My New Jersey Visit

Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ

Visit to New Jersey was not in my original plan. But the loving and insistent invitations from friends like Victor and Albina, Ketan and Ila, Jagdish Christian were more than tempting. Then, there was also the opportunity to meet many others friends whom I have known during my editorship of DOOT. I am very happy that I was able to spend 3 days with friends at New Jersey and nearby places.

After spending an enjoyable evening with Victor and family including a visit to nearby Hudson river front park I insisted on sleeping in the living room of Victor’s house in stead of going to the motel where Mayur had reserved a room for me. Victor and family thought that their home accommodation would not suit me!

On the next day after a pleasant morning walk with Victor and breakfast, Mayur drove me to Ila and Ketan’s house at South Plainfield. I was delighted to meet Ila, Ketan and their three children as I have not met them after blessing their marriage. Still it was like walking into the house of close friends as we kept up yearly Christmas correspondence and Ila sending me her family photos and often recalling the year she spent with me in CISS Office as an in-service trainee before her marriage.

Ila prepared a tasteful lunch including a delicious dish of shrimps. After lunch Ila drove me with Ketan and children to meet the families of Ketan’s younger brother Kalpesh and elder brother Jagadish.

Early in that morning I had phoned Joseph Parmar whom I was eager to meet. Thinking that the well known social worker Joseph Parmar, whom I have read in Gujarat Times published form New York, was staying with Ketan and Ila, I told him on the phone that I would meet him late that morning. But I could meet him only in the evening as Joseph and his wife Susheela were staying with his eldest son Jagadish and family in Colonia, a little away from Ketan’s house at South Plainfield.

I was happy to know that Joseph Parmar has received not less than four times the Award for Social Service from the Mayor of Jersey City. He was also the Sheriff of Hudson County for four years. But Joseph Parmar is best known for his services through Indo-American Senior Citizens Association of Hudson County as its secretary. Joseph gifted me his book “Social Darpan” which gives very elaborately the benefits by Federal Government and other agencies for the senior citizens in USA.

A highlight of my visit was the Gujarati Mass celebrated in Holy Family Church at Union City, New Jersey. Jagadish Christian had announced the Gujarati Mass in his website and informed all Gujarati Catholics in New Jersey and nearby areas about the Gujarati Mass. So nearly a hundred people participated in the Mass. On the eve Ketan had called the Gujarati choir for singing practice in his house. The choir was still practicing singing with gusto when I went to bed at mid night. Ketan also prepared on his lap top six pages of multi-colour brochure with chosen hymns,three readings of the Sunday Mass, the address of the Holy Family Church, my photo and a short write up about me on the front page.

For the homily I took the theme of forgiveness and Jesus as the model of forgiving and finding ways in difficult situations. I have written three or four articles on forgiveness. My article on the importance of forgiveness in my book “Tamaru Hrudaya Gashe” came to my mind. In the article I gave the example of an educationalist and journalist, Titus Bradma who, inspired by Jesus’ forgiveness from the cross, forgave his persecutors and tormentors in the Nazi concentration camp. So I had enough and more ideas for a homily on the importance of forgiveness in daily lives to lead a happy and peaceful life as Jesus did amidst detractors and growing opposition to his way of life and teaching.

After Mass we had a social gathering in a parish hall. While enjoying snacks and cool drinks the friends shared with me about their two concerns. They said that there are plenty of job opportunities in nursing and teaching of Maths and Science subjects as well as in the world of computer technology. They wanted the Church in Gujarat to prepare the youth for jobs in these fields. I told them that the biggest difficulty for the people in Gujarat is the English language. Now the Church has started more English medium schools and summer coaching classes in English.

The second concern, which they shared with me, is about the need for a priest there to conduct Church services in Gujarati and also to conduct retreat and seminaries for youth. They felt that immersed in American culture the Gujarati Christian youth lacked religious and moral guidance. I told them that I would convey their concerns to the Bishop of Ahmedabad, Bishop Thomas Macwan. But what is more importance is to think that what they themselves can do in the areas of their concerns.

After the sharing Ms Phyllishben Christian drove me to her house at Bloomfield. There her brother Mr. Shantilal Parmar and family were waiting for me. They have a beautiful two storied bunglow in the suburb with ample space in the backyard. They family have cultivated there a kitchen garden with a variety of vegetables.Shantilal, being farm technologist, has been experimenting there even with some variety of Indian plants and vegetables.

Shantilal drove me back to Jersey City for a dinner appointment in the house of Kirit and Rita and their child Kimberly. I was happy that they persuaded Shantilal to stay and share the dinner. Kimberly has recently received First Holy Communion. In the invitation they had informed their friends that Kimberly would receive gifts only in cash and that the cash would go for scholarships for poor students in the schools of Surya street (Anand) Jesus Nagar, Vadod and Khambholaj in Gujarat. Accordingly they had given me a cheque of US $ 4000/- for the Diocese of Ahmedabad which I faithfully handed over to Bishop Thomas on my return to Ahmedabad. After a delicious Gujarati dinner Shantilal told Kirit that he would be happy to reach me to Victor and Albina’s house for the night. Earlier the arrangement was that Kirit would drive me to Victor’s house for my last day in USA.

Back at Victor’s place, he told me that some friends have tentatively arranged for two press interviews for me for the next day. Victor and family had also planned to take me in the morning to ground zero where the World Trade Centre was destroyed by terrorists’ attack on 9/11/2001.

I told my hosts that I am not much interested in the press interviews as I am purely on a private visit. Finally it was settled that they would arrange a telephone interview with “Gujarat Times” a weekly newspaper published from New York and that my host would take me to ground zero on the next day.

It was a moving experience for me to visit the site of world Trade Centre with Victor and his wife Albina and their children Mayur and Megha. I had visited the World Trade Centre during my first visit to USA in 1977 when I spent a month in a Parish Church at Brones. It was an exhilarating experience then to climb up to the 100th floor – a kilo meter into space – in a matter of three minutes and then change the lift to the top floor and viewing gallery.

Most ground zero area is fenced with grills and aluminum sheets as the authorities with a never-die spirit of America have started rebuilding the World Trade Center. We had taken from New Jersey the PATH Metro train, which terminates at ground zero and we could see the construction woks in progress.

Our visit was like encountering history of 9/11 as different galleries with photographs, a perpetual scrolling of names of the victims and other information were prominently displayed paying tribute to the victims. After visiting the ground zero area communicating with history first-hard, we visited closely St. Paul’s Chapel built in the 1760s. It is the only pre-Revolutionary Church in continuous use. A private pew used by George Washington is seen on one side of the church. A prayer service for peace was in progress when we entered the chapel. A volunteer gave me prayer cards with printed prayers for peace from different religious like Jainism, Buddhism, Jewish and Christian religions. I spent a few minutes joining the congregation in the prayer for peace with people around the world who yearn and pray for peace.

The visit to ground zero was celebrated with a huge pizza, which Mayur ordered, and we enjoyed it back at home.

Back at Victor’s place, it was time for the telephone interview with a journalist, Rameshbhai of “Gujarat Times”. Victor, who listened to my responses on the phone, told me that he was quite satisfied with the thing I spoke on the phone. But I felt that I could have been better prepared if the interviewer had given me some idea of the wide ranging questions he asked me.

After lunch with Victor and family on my way to the airport we visited Albina’s parents and her sister’s houses. It was nice meeting Albina’s parents who were pioneers among Gujarati Catholics migrating into USA in the middle of last century.

Then, we had an experience of heavy traffic in New York on the way to New York airport. Since we started about 4 pm to catch my flight of 9 pm, we had ample of time to relax in the heavy traffic. Mayur at the wheel as a seasoned driver drove Victor, Megha and me with ease in the traffic. My hosts accompanied me till I checked in. In short, I can say sincerely that my Gujarati friends in New Jersey made my visit memorable with their love, friendship and generosity.

