Wednesday 28 October 2009

A snippet from the past

"The sounds of children repeating poems after the teacher in the school. Someone speaking – in Mizo? – in the kitchen, and sounds of tinkling Bodo laughter from the girls. The situation is not perfect. The stupendous view is from the back of the building, which is really the backside, with dirt being freely thrown out and sewage and drainage pipes quite visibly in the way. I am dreaming of those cute balconies or jut outs of cosy rooms overlooking the Shimla hills which I have seen only in the movies… large wooden French windows with sills and lace curtains; warm cups of good tea and coffee with real milk… dry inside when all is wet outside… pretty flowering gardens overlooking the slopes… But this is now, this is here, this is real. Now is real. This is real. I have no work, I have all the leisure I want. I want to pray. Augustine is a good guide. He has spoken of the true sacrifice, of true compassion, of prayer as desire for the blessed life… And Eddy is a good host, warm, welcoming, generous. More I could not ask. The brothers are cordial too, and attentive. The boys are extraordinary. And the scenery is stupendous."

Tuesday 27 October 2009

Kodaikanal, queen of the hills

One of the things that really stands out from my trip down South is the visit to Kodaikanal. I had no idea Kodai was in the vicinity of Trichy, and when I mentioned that to Amalraj, Provincial of Trichy, he laughed, saying that we had somehow unconsciously been avoiding Kodai, perhaps because it was such a Jesuit place!

We heard that the usual road to Kodai was blocked by a landslide, but we decided to go all the same, by another road, that would be some 60 kms longer. We rose at 0300, celebrated the Eucharist at 0330, and hit the road. After Palani the mountains came in sight. Beautiful, serene, utterly fascinating - the ranges upon ranges, fading into blue and grey with distance. The climb up, the newer valleys coming into sight, the air getting fresher and sharper as we kept climbing... Kodai is quite deep into the heart of these mountains, some 1275 or more metres above sea level, and cold....

At the very beginning of the town, a magnificent waterfall, with the attendant little carts selling colourful and strange hill fruits: Ramphal (there called Sitaphal / Custard Apple), Avocados, Pineapples, and some other fruits that I could not identity.

Soon after, the famous Shembaganur, Jesuit house of studies for years and years till it was moved down to Chennai and reincarnated as Satyanilayam. From the little glimpses, a huge rambling edifice in the old style. And the Natural Science Museum, probably the one originating with the personal collection of the Jesuit Brother... And Ugartenagar, probably the same Ugarte who appears now and then in De Smet's bibliography...

We had barely some 4 hours in Kodai, which we spent having breakfast, and then visiting a variety of viewpoints. Stunning views, all of them, and great weather, even though it should have been raining by rights. And homemade chocolate of every variety in every shop: somehow everybody in Kodai seems to be fond of making chocolate at home. It was good. Fresh made chocolate, nothing like it.

So Kodaikanal, queen of the hills. No canal there at all, though there was the mandatory lake. And pronounced in a wonderfully Tamil way as Kodai-kaanal, with the rolling 'l' so typical of Tamil and Marathi. The British knew a good thing when they found it. And there is still a very British quarter, which I wish we had time to photograph, with its stone Anglican church, and propah British style little cottages, with flower gardens and all... Wonderful trip.

The APCI meeting at Dindigul

It was good to be back at the Annual meeting of Christian Philosophers of India (ACPI), held this year at Anugraha, the Capuchin Animation Centre near Dindigul, Tamil Nadu. The topic was "Violence and Its Victims: A Philosophical Reflection," and about 20 papers were presented. I must say that the quality of papers has improved significantly over the years, and the proceedings are being published regularly; we have reached the tenth volume with last year's publication.

About 70 people attended, including MPh students from Divyadaan, Dharmaram, and a few students from CATS, a Christian Theological College at Coimbatore founded by Dr James Daniel Chellappa. It was good to see the CMIs attending. Of Jesuits there were a few too, and the Salesian number had dropped, there being Joy Kachapilly from Gauhati, Joe Peter Tony Previnth and Patrick Mathias from Aluva, Robert Pen and myself, besides our brothers.

