Friday, April 17, 2015

The Community Physician's Prayer

Amy wrote this prayer while working on one of her assignments for her MA course with our amazing coach Dr. Stan Nussbaum. I was really moved when I read it and thought I would share it with all of you. The photograph is by Dr. Rajesh Isaac.

Easter celebration

This Easter, the fellowship department of CMC organised a celebration of the life of Christ through music and dance. Here are two songs from the musical. It takes ages to upload so the rest will come slowly. Due to the poor quality of my handicam, you may need to watch these in HD.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Time to get back!

It's been more than three years since I stopped writing regularly. I have often thought of getting back, but the timing has never been right. Plus, there's always the worry that you will announce you are back in a fit if enthusiasm and then be unable to continue!! Well, here's hoping that won't happen!! Life has been great these last few years, with the usual ups and downs. We added two new members to our family and made a lot of dear friends out here in Ludhiana. There always seems to be a lot happening and I hope that in spite of everything I can get back to regular blogging. Special thanks to those of you who have been asking me why I stopped writing. I really appreciate your love and encouragement. Hope to keep seeing you around on the blogosphere. There's no really good way to end a post like this.... So that's it. Nuf sed

Thursday, December 25, 2014

Merry Christmas (and some news)!

This has been a wonderful year for us! We had two new additions to the family - a dog in January and a baby in November! Our cup of joy runneth over and we are grateful to God for all His goodness to us. The arrival of the baby made this year a most blessed one and though there were a number of ups and downs, 2014 has been a landmark year for sure. The highlights of the year for Amy were completion of her data collection for her thesis and the whole pregnancy period and the delivery of the baby. We were grateful to both our mothers who could be here with us during that time. Arpit enjoyed his involvement in the Sunday School and with the students both academically and musically, the highlights being a concert of instrumental music and the musical 'Shrek'. We thank all of you who have journeyed with us in thought, word and prayer and wish you all a Christ-centred Christmas season and a blessed New Year. We look forward to 2015, knowing there may be many new beginnings and value your prayer for all of us in the New Year.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A new addition to the family

There has been some big news in our small family in the last year. After a long time of zero growth, there has finally been some activity! It all began on January 14th when I called my one and only first cousin to wish him for his birthday. (The fact that I have only one reaches significance only with the added information that Amy has 39!!). In the course of the conversation he asked me we were planning to get a dog. I said, no way! We had enough going on without the additional responsibility and given that we are such frequent travellers, keeping a dog would be well nigh impossible. I had already explored this with some of the dog-owners of the campus and after listening to them, had decided that this was too much for us at this point. Maybe, when we were settled down permanently (will that ever happen?!) somewhere, sometime in the distant future…We then moved on to other topics.

That same evening Amy and I stopped at a departmental store to get some groceries and supplies for a meal we were hosting for friends that evening. Right opposite the store where we parked our car was a pet shop. Outside the shop was a cage with 2 tiny Labrador (or Labradog, as it is known in these parts!) pups. Amy and me, both ardent animal fans, went over to look at them and make the usual accompanying noises – Awww, so cute and such like. Unlike usual, we stayed a little longer than we probably should have, making silly noises at the unsuspecting pups, who, of course, reciprocated as all pups in cages would do – with wagging and whines and a general dispensation of ultra-cuteness.

Once the critical limit was passed, the same thought began to form in both of our minds. As we looked at each other, I did not need to hear her words to know what she was going to say – Shall we get one? Having already been befuddled by the dashed pups, how could I then handle the deep pools that were my dear wife’s eyes?!! 20 minutes later we were the proud owners of a tiny pup, a bag-load of accessories that we were told were completely essential and a ton of advice on the various methods of making sure the pup did not die.

I am not used to making on-the-spot decisions. Usually, every decision is accompanied by many hours of research, dithering, pulling of hair and gnashing of teeth. But after January 14th, I think that maybe, being a man-of-the- moment may not necessarily be the worst thing in the world. For bringing home that puppy was one of the best decisions that I have ever made, though it went against all the advice I had been given and my ‘researched’ plans! And so ‘Awesome’ (as I named him over all Amy’s vehement protests!) Mathew came home to spend what would turn out to be a tumultuous day at No.8 Gateway Terrace!!

(to be continued)

Friday, August 15, 2014

CMC chapel choir sings Vande Mataram medley - Happy Independence Day!

