Saturday 27 March 2010

Doing good

Several contemporary philosophers as well as modern day gurus like Tony De Mello have been pointing out, quite acutely, how even in the midst of our most altruistic activities there is the lurking ego.

Like, for example: without being asked, I go out of my way to think about the predicament of another, someone who is not even close to me, but someone I have known. Quite unselfishly, then, I take steps and work out arrangements that will help. This is as selfless and proactive a stance as there can be.

And yet, I was just thinking, still there is ego. What would have happened if, for example, I had not taken the initiative, but the other person had? What if I had received a phone call from that person: Father, I am coming to Nashik; please make arrangements? I might have, most probably I would have, reacted quite differently. Perhaps I would have acceded to the request. Or perhaps I might have felt put upon, inconvenienced, and so on. Perhaps I would have done something all the same, but with the lurking thought: how insensitive people are, they expect me to do all sorts of things for them.

So the kickback in the first situation is that I feel good about myself. A great boost to the ego.

So: don't go good? No, no. But: possible to become somehow less concerned about the self?

Friday 26 March 2010

James Clavell's Noble House

James Clavell's Noble House: unlike Shogun and Gai-jin, this novel is set totally in Hong Kong. The action takes place in the mid-twentieth century, involves some of the families from the previous two novels (though clearly Gai-jin was written after Noble House) such as the Struans and the Gornts, and even a descendant of Blackthorne, the Anjin of Shogun.

I never thought I would be captivated and fascinated by a novel dealing mostly with the capitalist share market. But Noble House gives you a run for your money. Excellent pace, complex plots, and un-put-downable. Bravo Clavell.

And Clavell is probably Peter Marlowe in the book. Marlowe, like Clavell, has lived through the infamous Japanese concentration camp, Changi. Which probably means that King Rat, Clavell's other novel, is semi-autobiographical. I read King Rat years ago, and would not like to read it again: it has a quality of darkness that is quite absent in Clavell's other novels.

Clavell's pictures of Japan and China are fascinating. Though probably still Euro-centred and perhaps condescending, especially when seen from Chinese eyes.

India grows up

This is the happy ending of Chetan Bhagat's Two States: The Story of My Marriage (New Delhi: Rupa, 2009) 266:
'But we forget that this has happened because your child had love to give to someone in this world. Is that such a bad thing? Where did the child learn to love? From us, after all, the person they loved first is you.'
Ananya clasped my arm and clenched it tight. The crowd listened with full attention.
'Actually, the choice is simple. When your child decides to love a new person, you can either see it as a chance to hate some peole - the person they chooe and their families. Which is what we did for a while. However, you can also see it as a chance to love some more people. And since when did loving more people become a bad thing?'
He paused to have a glass of water and continued. 'Yes, the Tamilian in me is a little disappointed. But the Indian in me is quite happy. And more than anything, the human being in me is happy. After all, we've decided to use this opportunity to create more loved ones for ourselves.'
I find this touching. India growing up. Wonderful.

And the book is amusing, truly. But the barbs - Punjabis against 'those black Tamilians', Tambrams against the filthy Punjabis - are (unfortunately) quite real. Bhagat is able to capture a piece of the real India. In a way that is quite different from the pieces captured by Bollywood.

Sudden change in emotions

As far as emotions are concerned, someone like Lonergan says, there is no rational change; there is transmogrification. James Clavell gives a wonderful instance of that kind of change in his Gai-jin, p. 423-4: Angelique resists Malcolm Struan’s advances. Suddenly there is a change in Malcolm.
Suddenly the truth became rancid. Something in him mutated, changed.
In a different voice he said, “You’re quite right, Angelique, it’s difficult for both of us....”
She stared at him, unnerved by the change. ...
...
A chill passed through her but whether from outside or inside she did not know. She kissed him, ready to return his passion, but there was none. What had changed him? ...
...
He watched their door. It was slightly ajar. As usual. But everything in their world was no longer as usual. The door and her nearness no longer tempted him. He was feeling different, somehow refashioned. He did not know why but he was very sad, very old, some instinct telling him that however much he loved her, however much he tried physically, she would never in their whole life together ever completely satisfy him.”

