Monday 27 July 2009

Prembhai again

Fr Alberty Tirkey of Harmutty (Province of Dimapur) dropped in with Solomon. He was a good friend of Prembhai / Henry Gaikwad and told us many things about him and his untimely death. It seems that the Bishop had assigned the SVDs to Prembhai's ashram, and things had become difficult for Prembhai. He had his own spontaneous, easy-going way of running the ashram which after all he had founded and built up from scratch. Anyone was free to come at anytime, find a place to stay, get a meal. All that had begun changing. Prembhai had been very distressed. This probably was one of the causes of his untimely death.

After his death, the diocese wanted him to be buried in Sri Lanka itself, but there was such an uproar from the people that they changed their minds and brought his body back to Arunachal Pradesh. The youth got together and organized the funeral; people contributed so much money that they were able to feed the large crowds who came to the funeral.

Prembhai is now buried in his ashram; they have built a small replica of the house where he used to stay, as a sort of museum. He had little or nothing: some tribal waistcoats, the wooden pillow, a bag.... He was unique in his ability to just walk into a village, and live with what the people would give him. I asked Tirkey whether it was true he had baptized more than 25,000 people. He said yes. Before building his ashram, in the days when it was difficult to enter Arunachal, Prembhai used to live with the Salesians at Harmutty. He had been given a small room there. He would return there from time to time, relax a little, wash his clothes, and then go off again.

Prembhai was from Pune, or at least his family is now in Pune. His life is a wonderful inspiration for all, but I was thinking most especially of our Catholics of Nagar. Henry Gaikwad is one of our very own, the Apostle of Arunachal, but hailing from amchi Maharashtra.


Friday 24 July 2009

De tristitia philosophiae

One of the first year students of philosophy from Divyadaan (name withheld for reasons of security) is in Dr Lele's Hospital here in Nashik. Keeping him company naturally is another young student of philosophy. So guess what this one is reading.


Not his logic notes (which he has also carried along). But the Logic book. I did not see it, but I imagine it is the old I.M. Copi.

Exactly three years ago, in the PNC, this brat used to be reading Harry Potter. (His mother had smuggled him a copy past the censors.) Now, Copi.

It reminded me of good old Fr (earlier Br) Joaquim Lobo, who began doing philosophy at JDV at a ripe old age (some time after his silver jubilee he had decided to be a priest). Joaquim was busy studying logic for his comprehensive exams. When we asked him why, he said: It's important, no?

The same Joaquim Lobo (not to be confused with the young Konkan JL) asked a Very Troublesome Question to Paul Alilakuzhy who was a Heideggerean and who was teaching Epistemology (of all things). Paul had just spent the class proving to the students that they did not exist. Joaquim asked Paul: But how do I know that I exist? The Question truly troubled Joaquim. He kept asking Peter Gonsalves and all who would listen.

I think he never found the answer to that one. As the old wag goes, he took it with him to his grave.

And if you are wondering why I am spending time writing rubbish, it's because I am a bit bored of Being and Essence.

Fr Camels, SDB

Three chances to guess who is Fr Vindomas Camels, SDB.

A broad hint: The name appears on the July birthday list of the Nashik Social Service Society calendar, on 5 July.

Ha ha.

It took me a while to overcome my surprise that there was an SDB who I did not know in our very own province and working in Nashik diocese.

Not to talk about an Ivon SDB who celebrates his birthday on 2 June according to the same calendar.

Wednesday 22 July 2009

Seven Years in Tibet

Last night I watched once again a part of Seven Years in Tibet, the film about Heinrich Harrer, his escape from a British internment camp in India into Tibet, the years he spent in this Forbidden Land, and the friendship he developed with the young Dalai Lama.

Seven Years in Tibet is a true story, and Heinrich Harrer is a historical person who died in 2006. Going to the net, I realized that the young Dalai Lama he tutored is none other than the current, rather famous Dalai Lama. The film is well-made and is well-worth watching, even if only to see the curious life of a young child who is identified as a reincarnation of the Bodhisattva Avalokitesvara, and who still naturally remains a child, with great curiosity about the great wide world beyond the boundaries of the Forbidden Land.

Seven Years in Tibet, the Wikipedia says, was translated into some 53 languages and sold more than 3 million copies worldwide. The Dalai Lama said that the book helped to focus the attention of the world on the plight of Tibet.

A curious thing is that Harrer was interned in the camp at Dehradun. Could it be that he met Fr Moja and other Salesians there? I remember mentioning the book to Moja, and I think he told me that he had read the book with great interest, because he had met the man in the camp... But there is no way I can check that out now!