With Gujarati friends in Los Angelos, USA

Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.

This has been an exceptional year for me; and what more, I am happy about it. I usually celebrate my birthday with my Jesuit community and friends at Ahmedabad. But this year, thanks to the insistence of my niece Mini and her husband and my friend Ajay, I celebrated my birthday in their house at Bridgeport, Connecticut, USA. I was on my way to attend the World Congress of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) at Sherbrooke, Canada in June 2007.

The birthday celebrations were special this year because it was celebrated not only on May 31 but also on the following Saturday and Sunday with friends who could not come on May 31, a working day. The memory of my 65th birthday will linger long with me with the beautiful gift of a digital Sony camera and a beautiful shirt from Mini and Ajay.

This year was also exceptional for me because I was able to visit USA again after the UCIP World Congress and meet first time my Gujarati friends who knew me as the editor of DOOT or the author of many books.

At Fremont after UCIP World Congress, I enjoyed the love and hospitality of my first cousin Fr. Mathew Vellankal. He introduced me to his Gujarati friend, Mr. Bharat Shah. a businessman. He came from San Francisco to see me. Mr. Shah is an ardent follower and promoter of Swadhyay Parivar and Mrs. Dhanashree Shreenivas Talwalkar, the present head of the Parivar. He wanted me to take to San Francisco and meet many Gujarati friends there but there was no time as I was leaving later that day to Los Angelos.

In conversation with Bharatbhai I told him about Swadhyay’s services and activities in India and I also mentioned about the clubbing to death Mr. Pankaj Trivedi at Ahmedabad, who was a follower of Swadhyay but asked for financial accountability of the movement. He knew about it and said that Swadhyay has been wrongly implicated in the case. I gifted him a copy of my book ‘Jeevan Sangeet’.

My stay with Fr. Mathew gave me the opportunity to participate in the parish ministry including celebrating the Eucharist and preaching in all six Masses on one Saturday and Sunday! Participating in other parish activities and visiting and having dinner with two families of the parish gave me some experiences of parish life. Then, as part of the parish ‘Bible Week’ the two talks by biblical scholar Fr. Thomas P. Bonacci, C.P., from Pittsburgh were very enlightening.

My next destination was Los Angelos. Fr Ashok Vaghela, S.J. of my community back at Ahmedabad, studying at Loyola Marymount University, had arranged for his friend Mr. Jonathan Vasaiwala to pick me up from the airport.

During the two days spent with Jonathan, Pushpaben and their son Robin I enjoyed not only the Gujarati meals prepared by Pushpaben and the use of Robin’s computer but also their many friends who came to see us. In all the phone calls, which Jonathan and Pushpaben made or received, one news item was that the author of many books and former editor of DOOT was in the house.

The couples’ warm, loving nature and hospitality welcomed many people in their house and gave me the opportunity to meet and make many Gujarati friends. Jonathan also took me in his car, in spite of his knee trouble to visit a few Christian families like the house of Ushaben E Christi in Anaheim Village. In one such visit in the house of Floraben, Rajnikant, Indira and their child Mary, Floraben also invited Fr (Dr.) Jacob Kattackal of St. Thomas Apostle Syro-Malabar Catholic Church at Santa Anna, CA 92703 so that I could meet him as we both originally hailed from Kerala.

Jonathan also took me to visit Crystel Cathedral,an architectural marvel in steel and glass works. John Macwan, a retired teacher from Petlad accompanied us in the visit. Then, Jonathan took us to a Chinese restaurant and ordered the Management’s special dish and none of us could finish the food. After lunch we visited Light House, a Christian bookshop also at Long Beach. The shop has not only bibles and books but also a lot of items as a gift-shop. Jonathan told me to pick up anything I wanted. But I was happy that I was able to get out of a bookshop without picking up a book! In my suitcase I had more literature than I could carry!

In the evening while I finished answering e-mail letters on Robin’s computer, Fr. Ashok came from his tour of La Viegas and Grant Crain. Jonathan drove us with his wife Pushpaben to Amrut Macwan’s house for a short gathering and Holy Mass. While I led the Eucharist in Amrut’s family recalling the first Christians who gathered in families for Eucharist, Fr Ashok read the Sunday Gospel and preached a beautiful homily on John the Baptist saying that today we need to live like John in a forthright and humble way.

After the Mass we all relished a good Gujarati meal prepared by Amrut’s wife (name ?). Then Amrut drove Ashok and me to Loyola Marymount University (LMU) campus in Los Angelos where Ashok had already arranged a room for me for the night. Exhausted from a long day I slept soundly.

On Sunday morning Ashok introduced me to the fellow Jesuits of LMU community and we took breakfast in the community refectory. Then, Ashok took me for a tour of LMU by foot and then in a car to reach different areas and institutions of the sprawling campus.

LMU is beautifully situated on a mount overlooking the Pacific Ocean not far from the Los Angelos Airport. From LMU Ashok drove me to Shantilal and Alice Jadav’s house where Fr. Vinayak, Jadav, Induben Rao and others were waiting for us.

I found Alice and the visitors from Ahmedabad very busy cooking and preparing a sumptuous Gujarati lunch. Shantilal enquired about my writing and books. He was happy to know that I have written 26 books and published them through secular publishers. We all enjoyed the Gujarati meal like a family lunch with old friends.

In the evening Ashok had arranged to visit Mrs. Jenine Veraldi, a friend and benefactor of Gurjarvani. We met her on a wheel-chair in the nursing home Singing Oaks Retirement Community at Monrovia in the suburb of Los Angelos. To me the nursing home has good facilities and nursing care. But to Jenine who has led an independent and active life, the place was a ‘hell hole’ from where she wants to escape to freedom! But confined either to wheel-chair or to bed here can she go? So she philosophizes, I am making reparations for my sins joining myself to Christ’s suffering on the Cross.

Fr. Ashok as a close friend of Jenine treated her with kindness and firmness, telling her indirectly that her happiness lies in accepting the situation without crying and grumbling. I heard her confession and we left Jenine in a very good mood.

Our last programme on the day was a prayer meeting and blessing of the new house of Michael and Sheelaben and family. It was a new experience for me and I was very happy to see different Christian denominations coming together and singing psalms and other devotional hymns, old and new. At their request I spoke a few words about Jesus as the host of John the Baptist’s two disciplines and one of them brought his brother Peter to Jesus. I also recalled that Jesus was the guest of Lazarus and his two sisters and also in the house of Simon the Pharisee.

My message was that, a true house is a house of love and hospitality, a house where the members filled with the values and attitudes of Jesus help one-another to grow closer to Jesus and well coming other people with love to the awareness of Christ in their midst.

Fr Ashok read the parable of a house built on solid rock and preached a beautiful sermon in the context of the new house and blessed the house with holy water. The house was filled with many Christians. To my surprise there were no neighbours or any non-Gujaratis!

Sheelaben had prepared a number of tasty dishes for a feast-day dinner, which we all enjoyed.While the guests were still having the dinner Fr. Ashok and I said good-bye to them all and Ashok drove me straight Los Angelos airport for me to catch a night flight to Philadelphia.

With Friends and Nature

Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.

Albert Einstein once said? Look deep into nature, and then you will understand everything better. I experienced the truth of Einstein’s saying when I visited Yosemite National Park in California State, USA with three friends. The visit took me not only close to the nature but also to the past and even to pre-history in the company of Frs. Mathew Vellankal, Joseph Parekkatt and Shaji Jose!

In the beginning of June 2007 I participated in the World Congress of the International Catholic Union of the Press (UCIP) at Sherbrooke, Canada. Then, at the invitation of Fr. Mathew Vellankal, my first cousin brother, I traveled to USA.

