particular reason for doing nothing in the past week? No reason! Just like that... I suppose, one of the luxuries of religious life! Doing nothing at all, and yet have everything and lose nothing at all.

Rorty, sentiments and human rights

Richard Rorty, speaking of human rights, believed that reason was not an effective means of communication in a human rights discourse. Anti-foundationalist that he was he did not believe in human rights being founded on some moral or eternal principle, which everyone ought to recognize and admit.  He rather preferred to speak of a 'human rights culture' something that we socially have agreed to.  And the best means of building this culture? Through sentimental education, not rational argumentation.

I see a very valid point in what Rorty is trying to build.  The sentimental appeal is much stronger than any rational argument. We are affected more by our sentiments than our logic and rationale. The idea is to make people see that others are not "like us", but "us".  However, there seems to be a sort of drawback lurking just round the corner in this argument.  Am not really able to pinpoint it, but I can feel it.

  • Is it that convincing someone of human rights using emotions is more of a blackmail than a real conviction? 
  • Would I be using the suffering of others as a 'lesson' plan? If no suffering or pain with which I can appeal to the sentiment of others, do I not have a valid means of conveying the worth of human rights? 
  • Seems more like claim-rights... only when 'we' agree to something.  What if 'we' agree to what is convenient for us?  Slavery and dowry was very convenient once upon a time.  Even to those who were burdened by it, because it was a 'socially accepted norm'. 
  • What of those who 'understand' the language of reason?  Learned men and women who know what is being said and discussed?  
  • Can international and national policies ride on the strength of emotions and feelings? 

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