Wednesday 24 March 2010

Aashi's roce and haldi

The other day I went to Aashi's roce and haldi ceremony at the Parekh farmhouse at Belgao Dhaga on the outskirts of Nashik. Lovely open air setting, with a fresh cool breeze despite the summer setting in (it was the spring equinox, actually: 21 March). Vibrant colours. And a wonderful mixture of roce and haldi - quite in keeping with national integration! A new India is being born. It was very lovely also that the family had taken care to invite their employees, past and present, people probably from the nearby village who had worked in their fields and had certainly looked after Aashi when she was young.

Friday 19 March 2010

Shouting when angry

Why do we shout in anger? A saint asked his disciples, 'Why do we shout in anger? Why do people shout at each other when they are upset?'

Disciples thought for a while, one of them said, 'Because we lose our calm, we shout for that.'

'But, why shout when the other person is just next to you?' asked the saint. 'Isn't it possible to speak to him or her with a soft voice? Why do you shout at a person when you're angry?'

Disciples gave some other answers but none satisfied the saint.

Finally he explained, 'When two people are angry at each other, their hearts distance a lot. To cover that distance they must shout to be able to hear each other. The angrier they are, the stronger they will have to shout to hear each other through that great distance.'

Then the saint asked, 'What happens when two people fall in love? They don't shout at each other but talk softly, why? Because their hearts are very close The distance between them is very small...'

The saint continued, 'When they love each other even more, what happens? They do not speak, only whisper and they get even closer to each other in their love. Finally they even need not whisper, they only look at each other and that's all. That is how close two people are when they love each other.'

Wednesday 17 March 2010

A Maundy Thursday story...

A little boy about 10 years old was standing before a shoe store on Broadway, barefooted, peering through the window, and shivering with cold. A lady approached the boy and said, "My little fellow, why are you looking so earnestly in that window?" "I was asking God to give me a pair of shoes," was the boy’s reply. The lady took him by the hand and went into the store, and asked the clerk to get half a dozen pairs of socks for the boy. She then asked if he could give her a basin of water and a towel he quickly brought them to her. She took the little fellow to the back part of the store and, removing her gloves, knelt down, washed his little feet and dried them with a towel. By this time the clerk had returned with the socks. Placing a pair upon the boy's feet, she purchased him a pair of shoes, and tying up the remaining pairs of socks, gave them to him. She patted him on the head and said, "No doubt, my little fellow, you feel more comfortable now?" As she turned to go, the astonished lad caught her by the hand, and looking up in her face, with tears in his eyes, answered the question with these words..."Are you God's Wife?”

Jesus in my heart

And what about this one:

A four-year-old was at the pediatrician for a check up. As the doctor looked down her ears with an otoscope, he asked, "Do you think I'll find Big Bird in here?" The little girl stayed silent. Next, the doctor took a tongue depressor and looked down her throat. He asked, "Do you think I'll find the Cookie Monster down there?" Again, the little girl was silent. Then the doctor put a stethoscope to her chest. As he listened to her heartbeat, he asked, "Do you think I'll hear Barney in there?" "Oh, no!" the little girl replied. "Jesus is in my heart. Barney's on my underpants."

What it means to be adopted

Another lovely story:

Teacher Debbie Moon's first graders were discussing a picture of a family. One little boy in the picture had a different color hair than the other family members. One child suggested that he was adopted and a little girl named Jocelynn Jay said, "I know all about adoptions because I was adopted." "What does it mean to be adopted?" asked another child. "It means," said Jocelynn, "that you grew in your mommy's heart instead of her tummy."

Two nickels and five pennies

Here is a story from my collection. Touching, even though so American.

When an ice cream sundae cost much less, a boy entered a coffee shop and sat at a table. A waitress put a glass of water in front of him. "How much is an ice cream sundae?" "Fifty cents," replied the waitress. The little boy pulled his hand out of his pocket and studied a number of coins in it. "How much is a dish of plain ice cream?" he inquired. Some people were now waiting for a table, and the waitress was impatient. "Thirty-five cents," she said angrily. The little boy again counted the coins. "I'll have the plain ice cream." The waitress brought the ice cream and walked away. The boy finished, paid the cashier, and departed. When the waitress came back, she swallowed hard at what she saw. There, placed neatly beside the empty dish, were two nickels and five pennies -- her tip.

Sunday 14 March 2010

Sun Tzu, Chanakya, Machiavelli

Time to read Sun Tzu, The Art of War. I have a feeling this Sun Tzu - who is so often quoted in novels about Japan and China - is the same as the Hsun Tzu that I came across in my aesthetics course, in the book of readings from David Cooper.