Fr. Mathew picked me up from San Francisco airport at 3.30 PM on June 14 and drove me to his Holy Spirit Church at Fremont. I knew that my cousin brother as the Parochial Administrator of one of the biggest parishes of Diocese of Oakland, is a very busy Pastor. Yet he told that he has planned a long trip for me to Fresno to meet his friends Mathew and family on Sunday evening. His plans for me included a visit to Yosemite National Park on the next day.

As I am always eager to meet new people, visit new places and learn new things, I eagerly endorsed Mathew’s plans for me. So after all Sunday services in the Parish Church on June 17 we set out in Mathew’s car with two friends: Fr. Joseph Parekkatt and Fr. Shaji Jose. After a three hour-long drive through free ways often crossing orchids and green farm lands we reached the house of our hosts Mathew and Soly at Clovis close to Fresno.

Our hosts were eagerly waiting for us with their two kids Tomy and Tojo and other friends including Mary, a senior nurse and benefactor of many priests. The two-storied bungalow had more than enough space to accommodate four of us, priests. But apart from the company of friends, our main attraction was the specious backyard with a large swimming pool and lawn surrounded by fruit trees like cherries, plums and banana as well as a vegetable garden.

After tea we swam in the swimming pool and played basketball in the pool with a water-ball trying to throw it in to the basket fixed on a tall pole on the edge of the swimming pool. Meanwhile our hosts and Mary fixed sumptuous dinner and carried eatables and cold drinks to the pool-side so that we could take a break from swimming and water games.

We all enjoyed the evening thoroughly with long chat and delicious dinner at the pool-side prepared and served by our generous hosts and Mary. It was great to have Kerala type of meal including tapioca and fish, rice, sambhar and vegetable dishes. Spending a few hours with them I was happy to see that while maintaining their family values, our hosts were also well integrated in the American way of life and culture.

After retiring at 11 pm I was up early in the next morning and I was surprised that when I came to the dining room, coffee and breakfast were ready on the table.

Soly was already busy cooking. It was a great surprise for me to see that Soly together with Mary has also prepared lunch packets for us. They neatly made four silver foil packets and draped in newspaper and put them in a hermo-cool box.

At 6.30 we said good-by to our hosts and headed for Yosemite National Park. Yosemite is about 65 miles from Fresno. The National Park is amazing for me for a number of reasons. First, as we drove up to the Yosemite National Park from Freeway 14 we could see most varied and scenic panoramas of pine trees on both side of the road. The park authorities claim that? Over 1000 species of wildflowers and 37 kinds of trees are native to Yosemite.

Second, as we reached Mariposa Grove we saw close to the parking area giant sequoia trees. They were the biggest trees I have ever seen. A guard told us that the organized Tram Tours through the wild forest would begin only by 9.30 or 10 am when large number of tourists arrives in the park. So we decided to take a walk through the trek-path of the pine forest.

Through the mile long trekking we saw numerous gigantic sequoia trees. At different points of trekking path there are information boards indicating grizzly sequoia trees of even 500 to 3000 years old! With some sequoias with 20 to 30 or more feet base and with more than 400 feet height, the information claimed that they are the largest existing trees in the world! It was enchanting nature at its best!

One sequoia tree fallen across the trekking path is cut and removed the width of the path. The fallen tree trunk’s circumference is so very big, in fact, much higher than a man’s height that Fr. Shaji said. With one sawed round piece we can make a one-piece dining table for a big family!

In the case of another gigantic sequoia tree, the dead part of the base is cut and removed that trekking path goes through it. The gap is so big that even a car can pass through it. Yet the tree is alive on both sides and it stands majestic some 350 feet high! The trek reminds me of John Muir,the first protector of the Yosemite region who said, the clearest way into the universe is through a forest of wilderness.

A third amazing sight is the fantastic view of rocks and water falls which we watched from the glacier point of the Park. We could see the Vernal Fall and Novada Fall at a distance. The giant rocks like Sentinal Dome and El Capitan reveal the story of Yosemite’s geological past. The polished domes and jagged peaks of the higher country tell the story of not only past history but also pre-history of millions of years of glaciers and rock formation!

After feasting our eyes with gigantic rocks and waterfalls from drizzling heights and experiencing a sense of awe, Mathew drove us to Yosemite Valley. It was formed by glacial erosion over hundreds of thousands of years. The scenic valley is 7 miles long and 1 mile wide at its widest part.

Today the valley is covered with pine and black oak trees. The Valley has an (American) Indian Village of Ahwahnee. The history says that the Indians populated the valley some 6000 years before European and American explorers and entrepreneurs drove them away from their habitat during the mid 19th century!

From a parking area of the valley we walked a few minutes to the bottom of Bridalveil Fall. We could see the water flowing out at a height of 620 feet. But very little water flowed down as the water hitting the rocks on the way got scattered in the air and the wind drove the tiny water-particles like snow-flakes and mists. No wonder people call it Spirit of the Puffing Wind?.

Our last and a very enjoyable item was our packed lunch from our generous hosts Mathew and Soly, and also a choice bottle of wine from Mathew our tour host and guide. We took the lunch on a beautiful spot on Merced River which runs through the valley. We sat on small rocks touching the river water that I could wash my hands in the water without getting up from the rock!

The noise of the running water together with chirping of birds provided us with background music. In the midst of enthralling scenic beauty of the place we all enjoyed the meal. So I was not surprised when Fr. Parekatt said that, it was the most tasty and enjoyable picnic lunch which I have relished in my life.

Perhaps it was life-changing moments like this in the lap of nature John Muir wrote, as long as I live, I’ll hear waterfalls and birds and wind sing. I’ll interpret the rocks, learn the language of flood, storm and the avalanche. I’ll acquaint myself with the glaciers and wild gardens, and get as near the heart of the world as I can.

Shoes and other Footwear Thrown into Temple

Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ

I read in a Malayalam daily newspaper dated January 7, 2007 the story of shoes and other footwear being thrown into a temple from an adjoining Masjid at Palayam. I could not believe the story easily. So I read it a second time. The facts were undeniable.

Thiruvanandapuram is the state capital of Kerala. Palayam is an area of the capital city. In British time it was the Camp area of the soldiers and the place got its name ‘Palayam’ in Malayalam, meaning Camp.

Today one speciality of the place is that the area has the places of worship of three religions. The Catholics have their Church, The Hindus have Ganapati Temple and the Muslims have their mosque. The Ganapati Temple and the mosque are so close that they have one common wall between them. But the mosque is located a little higher than the temple. So from the boundary wall of the mosque one can clearly see the dome of the temple.

One evening. The priest of the Ganapati Temple was preparing to light the lamps for evening worship. The devotees had not yet come. The priest and his helper were cleaning the auspicious lamps and lighting them. Then, the unthinkable incident happened. From the mosque shoes and other footwear were thrown into the temple desecrating it. The priest was awestruck as if he was struck with lightening.

According to the local culture, people remove their shoes and other footwear before entering the temple. The place for all footwear was always outside the temple, never inside. So it was unthinkable for anybody to see footwear flying into the temple. But on that day the unthinkable happened! And that too from the adjoining Muslim mosque.

One can imagine the consequences of such a sacrilegious incident! The people in the temple were shocked. But the most shocked were the Muslims who come to pray in the mosque. So some Muslim brotheren ran to the Maulvi, Muslim priest and told him about the footwear thrown into the temple.

In fact, it was a retarded Muslim boy who entertained himself by picking up the footwear and throwing them at random. Some of them fell in the temple.

Hearing about the incident the Maulvi rushed to the wall near the temple. He looked at the temple. His friend the temple priest were standing stunned and looking towards the mosque. Maulvi explained to the priest what actually happened.

“Yes, I thought something amis has happened. But now you don’t worry. I have hidden the footwear behind some bushes so that the devotees don’t see them. After the night worship you may send a bag without anybody else knowing it. I shall reach you the footwear,” the priest said.

