Wednesday, 30 May 2018

Richness of poverty

While speaking of formation to the attitude of renunciation and living a life of poverty, Fr Jose Plascencia mentioned three good points, drawing lesson from the parable of the merchant and the precious pearl... he called it the 'phenomenology of renunciation'.
  1. The pearls the merchant initially possessed are renounced (sold) not because they are false!  They were authentic and up till then made up the merchant's wealth.  Similarly when we make our profession we give up all that we live by not because it is bad or evil;  far from it, it is all that made up what we are and lead us to this point of taking a decision.  We do not renounce bad things but good things.  Renouncing 'bad things' hardly makes the cut to an authentic and complete renunciation.  
  2. I renounce the good things because I've found something better!  The merchant sold all he had because he found the pearl of extreme value for which he was willing to forgo everything he had.  If our consecrated life, centred on following and the imitation of Jesus, is not fascinating, the renunciation it requires becomes unjust and dehumanizing.  
  3. The joy of now possessing the precious pearl never eliminates the fear that maybe it is not authentic.  In religious life, that is the risk: faith.  If we become convinced that what we are living for and doing, is not the truth, then we become mere salesmen (not Salesian) who are in the art of selling the product to others but never trusting, never using it oneself.  The community becomes an institution; religious life, a mere service;  and my consecration a heavy burden that I (and others with me) unwilling grin and bear. 

Love God and love your neighbour (in that order)

The summarized command of Jesus to love God and love one's neighbour is given in a particular order: God takes precedence.  The speaker Fr Jose Plascencia spoke of the threefold idolatry that threatens the very foundation of our christian and religious life...

  1. absolutizing material things and adoring money as god
  2. finding in a person (or persons) the ultimate and definitive meaning of our life, setting aside the primacy due to God
  3. putting ourselves in God's place (perhaps, the most dangerous temptation of all)

The worst thing could be instead of serving God, making use of God to serve our purposes!  

Vows: Human and Divine dimension

Viewing the evangelical counsels from an anthropological perspective, their emphasis is not diminished.  In fact, most of us fail in the normal human realm while we feel we are doing well at the divine realm (do great with regard to God but not with our neighbour!).  Though may seem a bit narrow view of the evangelical values, the following particular viewpoint touches upon our being human much before it helps us arrive at God...
in relation to things: poverty
in relation to persons: chastity
in relation to oneself: obedience 
However for us religious God is not something we postulate at the end of the practice of our evangelical counsels.  Rather, God is to be the primary reason for our taking up the evangelical counsels.  Only in him and because of him we love our neighbour (in chastity); use goods of the world in solidarity (in poverty) and discern our own path in the light of the Divine plan (in obedience). 

Tuesday, 29 May 2018

Poverty and love

Our vows makes sense to our religious life only and only if we take them out of love and live them for love.  If they are an end in themselves then they cease to be anything virtuous or leading us any closer to God.  In no time they will become a burden under which we find ourselves being crushed instead of being of any help to others. 

But this love can be only for our fellow human beings, with no God-dimension in it!  Can it?  I don't think it can be possible to be so in love with human beings that God and any other life can be excluded from it.  However, I need to deepen this reasoning.

Coming back to the vows and love... in the context of poverty too, a poverty that does not stem from love is not a poverty to be desired nor does it get us any nearer to God.  Truly if our deeds and not mere words are a genuine test of love then a mere detachment from material possessions is not going to take us far.  Augustine has a very radical look on this aspect when he states
If you are still not yet disposed to die for your brother, be at least disposed to give some of your goods to your brother ... If you cannot give to your brother from what you have in excess, how can you give him your life?
That invariably either stems from or subsequently leads us to the Gospel quote
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one's life for one's friends. 

Theological parable

Here's another of Fr Jose Louis Plascencia's reflection:
The reflection is based on the gospel parable of the poor widow putting in her only two pence in the collection box (Lk. 21: 1-4). 
... all of them contributed out of their abundance, but she out of her poverty put in all she had to live on. 
In an ordinary sense it offers a very powerful ethical and moral lesson to trust God completely. A great moral motivator indeed. 

However, it one day struck Fr Jose that it could also be read as a remarkable theological parable!  Is the God of Jesus Christ like one of those rich people who "contributed much" but out of their abundance, or is he not rather like the poor widow who gave everything for our sake, all that was dearest to him, his only Son? 

Monday, 28 May 2018

Parenthood and unconditional love

Listening to Fr Jose Plascencia speak about the fatherhood of Don Bosco, I was struck by two of his points towards the end of his presentation.  He made a significant point trying to relate God the Father's unconditional love and human fatherhood, equally applicable to motherhood as well. 

In every type of human love, there is a prior knowledge of the person being loved, except in one.  Parents love their son or daughter even before he or she has a face or a name, even before they know whether it will be a boy or a girl.  This rather universal dimension of parental love comes close to the unconditional love of God for his children. 

The second aspect is that the love of a father or mother is not at all indifferent to the response of the son or daughter, but it does not depend on the response.  Parents love their children no matter what.  Even if they know that their son or daughter is turning to evil and unrighteous, one cannot really get a parent to wish evil upon them. 

As I listened to these points I was wondering if as a Salesian we can ever be a 'father' to the children we take care of, especially those orphaned or abandoned, like in our Navajeevans.  One really needs a different kind of heart to really love.  And if we do not make every effort to acquire that heart, we would be making a joke of the prayer of consecration we recite every morning.  

Passions and spirituality

The word 'passion' is often seen suspiciously in ecclesial circles.  The only time it is looked up with some respect - in fact, with utmost reverence - is when it is spoken in the context of the last moments of Jesus: the passion of Christ. 

The Russian author Merezhkovsky writes,
It is very strange that the Church, considers the 'passions' as something bad and their absence as a sign of holiness, has had the courage to call her greatest mystery a 'passion'.
But honestly speaking, without our passions, we are not really human.  Our emotions and feelings are very much part of our being human.  Not just emotions but even anything mundane cannot be excluded from our spirituality.

Soren Kierkegaard has a very significant point when he states 
It is a greater loss for one to lose his passion than to lose himself in his passion. 

Sunday, 27 May 2018

तीन तिकङम

In Hindi there is the popular saying, तीन  तिकङम काम भीकडं... where there are three involved in a work, there abounds confusion and utter failure!  So I guess it would not be a great idea to begin a catechism class in the Hindi belt with a  discourse on the Holy Trinity! 