George Panthanmackel, MSFS, was elected President for a second three year term, while Johnson Puthenpurackal, OFM Cap, was similarly re-elected Secretary. In place of Edwin George, SDB, who had finished six years as Treasurer, John Peter Vallabadoss, OFM Cap, was elected. The other members elected were Keith D'Souza, SJ (second term), Saju Chackalackal, CMI, Vincent Aind, and myself.

Next year's theme is "Tradition and Innovation: Philosophical Perspectives," and the venue is the third major seminary of the Syro-Malabar Church at Kannur, North Kerala.

Monday 26 October 2009

Mario Toso, bishop

Fr Joaquim wrote me a few days ago that Fr Mario Toso, Rector Magnificus of the Pontifical Salesian University (UPS), Rome, has been nominated Secretary of the Pontifical Council of Justice and Peace with episcopal dignity. Which means that he has been nominated bishop, in simple words, I suppose.

Don Toso used to be Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of the UPS, and in that capacity he was instrumental in securing for Divyadaan the aggregation to the Faculty. He had also visited Divyadaan in the company of Don Scaria Thuruthiyil, in connection with the aggregation. He always remained a good friend, and we used to meet up whenever work took me to Rome.

So congratulations don Toso! That's one more bishop for the Salesian Congregation, and one more from the UPS.

Thursday 15 October 2009

In search of Manuscripts of the Khristapurana of Fr Thomas Stephens

Fr Nelson Falcao has just published the latest edition of Fr Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana. The novelty is that we have, for the first time, the entire text of a Devanagari script version of the Khristapurana that was discovered in London in 1922 or so. Stephens wrote in Marathi, with an admixture of Konkani; Falcao has done the job of translating this into contemporary Marathi.

The Khristapurana was published in 1616 (in Stephens' lifetime), 1649, and 1654. All these were in Roman script; not a single copy has yet been found.

A fourth edition was published in Roman script in 1907 by Joseph L. Saldanha in Mangalore. The fifth and sixth editions were published in Devanagari script by Prof. Bandelu in 1956 and Fr Caridade Drago in 1996.

Joseph L. Saldanha worked from manuscripts that he borrowed from the following:

1. Messrs. Dunbar Brothers, Parel, Mumbai.
2. Rev. S.B.C. Luis (presumably from Mangalore).
3. Dr. Mariano Saldanha (Lisbon and Goa).
4. Mr. Julian Coelho (presumably from Mangalore).
5. Mr. Jerome A. Saldanha. (Devanagari script)

Of these individuals, I know that Dr Mariano Saldanha, native of Ucassaim, Goa, was a Professor of Sanskrit at Lisbon, and that some part of his personal collection of books was given to the Xavier Centre for Historical Research, Porvorim, Goa. However, they do not seem to have any manuscript of the Khristapurana.

I do not know anything about the other individuals mentioned by J.L. Saldanha. I would be happy to have any information about these individuals, or their manuscripts, or simply about any manuscript of the Khristapurana....

Order your copies of the Khristapurana, ed. Falcao

For copies of Nelson Falcao's text of the Khristapurana in Devanagari script, and accompanying translation into contemporary Marathi, please feel free to contact:

Fr Nelson Falcao, SDB
Don Bosco Parish
Don Bosco Marg
Nashik 422 005

The cost of the book is Rs 1,200. Postage is extra, I imagine: it is a large book, almost 1800 pp.

Wednesday 14 October 2009

Conversion, affective and intellectual

Martin Luther King, Jr., states wonderfully the connection - often ignored - between head and heart, affective conversion and intellectual conversion:
"The heart can never be totally right if the head is totally wrong." - Martin Luther King, Jr. The Strength to Love (Collins, 1989) 45.
Thanks to Augustine Arulraj for this quote!


Wonderful libraries around. Chief among them, the Asiatic Society Library, and the adjoining public library, at Town Hall, Horniman Circle. A smaller library across the road from the Jehangir Art Gallery, I think: the J.N. Petit Public Library or some such thing. Then of course there is the Library of the Heras Institute at St Xavier's College.

Recently a friend here in Nashik told me of a huge library - most Marathi and Sanskrit - belonging to the Svadhyaya Parivar, and probably called the Athavale Library, at Thane.

The Asiatic Library goes back to 1804... A treasure trove. And they have a catalog of MS, accessible only through special permission.