Hearing the consoling words of the priest the Maulavi felt at peace in his heart as if water has been poured on burning fire! Blessing his friend, the priest in his mind ‘Aslam alaikum’, the Maulvi turned to the Mosque.

As I read about this event while I was in Kerala my mind flew to Gujarat. I asked myself: if this event took place in Gujarat what would be the consequences? It was good that at Palayam both the temple priest and the Maulvi were friends. They could understand each other. They believed each other. They respected each other.

If such an event occurred in Gujarat, perhaps, the communalist fanatics would have burnt not only the temple and the mosque but the whole city! The desecration of the Ganapati Temple occurred at Palayam, Triruvananthapuram. The cause of the desecration was the adjoining mosque next to the temple. The footwear thrown from the mosque fell inside the temple. Not only one shoe but several shoes and other footwear. There were more than enough reasons for a communal riot to take place. But at Palayam there were two truly religious men. They were friends. They were tolerant. So the desecration did not break into a communal outburst.

The priest of the temple and the Maulvi of the mosque were true religious leaders. They were true leaders of their religions. I call them true civilized religious leaders. They were truly enlightened leaders. Their god-experiences made them mature leaders of their community. As true devotees of God they were not interested in fishing in troubled waters. They did not have any selfish motive or goal to attain through their leadership positions. They did not have any game to play with a hidden agenda.

They could accept a retarded child’s playfulness as nothing else but playfulness. They responded in a mature way. The temple priest could have taken exception to the footwear thrown into the temple and could have created havoc by enflaming the passion of the Hindu devotees against the ‘Muslim Fanatics’ of the adjoining mosque. He could have created at atmosphere of hate and enemity against his Muslim neighbours. Bu no such thing happened. Instead the temple priest proved himself a truly religious man of God by his concrete action.

In the same way the Maulvi of the mosque, taking advantage of a misdeep, could have enflamed the passion of the Muslims who came to pray in the mosque against the Hindus gathered in the next door temple. But the Maulvi as a true devotee of Allah approached the priest and acknowledged regretfully what had happened and brought the situation under control.

Even this inflamed situation did not excite the passion of the two religious leaders against the followers of the other religion. Both the religious leaders behaved in true freedom. They did not poke to awake the sleeping lion of communal hatred. Both gave their mature response to the unthinkable situation. The priest collected the footwear which had fallen in the temple and without calling the attention of the devotees, he returned them to his friend the Maulvi.

Similarly the Maulvi, like a man of understanding and wisdom, hurried to the temple priest as soon as he came to know about the untoward incident and appraised him about the unpleasant but true reality and asked his forgiveness. Thus instead of quarrelling about an event beyond their control, they contained it with their true religiosity and
wisdom. Both the friends behaved with maturity and understanding. Both the religious leaders instead of displaying religious fanaticism and fundamentalism showed the essence of true religion, love and brotherhood. May their tribe increase in our midst.

Lifelong Single Life

Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ

In the bygone days young people hardly chose to live lifelong single life. In the ordinary run of life young men and women found a life-partner and formed a family. Some religious minded young men and women found the fulfillment of their lives in choosing to live single in the religious life of a monk, a nun or of a priest.

In some societies there is no option for adult young men and women but to marry. In the Christian religion young persons can choose according to their inclination, a life of marriage or a lifelong single life of a priest, a nun or a monk in religious life.

By way of exception we see in all human societies a few people who choose to remain single without embracing the religious life of a monk or a nun. But during the last few decades what was an exception in the past has become a normal way of life. So today’s youth look at the life of a spinster or a bachelor as an option to the life of marriage or the life of a religious monk or nun.

In the Bible according to the Gospel of Mathew some people to test Jesus Him: “Does our Law allow a man to divorce his wife for whatever reason he wishes? Jesus answered, ‘Haven’t you read the scripture that says that in the beginning the Creator made people male and female? And God said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and unite with his wife, and the two will become one.’ So they are no longer two, but one. Man must not separate, then, what God has joined together” (Mt.19, 3-6).

In the context of divorce after marriage Jesus teaches his disciples that, “For there are different reasons why men cannot marry: some, because they were born that way; others, because men made them that way; and others do not marry for the sake of the Kingdom of heaven. Let him who can accept this teaching do so” (Mt 19,12).

I think that here Jesus has spoken of three types of people. First, the married people, second, the people who are incapable of marriage in their life and the people for one reason or other choose to remain single, and third, those men and women who choose to remain single for sake of the Kingdom of God.

In this essay we will speak about the third type of people. This type of people chooses to remain single for one reason or other. Unlike religious monks and nuns these people do not take the vows of poverty, obedience and virginity. Still their life resembles more the life of religious monks and nuns than those in married life. For, like the religious monks and nuns they remain single all their lives and lead a life of virginity.

When we speak of virginity, I am reminded of an event of bygone days. Once the King of Cochin was visiting for the first time the monastery of Carmelites of Mary Immaculate at Thevara, near Ernakulam. While looking around the monastery the king asked the Superior, “Reverent Father, here you all seem to be very happy and content. But where are your wives and children?”

“We are all virgins. We have no wives and children,” the superior of the monastery said.

“What? Men can also live that way?” the king exclaimed wondering about single life of virginity of the monks.

“On one’s strength a person cannot live a life of virginity but a person can live so with the special grace of God,” the superior explained to the king.

The life of virginity is like the lives of angels without body. But religious monks and nuns are people with bodies of flesh and bones. So they dedicate all their bodily, mental, intellectual and sexual energies to the service of God. In this life the religious monks and nuns are helped by their life of prayer, community living as well as their purpose of life.

There are men and women who live single lives of virginity without these helps of the religious. They live a life very different from the lives of the monks and nuns. Their lives are also dedicated for a purpose. They have their own particular purpose of life and they orient their lives and thoughts to suit the purpose.

Away from married life, those who live lifelong single lives have usually a very specific purpose of life. They are ready to spend all their energies and endure all difficulties in order to attain their purpose or aim of their lives. They work hard to get what they want.

The persons who embrace lifelong single life are well aware of all the benefits as well as the loses of such a life.

Those who choose a life of a spinster or of a bachelor, live alone or with a relative or in some institutions. They have choosen their independent life-style. But they do not have to follow a particular life-style like the monks or nuns.

Those who live single lives away from marriage and religious lives, have their own concrete aims. They spend their energies and powers in their chosen field. Our President Abdul Kalam is a good example. He has chosen to live single to dedicate his entire life for the service of the country in the field of science and research.

We have among us the persons who dedicate their entire lives to looking after their elderly parents or their brother or sister who is retarded or handicapped in other ways. They spend their time and energy to become expert and do their best in their chosen field of service in their lives.

The people who remain single for life, in a way experience complete freedom even though they also experience many limitations. In most cases they eat and sleep alone. So they often suffer loneliness and abandonment. Since they are spinsters or bachelors, they do not have the companionship often when they feel the need. Sometimes people look with suspicion at people who live single lives as spinsters or as bachelors. But most people look at them with respect and admiration.

In ancient Rome the responsibility of keeping the temple lamp burning in the Vestal Temple elonged to six virgins. They had to serve in the Vestal Temple from the age of 10 to 30. The Romans believed that these six Vestal Virgins protected Rome and brought the city prosperity. So the people of Rome gave them great respect. They were given prominent seats at sports stadia and drama halls. Special seats were reserved for them in public functions and places. If a criminal who was led to the place of execution, met a Vestal Virgin, the criminal was absolved
of his crime by the sight of the Vestal Virgin and he was set free.

In our history there are many people who are very famous for their dedicated lives and services while remaining single. Classical poet Francis Thomson, the model nurse Florence Nightingale, the Founder of the American Red Cross,
Clara Barton, etc are great examples.

In the Indian culture too those who lead dedicated single lives are loved and respected. The people appreciate their lives of prayer and commitment. Their steps are blessed like the steps of the Vestal Virgins of ancient.