The best we can grasp of the Trinity is the relationship between the three people, just as in a family.  Every family, even if it comprises of merely three people, has its own ups and downs.  There are moments of great joy, thrill, excitement and there are also moments of sadness, confusion and anxiety.  All of these go in to make us a family.  Not everything is perfect, all the time.  Perhaps if it were, we would not be a united loving family - just as if a family were to bear only hardships all along, with no moments of joy.  While none of us have a total control over the circumstances in which we live, we can to a great extent choose our perspective of those circumstances.  It is that attitude, that perspective, that bonding, that ultimately forms the foundation of our relationship. 

Friday, 25 May 2018

"Don Bosco"

In our religious circles buying something in an individual's name always leads to complications.  So does putting the office titles as owners!!  The problem with names on purchase orders, maintenance contracts, agreements, registration and what not is that after a couple of years, the individual is transferred and the company will not look kindly on the new 'owner'.  Back in India, to avoid this difficulty, I used to put down 'Don Bosco' as the name.  But even that has its own issues!

I remember one day while at Ramanthapur, there was a technician who arrived at the gates to repair the water filter or something.  He found one of our boys and asked for 'Don Bosco'. The boy in all his innocence pointed him the statue of Don Bosco!  The man was shocked.  Presuming the 'owner' had died, he asked, "When did he die?"  The boy, who was with us for years, knew his Salesian history well and promptly replied, "More than a hundred years ago."  Realizing something was not right, he stated the purpose of his visit and asked to be shown someone 'incharge'.  The boy knew that I looked into these matters and so he brought the gentleman straight to my office.  And as he entered, he said in a very pitiful tone, "What Brother!  This man does not know anything of Don Bosco!!"  Being with us Salesians and hearing about Don Bosco a hundred times during the day, he presumed everyone in the world would know Don Bosco! 

Thursday, 24 May 2018

Punting

Earlier this week while at Oxford for a day with the Catholic society students from the university, we spend sometime in the afternoon on the river punting.  I had heard of it but never knew what exactly it meant.  So on Tuesday had a first hand experience of it.  We were fourteen of us, but one declined because he was physically challenged and he said, he'd not be able to sit on a boat.  So we had three boats.  Each boat was to collect four cushions, a paddle and the punt  (a long metal pole) from the boat house.  I was on the final boat.  Each boat for oneself.  No one to paddle or help.  We were four of us on our boat.  The other two boats had someone who had punted earlier.  Ours had none.  And even before we alighted the flat boat, two of them declared that they're not going to punt at all!!  That left me with the punt. 

Anyhow after about 30 minutes of going round and round, hitting the banks at regular intervals, scraping through the overarching tree branches, almost falling in the water a couple of times, I was slowing getting a hang of it.  However the best thing was the two who had declared that they would not punt, (I gather they were really frightened to), reading out instructions from the internet as to how to punt!! 

On the whole, it was a wonderful experience - an hour of pure fun! 
At Christ Church Cathedral, Oxford.
L to R: Fr John, Josh, Fr Thomas (Oxford Catholic chaplain), DK, Arthur, Dominic, Callum, Alessandria, Christian, Adele, myself, Sam, Gabriela, ..., Levinas, ... (a member of the Oxford chaplaincy team)

Future history!

After break during the school hours, a Salesian Priest at Farnborough (many years ago) found a boy walking backwards towards the classroom.  When the priest asked, "Why are you walking backwards?" the boy replied, "The next hour is history!"

Counting prayers!

Two boys approached the Salesian priest who is the chaplain at the school today.  The students had received their marks for the exams they sat through a couple of days ago.  One of the boys had literally failed in mathematics.  Feeling sorry and wishing to make amends, he told the priest, "I sure need some prayers.  I myself will pray too!"  As the priest, was consoling him the other boy offered this suggestion, "You better not pray the rosary.  That involves counting!" 

Mary our help

When we appoint someone at our house or in the institution as a domestic helper, we expect the person to do the duties entrusted or listed.  However, the work is actually ours.  It is our work that we should have otherwise done.  The helper appointed is actually assisting us in the task of doing our work.  Even when the one appointed does the work solely, it does not become her work.  If he or she does not do the work, either because the person is sick or has left the job, the one who employs has to find alternative hands or do it oneself.  It falls back to the one whose work it ultimately is. 

As we celebrate the feast of Mary our help, it is good to remind ourselves that the role of Mother Mary is that of a helper.  She is not the total answer to any and every of our question.  She isn't going to do all our work, taking it upon herself as if we had nothing to do with it.  Far from an employed or enslaved helper, she is one who volunteers to help.  In so much, as she offers her great courage and virtues as a support to our own efforts, she helps.  We need to take responsibility and be humble enough to seek her readily available intercession.

Happy feast!

Wednesday, 23 May 2018

Water source and farming

Only today did it strike me that nowhere in the whole country of UK is there any submersible water pump, leave alone in individual houses or properties.  The primary reason for this is the abundance of rain that the country receives all year round.  Secondly there are natural rivers (Thames, being one of the biggest), tributaries and lakes scattered all across the country.  So the existing abundant water is merely purified and distributed. 

That explains why there is no cultivation done is most parts of the country, even in times when there is enough sunshine and warmth for one crop.  The place is not close to a water reservoir and getting water to that place is costlier than merely importing the required food from another part of the world.  Every time I see vast expanses of land with nothing but grass growing, I'm reminded of farmers back in India who struggle to cultivate bits of arid land.  Here the land is fertile, water in plenty and heavy machinery at hand.  Back in most parts of India, the farmer has no land, even if he or she has it is not always fertile, there is hardly any water is some other parts of the country, and it is all hard manual labour.  

Quality of life

Why is it that in religious life, living is made simple and without too many frills?  Our vows are basically aimed at reducing the 'clutter' in living.  At times when I see some of the students at the university and all that they have and carry around, it amazes me.  The same is true of some religious too.  They have so many things, half of which they themselves are not aware of.  And yet these things are carried round year after year and remain in one's room or in the house, gathering dust.  And most of these are not even essentials - well, at least not for me! 

However the whole point of simplification in religious life is that we focus on the bare essentials.  After a time in life there comes a point when we realise that there are very few things that are really really needed.  The rest are luxuries which can very well be dispensed with.  The point of religious life is to improve the quality of life, rather than the commodity of life.  But if the simplification does not aid in the improving the inner quality of life, then again, that 'de-cluttering' is another thing added to the existing clutter!