Fr Delio Mendonsa, SJ, Director of the Xavier Centre for Historical Research, Porvorim, Goa, replied saying they had no MS of the Khristapurana, but that they did have some books from the library of Dr Mariano Saldanha.

Venantius Pinto's "Evaporating Meanings"

Avinash and I dropped in at Venny's first exhibition at the Hirji Gallery of the Jehangir Art Gallery, "Evaporating Meanings." Venny was our neighbour at the BPT Quarters, Nadkarni Park, and my brother's classmate. He married Cecy Castellino, Anna's sister, and settled down in New York, dedicating himself totally to art. He's had a whole lot of exhibitions in various parts of the world, but he had to wait 9 years to get a slot at the Jehangir. Mumbai is really an alive city: just imagine, waiting 9 years to get a slot. The number of artists.

Venny has been very much into Japanese calligraphy, and is even doing a (very long) course with the masters in Japan. Besides, he draws much from his Goan background, his Catholic religious roots, and Indian culture, religion and philosophy in general.... Besides being an artist, Venny is a person who is very rooted. I was amazed to hear him speak fluent Hindi after all those years in NY, and without any trace of an American accent. And now he's determined to get back into Marathi in such a way as to be able to write in the newspapers and magazines....

The Heideggerean echoes of the title of one of his talks struck me: "The Hem and the Rail: We do not Come by our Thoughts; They Come to Us." But then, why Heideggerean. Already Thomas Aquinas had spoken of insights as pati, something that happen to us, not something directly under the control of the will. But to Heidegger the merit of having given poetic expression to this ancient - and forgotten - insight about insight. And, having given it such expression, Heidegger brought the insight back into light.

At the Gallery I bumped into Jane Rodrigues. Jane is involved with GoaNet and has founded the Mumbai Goan Association. I think this is a good opening for making publicity for the Khristapurana and spreading out the word for MS....

Sunday 11 October 2009

Formation to communication

Robert Pen is participating in a meeting organized by the Salesian Social Communications Department in Rome. The meeting will be held at Hyderabad, and will unfold in three sessions: formation, information and production. Robert is due to speak on formation to social communication. We went through what GC26 has to say on the topic. Two major ideas emerged, reading GC26:

1. What is the meaning of forming Salesians to social communication? What might it mean to really prepare people for social communication? - The great temptation is to think that we have to prepare the hodmen: the experts in filming, shooting, camera work, etc. A step up is to think that we have to prepare those who will manage such people. But the true challenge, I think, is to prepare the people who will do the encoding - the people who will create the messages in the media. I always recall George Plathottam's story about the Asst. Director of the Hindi film Black who spent a few days with George in Gauhati. This man told George: Father, do you know how much reading goes into the making of a film like Black?

So the point is just this: do we want to be consumers of media, or creators of media? It is true that we have moved from a linear culture into an image culture, from the culture of word and reading to the culture of images and audiovisuals. But the point still remains: which side does our vocation call us to be on: the consumers or the creators? Too easily this ambiguity is not addressed when the truism is bandied about that we have moved into an image culture. I remember some Salesian communcations expert sneering at the Rector Major Chavez's letter on social communications because he had invited Salesians to read.

2. The great and endemic danger of the image culture, of course, is that it is at the level of 'experience,' just like all propaganda and advertisement. The aim of any form of communication specialized at this level is to exclude as much as possible any attempt to understand and to critically judge and evaluate. After all, the aim is to make you buy without too much reflection. The aim is to sway your opinions without too much of critical evaluation. So this is yet another ambiguity in the 'we have shifted to an image culture' thing. The Salesian educator has to keep firmly in mind that he is called to exercise, and to help young people exercise, a critical function w.r.t. media and everything else. Is that not, after all, the aim of all media education?

If the point about creators rather than consumers of culture is taken, the question naturally arises: what do we want to communicate? Here the great danger is that communicators are so passionate about communication that they want to simply communicate communication. I think the Salesian educator should be passionate first of all about Jesus Christ and his message! That is the pearl of great price, that is his treasure set in a field. That is the passion of Da mihi animas. That is what should animate and drive all his efforts at communication....

And so, when we ask the question: how should we form Salesian communicators? the answer is clear: primarily in the faith, and then in Salesianity perhaps.

So what is the syllabus of the departments of Social Communication at the Gregoriana and at the Salesian Pontifical University? And at our own NISCORT of the Indian Church outside Delhi? That would be revealing to find out.