The film has some beautiful moments, as when the young Harrer (Brad Pitt) is trying to impress the young and beautiful seamstress by showing her photos of some of his athletic triumphs (Harrer was a famous athlete, skiier, mountain climber, etc.). The Tibetan girl turns to him and says: in your culture, you thrust yourself forward. In our culture, we value humility. In fact, she falls in love not with Harrer but with his much less impressive companion, and marries him. There is a scene when Harrer goes to visit the couple. The girl sees that he is unhappy. She says to him: You are unhappy and full of regrets. Instead, you must learn to be happy about the happiness of your friend.

Wonderful lessons there from Buddhism.

Cultural heritage in the Nashik diocese

The Archdiocese of Bombay (finally) put in place a policy for the preservation of its cultural and artistic heritage, some years ago. The Catholic Diocese of Nashik is thinking of doing the same. One might wonder what a small diocese like Nashik might have by way of cultural and artistic heritage. Well, it used to have a beautiful little church, perhaps some 150 years old, in the Portuguese style mainly, called St Anne's Church, Collector Kacheri, Ahmednagar. That was destroyed when the new church was built. But there is still St John's Church, Bhingar, which is neo-Gothic I suppose, and beautiful in its own way. And, most importantly, it has what I believe are original paintings by Sr Clare (or is it Sr Genevieve?), both in the church and in the rectory. Perhaps some other churches and stations might have something of value too.

Tuesday 21 July 2009

'The way the poor splurge...'

Diego gave us a beautiful goodnight talk last night. It was about the food coupons that the poor get in the US. A shop assistant saw some poor people buying 'luxurious food' with those coupons, and remarked about it: Look at them, instead of buying necessities, they are wasting the coupons on luxuries. A newspaper editor overheard this remark and put it in his paper, and asked for comments. These were some of the comments he received:
The other day I used my food coupons to get shrimps for my husband and myself. My husband was paralysed, and we were celebrating our wedding anniversary. We really enjoyed the shrimps. A few days later my husband passed away.
Someone else wrote:
It was my daughter's birthday. I bought a cake and we had a celebration.
The comments moved me. Never judge somebody's else's motives.

The saints of our Indian church

I was talking to Antoinette, Nelson Falcao's sister, at breakfast this morning, and I told her I was sorry not to have known her mother. Nelson and Antoinette's mother died, I remember, when Nelson and I were doing our first year of philosophy at JDV. I never saw her, but Nelson had shown me her photo. It is amazing how much of the person can come through a good photo: she struck me as a very beautiful, serene, kind and gentle person. I asked Antoinette about her, and she said that was what she was. "She was a really saintly person," were the words she used. I asked her why she did not write down something about her mother. "Nelson also has been asking me to do that," she replied.

Anyone who brings up 8 children and still remains calm, serene, gentle and peaceful must be a wonderful person.

But what strikes me once again is the fact that there is much sanctity in the Indian church. Only, we, being so Indian (true!), do not have the habit of writing, keeping records, and so on. And so our sanctity continues to be a lived sanctity (which is of course the most important and primary thing), but we do not make memory of our sanctity. But meaning is very much a part of Being, as I am hearing Heidegger say in the stuff I am reading today! And the human being is history, is meaning! And so I think we really need to keep memory, keep our records, and celebrate the real sanctity that God has raised and continues to raise in our Indian church!

I remember saying to the people of a newly built chapel in one of the villages in Ahmednagar: I hope we will be able to see, very soon, on these walls, the pictures and the statues of local saints, saints from Kaudgaon and Agadgaon and Ratadgaon and Tokewadi....

I remember also talking with Michael Bansode after his niece died, how he was telling me about her simple and holy life, and about the spirit of faith with which his parents, and especially his father (who served as a catechist for many years), took her untimely and unfortunate death. I also remember some of the catechists I have known in the Nagar church. Perhaps more than the priests, it is these men who need to be remembered and celebrated for their lives of dedication, simplicity, holiness and even utter poverty.

The sanctity is there. That we might be able to celebrate it!

Monday 20 July 2009

A beautiful prayer

From Psalm 72(73):
What else have I in heaven but you?
Apart from you I want nothing on earth.
My body and my heart faint for joy,
God is my possession for ever.
A prayer that one prays with hope, and with deep awareness of where one is and where one is called to be.

Saturday 18 July 2009

Mario Toso and 'Caritas in Veritate'

The latest I have picked up is that Caritas in Veritate, Benedict XVI's latest encyclical, is the work of Mario Toso, SDB, and someone else, but chiefly Toso.

Toso is currently the Rector Magnificus of the UPS (that is, the Salesian Pontifical University, Rome), and an old friend of Divyadaan's. Those who were here will remember his first visit to Nashik, with Scaria, and how he 'spoke like a book.' (But what I remember most of all is Toso admiring our pigs. It turned out that this good Italian had never seen live pigs before, or something very close to that....)