The Example of a Donkey

Fr. Varghese Paul, S.J.

I believe that this story of a donkey is well known. I have heard it before. Recently I got it again through internet from a friend in U.S.A. I was deeply touched by the story. The story has a beautiful moral lesson to all of us but especially to those persons who are surrounded by problems and difficulties.

The story is about a farmer’s donkey. One day the donkey fell into an abandoned well without much water. Finding itself in danger at the bottom of the well the donkey began to bray loudly. The loud asinine utterance brought the farmer running to the well.

Now what to do? The farmer began to think. The donkey is very old and is not much use for work. Then, the dried up well is also useless. It is time to fill and cover the well. So the farmer decided to fill the well with mud. He called his neighbour for help.

The farmer and his neighbour began to gather mud and throw the mud into the well to fill it. The donkey inside the well realized that he is in great danger of being buried alive! He began to bray evermore loudly. After a little while his braying stopped.

After sometime the farmer looked into the half filled well. The sight surprised him. As the mud was falling on the back of the donkey, it shook of the mud from its back and put the mud under its fact.

The farmer and his neighbour continued throwing the mud into the well. The well began to be filled. The donkey too continued shaking the mud off its back and put the mud under its fact. At the end when the well was nearly filled the donkey jumped ever the parapet of the well and went away to freedom!

This is also the story of our lives. People will throw mud on you. Sometimes the problems and difficulties surround and pressurized us so much that it is difficult to come out of them, if not impossible. We feel that we are getting buried under the weight of the problems and difficulties! Sir Winston Churchill’s advice here is, “Don’t argue about difficulties. The difficulties will argue for themselves.” From experiences we know that when difficulties come, many a times they come together. In the words of a famous writer, (Is it Shakespeare?) “difficulties come in legions.”

The situation may be shocking. Even then without giving in to the difficulties situations, let us look for solutions. The donkey found a way out of being buried alive. If we look persistently we will find a way out from any and every difficulty. Remember that behind the thickest dark clouds there shines the sun even though we do not see it. Let us keep our hope alive and shining like the sun behind the cloud.

Someone has said that hope is immortal. Every person cherishes hopes. Perhaps that hope is built upon coming out well from of an earlier experience. Or perhaps the hope is built upon an inspiring author or an interesting book or an article. A person may also build his hope from his faith that God is with me, he will come to my assistance in times of need.

Mother Teresa believed that all types of difficulties are opportunities to carry on our lives! That farmer and his neighbour were filling the well in order to bury and get rid of the donkey. But the donkey found a way out of the life-threatening situation. Every person who hopefully seeks a way out of his problem will find one.

A person seeking solutions to his problems should not do so blindly. Hate and unforgiveness make a person blind to realities. So without ever submitting oneself to hate and enemity a person, who seeks to solve his problems and difficulties with love and attitude of forgiveness, will always find a way out of them. Love and forgiveness will certainly help a person to overcome even those problems which seem impossible.

Knowingly or unknowingly people create or take upon themselves many problems! They simply worry about many things. Some worries are about future events. Many of those future events will never take place! So the worry is useless. So it is better and wise for the person never to worry about such imagined events. Some worry about their past. But by worrying about the past one cannot do away with the past nor change the past. The past is past. Learn from the past whatever lesson we can learn and then forget it by accepting it as one’s past reality. The donkey got rid of the mud thrown on its back. Let us also do away the past as the donkey shook off the mud from its back and concentrated on the present of climping on the mud at its fact.

A person can save oneself like the donkey by giving up consumerism and other forces which create problems by simple living. A person can create a habit of appreciating what one has and what one possesses instead of worrying about what one does not have. Simple living and high thinking will help a person to get rid of the tendency to collect and
keep unnecessary and superfluous things or from craving for more Happy and contented life will certainly help a person to get rid of a lot of worries and problems.

Many problems and worries are created by a person’s desire for many things. The desire creates expectations from relative and other people to get many things. When the desire us not satisfied, problems of interpersonal relationship are created. Without expecting and receiving things from others, if we create a habit of giving what we can, then many interpersonal problems and difficulties are solved. The Bible says, “It is more blessed to give than to receive.” (Acts 20, 35)

These thoughts arguments and the example of the donkey proclaim one thing. The happiness of a person totally depends on himself or herself. A person himself/herself is responsible for his/her happiness.

Finally let us give a thought to a piece of poetry by Saif Palanpuri:

“Problems are sleeping at ease Solutions of the problems are in waking up.”

The Triveni Sangam

(of Jews, Christians & Muslims)
Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ Some years back in March 1979 during the presidency of Jimmy Carter (1977-1981) an international summit of three heads of states was held in USA. The summit known as Camp David was attended by three great men of history. They signed the “Treaty of Peace Between the Arab Republic of Egypt and the State of Israel.”

A number of outstanding factors made Camp David a unique summit. One unique factor of the summit was the religion of the three participants. President Jimmy Carter of USA a devout Christian was the host. The two other participants were President Anwar Sadat of Egypt, a devout Muslim and Prime Minister Menachim Begin of Israel a devout Jew.

These three men, as all Christians, Muslims and Jews, believed in Monotheism and claimed Abraham as their common father in the faith. God had promised Abraham that he would be “the ancestor of many nations.” (Gen. 17, 4)

Muslims, the Descendent of Ishmael

Patriarch Abraham had two sons. The first son born to Abraham was Ishmael from an Egyptian slave-girl Hagar. Sarah, Abraham’s wife gave her slave Hagar to Abraham as his concubine because she had not borne him any children. (Gen. 16, 1-15)

The Bible says that as a sign of Abraham’s covenant with God, Abraham circumcised his son Ishmael and all males in his household the slaves and Abraham himself. (Gen. 17, 23-27).

But God had promised Abraham a child by Sarah. That promise was fulfilled when Sarah gave birth to Isaac. God said to Abraham, “I promise that I will give you as many descendants as there are stars in the sky or grains of sand along the seashore.” (Gen. 22, 17)

But after the birth of Isaac to Sarah, Ishmael and his mother Hagar were expelled from Abraham’s house. Ishmael survived the expulsion and lived as a desert nomad and a skillful archer.

The Bible mentions that “Abrahams’s sons Ishmael and Isaac burried him in Machpelah Cave, in the field east of Mamre.” (Gen. 25, 9). Ishmael is the ancestor of a number of Arabian tribes. (Gen. 25, 12-18). The Muslims believe that they are the descendants of Ishmael. So they trace their ancestry to Abraham as the Father of their faith through Ishmael. For the Muslims according to Koran Abraham is the highest example of the purest Islamic faith and a model for all believers through Ishmael.

Islam as religion began in the 7th century with Mohammed (c.A.D. 570-632) as the last prophet of Allah in the traditions of Abraham, Moses and Jesus; and Koran as the revealed Holy Book of the all Muslims.

Koran contains many things found in the Holy Bible and the Jewish Scripture, which is the Old Testament of the Bible.

Mohammed’s name is mentioned in Koran only a few times. But, the Mother of Jesus, Mary’s name is mentioned in Quran many more times, in fact, more times than Mary’s name appears in the New Testament of the Bible! So in Koran we find many things common in Bible and in the Jewish Scriptures.

Jews as a People and Nation

Like the Muslims the Jewish people too trace their anscertory to Patriarch Abraham through his son Isaac. Isaac had two sons by Rebekah: Esau and Jacob. The later came a little after his twin brother Esau appeared. So Jacob is called the younger brother. Through craftiness and deceitfulness, Jacob bargained and got the right of his elder brother. Then, thanks to his mother’s special love and partiality, Jacob also got his father Isaac’s special blessing.

