Sunday, December 29, 2013

A TRYST WITH THE FORSAKEN

I went through an experience last week. It is something that I go through every year and this time the intensity seemed to be more. Listening to people speak, reading books, watching movies and experiencing situations in life are those that bring intensity into life for me. I have been struggling with Mahathma Gandhi's 'My Experiments with Truth' for quiet some time, but in the process of that slow reading, I found  the areas of social service, that Gandhi had done, to be really incredible. I also happened to read some articles about Mother Teresa and watch 'Ben Hur' last week. And then Christmas was here and there is a church I go to during that time every year. The street leading to that church is narrow and I have always found beggars and lepers on both sides of this street during this time. I have never got back anytime without giving them something. This time when I dropped a coin into a leper's bowl, I went through that same experience, a feeling to quickly drop the coin and walk away. I think that the feeling of being in that environment was more this time, because of the intensity I went through through while reading the book and seeing the movie. In the case of beggars, I think this tendency in me to walk away fast, is a shade lesser.




I believe this year, I am beginning to realize all the more, that as a Christian am still crippled. I can only claim extraordinary things but I am nowhere close to being a good Christian. When I was in Sunday School I was a serial first rank holder in all the exams. I have served as a deacon in the church services for several years. I don't have any of the bad qualities to be termed as a bad guy. We pray almost everyday as a family. We go to church and participate in the worship almost every Sunday. I have been a teacher at the church Sunday School since my 12th standard. It's only in the last two years that I have dropped out of active participation in the Sunday School due to the demands from my family side. I have bagged a lot of prizes at the Sunday School and my daughter is also following the same path. But the realization that I get as I wade through the book of Gandhi is that, I am nowhere when it comes to showing compassion on the poor or the sick. My religious approach does not have an active social work component supporting the poor or the sick as yet, something beyond giving them money and food. I wonder how Mother Teresa or Gandhi got themselves into a service where they had to touch the sick and the poor. I believe that without being able to touch them, I am actually not giving them love. I am being noncommittal. I am not sure how my reaction will be, if one of these forsaken souls come into the church and sit beside me for prayer.

I can keep reading the Bible and praying all my life but I would still remain crippled as a Christian if I am not able to take this step forward.



Friday, November 1, 2013

THE BEST GIFTS FOR MY BIRTHDAY


Tuesday, September 17, 2013

THE SEARCH FOR THE REAL PEACE

It was coincidental that I heard two individuals touch upon the same subject over the last weekend. My cousin brother  from Bangalore who visited us last Saturday, happened to share this aspect. He told me that he had heard this as part of a speech rendered by one of the Bishops of our church. I heard the same as part of the speech from a priest who visited our church in Koyambedu, Chennai on the Sunday that followed.

It's interesting to note that angel Gabriel first appeared to Mary and told her "Peace be unto you Mary, full of grace. Our Lord is with Thee'. In fact there is some more that the angel did say, but my focus now is on the word 'peace'. In fact, after the angel said this, Mary's life was never in peace. Actually her life was in peace before the angel appeared. After angel Gabriel's visit, Mary's life was full of pain. She became pregnant even before she was formally married, which in today's world is something that is looked down upon amongst women. Beside, there was no place for her to give birth to her child. Once the child was born, she had to take the child and escape from the killers of King Herod, who were hunting to kill baby Jesus. Even when Jesus was growing up, there was a time when she lost him and had to anxiously go and search for him. Mary finally had to go through the extremely painful situation, of having to see her son being tortured and crucified in front of her. So was this a piece of the peace that Angel Gabriel promised her? An interesting question indeed.

It was great to know from the speeches rendered, that what God means as peace, is not the peace that humans look for. What we look for is a calm and settled life, free of trials and tribulations. But what God offers is a journey, beginning with a realization of who we are and what we are made for. The journey could take us through the most anxious moments, but that is what is going to get the best out of us and also what would help us to make a difference in the little role that we play in this world, while we live.

If we take a look into Mahathma Gandhi's life, the journey that took him through South Africa and then through India, to finally end with a gunshot was not a peaceful ride in human terms. But his inner self was at peace when he realized what he was made for and every action that he subsequently took towards that goal added to his peace, piece by piece.

May be the use of references from the Bible, or that of our Mahathma would send a signal down our mind that such things are only possible with great individuals. But still, scaling down to a normal human's terms, even if it is our last day on this earth, it is still worth chasing our dreams and following our heart, as that is where our inner voice will truly speak to us and tell us what we are destined for. Sometimes, it may be that this peace, would come in spurts or as small pieces at different stages in our life. Even a small moment through that great journey for which we are destined, can give us the real peace, even if it is our last moment on this earth.