Toso is a philosopher by profession, an expert in the social teaching of the church, with strong Maritainian roots, so it is not be surprising to hear that he is one of the chief contributors to the new encyclical (which, by the way, seems to have received a good press, but first item about it that I opened on the net was rather highly critical of its prose style: 'dense, convoluted, clotted' were the remarks, I think).

At any rate, our own Toso, so something to be proud of. (And the UPS, it just struck me, is densely Maritainian, seeing that Toso is Rector Magnificus and Joaquim Provincial.)

By the way, the Pope fell down in his room while on holiday at the Salesian house at Val d'Aosta yesterday and has broken his wrist, the papers tell us.

Pastoral agents in Nashik

Highly qualified pastoral agents in Nashik. Tony George, SJ, parish priest of Holy Cross, PhD in Marathi Literature; Nelson Falcao, SDB, parish priest of Don Bosco, PhD in theology; John Misquitta, SJ, socius at the Jesuit novitiate, PhD in chemistry and PhD in theology; Matthew Coutinho, former [corrected thanks to Matt] parish priest of Don Bosco, PhD in moral theology; not to mention Abp. Felix Machado, PhD in theology.... By now our people assume that one has to be a PhD to be a PP in Nashik.

Comments please.

Washing and hanging

Just back from the Diocesan Consult at Bishop's House (which is now called Archbishop's House, because we have an Archbishop who is Bishop of Nashik; think about that) at Jail Road. The old timers like Chris and Casti will certainly remember the beautiful laid back old Jail Road, with vast open spaces and trees... Well, no longer. Ugly buildings and apartment blocks almost everywhere. And even when the buildings are tolerable, the clothes hanging on the front balconies! I guess apartments never keep space for such practicals.

But it's interesting. What looks intolerably ugly out here, looks impossibly romantic in a place like Naples... Now why's that? Is it that beauty is all in the head, as every single person told me when they heard I was going to take Aesthetics last year?

Friday 17 July 2009

Road names

Nashik is such a fast developing place that most of the roads do not even have names. Everything north of Gangapur Road, for example, is just 'Off Gangapur Road,' and that includes Nirmala Convent which is quite far off! Don Bosco Marg is one of the few 'new' roads that have names. I saw that the extension of Don Bosco Marg into Krishi Nagar has now a new name: Kai. Bapubai Sonavane Marg, or something to the effect. Fr Tony D'Souza, the Jesuit novice master, was here just a moment ago, and I suggested that they name their inner road 'Ignati Loyola Marg' or just 'Sadhanalaya Marg' before anyone else gets a bright idea.

And maybe we should stake a claim to the new road cutting across Divyadaan and STI. What about 'Sahityalaxmi Laxmibai Tilak Marg' or 'Kavivarya Narayan Vaman Tilak Marg'? Dominic Savio Marg or Don Rua Marg might not make too much sense. Or maybe 'Thomas Stephens Marg'? Or 'Vincent Vaz Marg?'

Thursday 16 July 2009

Early grapes

Wonderful Benedictus antiphon this morning, Feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel:
I sought wisdom openly in my prayer; it has come to flower like early grapes.
Don't quite understand the 'early grapes' reference. We used to knock off the early grapes in our vineyard at Divyadaan. They would simply be a nuisance, and would disturb the growth cycle of the real crop. But still, 'early grapes'. Sounds wonderful. "It has come to flower like early grapes."

And wisdom: what has wisdom to do with Our Lady? Much, I guess. The texts regarding wisdom in the Old Testament have traditionally been applied to Our Lady, till after Vatican II theologians realized they applied primarily to Our Lord. But, as Rosemary Haughton points out in The Passionate God, it is an excessively literal mindset that feels it has to ditch one thing in order to assert another. The mystery of Mary is deeply connected to the mystery of Christ; without Christ she is nothing. Her soul glorifies the Lord. She is an eminent part of the Body of Christ, the Church, so much so that she stands for the Church, represents the Church, is an icon of the Church, is somehow the Church in its perfection. So Haughton says there is no need to panic: let the wisdom texts be applied to both Jesus and Mary.

And that really is the point of the Marian month which is beginning today in so many of our houses: that Mary is inseparable from Jesus, that Mary leads to Jesus, that Mary is not in competition with Jesus. As the concluding prayer of the Office puts it so beautifully:
Almighty Lord and God,
let the gracious intercession of our Lady of Mount Carmel help us.
Under her protection,
may we come to the mountain of God, Christ the Lord,
who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit,
God, for ever and ever.