Happy Independence Day! As we honour our great leaders who won our freedom for us at great personal cost, I feel happy and proud to be a member of this great nation with its rich and varied heritage. As we worshipped in the church this morning, I was wondering at the magnanimity and openness of our leaders who enshrined the precepts of secularism in our constitution. How easy it would have been for this country with its huge majority of Hindus to declare itself a Hindu state and follow the path of so many of our neighbours into religious fanaticism and destruction. How easy it would have been for our leaders to have won the votes and hearts of the majority of our population with a narrow-minded agenda. How easy it would have been for them to declare - Hindustan for Hindus. But it is a sign of their greatness that we live in this land of freedom in all forms, including religious. Where I am proud to call myself an Indian although I come from a minority community. Where I can follow my own life and path without fear of prosecution or retribution. Where I can join with my fellow Indians to sing together 'Maa Tujhe Salaam - Vande Mataram'

Sunday, June 8, 2014

The existential contradiction

Today I came across 2 articles in the news. Their extreme 'oppositeness' struck me, as did the fact that one was a widely reported event, but the other was stuck away in the back pages. One talks about 2 people and the other about 3.5 million children. The first is the article which talks about a celebrity couple who recently spent an estimated $ 30 million on their wedding. One partner had spent $20 million on a previous wedding, with the marriage lasting a whole 72 days. The other article is one that quotes the aid agency Oxfam as estimating that 3.5 million children live in poverty in the UK alone. Which one would you likely click on if you saw them on your facebook stream?

The danger of our modern world is that with the luxury and facilities available to us, we are likely to forget that life has treated the majority of our race in a different way. A few facts which I gleaned from this site.
  1. Almost half the world — over three billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day.
    At least 80% of humanity lives on less than $10 a day.
  2. The poorest 40 percent of the world’s population accounts for 5 percent of global income. The richest 20 percent accounts for three-quarters of world income.urce
  3. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty. And they “die quietly in some of the poorest villages on earth, far removed from the scrutiny and the conscience of the world. Being meek and weak in life makes these dying multitudes even more invisible in death.”Source
  4. Around 27-28 percent of all children in developing countries are estimated to be underweight or stunted. The two regions that account for the bulk of the deficit are South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.
  5. Nearly a billion people entered the 21st century unable to read a book or sign their names.Source
  6. Less than one per cent of what the world spent every year on weapons was needed to put every child into school by the year 2000 and yet it didn’t happen.
There are many more numbers and figures that I have found in different places. All of them tell me that the majority of the world is deprived of many of the things I consider essential. I do not need to look far away. I just need to walk down the road with my eyes and ears open. The people in need are everywhere. But in my air-conditioned car with windows up and in my closeted world which only the rich can access, I may never see them.

I wish the newly weds all happiness and blessings. However, I do pray that whatever they can do or give to ease the suffering of others they will do. And not waste their billions on things that have no lasting value. And I pray that I will do the same.

Friday, May 16, 2014

Into that heaven of freedom.....

As India prepares to welcome its new government, there is a sense of excitement in the air. The excellent campaign run by Mr. Narendra Modi has made most Indians believe that his coronation will be the start of a new era of prosperity and glory. The beauty of the campaign was that it appealed to both urban and rural India in different ways. The young, urban Indian middle class was so excited by the 'strong leader' image that Modi portrayed with the promise of untold economic growth and development that it blinded itself to the polarisation that Mr. Modi and the RSS stand for. After all, as many of my friends have attested, the 'hidden' party slogan was - if you are a Hindu, vote for Modi. And this slogan inpired the rural youth of our country, who having been misled into believing that they have been discriminated against for so long, rose in support of the Hindutva dream, forgetting that the progress that Mr. Modi has promised is meant not for them but for the already-rich in the cities. And of course, the beauty of transforming the election into a direct face-off between the dynamic and rhetoric-filled Modi and the bland and often-lost Rahul was a master stroke. Of course, it meant the complete sidelining of all other faces of the BJP, until Mr. Modi has become the supreme leader of the whole party, boding no voice against him. And finally, the media has been handled beautifully by the BJP spin doctors as the country was fed one side of the story for the most part of the last few years. It is only now, as we prepare to usher in Mr. Modi, that the media is beginning to talk about how the achievements of Mr. Manmohan Singh and his government have actually been substantial, not just in the upliftment of the majority of our population, but also in areas like economic growth!

Be that all as it may, India is going to have a new Prime Minister. And though my heart is heavy as I digest the fact that such an openly polarising figure will be our supreme leader, I still want to give him a chance. Maybe he will actually be the non-communal leader he has promised to be, although all his meetings with the RSS over the last few days are a little worrying. Maybe he will run the country with a free and fair hand bringing development to everyone, not just the Anbanis and Adanis. Maybe he will build a strong economy that will bring upliftment to the poor, although his record on this front in Gujarat has not been too good. Maybe I will still be allowed to express my opinions freely, without being attacked by his cronies, although the fact that my computer has crashed twice in the last 3 days scares me! (Interestingly in the article above, the only comments that agree with the article have been hidden!!). Maybe all the rabble-rousing hate-filled speeches of him and his cronies will be things of the past and religion will not become the reason to kill, rape and steal. Maybe we will continue to live in a country where I can call myself an equal citizen notwithstanding my religion, although the views Mr. Modi and the RSS have implanted in many people including some of my friends (India is for Hindus, others go to Pakistan!) is worrying. Maybe all my fears are misplaced and India will truly shine as a secular, socialist republic under the leadership of Mr. Modi.