Perhaps: a study of Sun Tzu, Chanakya and Machiavelli!

Possible to read and learn from these from a Christ point of view? See the article/s of Fred Lawrence, which initially alerted me to the possibility and the need of studying Machiavelli. Machiavelli is a much neglected figure in our History of Western Philosophy here at Divyadaan, and, in general, in India, I think. Chanakya too, though I was surprised to hear Noel Sheth talking about how he had to read the Arthasastra - was it in JDV or in the University of Pune? And as for Sun Tzu, no one reads him in our Indian seminaries, as far as I know...

Saying what needs to be said

How to say what has to be said, and yet keep one's cool, and not fall into the trap of heartily despising the guy who needed what had to be said: that is one of the challenges of life!

Usually I either fail to say what needs to be said, or say it and lose my cool, and most often anyway fall into the trap of despising the guy for what he is doing, for making me have to say something to him, and for making me lose my cool.

The Prodigal Father

Today's gospel is the Parable of the Prodigal Son. The three personages: the younger son, the elder son, the father.

The younger son does not realize his great good fortune - the comfortable family situation, and above all, his father's love. He is restless, which is perhaps understandable, given his youth. The tragedy of such restlessness is when it does not end. Then it becomes slavery and ultimately misery. The greatness of this boy is that he decides to go back. Not because he realizes now the true nature of his father's love, but because he is starving. But this is good enough: the Lord often does not ask for more, only that we come back. (This used to be called attrition, as opposed to true contrition.)

The elder son also does not realize his good fortune. In this, he is just like the younger son: he has taken everything for granted, and he does not really understand that his greatest treasure is his father's love. He is not restless; he is the dutiful, responsible, hardworking type of fellow, which so many of us are. But there is something wrong, and this is thrown up in stark relief when the younger boy comes home, and when the father goes insanely out of his way by actually welcoming him, and even throwing a party! The elder son has no passion. Worse still, he does what is right, but he does not know why he is doing it, and he is probably doing it for all the wrong motives. He is probably jealous of his younger brother: this guy has had the best of both worlds; not fair; and here I am, slogging it out, and no one even thinks of me.

Many of us will be like the elder brother. And the great question to us is: why are we doing what we are doing? Why are we 'good'? Is it because we want to be good, is it because we enjoy doing it, is it because we love to do it? Or is it because this is how we are, this is how we have been brought up, but deep down, there is resentment, and this resentment comes bubbling up when the profligates of this world turn a new leaf?

I remember as a young brother I was much taken up with the vow of poverty, but this 'being taken up' took the form of a resentment of others of my companions who were dressing well. I used to complain about them: look at them, they are dressing well, they are not practising the vow. Till I realized one day that I was simply being jealous. Perhaps I wanted to dress well. Well then, I said to myself, let me dress well. And then the complaining stopped.

This is not an argument for dressing well - any more than Jesus' parable is an argument for loose living. This is merely a realization of the inner dynamics. The point is not dressing well or not dressing well. The point is: why are you complaining? Why are you feeling bad? Perhaps you are jealous? Perhaps you want to do the very thing you are complaining about? Better to do it than to complain. The point is: why are you doing what you are doing? What is your motivation? Purify that!

Which reminds me of Tony De Mello's great story about heaven being overcrowded. God was feeling suffocated with all those people, and so he told the angel Gabriel: send away some of these people, it is too much! So Gabriel tried some of his tricks: all those who have broken the first commandment, go to hell! There was a little noise, and some people fell down to hell. Not enough. So he tried the second. And then the third, and the fourth, and the fifth. No use. A few people dropped down at each announcement. Then he came to the sixth: all those who have broken the sixth commandment, go to hell! There was a great noise, and all heaven was emptied. Except for one Jesuit brother standing in one corner. Then God began to get bored. What boring company, he complained to Gabriel. Let's get all the others back. And so it was done: the whole gang was back, adulterers and all. At this the old Jesuit brother got very angry. "Why didn't you tell me this when I was on earth?" he shouted at God. "I would have had some fun."

Good question: why am I doing what I am doing? If I knew that God was a loving, forgiving God, would I continue doing what I am doing? And he is that: a loving, forgiving God, a mad God, someone who goes beyond all my categories of right and wrong, someone who beats me, someone who I cannot understand. So: am I going to continue doing what I am doing? Or am I going to start having fun?