Yet another thought is the presence of the Church at the cutting edge of communication technology, and by this I do not mean technology in a narrow sense, but in the broader sense of the innovative movements in, I should say, not only the world of media, but the world in general. Is the Church sufficiently present in the Free and Open Software Movement? Is it present in the many other innovative, and at root deeply evangelical, movements? As Julian Fox was pointing out during the Chapter, many of these movements have either a Leftist base or a Liberal base, and because of this, many Catholics are either turned off by them or else they themselves begin leaning either to the left or to the right. This is another great area to be evangelized then!

Let's hope the Hyderabad meeting takes some solid steps in the right directions.

Thursday 8 October 2009

In search of Manuscripts of Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana

These days I have been going through the Saldanha, Bandelu, Drago and Falcao editions of Thomas Stephens' Khristapurana. The great question is: what was the original script of composition - Devanagari, as Falcao claims, or Roman, as Saldanha and Bandelu claim? The problem is that, of the first 3 printed editions, we have not as yet been able to trace a single copy.

Strangely, A.F. Pollard, in his article in the Dictionary of National Biography, claims that these editions are extant in the National Library (Archivo Universal), Lisbon.

Then again, Saldanha has given some indications of where he found the manuscripts that he collated for his edition: Messrs. Dunbar Brothers of Parel, Bombay; Marian Saldanha, Julian Coelho, the Rev. S.B.C. Luis, and J.A. Saldanha.

Of these, all were in Roman script except the last, which was in Devanagari script. He also says that J.A. Saldanha had exhibited this MS at the Royal Asiatic Society in Bombay, and that it had caused quite a stir. So which is this MS? What has happened to it? And what relation does it bear to the Marsden MS on which Falcao has based his edition?

Yet again: the famous 'Censures and Licences,' from which largely we get our information about the 3 editions of the Khristapurana, are to be found not in these MS but in J.H. da Cunha Rivara's Portuguese introduction, “O Ensaio Historico da Lingua Concani,” to the Grammatica da Lingua Concani pelo Padre Thomaz Estevayo (Nova Goa: Imprensa Nacional, 1857). Where did Cunha Rivara get them from? That would be interesting to find out.

At any rate, a first step has been taken today: inquiries among the Mangalorean Catholics of Nashik. Mr Hugh Mascarenhas told me that he would contact a cousin of his, a Mr Lobo, who, if I heard right, used to be editor of the famous Mangalore Magazine which J.L. Saldanha quotes in his Introduction to The Christian Puranna.

Another step would be to write articles in the popular magazines in Goa and Mangalore on the latest Falcao edition and solicit MS from people.

Yet another step would be to send a copy of the Falcao edition to the Bishops of Goa and Mangalore and request their help in getting MS.

Yet again: requesting Pratap Naik of the Thomas Stephens Konkkni Kendr at Porvorim for help. And perhaps also the Xavier Historical Institute next door to it.

All help is welcome! So if any of you readers have any information about MS or even about Julian Coelho, Dunbar Brothers, Parel, Mariano Saldanha, Fr R.B.C. Luis, or Jerome A. Saldanha, it would be most welcome!

Monday 5 October 2009

Henry Gaikwad Prembhai

Damodar Wankhede - Gaikwad sent me, as promised, the little memorial booklet for Prembhai, Henry Gaikwad: A Witness to the Light in the Land of the Rising Sun. This life deserves to be made known in our Maharashtra. Somebody translate it?

More on Appa Tilak

Some points from the Shok Sabha. Many recalled Appa Tilak's famous diary, where he would ask all his visitors to sign on their date of birth. (I have seen even Bal Thackeray's signature in the diary.) Then, it would seem, on your birthday you would get a call - early in the morning usually - from Appa: "Become old like me. Amchya sarkhe mhatare vha."

Someone described Appa as a 'man among men.' He was never alone. He loved to be surrounded by people. He would visit them, and would love to receive visits.

He was extremely encouraging to budding young poets, but would not mask his criticisms. But his criticisms were never something personal.

Everyone said he was a happy person. It was strange that we were having a Shok Sabha for Ashok. He was truly A-shok.

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Rupnik, “E se l’evangelizzazione chiedesse una novità nella vita consacrata?” English summary