Tuesday 14 July 2009

Black Ibis

The Divyadaan campus has always had a pair of black ibises that nested in some remote corner, and that could be heard screeching their peculiar screech especially in the mornings.

These days I have been seeing two pairs on our own Don Bosco grounds. I assume they have nests in the eucalyptus trees either in our compound or in that of Kilbil.

V.T. George's retreat talks

Wonderful set of retreat talks by Fr V.T. George, SJ, available as a set of 6 cassettes with St Pauls. Unfortunately not yet been transferred to CD.

V.T. George was principal and professor at Loyola Vishakapatnam, I think, but also a retreat preacher of renown. He belongs, if that is relevant, to the old school. But he speaks with a profundity that I find amazing, moving, and extremely useful. He has a heavy Malayali accent, and his English is good but not necessarily without flaws. But what he is saying, and the way he says it, is pure gold.

I have been listening to these talks for over 6 years now, and I am still not tired of them. V.T. George passed away some years ago; it would have been wonderful to invite him to give us a retreat. The notes from which he spoke have been published by St Pauls; unfortunately they are still notes, and could have benefited from a good editor's hand. But even so, I doubt the quality of the recorded talks would have come through. There is something special about this Jesuit. He speaks without flashiness, without concern for approval, with deep conviction, great depth, and what he says cuts to the heart.

Strongly recommended.

Salesian writers and authors

Somewhat late I am reading the Rector Major's Letter on the 150th anniversary of the founding of the congregation. I am at the life sketches of the first group of Salesians. It is honestly quite moving to read all this.

I am struck this morning by Don Bosco who was not only a writer himself, but also encouraged and even commanded his youngsters to write - and all this in the midst of punishing schedules.
Francis Cerruti: "While very young, on Don Bosco's orders, he composed an Italian Dictionary which had a lot of success in schools and then a History of Italian Literature and a History of Pedagogy.... While working he also wrote. [At 26, founder and director of Alassio; at 41, Director General of Salesian Schools and Salesian Publications.] He published books, which quickly had a wide circulation, on Don Bosco's pedagogy, from Elements of Pedagogy (1897) to The Moral Issue of Education (1916). Of him Don Bosco said: 'God has given us only one Fr Cerruti, unfortunately.'"

Celestine Durando: "Don Bosco... entrusted him with the first year secondary with 96 pupils and encouraged him to write the books his students needed. So Durando worte some very simple text-books perfectly adapted to the capacity of his pupils.... His Latin Grammar and his Elementary Approach to Literature had a very wide circulation. His most demanding work was his Latin-Italian and Italian-Latin Dictionary with 936 pages which he finished (while continuing to teach and carry out his priestly ministry) when he was 35."
Are you listening, all you guys? This is one aspect of Don Bosco that we his sons have not been very careful to imitate: popular writing in the midst of a thousand activities. (But no, this might be valid of the Mumbai province. The guys in the North-East, the guys in the South, they write, and are not ashamed to do so out of humility.) But perhaps the bloggists are today's version of Don Bosco the writer?

Monday 13 July 2009

Ivor and Aunt Mary

This morning, as I was getting into the chapel at Nirmala Home, I spotted Ivor praying at the little grotto of Our Lady in the garden below. Ivor is a Protestant gentleman who entered Nirmala Home a few months ago. We are friends because we more or less share a name, I guess, and he is a good, friendly sort of fellow.

Ivor does not come for Mass by and large. So I was quite struck to see him at the grotto of Our Lady. I told him after breakfast that I had spotted him there. I always pray there, every morning, he said.

I thought to myself: she does have a way of getting around and getting round. Aunt Mary. I am touched. And I thought, I have to get back there.

The Queen

Yesterday afternoon I happened to be surfing when I saw the movie The Queen being shown on TV. Somehow (like everyone else?) I have this interest in the British crown and Diana, and the movie was not so much about Queen Elizabeth as about the whole affair of Diana's death and how it was handled by Tony Blair and the Royal Family. Very beautifully done, I thought. Tony Blair with his finger on the pulse of the people; the Queen doing what she knows best, which is the very traditional British stiff upper lip type of reserved and private response to sorrow and grief, locking herself and her family and Diana's sons in her 40,000 acre estate at Balmoral (Scotland?), but managing to appear cold, distant, unfeeling....

What was amazing is that the Queen seems to have more feeling for a magnificent stag that she comes across on her estate. She hears the sound of the hunters, and she shoos the stag away. There is a later scene in which she is told that the stag has been shot. She gets into her jeep and goes all the way to see the carcass, fondly touches the head of the dead beast, realizes that it had been wounded and therefore had to be put out of its suffering.... I guess this is all a parable of Diana: magnificent, beautiful, wounded, suffering, and then dead. The Queen is not an unfeeling creature; she only has a very private, very reserved way of expressing her feelings, but it is a way that belongs to a past, and now there is a present where it is possible to feel deep grief for a person whom one has never met except on newspapers and TV, and where grief is quite public and on show.