Up to each one of us to decide.

The great point of Jesus parable is neither the younger son nor the elder son, but the father. The father, who is able to take life as it comes. The father who has an elder son, and a younger son, and accepts both of them. The father who, despite knowing what is to come, gives his younger son his share of the property. The father who will not go after the younger son; he is not a control freak. But he waits for him, every day, and when he does come back, he receives him with open arms. The father who is a passionate man, who is able to live in the present, who is able to truly celebrate. For this my son was lost, and now he is found; he was dead, and he is alive. It is right to celebrate.

And where is Jesus in all this? Jesus: the face of the Father. The one who reveals the Father to us.

All of us, called to become like the Father. All of us, called to become Jesus, become the face of the Father. With eyes fixed on him, transfigured day by day into his likeness (2 Cor 3:18).

Saturday 13 March 2010

Mulberry



This (found in Divyadaan behind the dormitory) is the usual silkworm mulberrry - introduced into India from China, but, according to Krishen, now so much part of India as to be found in several variants all over the country.

Sausage tree




This one's actually called 'sausage tree' - see Trees of Delhi p. 248-9. Botanical name Kigelia africana. Indian names: balam kheera / jhad fanoos (some sort of phanas - jackfruit?). Again from the jacaranda family: that family seems to be very surprising.
A large tree from tropical Africa with a short, thick trunk and spreading crown. At most times of the year it either has large, waxy, liver-coloured [I would say reddish, colour of disfigured blood] flowers or grey [I would say brown] sausage-shaped fruit dangling at the ends of very long, ropelike stalks. It is the only exotic tree among the 13 species selected to line avenues in Lutyens' Delhi. (Trees of Delhi 248)
Plenty of them in Nashik. The best specimen - and quite old - is the one in the picture above, on the Udoji Maratha Boarding Campus off Gangapur Road. The flowers are extraordinary, and the fruit is usually a huge brown gourd. Flowering season right now. I think Divyadaan has at least 2 specimens, small, but I can't be sure they're the same. Others on the road going down to Nirmala Convent, and the one paralleling the river...

Friday 12 March 2010

Caribbean trumpet tree






Just learned from Pradip Krishen's Trees of Delhi the name of a tree with bright yellow flowers - just on the wane, actually, in the Divyadaan compound (see first two photos above; the other three are of a magnificent specimen near Prakash Bakery, MIDC; there are some more, young trees, on the Trimbak Road): CARIBBEAN TRUMPET TREE / Tabebuia aurea. Also known as Paraguayan / silver trumpet tree, or yellow poui / tabebuia, or tree of gold. It has no local name, and so is an import. Strangely, it belongs to the jacaranda family!
A smallish, crooked tree that remains self-effacing most of the year but bursts into traffic-stopping bright-yellow blossoms in March. A characteristic tree of the dry forests of the Brazilian Cerrado. Also found in Paraguay, Bolivia and Argentina, and widely cultivated pantropically. It seems to have been introduced to Delhi in the 1970s. (Trees of Delhi 215)

Paradise Flycatcher again

Yesterday, at Belgao Dhaga, I was finally fortunate to see the Paradise Flycatcher - black head with a sort of peak of the type bulbuls have, with a white body ending in a longish white tail of two feathers.... It was in the low bushes besides the road, and we saw it for quite a while, even though it kept moving about. Catherine Whittle was very fortunate to have seen it. Strangely, two villagers who were passing by stopped with us; despite being locals, they had never seen or heard of the bird... Wonder what it is called in Marathi.

Thursday 11 March 2010

No need for home-schooling to exclude evolution

I just came across a news item on my RSS feed re home school texts in the US dismissing Darwin.
Astounding to learn also that there are some 1.5 million home schoolers in the US.

My opinion: no need to dismiss Darwin; only reverse his counterposition. See Lonergan, Insight, ch. 4.

Evolution deals with "immanent intelligibility"; as such it does not exclude God at all.

Aristotle held there were 4 causes: formal, material, efficient and final. Evolution comes under formal causality - what Lonergan calls immanent intelligibility.

Perhaps Darwin and his followers thought it came under efficient causality, and that it excluded God. Many do think that way, at any rate. That's why certain Christian groups feel the need of rejecting evolution...