Friday, August 23, 2013

WHEN WE HEARD THE CHIRP OF BIRDS


Sketch of a birdie using Extra Dark and 2B pencils. I am doing sketching after a pretty long time. This was a cathartic experience and helped me to swim through my periods of stress.




I had been working on this over a week, as getting to sit right through is a real challenge. On the whole it has taken just less than an hour. I posted this on a night, after I got back from work and it is coincidental that the following day morning, when I was singing a prayer song, I heard at least three different chirps of the birds in the trees around our house. I felt blessed.

A few weeks back, one of our neighbours approached us with a request to get a tree that has been there with us for years, cut and taken off at the root level. The roots had spread and the flooring that lay in front of their house, was opening out because of this. I was fine with the idea, but my daughter did not want to. She was so attached to the greenery and the birds that lived in them. She even asked me if I could fund my neighbour to get their flooring repaired each time it opened up, so as to save the tree.

I wish I implemented her idea, but practically speaking, we will lose this tree soon. I feel sad every time I think of it.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

SHOESHINE BOYS

The evening outside is very nice. We just had a small shower of rain and the smell of wet earth is still out there. I just finished sketching this piece and was out for a while with my daughter to enjoy the evening.




This picture made me think about my encounter with cobblers and shoeshine boys. Whenever I got my shoes repaired by the cobbler close to my home, he would also polish it without my asking. I never reduce this piece of work out of the total scope any time, as I believe it is an opportunity for them to make some more money.

I have not seen shoeshine points in Chennai like what I have seen in Kolkata or Mumbai. Am not sure if such points are still out there. When I was in Kolkata, I never got my shoes polished this way as my mind would not accept my directing my feet to a person to get it polished. I don't mean to project humility here, but it was an uncomfortable feeling that always ran through me. I would rather leave my shoes with him and get it later, or do the polishing myself.

A classic scene from the film Deewar comes to my mind whenever I see a shoeshine boy. Here the young Vijay who would grow up later to become a mafia leader ( the character played by the veteran actor Amitabh Bachchan), is a shoe shine boy. A rich business man comes to him to get his shoes polished and after getting it done, he flings a coin into his box and is about to walk off. The young boy calls him and tells him to take the coin and give it to him in his hand, as he believes he is not a beggar and that he deserves to be paid with honour for the work he has done. The business man is surprised with the audacity of the little boy, but complies with his request as he understands his perspective and the value attached to his work. I consider this scene as a very well taken one that adds depth to the character portrayed by the little boy, who has seen a lot of suffering at a very young age.

Even in our workplaces today, in this fast moving world of ours, it is difficult to demand such respect for the work that we put in everyday or for the many years of service that we have rendered in total, sacrificing our personal time and space. We should be lucky to get such respect. Many times we end up having to muster the fortitude to undergo insults and the stress situations that follow.

Friday, May 24, 2013

ANOTHER EASTER...ANOTHER CHICKEN CURRY

We have Easter coming up the next Sunday. This is the first time I am going through a fifty day fast. But I have only been skipping non-vegetarian dishes and not been skipping meals at all. Along with this I managed to have Morning Prayer sessions in the company bus, while on my way to office, on most of the days. So in real terms this is actually nowhere close to a real fast.


Next Sunday, I will be in the long queue at some chicken meat shop in Anna Nagar, Chennai, to buy some meat for the Easter chicken curry that is to be prepared at home. This along with Kerala appam will form the sumptuous breakfast for Easter. My wife and sister would be the ones who would get this cooked and we would sit together around the dining table and have breakfast. Am happy atleast that way...I mean...by having food together, our family is still doing something together.

Our life has become so mechanical that way. We seem to be so busy running after things that really are not going to give us in proportion to this run. We seem to know it too. But still we run. Looks like we have to. There are just very few areas where as a family we can get together into some activity during a festival these days. This year I had just set up the tree and my daughter decorated the tree herself. I was too busy with work around Christmas time and I just could not join her. Again an example of things being done in isolation in a family.