We are living in a brand new world, a brave new world, and we have to learn to wear our hearts on our sleeves, give the right sound byte, so that appearance is being, and so on. Tony Blair was a master at this; the Queen had to learn. I guess John Paul II was another great master, one of the greatest, also because behind his formidable (and instinctive) mastery of modern media was also a life lived in total authenticity and deep conviction and deep faith. When there is that kind of combination, the results can be formidable.

Sunday 12 July 2009

The missionary command

I love today's first reading from Amos: "Seer, go prophesy in your own land. This is the Temple of the King, and the National Sanctuary." And Amos who replies: "I am neither a prophet nor the son of a prophet. I was a shepherd and a dresser of sycamore trees. The Lord called me and sent me. When the lion roars, the trees of the forest tremble. When God speaks, who can refuse to obey?"

And so we have here one of the reasons for preaching the good news: it has been laid upon us. We have been commanded. We may not like it, it may not be reasonable, it may not be convenient, but we have been asked to do it.

But there is the deeper reason, and that is love. Caritas Christi urget nos, as the Latin so beautifully goes. The love of Christ drives us. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel! For necessity is laid upon me.

And I ask myself: am I driven? do I feel the urge, the necessity? Can my heart keep silent? And if it can, then is there love there?

But then there is the how of the preaching.

I should think it has to be done with great respect. The good news is not to be forced down my neighbour's throat. It is not something to be imposed. It is not something that makes me superior. It is a double-edged sword, something that passes judgment upon hearer and preacher alike.

It has to be done in friendship. The good news of love is properly preached in an atmosphere of love. And so before preaching, there is the great commandment, the commandment of love.

And this is wonderful: "Preach the good news always; sometimes use words." Preaching with words can be forbidden, as in so many countries. But preaching with my life can never be forbidden; there is no law against such. "And human beings treasure authenticity, and recognize it where it is present."


Forgive if you want to be forgiven is one of the most frequent things on the lips of Jesus.

The problem is always that what I have to forgive rarely coincides with what I need to be forgiven for. Like the other guy is lazy, but I have a sharp tongue. Or the other guy is avaricious, but I am stingy...

But it does happen too, that what I have to forgive coincides with my own faults and sins, and I still find it difficult to forgive.

So I have to learn to say: Dear friend, I grant you the right to be wrong, the right to have your own problems, and I promise you not to judge. You have your problems, I have mine.

A joke from Loddy

Some days ago I got this forward from Loddy:
This happened about a month ago near Lonavala.
A guy was driving from Mumbai to Pune and decided not to take the new expressway as he wants to see the scenery. The inevitable happens and when he reaches the ghats his car breaks down - he's stranded miles from nowhere.

Having no choice he starts walking on the side of the road, hoping to
get a lift to the nearest town. It's dark and raining. And pretty soon he's wet and shivering. The night rolls on and no car goes by, the rain is so heavy he can hardly see a few feet ahead of him.

Suddenly he sees a car coming towards him. It slows and then stops next to him - without thinking the guy opens the door and jumps in.

Seated in the back, he leans forward to thank the person who had saved him - when he realizes there is nobody behind the wheel!!!

Even though there's no one in the front seat and no sound of any engine, the car starts moving slowly. The guy looks at the road ahead and sees a curve coming. Scared almost to death he starts to pray, begging the Lord for his life. He hasn't come out of shock, when just before he hits the curve, a hand appears through the window and moves the wheel!

The car makes the curve safely and continues on the road to the next
bend. The guy, now paralyzed in terror, watches how the hand appears every time they are before a curve and moves the steering wheel just enough to get the car around each bend.

Finally, the guy sees lights ahead. Gathering his courage he wrenches open the door of the silent, slowly moving car, scrambles out and runs as hard as he can towards the lights. It's a small town.

He stumbles into a dhaba, and asks for a drink, and breaks down. Then he starts talking about the horrible experience he's just been through.

There is dead silence in the dhaba when he stops talking .....

.....and that's when Santa and Banta Singh walk into the dhaba. Santa points and says "Look Banta - that's the weird guy who got into our car when we were pushing it."
I wrote back:
This must have happened somewhere in Goa... i dont remember any dhaba around here that sells drinks...
Loddy retorted:
Only a critical philosopher like you analyses jokes.
You remind me of Chrys Saldanaha, who would ask questions on jokes.
Even he replied saying that he had a hearty laugh.
I hope you too did.
To which I replied:
ha ha ha.
sharp wit and sharp tongue.
and lots of toh.