Of course, evolution, being a scientific hypothesis, is precisely that, a hypothesis. But perhaps it is still unique in its ability to explain the presence of large numbers and long intervals of time that characterize our universe.

Pankaj, the red lotus


Panka-ja, 'born from muddy silt' - used to designate only the red lotus, though the white ones equally grow in muddy silt.

Nyaya considers this as an example of a yaugika-rudha use of words - etymological but used in a conventional sense.

The other uses are (1) etymological (yaugika), e.g. pancaka, cook, from the root pac-, to cook, and the agent-suffix -aka; (2) conventional (rudha), e.g. ghata, pot.

I am happy to finally learn the meaning of Pankaj - used to be such a common name for boys. Nowadays, instead, it is Aditya, Atharva, and so on. Very Vedic. I even found a girl called Gargi the other day. I have yet to come across a boy called Yajnavalkya, however. Or some Brahmin called Uddalaka Aruni. Would be fun.

Deepak Chopra on meditation and relationships

I don't really go in for Deepak Chopra, and I haven't read anything by him, but this little note by him, passed on to me by Hugh Mascarenhas, does make sense. Someone asks how to meditate. Chopra recommends bija meditation, and says this must be learned from a qualified instructor and not from a book. the reason: you cannot follow instructions and monitor your mental processes simultaneously. It complicates / disturbs the purity of the experience. (Something like this happens if you try to use Tony De Mello's meditations in Wellsprings... One feels the need of a guide, someone who will conduct the meditation for you, as they do in Atma Darshan, Patna.)

But Chopra adds: an exception is soham meditation, which uses mindfulness of breath as a mental reference.

The remark about relationship is also enlightening. Difficulty in relating to others will not be fully resolved with meditation, Chopra points out. You need to look at your beliefs about others in general and see if you can find a viewpoint that allows you to feel good about relating to them. To begin with, just because others see the world as 'object referral' (this is one of Chopra's peculiar terms; perhaps something like seeing the world and people as It), it does not mean you cannot enjoy their company. How you relate to them ultimately depends on your awareness about finding the good that is there for you. What you take away from that interaction does not rest upon how they see the world. So don't encourage beliefs that create imaginary barriers between you and others.

Wednesday 10 March 2010

On a lighter note

A wonderful ad from the Lakeside, Yercaud, Shevaroy Hills, Tamil Nadu...

This is from our last ACPI trip down south... our all too brief visit to Yercaud. Beautiful as ever, perhaps even more so, though more crowded by far than some 30 years ago... Lovely as a gem nesting in the hills...

The Women's Bill: could the SP, RJD, BSP be right?

The Rajya Sabha passed the Women's Reservation Bill yesterday amidst much politics and turmoil. There has been much fanfare in the media about the historic nature of this move, though, from what I understand, the Bill still needs to be passed by the Lok Sabha.

I have not been following the pros and cons of the arguments, but today there is an interesting article by Jaithirth Rao in the Indian Express (Mumbai), 10 March 2010, p. 10: "Let's junk the hypocrisy." The subtitle is revealing: "Believers in constitutional integrity must support the SP, RJD, BSP, even if their tactics are wrong." I believe Rao has a point.

First, the nature of the parties that have come together in support of the Bill: the Congress, the BJP, the Left; parties which are otherwise always locked in opposition to one another. Why have they come together? Simply because for each of them, this position is convenient: each believes that the change will help them win more seats if not votes. Similarly for the opposing parties: not that they are against women, but that they are concerned that the change will result in less seats for them.

Rao cites an example from history: In 1909, when the British introduced the Minto-Morley reforms and 'separate electorates', the principal beneficiaries were rich Muslims, not Muslims at large. If, instead of creating a separate Muslim electorate, Minto and Morley had created three Muslim electorates, one for the Ashraf, the Muslim aristocracy that claims descent from immigrants, one for the Ajlaf, who are considered descendants of lower caste Hindu converts, and one for the Arzal, who are assumed to be descended from Dalits, it would have been very difficult for the Muslim League to come up with the idea that a homogeneous Islam was in danger from the Hindu majority.