Sunday, 20 May 2018

Mary, Help of Christians (6)

In north-east of India, in Shillong, and specifically at Upper Shillong in the Salesian novitiate house chapel is the statue of Mary Help of Christians that was brought by one of the first Salesian missionaries who set foot in India in 1906 at Tanjore, Tamilnadu.  These missionaries from Italy carried with them the statue and it still is preserved with great care and venerated with great fervour. 

And Salesians everywhere have always proudly spoken of Mother Mary, under the title 'Mary help of Christians', wherever, whenever and however they've been able to.  Shrines to Our Lady help of Christians are just one of the direct means of spreading this devotion. 
Our Lady in our Salesian Chapel, Chertsey

Re-christening

Very many people, in the course of their lives, acquire or are given names very different from the ones they have been given at birth.  So often these names stick, much more than the original names. 

I remember very well one of my students while I was doing my first year practical training in Kondadaba.  My Telugu was not at all good then and the students English was not any better! So at times I used to explain concepts and lessons using some Telugu.  Often I'd get stuck but they'd help me out with words and we fared well together.  On one such occasion I was using the analogy of horses and carriages, but got stuck for want of knowing the Telugu word for 'blinders'.  I tried my best and showed the class using my open palms besides my eyes.  Mariadas, sitting right at the first desk, in his enthusiasm shouted, "kommulu" (horns, in Telugu)!  We all burst out laughing - horns on horses?!  Ever since he was called 'kommulu' Mariadas.  Today he is a priest in the archdiocese of Visakhapatnam and his companions still refer to him as 'kommulu' Mariadas!

Fr Michael was narrating of times when he was a boy and those entering the aspirantate would change their names to avoid confusion.  If a boy named James entered the aspirantate and there'd already be someone with that name, he'd be asked to choose a closest alternative. Say he'd choose 'George'.  And next year there'd join a boy named 'George' and the poor guy would have to change his name! 

Another boy at school was called 'Armpit'.  Of course, that was not his name.  But that's what he was called all his school time.  It so happened that on the first day at school when asked by the teacher for his name, he announced, 'Am Peter'.  However to others it sounded 'Am-pit' and that was it! 

Then there was this boy in another school who was called Archie by all at school.  Even his parents called him Archie. But that was not his name at all.  Neither did anyone, not even his parents, know why at all he was called Archie!  But that was how he was called by everyone all his life. 

Hunger

What most of us experience or speak about when we talk about 'hunger' is only the text book definition of it: lack of food.  Real hunger is not merely lack of food, well assured of a meal in a known time ... something that we undergo or experience during some retreat or Lenten fasts or for medical purposes.  Real hunger is lack of food, and the knowledge that there is no assurance of and if there is going to be any meal at all!

A little good deed

On my walk this evening I came across three ladies - one of them an RSPCA officer - trying to coax a foal into a caravan.  The only trouble was that the foal was across the fence and the gate padlocked!  I noticed them from a distance and as I neared asked if they needed help.  One of them responded that they'd be happy if someone helped.  She stated that though it looked as if they were stealing the foal but it's just that the police officer would not let them cut the padlock without the owner being present.  The foal was just a day old and the mother had died.  The owner, no one knew anything about.  One of the ladies happened to notice this and informed the RSPCA.  I located a wedge in the fence, big enough to lead the foal rather than haul him over the gate! That was quick work.  This was the first time I saw and felt a horse, even though it was just a day old.  Even though it was not very steady on its feet and none of us were sure if it had milk at all since its birth, it was all muscle, heavy and big (in comparison to any baby animal I've come across!).

And came home, only to find the following video forwarded on one of my whatsapp group...

Saturday, 19 May 2018

Mary Help of Christians (5)

The painting was conceived by Don Bosco who spoke of it to the painter Lorenzone as a spectacle already seen.
The Most Holy Mary in high among the choruses of angels. Then the choruses of prophets, virgins and confessors. On the ground, the emblems of Mary's great victories and the peoples of the world raising their hands towards her asking for help. 
The painter made him see that painting such a picture would need a square and a church as large as Piazza Castello to house it. Don Bosco resigned himself to reducing the scale of his project. Lorenzone hired the highest hall in Palazzo Madama and started work. After three years, the great painting was hung in its place.

Don Bosco described it thus:
The Virgin standing out in a sea of light and majesty, surrounded by a horde of angels paying homage as if to their queen. With her right hand, she holds the sceptre, the symbol of her power, and with the left, the child with its arms open wide, offering its grace and mercy to those appealing to the majesty of his mother. Around and below them are the Apostles and the Evangelists in a state of sweet ecstasy, almost exclaiming: 'Regina Apostolorum, ora pro nobis', they contemplate the Holy Virgin in amazement. At the bottom of the picture, there is the city of Turin with the sanctuary of Valdocco in close up and with Superga in the background. The picture's greatest value is the religious ideal that makes a pious impression on whoever admires it. 

According to Don Bosco's description, the painting is an effective portrayal of the title: "Mary, Mother of the Church", and a great page in Marian catechesis.
(Source: Don Bosco Turin)

Friday, 18 May 2018

Opportunities for all

Yesterday at the British museum I noticed a group of differently-abled children in the 'Enlightenment gallery'.  They were about 8 of them.  All were physically and mentally challenged. Two of them were wheel chair bound.  I think each of them had a full time carer with them.  Some of them were really restless and noisy.  However, the carers took good care of them. 

What surprised me most was that they brought them to the museum.  Not only that they were explaining the various things of the museum to them, just as they would to a normal child!  Back in India, a child with any disability is considered a burden.  Taking them out in public is only adding to the social stigma they and their parents face.  Hence they are mostly house-bound.  I know not how much of what they saw of the museum did these understand and learn but I greatly admired the fact that they were offered this opportunity, this exposure.  Very brave and patient was the explanation of the teachers too.  

Mary Help of Christians (4)

Mary Mazzarello, the first founding superior of the Salesian Sisters (FMA) was also a great devotee of Mother Mary, especially under the title 'Mary Help of Christians'.  When Don Bosco christened the fledgling group of young girls as a religious congregation he gave them the name 'Daughters of Mary Help of Christians' (Figlie di Maria Ausiliatrice in Italian).  