Ancestor Jacob had also two special spiritual experiences at Bethel and Peniel. At Bethel Jacob had a dream of “a stairway reaching from earth to heaven, with angels going up and coming down on it. And there was the lord standing beside him I am the lord, the God of Abraham and Isaac,’ he said, ‘I will give to you and to your descendants this land on which you are lying. They will be as numerous as the specks of dust on the earth. They will extend their territory in all directions, and through you and your descendants I will bless all the nations” (Gen. 28,12-14).

At Peniel Jacob wrestled with a man who gave Jacob a new name Israel. Here is the whole story from Genesis “Then a man came and wrestled with him until just before daybreak. When the man saw that he was not winning the struggle, he struck Jacob on the hip, and it was thrown out of joint. The man said, ‘Let me go; daylight is coming.’

Then, Jacob asked the Man and got his blessings.

“Jacob said, ‘I have seen God face to face, and I am still alive’, so he named the place Peniel. The sun rose as Jacob was leaving Peniel” (Gen. 32, 24-31).

Then, God asked Jacob to go to Bethel. When Jacob return to Bethel from Mesopotamia, “God appeared to him again and blessed him. God said to him ‘Your name is Jacob, but form now on it will be Israel.’ So God named him Israel. And God said to him, ‘I am almighty God. Have many children. Nations will be descended from you, and you will be the ancestor of kings. I will give you the land which I gave to Abraham and to Isaac, and I will also give it to your descendants after you.’ Then God left him” (Gen.35, 10-13).

“Jacob had twelve sons. The sons of Leah were Reuben (Jacob’s eldest son), Simeon, Levi, Judah, Issachar, and Zebulun. The sons of Rachel were Joseph and Benjamin. The sons of Rachel’s slave Bilhah were Dan and Naphtali. The sons of Leah’s slave Zilpah were Gad and Asher. These sons were born in Mesopotamia. (Gen 35, 22-26).

The twelve Israelite tribes are named after the twelve sons of Jacob. The tribal family of Jacob is called by ‘Sons of Jacob’ and ‘Sons of Israel!’. Israel began as tribal confederation with a covenant with Yahweh as the only God and Israel as the specially chosen people of Yahweh. So the Israelites are called also the people of the covenant and the chosen people. The name Israel appears frequently in the Bible. It is used alone or it appears in phrases like ‘Sons of Israel’, ‘house of Israel,’ and ‘Kingdom of Israel.’

After the times of Patriarchs, the sons of Israel were led first by prophets and judges like Moses, Aaron, Joshua and Samuel. The house of Israel is a loose tribal organization. The people were united by the worship of Yahweh.

Then, influenced by their neighbours the Israelites asked their leaders for a king. Monarchy was introduced among the people of Israel with Saul as their first king followed by king David. David’s reign started first over Judah in the South and then extended to north to cover the whole nation of Israel.

The life and achievement of King David impressed the people of Israel that in later years when they were in trouble, they longed for another king like David from the family of David. King Solomon succeeded David.

When Israelites were conquered and exiled by foreign rulers, the Israelites longed for a king, a descendent from David. Many of the exiled Jews came back to Jerusalem and rebuilt the temple. Then, the Israelites were conquered again by foreigners like the Romans. But the religious life of the Israelites continued around the temple at Jerusalem. The Jewish people looked forward to the promised Messiah, the annointed one of God, a descendant of King David.

The word ‘Jew’ designates a member of the tribe of Judah. Later the word Jew meant a habitant of the Persian province of Judah, which consisted of Jerusalem and its surrounding area.

At the time of Jesus, Jews were the people who worshipped Yahweh, the one God and they looked eagerly forward to the redeemer, a descendant of King David who would deliver them from the foreign rulers, the Romans.

In the Gospels ‘Israel’ is used for the Jewish people and also for the their religion. Later in 1948 when the Jewish people got freedom from the England they called their country Israel as a political society. The Jewish people proudly Patriarch Abraham as their Father in Faith.

Jesus Christ and Christianity

Jesus came into our world as the promised Messiah, the anointed one of God, the descendant of King David. He preached the kingdom of God for about three years and died on the Cross.

In the heart of Jesus’ preaching is the message of God’s love for humankind. St. John’s Gospel tells us Jesus’ mission in Jesus’ own words: “For God loved the world so much that he gave his only Son, so that everyone who believes in him may not die but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to be its judge, but to be its Saviour” (John 3, 16-17).

A prayer of the Catholic Church beautifully articulates the sum and substance of the Christian faith.

“Father, we acknowledge your greatness: all your actions show your wisdom and love. You formed man in your own likeness and set him over the whole world to serve you, his creator, and to rule over all creatures.

“Even when he disobeyed you and lost your friendship you did not abandon him to the power of death, but helped all men to seek and find you. Again and again you offered a covenant to man, and through the prophets taught him to hope for salvation.

“Father, you so loved the world that in the fullness of time you sent your only Son to be our Saviour. He was conceived through the power of the Holy Spirit, and born of the Virgin Mary, a man like us in all things but sin.

“To the poor he proclaimed the good news of salvation, to prisoners, freedom, and to those in sorrow, joy. In fulfillment of your will he gave himself up to death; but by rising from the dead, he destroyed death and restored life.

“And that we might live no longer for ourselves but for him, he sent the Holy Spirit from you, Father, as his first gift to those who believe, to complete his work on earth and bring us the fullness of grace.” (Eucharistic Prayer 4)

Most Jewish people did not accept Jesus in his time but saw him as a sinner who claimed equality with God, who made himself one with God. But many Jewish people accepted Jesus as the promised and anointed one of God. Many other peoples and nations too joined the Jewish followers of Jesus or accepted Jesus as their Saviour and Redeemer independent of Jewish people. They are all called Christians, the followers of Jesus.

The Christians accept the Jewish Scripture, as part of their Bible, called Old Testament. The Old Testament is seen as God’s dealing with people and as a preparation for the coming of Christ. The second part of the Bible, the New Testament, deals with the life and message of Jesus and the life and teachings of the first Christians.

Like the Muslims and Jews, the Christians too accept Abraham as their Father in Faith and worship one God.

The Triveni Sangam

Apart from monotheism and Abraham as common father of faith, there are also other common factors among the Jews, Christians and Muslims. The followers of all three religions worship in community on fixed days and times. There have been mystics in all three religions whose vision and teaching go beyond the boundaries of their religion.

The monotheist believers also find common things in the sacred scriptures. If something is not absolutely clear in the Scripture of one religion, then going into the scripture of another may help the understanding.

In fact, I think, it was the great thinker, Augustine of Hippo who said that in the Old Testament (Jewish Scripture) the New Testament lay hidden and in the New Testament the Old Testament stands revealed.

The Jews, Muslims and Christians find their oneness in the acceptance of one God. So all the three religions are called monotheist and All three religions also accept Abraham as their common Father in Faith.

Like the three Indian rivers – Ganga, Yamuna and Saraswati – meet at Triveni Sangam, the three religious of Jews, Muslims and Christians, worshipping one God, find their meeting point in Patriarch Abraham, the Father of all the three faiths.

When the followers of all the three religions believing in one God, recognize themselves as the children of one God and brothers and sisters of one another, then, there will be peace and true faith in the world.

Pledge to Protect the Enviornment

Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ

“We pledge that we shall, at all times, protect and preserve our planet and will not, in thought, word or action, endanger or destroy the environment. Let us together cherish an earth on which we can live long, healthy lives and enjoy fully her boundless beauty and abundant wealth.”

This pledge is not an oath taken by the forest officials. This pledge is not an oath taken by the members of a non-government organization like Taru-Mitra (friends of tress). This pledge is not an oath taken by the members of some international organization engaged in forestry and forestation. Certainly all these people could take this pledge.

This pledge is actually taken by the students of Mount Carmel School at Ahmedabad. I was happy to see this pledge printed in the invitation card of the annual function 2006 of the school with the chief guest Smt. Mrinalini Sarabhai who is a great lover and protector of trees and the environment.