Again, when Ramsay MacDonald introduced the 'communal award' which gave separate electorates to Dalits, Gandhi went on a fast unto death. Perhaps this was inspired by noble principles; perhaps (Rao does not say this), as Ambedkar said, it was inspired by Gandhi's deep down Hindu status quoism. Whatever, Rao points out that a joint electorate of all Hindus, including Dalits, was beneficial to the Congress Party. In the absence of a joint electorate, the Congress could not have had the oversized influence it had in negotiations with the British. Again, history might have taken a different turn.

The SP, RJD, BSP are grassroots political parties who have been beneficiaries of the present political system. To expect them to commit political harakiri by agreeing to the new bill is naive. On the other hand, the Congress leadership has always been drawn from the upper castes. The same with the BJP and, strangely, with the Left. Kanshi Ram used to point this out: the rank and file Communists might have been from the lower castes, but the Politburo was always dominated by the upper castes.

Parties who draw their support from backward castes and dalits are convinced that the women's quota idea will help upper caste women cadidates and hence reverse the trend of the last four decades where gradually the lower castes have been acquiring political power.

Coudl they simply not make sure that their candidates are from the backward, Dalit and Muslim categories, as Sonia Gandhi has been saying? Perhaps. But there is a distinct possibility that upper caste women will use their female identity to appeal to women to transcend caste identities - "a bit like rich Muslim leaders of the Muslim League appealing to poor Muslims exclusively on a religious basis, bypassing class considerations." [Or like the BJP appealing to all Hindus, and even setting up special formations such as the Bajrang Dal, on the basis of religion, again bypassing caste considerations.]

"Many have argued that the women's movement in the United States has done a disservice to blacks. By combining issues of racial discrimination with issues of gender discrimination, the beneficiaries have been white women and this has been detrimental to the intersts of African-Americans as a group."

I think this is a wonderful article, a sharp analysis that goes beyond surface level emotional arguments. How one cause can actually be to the detriment of another. But that is the old Gandhi-Ambedkar argument, after all. Against Gandhi, Ambedkar believed that political freedom would be detrimental to the fight for social freedom.

I was listening to Sonia Gandhi last night speaking to Barkha Dutt. That is one hell of a woman, with great courage. But I think in this case, she might just have been wrong. As Rao says, the Constituent Assembly debated delicate matters such as separate electorates at length, and in the end the Muslim members themselves supported the abolition of separate electorates. The Congress-BJP-Left combine has, instead, chosen to ram down a major constitutional change that can have implications similar to the Minto-Morley reforms, pretending to be women-friendly while actually improving their own electoral prospects.

Standing madhye kaam

Heard yesterday at the Krishi Nagar Jogging Track:
Ratr'n divas malyat jaycho, standing madhye ubhe rahun kaam karaycho...

"Be civil to domestic servants"

M.J. Akbar has an article recently called "Be modern, be 'civil' to domestic servants" (see Sunday Times of India, Mumbai, 7 March 2010, p. 16). He points out that the largest source of employment in contemporary India is domestic service; in that sense, we are today where Britain was a century ago.

In urban India, which has neither the sense of neighbourhood nor a culture of sympathy, the servant is both the provider and the potential assailant, particularly if male, for he belongs to a world that is both geographically and psychologically distant. THe young man cleans utensils only because he is a prisoner of necessity. The rewards are pitiful, the treatment pitiable. the threat of servant violence is the regular diet of the media; but cruelty towards servants is largely ignored, perhaps because journalists are part of the middle class.

Akbar concludes by saying that Indian will become a modern economy only when domestic service is treated in a civil manner.

Something for us religious to reflect on. What are our attitudes towards our domestic employees? Is it respectful, or does it smack of casteism, or simply of our own psychological hangups? When will we attain a truly Eucharistic attitude towards our domestic help - so that we can say that in Christ, truly, there is neither slave nor free, but all are one?

Thursday 4 March 2010

Governments fall because of lack of direction, not lack of numbers

Interesting article, "UPA's Coalition Politics." Some excerpts:
Those who began counting the number of MPs left inside Lok Sabha when Finance Minster Pranab Mukherjee finished his Budget speech before empty Opposition benches have a weak memory. They forgot where Pranab Mukherjee and Manmohan Singh, the two men who run this government, learnt their ABC. Pranab Mukherjee had a headmistress called Indira Gandhi. Manmohan Singh went to the more complicated seminary presided over by PV Narasimha Rao.