Mary Mazzarello is said to have always referred to herself as the vicar of the congregation, citing Mother Mary as the real and first superior.  Moreover, every night after locking the house, the keys of the house would be placed strategically at the feet of Mother Mary, a sign that the house and all its inmates were under her protection.  
Our Lady at the Chertsey cemetery, looking after the deceased Salesian Sisters

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Chocolate drink

The idea and recipe of the Cadbury chocolate originated in the West Indies! A note at the British museum bears testimony to this.  It is said that the physician and founder of the British Museum, Sir Hans Sloane first tasted the West Indian drink made from cocoa plant during one of his visits to Jamaica.  A note explaining this historical event reads...
'Nauseous and hard of digestion' was Sloane's first reaction to the West Indian drink made from cocoa plant.  He boiled the beans with milk and sugar to make it more tasty and used it as a remedy for indigestion and consumption.  After his return from the West Indies, 'Sloane's milk chocolate' was sold all over London, the recipe eventually passing to the Cadbury brothers.  The botanist Carl Linnaeus called it theobroma cocao - 'drink of the gods'. 
It is said that chocolate was a delicacy for the king and queens - primarily because Sloane was their  physician and who would reject such a lovely medication! 
The bust of Sir Hans Sloane, in the British Museum

Good is not the word

Speaking of stating the truth without hurting or causing confusion and in a way acceptable to all, without in any way diluting the content of it, is an art. 

Many years ago a few Salesians doing a refresher course in the States were invited by a family for a meal to their home.  The household had put in great efforts to receive them, make them feel at home and lay out a grand meal.  However the food was not so great.  And when, at the end of the meal, the hostess asked the priests how was the meal, one of them prudently replied, "Good is not the word!" 

The Salesian conveyed what he wanted to convey, without in anyway offending the lady! 

Witnessing

At the end of the first reading of the day, Paul is patted on his shoulder for his daring witness in Jerusalem.  But if we actually see the preceding lines, all that Paul said was merely one line!
My brothers, I am a Pharisee, the son of Pharisees; I am on trial for hope in the resurrection of the dead.
That's it!  Not a word more.  And the ensuing circumstances saw Paul being a prisoner, walk away a free man.

Perhaps only a smart and shrewd man like Paul could pull it off.  He knew well the composition of the Sanhedrin before whom he was called to testify.  All that he did was pitch one party against another (Pharisees vs the Sadducees).  The resulting confusion was too much for the presiding officer to handle and with no clarity of the charges against Paul, he was let off. 

It is not always best to speak the truth in the most blunt and honest manner.  Sometimes stating it in a smart way yields better results without being unfaithful.  However we need to bear in mind, what led him to being held a prisoner in the first place: His relentless proclamation of Jesus being risen from the dead and all the good that he did along with it. Moreover, once in Rome Paul tries a similar stunt, but does not succeed for long.  

Mary Help of Christians (3)

'Mary Help of Christians' was not the first invocation that Don Bosco chose for his apostolate.  In the initial stages of the oratory the invocation, 'Immaculate Help' was quite popular.  Perhaps it has much to do with the declaration of the dogma of the Immaculate Conception in 1854.  For some time Mother Mary was invoked under the title 'Immaculate Help of Christians'.  However, in the course of time, the title 'Mary Help of Christians' gained popularity and stuck. 
This is the Chertsey Salesian Gardens Our Lady!

Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Political Shepherding!

Politics never fails to amaze! I thought it happened only in movies.  The political party herds all its members, the MPs, MLAs and all those 'elected to power' into a resort or hotel in crucial times when the allocation of tickets or in case of a hung assembly.  The idea is that no one is enticed by the rival political party to join their party and thereby tilt the number in their favour.  It actually happens in reality too!!  Wow... goes a long way in showing how trustworthy politicians are.  If their loyalty lies with the party and its leadership then they ought to stick together through thick or thin, but not be 'herded together'.  Full points to the leaders (for their trust in their own party members) and the ministers (for their loyalty to the team).

One can write a whole new and different Bible for politics, especially about 'shepherding'!

Mary Help of Christians (2)

Though Pope Pius V added the invocation 'Mary Help of Christians' to the litany and Pope Pius VII instituted the feast day on May 24 to commemorate his release from Napolean's captivity, it was Don Bosco and the Salesians who actually made this invocation famous.  Thanks to the Salesians spread across the world, who venerate Mother Mary under this title, this invocation is heard all around the globe.  And for no vain reason did Don Bosco state
Have devotion to Mary and you will see what miracles are! 


Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Pets and death

Here in UK, pets are really taken care of, often better than children!  Thus in one sense, it is better to be born an animal in this part of the world than a human being in some other parts of the world, where life is precarious and has no great value!! 

So it is that when pets reach the end of their life, they are often euthanized rather than left to die naturally.  'More humane' they say!  Rightly so!  More humane, for humans; but for the animal?  Those who argue that pets cannot really understand pain, must also be willing to concede that they do not understand joy and affection and tenderness.  And if they do concede an animal to be capable of the latter, then the former too is as much a reality.  The difference though is that while animals can feel pain, joy and affection and sorrow, they do not make sense of it - at least not in human terms.  The pain and agony that human beings undergo in the face of death is different from that of animals.  Death itself is often not the source of suffering; it is the knowledge and the anxiety that accompanies it that causes pain and suffering.  An animal most often is not anxious about its death (at least not like humans). 

So I guess pets are euthanized mostly not for their sake, but for our (owner's) sake!  It is often for the pain that we feel, when we see our pets suffering, we think that it cannot and need not take any more.  (However, just because animals do not have a sense of death and make meaning out of the suffering, does not mean that they can be culled at will for no genuine reason.  Anyone doing so, is certainly not living up to his or her humanity!)

Pink flowers

This pink blossom has similar characteristics with most British plants/trees... though I'm not sure if this plant is a native species.  However, in spring when the plants and trees come back to life, they first put out flowers, only later do leaves follow!!  So too does this skinny plant with its pink flowers. 

Mary Help of Christians (1)

The invocation 'Mary Help of Christians' was added to the Marian litany by Pope Pius V.  In 1571 the Ottoman empire was about to invade Europe and fearing defeat of the Christian rule, Pope Pius V asked Christians to pray and seek Mary's intercession.  The Turks were defeated at the Battle of Lepanto and attributing this victory to the intercession of Mary, Pope Pius V added the invocation 'Mary Help of Christians' to the litany.

Historians and non-Christians may view this battle and its outcome as pure military strategy or lack of it.  But I honestly wish that the title had a more inclusive origin.  To think that Mother Mary would be taking sides in a war, is quite odd for me.  No mother would want and wish for her children to fight, to seek one another's life.  In that sense, 'Mary, our help' sounds more inclusive and better.