I remember the Easter feast in Kerala when I was a little child. We had been there as a family during my school holidays. My aunt had planned for Kerala chicken curry for breakfast. My father and uncle were to take the lead in chasing the hens and catching them. Me and my cousins, all of almost the same age, were all over the place chasing them. The hens ran all around the back of the house, sometimes flew a little up into the lower branches of the trees, ran through the paddy fields, but finally they were caught. It was the role of the elderly males to kill and dress the chicken and get it ready to be cooked. My father and my uncle would get into this role and we kids would all sit around and watch. Once the hen was dressed and cleaned, my aunt and mother would take over and do the cooking. It was the role of the women to cook the food with all love and care. The more their interest and focus was in the cooking, the more would be the taste that would come out. And while the cooking was in progress, we kids would hang around, helping them to keep the traditional stove alive with dry twigs and leaves, blowing and blowing to get the flame out of the embers. Once the cooking was done, we would sit together and enjoy the family feast. Today the dressed chicken cut into pieces is available for our taking. And cooking ranges of all kinds are available that makes life easier. But that way we have killed the family activity associated with it. In those days, there was a lot of interaction over such activities that bound the family together.

Today the biggest factor that is hitting all families is the time at hand for the family members to participate in such activities. Be it family prayer, a family gathering, a family dinner, or other family activities, we find it difficult to see it happen and even if it happens, it does very rarely, in a nice and relaxed manner.

May be, it is we ourselves who should draw the line, between family life and the other busy areas we are into. Tradition is always great and sweet to be retained and for that to happen, we need to have a good time set aside for our family. After all, spending long hours over powerpoint presentations and excel sheets while leaving the family aside, will only deny us of those precious moments in life.



Thursday, April 11, 2013

WHERE DREAMS ARE WOVEN AND DREAMS ARE BARTERED

Through the years in my profession, I have had the opportunity to go for several campus recruitments. I found the encounter with the young students a different experience. Some of them were inspiring and in fact cathartic.I found it embarrassing though, when I along with the other members in the recruitment panel, became the cynosure of all eyes once we stepped out of the vehicle that took us into the college campuses. Sometimes I felt that they were indeed looking at us with such awe, that I really felt a halo existing over my head. Little do these students know about the extent of job insecurity and stress that individuals are into, while working with the software industry.



 

We enjoyed the recruitment while at Madurai as we had the privilege to stay at a very prominent hotel there. The days I spent there were hot and we had sporadic rainfall at night. The ambience that the hotel offered was fantastic. I also had the opportunity to go to colleges at Kovilpatti, Tuticorin and in and around Chennai. Seeing the students in all these places, I had reminiscences of the days when I along with my friends, sat in corners of the college where I graduated from, waiting for the call from the campus interviewer. I remember some of us going through the books even at the last moment before we were called in. I saw the same body language and approach in many students too that day. But I was lucky to have realized sometime in the middle of my degree stint, that we don't have to slog and prepare that way. When we passionately pursue our subjects, it will take us to dizzy heights automatically.




There were students from different backgrounds. Some of them were from very poor families and I could see how difficult it was for them to express in English. But I noticed that some of them had much more zest to do projects of very high technical calibre than the students who were from better financial backgrounds. I measured them only based on this spirit that they portrayed and I allowed them to speak freely even if they had to mix a lot of Tamil into their broken and incorrect English. I still believe that  enthusiasm on any day is a very powerful fuel in a human being to make them dream and to pursue their dreams.

I did tell some of the candidates during the course of the interview, that they could talk about themselves and their interests outside studies, as part of their introduction. This was to make them comfortable and to allow them to settle down. Some talked about their hobbies with great interest. I also asked a few to talk about any unforgettable incidents that they could share. One boy whom I found to be technically very sound, shared an incident which made him very emotional. In fact I found myself to be in an embarrassed state too as he recalled it. He told that had not been a great student for a while until the sixth standard. His parents had been strict and were putting pressure for him to get good marks. On one occasion fearing the wrath of his parents, he went ahead and forged the report card. The school teacher spotted this and informed his mother. His mother chided him an entire night and told him that she was ashamed to introduce him to anyone as her son. It wounded him very much and he left his home and did not return for weeks. Later, he came back home and then he was determined to turn around. And in the very next exam he took the report card to his mother and showed her the results. She was startled to see the marks. He had scored hundred percent in three subjects and the rest were about ninety five percent. His mother checked with the school teacher as she could not believe. That was the start of the turnaround and he remained as a very consistent student thereafter. He told me that he had a big dream of pursuing further studies in artificial intelligence after a few years.