I believe that in the school annual day function the students and their guardians must have seen cultural programmes and have heard speeches about the importance of protecting and keeping our environment clean. They must have been inspired to protect and preserve the environment of our planet to the best of their abilities.

Today we live in a “do or die situation”. It is a challenging situation of protect the environment or perish. Not only our external environment but also the human life and the life of all living beings are at stake. The newspapers and other media call our attention time to time to the ill effects exploiting the nature without any concern for our environment. This mindless exploitation of the nature is the proof that we are not yet fully aware of dangerous situation of our environment. We are not even aware of the possibilities of our own contribution to protect and preserve our own neighbourhood environment!

We call our planet with respect ‘mother earth’. What relation a person keeps with his/her mother, what love a person shows with his/her mother, what attitude a person shows to his/her mother, such a relation of love, respect and kindness we should keep with our mother earth. The elephants have different tooth to show and to eat. We cannot afford to have two different type of relationship with our life-giving mother and life-nourishing mother earth. Different types of attitude or relationship do not do any credit to us.

The earth is really our mother. We are all the children of mother earth. The effects of what the mother earth experiences will certainly affect her children. If we destroy the earth directly or indirectly, we will feel it effects sooner or later. We are not the owners of the earth. We are living beings on earth like other organic or inorganic beings. We don’t posses the earth; but the earth possesses us. Someone has said that we have not inherited the earth from our ancestors. But we have loaned the earth from our children. So we are bound to return the earth with interest; that is to say, we should give the earth in a better situation than we got it.

In other words we should pass the earth and its environment to the new generation in a better condition to live than the present situation. But instead of making our environment better, we are destroying it!

The destruction of environment has become a big problem for humanity. We pollute our rivers, lakes and seas by sending to them chemicals and other poisonous substances which pollute the waters. Consequently the water is not potable and we also destroy the wealth of fish and other creatures living in the water!

The poisonous gas let out in the air by lakhs of vehicles and our factories contribute enormously to destroy the environment. Through the uncontrolled use of plastics, insecticides, artificial manure we destroy the natural fertility of the earth. If we have to pay for the oxygen in the air, we have to spend crores of rupees for the oxygen which is produced by the trees and yet we cut the trees!

These are a few of many and varied ways through which we are destroying our water, the earth and the atmosphere. The environmental experts tell us that till now our life-span has steadily increased in the past. But now pollution of our environment ever on the increase. If we do not reverse the trend, then, first time in human history, the life-span will decrease with the next generation!

The environmental pollution has reached in life-threatening situation around the world. There are many programmes and projects at national and international level to control environmental pollution and reduce it. For instance, public prohibitions against spitting, smoking, throwing waste and defecating in public places or in the open are meant to control the environmental pollution.

Every citizen can contribute his/her share to clean environment by taking care of these things. Today’s young generation with its own examples can take leadership in these things. About 60 to 65 percent of India population is young. If these youth take the leadership, then there is no doubt that the cleanliness of the environment will increase and pollution will decrease.

I would like to recall here an environmental poem “I Listen” by Dr. Charles Roper written in 1992.

I Listen to the trees, and the say:
“Stand tall and yield.
Be tolerant and flexible.
Be true to yourself.
Stand alone, and stand together.
Be brave.
Br patient.
With time, you will grow.”
I Listen to the wind, and it says:
Take care of yourself –
Body, mind and spirit.
Take time.
Be quiet.
Listen from your heart.
I Listen to the sun, and it says:
“Nurture others,
Let your warmth radiate for other to feel.
Give yourself without
I Listen to the creek, and it says:
“Relax; go with the flow.
Tend to what’s really important,
And let the rest go by.
Keep moving – don’t be
hesitant or afraid.
Lighten up – laugh, giggle.”
I Listen to the mountains, and they say:
“Be there.
Be honest.
Be trustworthy.
Do what you say you’re going to do.
Be true, genuine, and real.
Speak from the heart.
Don’t cheat.”
I Listen to the birds, and they says:
“Set yourself free
I Listen to the clouds, and they say:
“Be creative.
Be expressive.
Let you spirit run free.
Let yourself be light and gay,
but let yourself be heavy and sad.
Cry when you feel like it.”
I Listen to the sky, and it says:
“Open up.
Let go of the boundaries and barriers
which you have created to protect yourself.
Experience change.
I Listen to the flowers and
small plants, and they say:
“Be humble
Be simple
Respect the beauty of small things.
Respect the beauty of humility and truth.
Let go of perfectionism
Love yourself as you are; it
opens the door to change.
Practice acceptance.”
I Listen to the bugs and flying insects, and then say:
Be productive.
Use your hands.
Focus on what’s in front of you.
Ignore the past; there is only the present.”
I Listen to the moon, and it says:
Share love.
Make love.
Be romantic – touch and caress.
Allow yourself to be loved.
Be gentle, kind, and understanding.
Use candles.”
I Listen to the stars, and they wink and say:
Dance, be silly, have fun.”
I Listen to the earth, and it says:
“I am your mother.
I give you life.
Respect all that is around you.
Find beauty in all things
– living and not – including
yourself; for we are all one – not separate.
Be especially respectful to th
e very young and the very old,
for they are both very near God.
Give up the belief that you are a higher form of life;
there is no higher form of life.
We are equal because we are the same.
When you return to me, I will welcome you,
and I will set your spirit free.
Love and nurture your children; cook good food for them,
and hold them very close to you often.
Hold me close to you often as well,
and I will hold you in return; I will support you.
Have faith.

Let us become consciously aware of our environment like Dr. Charles Roper. Let us listen to all the organic and inorganic beings. Then, we will understand many things of our environment. We will be able to appreciate and enjoy the beauty of creation. We will enjoy the healthy environment. If we become conscious of our environment, then we will be aware of the polluting factors and we will be able to protect and preserve better the environment. Let us decide firmly to protect and preserve our environment. Our pledge to preserve the environment will help us in this task.

The Curse of Hunger and Malnutrition

The Curse of Hunger and Malnutrition
Fr Varghese Paul, S.J.

Though more than half a century has passed since India got independence the starvation deaths and wide-spread malnutrition are sad realities even today! Recently daily newspapers and the audio-visual media have highlighted the death of 11 children due to malnutrition and hunger in the Dongriguda area of Norangpur District in Orissa. The fortnightly magazine “Frontline” dated August 27, 2004 has published an article on the sad situation of deaths due to hunger and malnutrition in Orissa.

Every year the newspapers and other mass media organizations inform us that poor people are dying of hunger and malnutrition in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Jharkhand, Orissa, Andhra Pradesh, etc. It is a pity that our politicians as well as the executive and the administrative ‘babus’ fail to face the problems squarely and find a permanent solution.

Some years ago when there was widespread draught in 14 states in India, the Director of Action Aid India, Mr Harsh Mandar brought to light that 60 million tones of grain were getting rotten in government go-downs and open storage grounds!

In the World Social Forum which met at Mumbai from 16 to 21, January 2004 a Mr Hari of the “Musahar” caste of Bihar said that the first thing they teach their children was the important lesson to live with hunger. “When the child is small it cries with hunger. If the child does not keep quset we will give him a little opium which will make him sleep. When the child grows a little older, we will make him understand that there is no escape from living with hunger” said Hari.

Lakhs and even crores of people have to face hunger and live with it, even today in the continents of Asia, Africa and Latin America. Many times it is not the lack of grain and other eatable things which cause death by hunger and malnutrition; but it is the corruption and the callous attitude of the administrative and executive officials and the negligence or incompetence of our power-hungry politicians.

According to the Food and Agricultural Organizations of the United Nations Organization (UNO) there are 8420 lakh people who experience in-security in food in the world. And 25 percent of the people without food security live in India! Though India has only 17% of the world population, the 25% of the world population suffering from malnutrition and hunger are in India today!