Even if we as Christians wish to claim Mother Mary's support, as 'against' another group, then we ought to remember that it is only in circumstances when we are oppressed for purely unjust reasons.  And most importantly we appeal to Mary, not as an exclusive property of Christianity, but as Mother!

Monday, 14 May 2018

'Commanded' to love?

In the gospel we hear Jesus 'commanding' his disciples to love one another. 
This is my commandment: Love one another. 
Can anyone really command another to love?  If love is an emotion and a feeling that is spontaneous and cannot always be rationalized then how can one be commanded to love?  

Two aspects:  
  1. Jesus always preached.  He never commanded or went about burdening others with his authority, certainly not those less fortunate than himself.  So it would be right to say that there are only two things he really 'commanded', in comparison to the rest of his teaching that he exhorted: Love God.  Love one another.  Perhaps it is to emphasize the core of what he was and wanted to communicate.  
  2. Love is not primarily an emotion or a feeling or something that we can now have and later discard as per our convenience, the ambiance, or profit.  It is a decision.  A conscious choice we make to place the well-being of someone over and above our own.  It is a concrete move to ensure the welfare of the other.  Therefore it is possible that I can love someone even if I do not like the person.  Therefore when I love, I feel 'compelled'.  Furthermore what greater 'compulsion' to follow the 'command' of the one I love! 

Sunday, 13 May 2018

Rest for the comb

Baldness is not often seen kindly in most parts of the world.  So is appearance of grey hair.  However there are some who are not the least bothered about these.  Years ago, when I was still at school, I remember a priest who used to make jokes about his own bald head and did not mind us laughing at his lack of hair on the head.  When I asked him once how come his baldness did not perturb him, he replied in his usual enthusiastic manner:  'What counts is what's in the head rather than what's on it! Moreover why complain when it makes my morning chores easier: Less hair to comb and more face to wash!'

Have always remembered that and have been least bothered about my receding hairline or the appearance of grey hair.  (Mum, of course, is furious because I don't even bother to oil my hair!)  Being far from her, I've taken the liberty and my head hasn't seen hair oil for the last two years!  However my curly hair has always been a blessing and a curse.  Blessing because it managed itself.  Curse because, even on the few occasions I'd try to comb it, it would stubbornly have its own way.  The other day, I had a very close cut.  Mostly because the barber in a hurry, cut it very short!  Realising her mistake, she was a bit at a loss.  When I smiled and told her go ahead, she felt greatly relieved and proceeded to cut it short evenly.  So my comb can rest for a couple of weeks!  And I can have my regular sleep - had to wake up a couple of minutes early to get my hair wet and then in some order before I reached the Chapel every morning!  

Heart of communication: Communion of persons

The Church celebrates the World Communication day today.  Among the many messages and policies that clutter our media, I'm attracted towards this particular quote of Pope Francis
... that the heart of information is not the speed with which it is reported or its audience impact, but persons.  Informing others means forming other; it means being in touch with people's lives.  
The prayer concluding the message of Pope Francis on the occasion of the World Communication day 2018
Lord, make us instruments of your peace.
Help us to recognize the evil latent in a communication that does not build communion.
Help us to remove the venom from our judgements.
Help us to speak about others as our brothers and sisters.

You are faithful and trustworthy; may our words be seeds of goodness for the world:
where there is shouting, let us practise listening; 
where there is confusion, let us inspire harmony;
where there is ambiguity, let us bring clarity;
where there is exclusion, let us offer solidarity;
where there is sensationalism, let us use sobriety;
where there is superficiality, let us raise real questions; 
where there is prejudice, let us awaken trust;
where there is hostility, let us bring respect;
where there is falsehood, let us bring truth.
Amen.

Joseph called Barsabbas

In the selection process for the replacement of Judas, Joseph and Matthias are the finalists.  Unable to decide upon which one, the apostles pray and cast lots (initially reminded me of the soldiers at the foot of the cross casting lots for the robe of Jesus).  The lot falls for Matthias and he is announced as one of the apostles. 

What became of Joseph called Barsabbas?  Simple: He carried on his life and ministry!  That's how I would like to remember him.  If among all the people they had to choose from, the apostles zeroed in on these two men, they surely must have been men of faith, men dedicated to the ministry and truly in love with Jesus.  So I don't think being granted the title of an 'apostle' would have made any big difference to their personal character.  All that happened was that one got an additional role and responsibilities, the other didn't get that role... but the ministry and life of faith continued.

How often in life, have we seen people give up everything for a particular goal or post?  And once they do get the post, life is totally different.   It happens all the time in politics and with politicians.  It happens also with priests, religious and bishops..., especially those whose aim is the post (religious politicians?).  I wish Luke the author of the Acts had enumerated the qualities of Joseph and Matthias and a bit more of the selection criteria.  But honestly speaking all that was needed is clearly mentioned:
...it is necessary that one of the men who accompanied us the whole time the Lord Jesus came and went among us, beginning from the baptism of John until the day on which he was taken up from us, become with us a witness to his resurrection.
...been with Jesus and his people and a genuine witness of all that Jesus stood for... we get the role for being this, with the confidence that we would do better.  If those basic qualities for which we were granted the role and related responsibilities are compromised with, then one has no right to continue in that role or claim anything related to it.  That would be the story of Judas, not Joseph Barsabbas!

To belong, to be at Home

The prayer of Jesus to the Father in today's Gospel, on behalf of his apostles and disciples, is a very poignant one.  He asks that they be strengthened, they be protected from the evil, that they be consecrated in truth... they are the final bidding prayers of a person who loves those he is leaving behind. 

The whole idea is that the apostles and disciples do not lose the full picture.  That they get lost in the merely mundane but be able to look beyond and have a comprehensive vision of life and faith.  However, does the line, in the centuries to come, this whole notion somehow got diluted or corrupted to mean that this world, here and now, is something that is to be avoided.  Something that needs to be viewed with suspicion and therefore to be on the alert. 

We can choose to be merely suspicious of the here and now and therefore concerned with merely 'preserving' the divine nature within us or strive for the broader vision and work towards enhancing that divine nature! 

Wednesday, 9 May 2018

Pink bloom

Was told by the one who planted the plant that it was the Himalayan jasmine, but my research does not link the name and the bloom.  Whatever be the case, the pink bloom looks good - even though it is only for a couple of months in the whole year! 