To clear any residual confusion, the Prime Minster is a politician of the more subtle kind. He was less of a politician when he was Rao's finance minster, which is why he would get exasperated and at least once sent in his resignation (which Rao ignored). He has now learnt to make the pace of power an ally rather than an adversary.

For the record, during the last phase of the Budget speech, the government had only 274 MPs on its side, which is as bare a majority as is possible to have. Mukherjee finished his speech without a tremor, and Singh sat unperturbed on his front bench seat. They had learnt at primary school that governments do not fall because of numbers, they fall when they become uncertain or indecisive or provocative.

...

The prime minister and finance minister know that their government is safe because while the Opposition may threaten it with a sequence of actions, it is not yet ready for the consequence, a general election.
Unattributed, "UPA's Coalition Politics," Deshdoot Times, Nashik, Tuesday, 2 March 2010, p. 4.

Wednesday 3 March 2010

Release of 'Brahman and Person' in Pune



Brahman and Person: Essays by Richard De Smet, edited by Ivo Coelho, was released yesterday, 2 March 2010, at a small function at De Nobili College, Pune, on the occasion of the 13th death anniversary of the revered Dr De Smet.

The person of Dr De Smet was introduced by Dr Noel Sheth, SJ, former President of Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth and renowned scholar in Hinduism and Buddhism. The book itself was commented upon by Dr J. Vattanky, SJ. Dr Sheth said it was his privilege to introduce De Smet to a generation that might not have heard of him; it was his guru dakshina. Dr Vattanky said that De Smet was the most prolific and research oriented writer that any Catholic seminary had produced.

I myself told the audience that De Smet had invited me to help him edit his works way back in 1988, soon after my ordination; it had not been possible then, but I was glad something had become possible at least now, some 23 years later. The problem was that De Smet's work was scattered over a large number of mostly Indian periodicals, and so was neither 'visible' nor easily accessible to the general public. The present book was a first step towards remedying this situation. A work like that of De Smet deserves publicity, because publicity opens it to dialectic and to dialogue; and dialogue, as Paul Ricoeur has said, is the royal road to truth.

Dr Noel Sheth released the book and presented a copy to Dr Henry Almeida, young Indologist and Professor at Jnana Deepa Vidyapeeth, and gold medallist in Sanskrit at the Pune Vidyapeeth.

It was fitting that Brahman and Person was released in the very place where De Smet lived and taught practically all his life, from after the completion of his doctoral thesis in 1953 right up to his death in 1997. A special word of thanks to Fr Oscar Rosario, SJ, Rector, De Nobili College, who was the moving force behind the function.

Monday 1 March 2010

Indian Christian Writings

For those of you who do not look over this whole blog, I want to draw your attention to the other blogs I run (list alongside), especially two of those: Philosophical Musings, and Indian Christian Writings. Philosophical Musings is fine, but the really significant one is Indian Christian Writings, which is an attempt to get collaboration moving in this area. My dream is to get together a bibliography - preferably annotated - in the area of Indian Christian Writings from the very beginning. In practice this comes down to whatever we know about the long centuries of the church in Kerala till the arrival of the Portuguese - whether the writings are extant or not, then a steady flow of materials beginning from the arrival of the Portuguese, till finally we have a flood of materials in the twentieth century.

What is the purpose of this? Well, unless we know what is there to be studied, how will anyone study it? This is an attempt to help Indian Christian Theology get on to a serious research base. The first step would be a complete bibliography - though surely this is not the first attempt at a bibliography. There are at least two other significant attempts I know of: the rather comprehensive and collaborative attempt done at United Theological College, edited by Kaj Baago; and the personal, though as yet unpublished, effort of Fr Hambye, SJ.

Hopefully this bibliography will lead to other aspects of research: critical texts, translations, glossaries, lexicons; and then to efforts at exegesis, interpretation; eventually to a richer history. All this will provide a far richer basis to the work of creating an Indian Christian Theology for today.

Naturally the past is not the only source for Indian Christian Theology. There is also the data of the present: the lived experience of the present day, with the vast and rich movements going on both within and outside the Christian church in India and in the world. But there is need for a listing of the riches of the past, and this blog attempts to meet that need.

You are most welcome to collaborate, any of you! You could begin by adding your comments, and I will certainly get back to you with further details about the collaboration.

My dream is that the experts will collaborate: the expert on De Nobili contributing a comprehensive bibliography on De Nobili, etc.

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