I found another student who came in explain metallurgy and material sciences so well. He had also read through so much about the recent trends in space age materials that he exuded great confidence. His communication skills were excellent and he had a good exposure to software too. I knew that he could always be a part of my company. But I tried to discourage him from joining the software industry job rat race. Initially he tried telling me that he had seen the presentation made by my employer where it had shown several engineering projects. He told me that he could still be a part of those projects and sustain his enthusiasm for material sciences and metallurgy. But since I was not convinced, I continued to discourage him from taking up a software job. Finally at one point he opened up and told me that he had to get two of his sisters married and that he had no other way of earning a huge pay packet including the onsite opportunities that he had heard of. He also told me that his father had lost his job and there was no other earning member in their home. I felt really sad for him.

Sometimes in life it’s true and practical, that we have to beware of what we dream, as some dreams can really suck the life out of us. After all we have to remain alive to dream.

Saturday, March 30, 2013

EXTRACTS FROM A SPEECH PREPARED FOR MY DAUGHTER -TOPIC - NATURE AND MYSELF

Happy to share extracts from the speech that I  prepared for my daugther for her elocution competition at the Church Sunday School. She bagged the second place for this. This was her first rendezvous with public speaking.


Mother Nature is in fact a mother for all of us too. Like the animals, birds, trees and other beings, am also part of nature.Everyday there are numerous children being born into this earth, into the lap of Mother Nature.Each one of these births, come out of nature's longing for itself, a longing to see another good human being, who would preserve and protect it.

When we look around and observe, we see some human promote scientific and technological development. In the process they invade nature and its pristine privacy.But then there are some humans who ensure that nature is always preserved.

Mother Nature teaches us many lessons. One of them is about the strength in meekness.We depend on nature for many things. We build our houses on it, live on it and dump all our waste on it too. Everyday, most of the human feet stamp this earth, while they walk. Nature bears all this so patiently, while still supplying all our needs. In this meekness of nature lies its real strength to give us more and more inspite of all that we take out of it. The Bible says in Mathew (Ch5.V5), " Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth".

The next lesson is on humility. Look at the beautiful paddy fields. The flowering weeds that produce nothing, grow tall and stand out in these fields, displaying their beauty in all pride. In a few days, they are but dead and gone. The paddy grows and when the grains sprout, it stoops down. It is the one that produces worth, but it is also the one that bows down in humility. The Bible says in Luke (Ch18,V14), "For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted".

The third lesson is on the difficult path that leads to good. Look at the birds and their little fledglings. Days after the baby is born, the mother pushes it slowly out of the nest, prompting it to fly. The mother knowing the risk, prods the little one, so that it learns to fly quickly. The Almighty also, in a similar way, puts us on a difficult path, many times, for our own good. He always knows what's best for us, although we never realize.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

PUDHINA PARATHA

I found this paratha to be really good for my palate and definitely a great change for me, after being with chappatis for many years :)) I am sure you will like it too. So please give it a try. It goes well with chicken curry, chicken fry or peas masala.

Given below are the steps which I took to go about....rather we took as I was into a supporting role while my wife made her first attempt :))
Next weekend I will be taking an independent jump into this.

Prepare dough from three cups of whole wheat flour.

Heat a small amout of oil (2 teaspoons) in a pan in low flame. Drop a small pinch of black gram into it and allow it to turn pale brown. Slice five small onions, three pods of garlic and one dry red chilly slit or green chilly into pieces and drop them into the pan. Sauté well, until the onion turns pale brown. Drop a small bunch of curry leaves and one small half teaspoon scoop of tamarind. Sauté well again.




Wash and separate a bunch of pudhina (mint) leaves from the main stem and drop it into the pan. Sauté well till the leaves go dull and shrink and gel with the other contents. Add a pinch of salt and sauté again. Taste for salt and continue adding pinches till the right salt level is achieved. This is the best method to avoid excess salt getting in. Switch off the flame and shift the contents into the little jar of a mixer. Beat the contents at good speed for about 5 minutes to get a nice puree.



Empty the contents into the bowl containing the prepared dough and mix well so that the pudhina paste goes in and blends well with the whole wheat dough.


The rest of the procedure is the same. Go ahead and prepare the parathas and enjoy the great taste.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

THE MADRAS ORHODOX CHOIR -PARTS HARMONY



It is a wonderful feeling to realize slowly, the transformation that the Orthodox Church is going through in music and it is very satisfying to be a part of that metamorphosis.



It is great to see the the first of the many outputs come through after a lot of hard work. The bass group had to go through a real grind with Fr.John Samuel everytime he demanded perfection. I believe it was the same situation for the other voice groups too.

THE LOYOLA COLLEGE CHURCH



A dash of tree green and a mix of bluish white clouds give the church steeple a great appearance. I wish that ladder was never there.






 
 

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