A matter of trust

The whole idea of fake news and alternative facts is coming round to haunt the very notion of news and truth. While some blame it on the proliferation of social media and communication channels, others to the failure of authority to be true to their call for universal representation and fairplay.  Some blame it on our own long standing demand for authenticity, transparency and freedom.  Some blame it on postmodern thinkers who ushered in this sort of 'fringe-thinking'. 

Mere pieces of information without any perspective is not news.  And there is no news that is not biased or 'from a particular angle'.  And even if one has merely pieces of information, but no context or plan or perspective, they are all useless entities.  Just like lego pieces to a rat.  A cat may atleast play with them. A dog may perhaps chew them.  Even a child who has no clue of what they are, or never seen them before, will merely use them for throwing around.  No such child in the first instance is going to build a house or plane with them! 

The call for transparency, authenticity, accountability cannot be blamed for generating conflict and confusion.  The plethora of social media cannot be blamed for generating stuff.  (The fault of fake news is not the crime of the media but of individuals lacking accountability and authenticity.)  The worth and value of social media arose for lack of credibility of erstwhile institutions which were once held in esteem for being authentic.  Institutions like the leading newspapers, court judges, experienced academia, religious authorities.... Social media needs to keep these on their toes, not usurp their roles.  When these established institutions continue to repeatedly fail to live up to the trust people have in them, the general population is left at the mercy of any and every media.  Authority is so distributed that everyone believes everyone or no one believes anyone (both the same!). 

Mechanisation of labour

I'm sitting here in the library looking out for distractions, rather than concentrating!  And right outside is a mini-earth mover.  The width of the 'hand' is not bigger than two manual spades.  And the depth the person is digging is not anymore than a few inches.  That brings to my mind, the fact that there is no 'manual labour' in this part of the world.  Every bit of 'hard manual labour' has been so mechanised that it can hardly be called manual labour, leave alone 'hard'. 

To this day, I haven't seen anyone manually digging the ground or carrying a sack.  Everything is done using machines - small, big, simple, complex.  It's amusing to see these at work - not the people!  I'm sure there are several advantages of this development.  They certainly do take away the physical strain and struggle from any and every job.  However, feel it all a bit as distancing ourselves from nature, more and more. 

Tuesday, 8 May 2018

Colour of the mind

Back in India, beauty is often related to fair skin.  Much more in past years, those with dark complexion were considered 'ugly', and those of fair complexion, 'beautiful'. The cosmetic industry thrives (and therefore endorses) this biased conception of beauty.  However there has been a greater consciousness and awareness today, but the actuality is not far from those days. I've personally come across several people trying to 'improve' their skin tone.  Even among confreres there are persons who are yet to reconcile themselves with their dark complexion - some seeking extra medical intervention, over and above the cosmetic!  

Here in Europe people seek a 'tan'.  Being fair skinned, summer is the time most people look forward to - all to spend a holiday on the beach!!  People travel all the way to Spain and Italy to lie on the beaches and come back to show off their suntan!  Even in this there is the cosmetic world cashing on this craze.  So there are creams and lotions to help bear the sun burn, gain a longer tan, protect the skin... Though a bit more broad minded about the notion of 'beauty', the West too has its idiosyncrasies.  Strange but true: those of dark skin want to become fair skinned and the fair skinned wish to have darker complexion!  

Monday, 7 May 2018

Political strategy

With elections coming up for the state and within a year for the whole country, the political battles are getting bitter.  However, the ruling party hasn't any worthy opponent.  That doesn't make it a saint - far from it! The ruling party will most likely come to power not merely on its own merit, but thanks to the lack of alternatives.  Furthermore the think-tank in the ruling party have really got the common man in their pocket... not by any fair and just means, but mostly by keeping him/her occupied with trivial issues blown out of proportion to make us all believe that these are life and death issues.  The brains behind the campaign and the tenure have not done really anything highly controversial, but certainly prepared the ground for an unopposed ride in the next term.  The use of social media to promote an echo chamber has been phenomenal. 

The situation is such that most people 'think' that they are in the know how of things and 'feel' that all is well.  The American writer Thomas Pynchon's quote in Gravity's Rainbow (1973) is quite apt for the clever strategy of the government:
If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers. 
Besides if there are no forums to raise questions or systems in place where these can be sensibly aired, then certainly there is nothing going 'wrong' at all!  

Wild onion

This year the wild onion plants have spread outside the backyard into the front and even the pavement!  I was told that the only way to get rid of them was to uproot all the bulbs and prevent the flower from spreading the seeds - easier said than done.  The same person also said, "It's one time planting and ten years of weeding!" What surprises me is that I haven't seen it anywhere else in the whole of town, except in our house!

However, though a wild plant and grows mad all over the place, the flowers themselves are very beautiful.  So I left some bits of the garden with them because they offered a good contrasting view of white against the brick walls.

The Pilgrim's way, Guildford

This morning four of us from the community went out for a walk to Guildford.  We took the pilgrim's way upto St Martha's church on top of the hill, through the woods.  It was a good trek.  However, the Church was not open so we couldn't go in.  But the walk was great.  Then we came round to the town centre had something to eat before starting back.  Being a bank holiday (meaning everthing on holiday!), and the fact that it was bright and sunny (highest temperature of this year - 28c) there were quite a few people out enjoying the sun. 

St Martha's


I guess, it's a Norman castle... but the view of the trees was great!

Sunday, 6 May 2018

God's Rosebud!

An interesting anecdote and poem about discernment. 

A new minister was walking with an older, more seasoned minister in the garden one day. Feeling a bit insecure about what God had for him to do, he was asking the older preacher for some advice.

The older preacher walked up to a rosebush and handed the young preacher a rosebud and told him to open it without tearing off any petals. The young preacher looked in disbelief at the older preacher and was trying to figure out what a rosebud could possibly have to do with his wanting to know the will of God for his life and ministry. But, because of his great respect for the older preacher, he proceeded to try to unfold the rose, while keeping every petal intact. It wasn't long before he realized how impossible this was to do.

Noticing the younger preacher's inability to unfold the rosebud without tearing it, the older preacher began to recite the following poem...
It is only a tiny rosebud, 
A flower of God's design; 
But, I cannot unfold the petals 
With these clumsy hands of mine. 

The secret of unfolding flowers 
Is not known to such as I. 
GOD opens this flower so easily, 
But, in my hands they die.

If I cannot unfold a rosebud, 
This flower of God's design, 
Then, how can I have the wisdom 
To unfold this life of mine?