Taking this situation of malnutrition and hunger in the world the UNO has declared 2004 as the International Year of RICE. And the motto of the International Year of Rice is “Rice means Life”. Rice is the stable food for half the world population. Rice is not only food for crores of people, but rice is also the life-sustaining means of labour and business. As the population increases in many countries, so also the demand for rice increases. So the motto of the International Year of Rice is very appropriate : “Rice means Life”.

By observing the International Year of Rice, the UNO hopes to increase the world production of rice and create food security for crores of people. It this way the UNO plans to complete stop deaths due to hunger and malnutrition.

People engaged in agriculture need equipment and other means of production so that they can produce more and attain food security. They also need the freedom and the facilities to do business with rice and related products.

Also, the rights of farmers over their products and over the local markets need to be acknowledged and respected. We need to see that the agricultural products of the means of livelihood of farmers are not affected by importing cheap agricultural goods which are produced with government subsidy in foreign countries.

The basic human right for food is acknowledged today all over the world. The right for food was included in the Universal Declaration Human Rights by the UNO in 1948. In the same way the Universal Declaration of 1974 against death by malnutrition and hunger has acknowledged the freedom of every individual from malnutrition and hunger and also the right of everyone to develop one’s mental and bodily powers with proper nourishment.

I believe that everybody has the right for nutritious food and freedom from hunger and malnutrition. This can be seen in the fact that the government budgets usually allot crores of rupees to help the poor. According to the INDIAN CURRENTS issue of August 15, 2004, the subsidy for food in the 2003-04 budget is a staggering amount of Rs.27,800 crores.

The article in the INDIAN CURRENTS commenting on the 2003-04 budget says: “All pro-poor subsidies comes to a total of Rs.2,74,352 crore. If the same amount is directly transfered to 30 crore BPL (below poverty level) people, each individual will get Rs.9,145 a year, amounting to nearly Rs.46,000/- per household. If this transfer had actually occurred, there would not have been any destitution in India”. But this does not happen.

From this ideal thinking let us come to the world of reality. What can you and I do to make our contribution so that all men and women within our reach get the food which is their basic right?

First, let us be aware of the social evils which keep the poor away from getting their basic right for nutritious food. In the present social order if the daily wage earners and the workers in the unorganized sector do not find jobs and get minimum wages, then they have no other way than suffer hunger and malnutrition. We all need to be sensitive to this problem and concerned people need to be informed of this plight of the poor.

Second, let us make sure that we give just wages to the poor people who work for us. The poor are helpless and work for whatever remuneration offered. Let us not exploit this helpless situation of the poor people.

Third, let us support the government and non-government organizations which work for the removal of death by hunger and malnutrition. Poverty is a social and moral evil with many manifestations. They need to be confronted squarely.

And finally, let us be convinced of one thing that the death caused by hunger and malnutrition in India is a blot on every citizen of this country. India can remove this blot with political will and concerted efforts of all concerned people.

I hope that the Mr Manmohan Singh government will give priority to stop the recurring deaths due to hunger and malnutrition in different parts of India. The government needs to fight against all man-made and natural forces which cause hunger and malnutrition. In this way, let us hope that during the next five years hunger and malnutrition are totally done away with from India. This is possible through every citizen becoming aware of the problems and taking appropriate steps within his/her reach and power.

The Teachers are the Key to Education

The Teachers are the Key to Education
Fr Varghese Paul, S.J.

Recently on the occassion of India’s 58th Independence Day a fortnightly from Chennai, THE NEW LEADER, published a cover story on ‘Suggestions to Manmohan Singh’. The New Leader asked some eminent persons of different walks of life for ‘Ten Suggestions to the Prime Minister.’ The cover story published the suggestions of 7 people. All the 7 persons representing different professions without exception have mentioned education as one of their suggestions as top priority for Dr Manmohan Singh’s government.

Let me mention as examples the suggestions of three persons. Swami Sachidananda Bharathi, the founder of the Dharma Bharathi National Institute of Peace and Value Education has two suggestions. First, “Introduce urgently ‘Citizenship Training’ and ‘Value Education’ in all schools and make them an integral part of Teachers’ Training Courses and Programmes in the country in order to lay a strong foundation for national integration and moral regeneration.” Second, “Make school education a national priority and make primary education compulsory and free for all children. Set apart at least 5 per cent of the total national income specifically for this purpose.”

An eminent journalist and former editor of Bombay Mid-day and Free Press Journal, Mr Michael Gonsalves suggests: “Make primary education compulsory for all children and entrust the responsibility to a government agency.”

A professor of religions, Sr Shalini suggests: “Revamp our education system. Promote co-education of boys and girls in schools and colleges. Include sex education and psychology in the school syllabus.”

The suggestions of all the 7 eminent respondents can be reduced to two appeals: First, work for total literacy and second provide total quality education.

In both the cases of total literacy and quality education, one person stands out. She or he is the teacher. His/her contribution and his/her training to impart proper total quality education is paramount. But the naked fact is that in India the role of a teacher is not recognized and appreciated in terms of their social standing and their remuneration, especially in private institutions.

However, we continue celebrating Teacher’s Day on September 5 every year on the birthday of a great educationalist and philosopher, Dr Sarvepalli Radhakrishnan. As a life-long teacher Dr Radhakrishnan has set an example of extensive reading and reflection for all teachers.

The teachers may not produce books like Dr Radhakrishnan who wrote on a wide rang of topics as a result of their reading and reflection. But the teachers without exemption are certainly expected to read and reflect especially on their profession to be competent not only in the subject of teaching but also in dealing with the pupils with love.

Education is an on-going process. The teachers who do not read, reflect and update themselves are out-dated people. They are to be discarded from teaching like out-dated machinery. Only those who read, reflect and go prepared to their class rooms to impart the latest knowledge and insights should be teachers. Only those who inspire their pupils through their lives and teaching should be called teachers.

I would like to emphasis here both the aspects of a teacher’s personal life and his/her teaching. Both are inter-related and are very important because true education, they say, is not taught but caught.

Teacher’s Day gives us the occassion and opportunity to look at our teachers. Are they happy and contented people so that they are able to do their best for their pupils? A basic need of a teacher is that he/she should be adequately paid. What can the people do to see that the teachers are not exploited by private educational institutions? What can we do to see that the teachers do a good job?

When I look at my school days, I realize one thing: I did very well in studies often standing first in a subject or even in the whole class when a teacher of a particular subject or a class teacher was very loving and competent. The loving teachers were also better teachers as they came to the class well prepared.

I remember one particular instant. Thomas Sir was teaching us English in the 7th standard. He always came prepared with text book and notes to the class. He taught us also very well. Still some boys must have found English difficult. So they went to the principal and complained that Thomas Sir was not teaching well in the class.

In the next class Thomas Sir told us frankly that the Principal has told him about the complaint: Then, without naming anybody he said that any student who does not follow this his teaching, should please let him know, he would be prepared to explain the lesson again and again in the class and if need be, even outside the class. By the way he communicated with us, we felt that he was more sad because some boys did not understand his lessons than because they complained to the principal.

The ones who had complained must have felt bad. Anyway, almost everybody said, “Sir, we did not complaint against you. You are teaching us very well. We follow the lessons well.”

For me a good teacher imparts much more that the knowledge of the text book lessons. He/she prepares the students according to their age for life. Through both his/her life’s message and through lessons taught a teacher communicates human values and ideals.

I believe that all teachers, whatever lessons they teach, should teach only in the Elite School of Love. In the elite school of love, the teacher is the most loved and respected person not only by the students on the school campus but also by people in the society at large. People accept him/her as a respected and loving person. These types of teachers and their students feel proud of each other.

Let all teachers remember that by their calling they are not just teaching a few pupils but through their profession they are contributing to nation building. And we all need to remember that the teachers are the key to education and support them. Let us pledge that support on this Teachers’ Day.