Saturday 11 July 2009

O for a real window

I sit in my new office, and in front of me are the windows facing Don Bosco Marg. Large windows, but it just struck me that every single glass pane is frosted, and there is only one panel with netting - which means that a mosquito paranoid like me keeps only one panel open all through the bright and beautiful day. I was wondering what it would have been like to have a whole big glass pane instead of these windows. Probably would have lost all privacy. But the view would have been grand, with all those trees and greenery and spirituality oozing out of STI...

Thursday 9 July 2009

Konkani, the Lingua Bramana or the Lingua Canarim

Interestingly, Konkani - amchi bhas - is hardly referred to as Konkani in the early literature generated by the Portuguese and other missionaries in Goa. Thomas Stephens, for example, refers to it as the Lingua Bramana. Someone else refers to it as the Lingua Canarim. I have come across one book that makes reference to 'Concani.'

According to Nelson Falcao, 'Canarim' and 'Kannada' comes from kinara, coast or shore; so Konkani would be the 'Language of the Coast.'

We need some more light on this.

There is the related issue about Marathi and Konkani. Thomas Stephens knew both, referred to the latter as the language of the Brahmins, and chose to compose his Khristapurana chiefly in Marathi, with a sprinkling of Konkani words, as he himself says. Why would this be? Nelson Falcao once again opines that Stephens was well aware of the great Maharashtra to his north, and wanted his work to have a wider influence than little Goa, which is why he wrote in Marathi. A related reason could be that the 'Puranic' literature available to him was mostly in Marathi: the Dnyaneswari, and so on.

The fact is that even today the ritual or liturgical language of the Goan Hindus is Marathi, while their home language is Konkani. They may be staunch supporters of the dual language policy (Marathi and Konkani) for Goa, but most Goan Hindus use and speak Konkani in all their personal dealings, and they often do it with much greater linguistic competence than their Christian counterparts....

It might be interesting to find out what the situation was like some 400 years ago. Obviously the two languages had already acquired distinct physiognomies, otherwise Stephens would not have been able to distinguish them. Was Marathi the liturgical language of the Hindus? Was Konkani the spoken language? And if it was called the language of the Brahmins, what were the non-Brahmins speaking at the time?

And what of the Kadambi script, patronized by the Kadambas of Goa, forerunner of the present-day Kannada script? What bearing does this kind of connection have on Konkani?

Wednesday 8 July 2009

Indian Christian Writings

Some of you might be interested in a new blog I have set up, called Indian Christian Writings: A Bibliography (see This has been a long time desire and project, to generate a bibliography, as complete as possible, of Christian Writings in India. Perhaps that is a better way of putting it, because, at least in the 'early' centuries - which means up to the 16th and 17th centuries - so many of the contributions are by foreigners who came to our country, learned our languages and mastered our religious and art forms to such an extent that they were able to compose not just philosophical and theological works but genuine works of art, such as the Khristapurana and the Puththenpaana.

This is meant to be a collaborative project, so if you are an expert in some particular relevant area, or if you happen to have a friend or acquaintance who is an expert, please feel free to contribute or encourage contributions.

Having such a resource is something I consider extremely important. It is, first of all, wonderful to simply know the riches that are avaialable. Like this afternoon, a young parishioner and her father dropped in to see me, and they saw copies of Tilak's Khristayan and Francisco Vaz de Guimaraes' Khristapurana on my table. They were delighted, so I showed them the new blog. I was happy to see the interest. I said, perhaps our catechism must include some information about such things. The response of the young parishioner was enthusiastic.

So history, art, literature ... all part of education to the faith!

Why Lonergan?

The other day James Sundar asked me in class: why Lonergan in philosophy of knowing? why not a general approach, as in Yercaud? I was hard pressed to give an answer that was not too apologetic and defensive. But the question has remained with me, and all sorts of answers keep popping up.

One popped up just now, as I began reading chapter 1 of Verbum: my experience of reading Lonergan has been the experience of 'light upon light'. If there is no resistance, Lonergan is nothing if not illuminating. And that is certainly one reason why I have kept reading him, and perhaps one reason why my Philosophy of Knowing course was practically a reading of chs. 1-14 of Insight.

But I have been toying with the idea of a different approach, an approach is that 'free of the book.' Something like what I did in the Philosophy of God course: a set of readings, attempts to raise the problem, group reading and discussion, and then attempts to illuminate, to answer.... That is a far more participatory approach. Now how to go about that, is the question. But perhaps someone has already attempted something such?

Aunt Mary

I was watching a part (it's always a part on TV with me) of Under the Tuscan Sun the other day. I have seen snatches of this movie before; all things Italian are always so fascinating, and more so when it has to do with lovely Toscana: the gracious villas, the hilly countryside, the roadside shrines to Our Lady, the tables groaning with good food and wine, the elegant people....