So, I'll trust in God for leading 
Each moment of my day. 
I will look to God for guidance 
In each step along the way.

The path that lies before me, 
Only my Lord and Savior knows. 
I'll trust God to unfold the moments, 
Just as He unfolds the rose.

Certain hope

We do so many things in life, some of which are clearly geared towards a far distant dream.  We are hopeful and in a sense sure of achieving that dream - we wouldn't be spending all that time and energy if we were not 'so sure'.  However, not everything has to go our way either.  Things may go haywire and our sustained and years of effort may be totally lost, in view of the intended purpose.  It certainly causes pain and heartache. But I think what causes real pain and suffering is when you realize that the effort is 'wasted' not because it was worthless or you failed, but for some silly and absolutely ridiculous reason as your caste, or religion, place of birth, or some else's like or dislike. How to face angst? Helpless anger?

To see a life, especially a young promising and enthusiastic life, killed in some senseless violence.   To see an activist being murdered for fighting what everyone knows is a just cause.  To hear of a whole family shattered by the rape of a young daughter, only because they belonged to a particular caste, or religion or section of society.  To come to know of a friend who has been denied promotion or benefits due to him only on account of him being of a different group than the one in authority... all of this puts to question the notion of having a dream, slogging it out for it... If all one works for can be wiped off by something so trivial and for no reason, then why strain? 

Yet we do!  We invest our time and energy in our plans.  We slog it out for our dreams.  We plan for years ahead of us.  We hope! If we let doubts or fears grow, we'd not be able to do anything at all! 

(But merely having hope is like walking carefully through a minefield - hoping that we do not step on one!  As long as I'm not the one stepping on, everything is fine.  Doing something about the minefield itself is an act of courage.)  

Being privileged and contented

Speaking of being favourites and being favoured, I remember distinctly reading long time ago how the boys at the oratory fought with one another claiming to be the favourite of Don Bosco! 
At the oratory there were boys from different backgrounds, though mostly poor, and of different ages.  Some had only seen the worst of life.  Others had for sometime been loved and cared for.  Those experiencing love for the first time at the oratory, for that matter anyone at all showing some concern for them, surely would have felt great.  Of these some would have wanted 'more', failing to cherish what they already were experiencing.  Others would have felt great just to be loved.  They would not have bothered whether someone else is loved 'greater' than them.  For them to be loved was in itself a great experience. 

However, am sure only those who felt contented with the love they received, felt 'privilege'd in that sense, AND wished to share that privilege, made a difference in the lives of others.  The rest, simply drowned in the pool of 'privilege' - never thinking beyond themselves.  

Favourite people?

I've often heard priests preach on the main theme of today's reading from the Acts of the apostles, where we see Peter telling, "God has no favourites."  Really?  But the whole history of the world and recorded testaments of religious show that God does have favourites: he chose Israel over other nations, did all those wonders and miracles for them, restored them their land, guided them and led them through the centuries, then when he wanted to send his son, he again chose the same Israelites.  Not only that even among them he had the tribe of Judah as the favourite.  When Jesus came on earth, he chose the twelve as apostles, and among them John was cited 'as beloved' of the Master. 

However, that can be said to be one side of the story.  Viewed from God's side (if we may), I think God loves all.  That's it.  He isn't loving one more than the other.  But those who experience his love and are moved by that, feel privileged.  Those who feel that 'others' are privileged, often fail to see how blessed they themselves are! But we always calculate our blessings on the basis of what we do not have rather than what we have!  Or worse, on the basis of what other have and I do not! 

The danger is when those who feel 'privileged' or are seen by others as 'privileged' start to act differently.  Those who honestly experience God's love, will not differentiate or discriminate, least of all, look down on others.  They'd prefer to share that privilege in their own way with others, joyfully. 

So it is right to say that God has no favourites? Perhaps the better way to say it is that God loves us and I am his favourite!  

Friday, 4 May 2018

Salesian summer bloom

Today while working in the garden, a confrere said, "Anyone looking at you now will know that you're not local! Only Indians can be wearing flip flops while working in the garden!" and both of us laughed.  I said, "What's the thrill in working in the garden if you cannot feel the grass at your feet and touch the mud with your bare hands?"  Most locals working in their garden tend to wear shoes, rough jeans, a pair of gloves, a hat and some even an apron.  And if they are mowing the lawn or trimming the hedges, then there is the additional gear: helmet with a visor or protective glasses.  My working gear: an old t-shirt, a pair of shorts and slippers (the last one is often dispensed with)! And I'm enjoying it!

The flower near Don Bosco's statue has fully blossomed and the other two buds on the plant too are blooming...
Other flowers and plants are really beginning to bloom.  I'm done with all the seeding.  Spent the past two days making cuttings of some of the plants and hopefully they should take root in the coming months.  Every plant that I bought at the garden centre has been 'multiplied'... each of the dainthus has been made into four!  So far so good.  Once they really take root, I'll put them out in the open.  The pansies are looking great.  The petunias are growing well. However out of the six plants that I got, four are of the same colour!!  Should get a few more of other colours.  From the six I bought, I've already made 12!  That's just the beginning!  They'll soon be a few dozen more!

Summer bloom

Some shots of the University 'forest'...

 This particular bush is a thorny one. But each node where there is a thorn and a leaf, there is a flower too!!  Very tiny but very beautiful!





Thursday, 3 May 2018

Feels like home

Feels like home to me... a lovely song with a very deep emotional pull.
Situate the song in the movie, My sister's keeper and it's all the more powerful and moving.

Something in your eyes 
Makes me want to lose myself 
Makes me want to lose myself 
In your arms 
There's something in your voice 
Makes my heart beat fast 
Hope this feeling lasts 
The rest of my life 
If you knew how lonely my life has been 
And how long I've been so alone 
If you knew how I wanted someone to come along 
And change my life the way you've done 

It feels like home to me 
It feels like home to me 
It feels like I'm all the way back where I come from 
It feels like home to me 
It feels like home to me 
Feels like I'm all the way back where I belong 

A window breaks down a long dark street 
And a siren wails in the night 
But I'm alright 'cause I have you here with me 
And I can almost see through the dark there is light 

If you knew how much this moment means to me 
And how long I've waited for your touch 
If you knew how happy you are making me 
I never thought that I'd love anyone so much
(Lyrics by Chantal Kreviazuk)

Healing of the soul

Speaking of children, especially very young ones, I remember watching a particular video of a toddler walking the dog.  But on finding a puddle along the road, he does what children are intrinsically bound to...
Cannot but perfectly agree with one of the comments on this video
The soul is healed being with children. (Fyodor Dostoyevsky)

Innocence busted

There are occasions when one comes across a piece of information or learning that bursts a bubble of well preserved ideology or belief.  The resulting conflict and confusion is quite terrifying. Children most often are seen to undergo such phases when they are learning new things. 

The other day a teacher was narrating how in his class, while discussing about human food and diet, he found a boy looking totally stunned and shaken.  When asked what was the matter, the boy asked in utter shock,
Are the animals killed when they are alive?

Well, that would have been a hard day of learning for that little boy!  

Dissent and dissection

In the early Church Paul and Barnabas travel back to Rome to discuss with the apostles and elders about the right way of going about concerning the pagans joining Christianity.  The issue being whether they should first become Jews or need not.  The apostles decide that they need not. But this does not go down well with the Pharisees who were converted to Christianity. 

These days the German bishops are seriously discussing and debating about the distribution of communion to non-Catholic partners.  Like Paul and Barnabas, these Bishops too are zealous disciples seeking the best way forward.  And like Paul and Barnabas, they too trace their steps to Rome.  Wonder what will come of this discussion. 

Wonder what Jesus would have said?  Perhaps it would not have become such a big issue after all, if he were to have said a word about it.  But even in his own times, there was dissent and difference of opinion.  When he spoke of him being the bread of life and his body their nourishment, some of his faithful disciples did not like it and left his side.  So there is no big surprise that there are disagreements and differences of opinion even among the leaders, or frontline protagonists on the same side. 

It made me think of a surgery to remedy an ailment.  A cut is made, the remedy done and the wound stitched up.  The wound may heal but the scar remains.  What is once cut will never regain the original bond.  These debates concerning the betterment of religion, while debated in good faith, need not always yield perfect solutions.  (Perhaps ayurvedic treatment is better... no side-effects, but takes time!)

Wednesday, 2 May 2018

Nature's royal colours

With the glorious sunshine, warmth and the good rains in the past few days, the whole country is now green!  While the grass is all green on the ground level, the trees offer a variety.  With different trees at different stages of spring growth, there are varieties of green.  The only other colour bursting forth and providing an excellent contrast to the various shades of green are the occasional red or purple colour plants or trees.  Got to see and admire this lovely sights around the Founder's block at Royal Holloway. I think it is the Purple Beech tree or the Red leaf maple. Whatever the name, it looks gorgeous!



The Founder's West block in the backdrop


Concealing - revealing

Often we use different tactics to cover up our faults and failings.  We twist words, design a behaviour, manipulate feelings to our advantage.  Most often politicians and lawyers use language to manipulate meaning and convince their hearers into believing them, most often of things they know are not true!

Modern media and communication channels, far from merely portraying reality, are rampantly used to basically present a very biased picture of reality, convincingly.  The camera lens and the newspaper ink are not really rear-view mirrors.  Gleaning through these messages and information to sift and find out what actually is the case is not always easy. 
However, every time one generates a subtle message, or acts in a particular manner for the public, those words or actions cannot be totally classified as concealing or hiding.  They actually reveal what kind of person one is!  If one is careful to see through, the words or actions, one will notice what's hidden and real and not be bluffed by what is projected or presented.  In this process one gets a glimpse of not only the other person, but of oneself too!  

Defining human nature

Human rights are sometimes based on human nature.  Meaning that there is something special about the human species that qualifies it to be treated in a more dignified manner than say a chair or a lamp post.  But this human nature is not merely something natural.  For that matter even animals have a nature. So if we consider naturality the chief characteristic of a nature then there would be nothing special or unique about human nature.  The emphasis needs to be on 'essential trait' but this cannot be something static or frozen.  There are aspects of it which change but others that ensure continuity.  So perhaps, the following definition (as found here), could be taken as a functional one...
Human nature is best conceived of as a cluster of homeostatic properties, ie of traits that are dynamically changing and yet sufficiently stable over evolutionary time to be statistically clearly recognisable.
And just like life cannot be shown apart from living, human nature is not something that can be identified apart from the human person.  It is not something that exists independently or abstractly.  It inheres.  

Tuesday, 1 May 2018

Shifts and changes

It is almost a year and half since I came to the UK and looking back I can certainly see that there are areas of life that I've grown in and others not so.  I certainly have a different take on religious life and spirituality but certain other things still remain the same.  Among the new things that I've gained - besides the extra kilos I've put on, thanks to my rather sedentary life - is a growing interest in gardening.  Perhaps it has much to do with my own need to keep myself busy, an alternative to get out of the room!  But even that is not a regular activity I can keep myself busy - thanks to the British weather! However, gardening is certainly one area that I've tried out new.  

On the other hand, my habit of keeping up-to-date of Salesian matters has drastically taken a back seat!  Leave alone, reading Salesian material or texts, I'm not really sure of the latest developments about the upcoming General Chapter!  So has my social and public interaction!  Given the situation wherein we are living, away from the school and the parish, there is hardly anyone I meet other than Katie, besides the community members.  From being surrounded all the time by so many students or children all time, everytime, to hardly seeing anyone has been the greatest shift in my regular life.  

Am not very sure where study of philosophy fits in: better or worse?  All said and done, am happy to have this opportunity to see life and the world differently.  

Reincarnation and driving

While talking about the tyre and the replacement of it with a new one, I expressed surprise that we had to replace the whole tyre rather than repair the small hole.  I stated that back in India, I have driven vehicles with torn, patched, stitched and stuffed tyres - and am very well living to tell the tale!  Fr Kevin humourously interjected: "Oh, driving in India!!  I'd never drive in India!!  Not only there but in any place where they believe in reincarnation!"

Well its true that traffic in India is chaotic - in fact, crazy, in comparison to the organised traffic adherence here in the UK.  For most Europeans the first and most vivid memory - in fact, the most horrifying one - of India is the traffic they see as soon as they come out of the airport.  I've seen and heard the experience of people myself, back in India whenever someone came from Europe to the Provincial house and even now listening to people who have been to India!

However, there is some method in the madness - if one may be permitted to call it so.  According to statistics in the year 2016, in India, there were 1,50,785 deaths; while in the UK there were only 1,792 deaths and 181,384 casualities.  But compared to the overall population and the state of affairs, the Indian figures though big, are relatively small - if not, a small miracle!  (A bigger miracle would be getting our Indian population follow traffic rules!)
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