But what caught my attention was the way the protagonist of the film, the recently-divorced American writer, learns to relate to the Italian devotion to Our Lady. Here she is, a fallen-away Methodist, finding Mary everywhere: on her bedstead, in the churches, in roadside shrines, in the festal processions.... And she finds a very interesting and comfortable warmth in her relationship to Mary. 'Aunt Mary', she begins to call her; and she says she finds her presence curiously comforting and reassuring....

Aunt Mary who is always there, even when we don't quite care for her, or understand her place in God's plan and in history, or blow her up till she seems to obscure God... But Aunt Mary whose soul glorifies the Lord, so that every praise of her, even exaggerated, really finds its way to God...

Becoming adult

During my methodology class for the MPh yesterday I was remembering Henrici and Huber: Henrici, extremely competent, world-renowned expert in Blondel, great teacher, but reserved, timid and even cold in his interactions with students; Huber, warm, bubbly, be-at-ease type of person, but not in the same category as Henrici as a teacher and researcher. And I remembered a nice distinction that came to me: what am I here for, I asked myself. Is it to find affection, feel comfortable, feel good? or is it to gain as much as I can by way of academic competence? So ignore the fact that Henrici is cold, reserved and timid; he is a great teacher, and that's what is important.

I guess there is an analogous realization that every young person in religious formation needs to come to: I am an adult; I need not expect to be constantly affirmed, appreciated, boosted up by my provincial, my rector, my staff members. If someone does not respond cheerfully to my morning greeting, I do not conclude there is something wrong with me; I simply assume there must be something the matter with him. Part of growing up is to attain this kind of emotional independence.

On our part as formation personnel, I guess, there is a corresponding task: not to make them emotionally dependent on us, but to work to promote their independence.

All this without prejudice to "Strive to make yourselves loved." I think there is a fine way of integrating what I have said with this exhortation of Don Bosco. Fostering emotional independence, for example, does not stem from lack of love! But then Plascencia has wonderful reflections on all this in his retreat talks at GC26.

Monday 6 July 2009

Signs of affection

Today we celebrate the 'shifted' feast of Dominic Savio - shifted to July because our schools and boardings are usually closed in May. Going through the proper readings, I was struck by some incidental aspects of Don Bosco's pedagogy. At least twice, in the second selection for the second reading of the Office, Don Bosco hints that he was in the practice of allowing the boys to ask him for a token of affection. The first time Don Bosco tells Dominic to ask for something that would please him. (Dominic of course replies that he wants to be a saint, but that is beside the point just now.) The second time, Don Bosco reports that he had told the boys in general to ask him for something that would be a sign of his affection for them. He goes on to say that most of the boys asked for silly and extraordinary things, and reports that Dominic once again asked to be a saint.

Don Bosco telling the boys to ask for a sign of affection.... Never struck me. Extraordinary.

He does tell us: Strive to make yourselves loved.

Which takes for granted of course that we on our part genuinely love those entrusted to our care.

Friday 3 July 2009


During the Lonergan Workshop, I enjoyed the hospitality of the Jesuit community of Boston College. I have been there at least twice before, and I must say they have been very hospitable. The community is large, some 120 Jesuits and others at present, many of them professors but many also students from round the world. The refectory is also accordingly large, with tables of different sizes and no fixed places. There is also usually a rather hot and cold buffet to choose from, which does take care of the variety of tastes and preferences to a great extent.

Hospitality is gratis for the first two days; after that, guests are informed that the cost will be $ 60.00 a day (a card is given to each guest with the key of the building; individual rooms are usually not locked). Breakfast is available from 0645 to 0900; lunch from 1130 to 1400; and supper from 1730 to 1930. This seems to be a good arrangement: two days free and then you make your offerings to the community.

St Mary's Hall is an elegant place, but some of the tradition is retained, as for example the fact that most of the rooms are not self-contained. And washing is always a problem in these places: one has to discover the washing machines in the basement, learn to operate them, or else find some other solutions. How much easier life is back home!

Thursday 2 July 2009

Books and things

Window shopping at Heathrow, I spotted not one but two new books by Tolkien, both edited by his meticulous son Christopher. One is entitled The Legend of Sigurd and Gudrun. The other I forget, and I can't find anything on the net either. Perhaps I was dreaming.

I also spotted volume one of the Wheel of Time series - The Eye of the World - on my flight out to North America, but by the time I was on the flight back, it was no longer there....

Plenty of other titles in the genre inspired by Tolkien. I can't even remember them. Perhaps the Eragon series qualifies. But C.S. Lewis' Narnia books are different.

One thing I did pick up was Roald Dahl's Boy / Going Solo. Delightful little book, meant really for children, but can be enjoyed by just anyone at all, anyone who is just a little bit in touch with his / her inner child. (Boy is sort of Dahl's autobiography, and Going Solo is probably a continuation of this, the 'mature years' if you wish.) I was introduced to this magnificent author by Avinash during our trip down to Kelmbet and Shirva. He was in the back seat, and was reading aloud to us when he was able to control his laughter and his delight. A must read. Highly recommended. I hope my copy arrives: I entrusted it to the vagaries of BC post via the ever helpful Kerry Cronin of the Lonergan Emporium at BC.

Memento / Ghajini

I watched Memento on the flight from London to Mumbai. I had already seen Ghajini, and was curious to know how much had been copied. Ghajini is certainly based on Memento: the similarities are too striking to even bother denying (and perhaps they did take permission). But there are differences too. The love angle, for example, is almost half the film in Ghajini: the quite tender portrayal of how the rich young man falls in love with this lively, beautiful young girl. Then again, Memento has become a cult film, winning fame and acclaim for its director, Christopher Nolan: perhaps because the medium itself tries to match the mental state of this young man who has lost his short term memory, or his capacity to form memories. He is not suffering from amnesia: he remembers quite clearly who he is, and what he was doing, right up to the moment he was hit on his head. His problem is forming and retaining memories after that point. That is where he resorts to tattooing things on his body, writing chits, posting them all over his house, taking photos, etc. The movie, as I said, tries to match this mental state, by giving us quite disconnected snippets, inviting us perhaps to get into the inner state of the patient. It calls for some effort to piece together the whole story, and I am not even sure I would have done that if I had not first seen Ghajini. Ghajini, by the way, is a quite straightforward narration, though with the mandatory flashbacks. Nothing disconnected about it. And the crook - Ghajini - is big time, and the fights gory and flashy, as compared to Gamella and the fights in Memento.

The recession

How are people faring in North America during the meltdown and recession? The Lonergan people organized a conference on Lonergan and Economics at Seton Hall, New Jersey, the week before the Lonergan Workshop at Boston College. The conference brought together business people, professional economists, as well as Lonergan experts. Pat Byrne gave the opening paper, while Philip McShane and Paul St Amour, among others, gave talks on Lonergan economics. I was told that the professionals are beginning to take notice of Lonergan, and even finding something useful there, though what exactly that might be, I am unable to say as of now.

My cousin Julius told me that different groups of people are responding differently to the recession. The Indians, as a whole, still keep buying, and are among the biggest buyers, the reason being that they still tend to save rather than live on credit as is the common thing among other groups of people in North America. There is, however, a slight anxiety, since so many companies are shutting down or downsizing.

Julius and Alison

Alison, Julius, Brandon and Annie in the backyard, Hoffman Estates, Chicago area.

The killdeer plover

There was this bird sitting on four brown speckled eggs just laid on the wood shavings around the tree on the front lawn of Julius' house. Fierce: it wouldn't let Julius mow the lawn, nor Alison water it, and it would bring two others of its kind to its aid. It had a longish beak, spindly legs, and a double collar around its neck. A search of the internet revealed its name: killdeer plover, known to nest on the ground around lakes, ponds, etc. Killdeer, because of its peculiar shrieking cry. In fact, a walk around the colony revealed plenty of other killdeer around the artificial pond. This one was very bold, however, nesting in front of somebody's house, and defending its turf for all its worth....

Wednesday 1 July 2009

Chicago and around

Chicago is a city of skyscrapers, and one gets the unmistakable feeling of having been there, till you realize that the skyline is familiar thanks to comics like Superman and Batman....

An interesting item that does not seem to have got into the comics is the Chicago river, which used to flow into Lake Michigan, but now flows out of it. This engineering feat was accomplished by digging a canal out of the river that was lower than the river itself. The reason was that the river used to be filthy (Mumbaikars will know what that means) and was polluting the lake. Now it simply pollutes the Mississippi River, I am told. Well, when the reversing was done, it seems the lakeside states began to complain that Illinois was getting more than its fair share of water. The solution was to build a lock. Today the lake waters are a full foot higher than the river waters....

A third interesting piece of information: the newer housing estates in the US and in Canada are integrated into woodland and forest. It is not surprising to find rabbits, raccoons, and even deer behind one's house. Unfortunately, a number of animals are killed by speeding traffic. At least in Canada, the law requires the driver to load the dead animal into her vehicle and dispose of it in whatever way, rather than leaving it to rot on the road. In the US, I believe, one has to call in the police.

But it is something astounding to see wild animals in one's backyard.

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