On that note of hope, I wish Mr. Modi all the very best as he begins to govern this great nation. May God be with him and with all of us and have mercy on all our souls. I will probably retire into internet silence again after this and close with this beloved prayer of Rabindranath Tagore. May I be proved wrong and may that heaven of freedom become a reality.

Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high
Where knowledge is free
Where the world has not been broken up into fragments
By narrow domestic walls
Where words come out from the depth of truth
Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection
Where the clear stream of reason has not lost its way
Into the dreary desert sand of dead habit
Where the mind is led forward by thee
Into ever-widening thought and action
Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.

Thursday, May 8, 2014

Is free speech under threat?

For the last few days, I have received a number of messages, mails and calls regarding the posts I have put up on the blog. All of them asked me to 'be careful'. This is not the first time this has happened. The last time was when I posted this article. The overwhelming concern was that I should not get into trouble with these posts. The other opinion was that I had a lot of guts to post this stuff.

This is rather strange considering that I live in a free country, where freedom of speech is one of my basic guaranteed rights. What is it about Mr. Modi that makes it 'dangerous' to write anything even mildly critical of him? That makes me afraid that my computer may suddenly crash. That makes my friends and family ask me to stop writing about him. That makes me 'brave' all of a sudden. And worst of all, that makes one of my friends tell me that India is for Hindus and I should go to Pakistan! Does the looming Modi era threaten what I thought was a fundamental right? A right to have and to freely share an opinion, right or wrong, and debate this opinion in a civilised fashion. What suddenly makes it dangerous to have a political opinion that is not shared by the majority of my countrymen?

As India prepares for Modi-raj, the writing is on the wall. It is time for dissenting voices to be stilled or else face the consequences of holding 'unacceptable' opinions. Of course, I am small fry and it is unlikely that Mr. Modi's cyber patrol will ever get to me. But respectable journalists and well-known figures have been facing the music for some time for holding 'unnacceptable' opinions. The editor of a respected magazine gets fired for expressing anti-Modi opinions. One of our modern-day Indian heroes Amartya Sen is pilloried for his anti-Modi stance and is asked to return his Bharat Ratna. Articles against Modi get taken down by internet portals the moment they start gaining popularity. A satire website on Modi is taken down in one day.The movie Fanaa gets banned because a prominent actor raises his voice in support of the farmers displaced by the Narmada dam. And of course, there is the rise of the 'majority' opinion on social networks that troll any article or tweet against their hero. The threats range from the 'mild' 'Go to Pakistan', to much more serious ones like rape and murder.

As India's educated 'elite' gravitates towards its financial saviour, the internet has now been taken over by Mr. Modi's supporters. They are more than happy to forgive any of his past sins, even if they amount to genocide. They have ready excuses for every one of his actions and semi-logical rebuttals of all the commissions and panels that have indicted him. They will always bow the Supreme Court decision, forgetting that this same court called him a 'modern-day Nero'. They will happily praise and propagate his 'Gujarat brand of development' forgetting that this was meant for the rich and has made little or no impact on the poor. Most worryingly, they will forget their own consciences in blindly following him as he leads them through their financial Red Sea and threaten any of their brothers and sisters who may not agree with them.

The wily Mr. Modi has succeeded in re-inventing himself as the only possible option our country has in this election. He has done this by converting the basic fabric of our electorate which is based on individual candidates and their credibility into an American-style Presidential election. He has done this by his amazing use of rhetoric which he uses with great skill to fool our population. He has done this by claiming that development in Gujarat has kept him in power for so long, when political pundits have long agreed that it is the 2002 riots and the absence of any sort of opposition that were the major factors in his long reign. He has done this by refraining from incendiary statements (though sometimes, he just can't help himself!) while deputing his cronies like Togadia and Giriraj (who when I last heard was still on the BJP roles as a candidate) to do it for him. He has done this by pretending to be a leader of all sections, although the truth found him out when he was caught refusing to wear a Muslim skull cap, while he has worn the head-dresses of so many other cultures and religions before and since. He has done it by terrorising the thinking population of India so much, that people will now think not twice, but ten times, before expressing an opinion against him.

So as I await the news of May 16th, I want to thank all of you who have written to me. I am aware of the risks involved, especially to my computer! (I have nothing much of worth saved on it and it is quite old, though losing it would surely be rough!!). But I have too much faith in my country and its people to believe that expressing an opinion in a non-violent forum like the internet can be anything but healthy. Granted it is the minority opinion. Please don't tell me the minority does not matter anymore! Granted it is targeted against one man and his party. But the moment that man set himself up to be the next Prime Minister of our country, he opens himself up to being the target of his subjects opinions. If he did not like it he should have taken responsibility for the poor administration that caused the lives of 2000 people in 2002 and resigned!

I find it difficult to imagine my beloved country in the hands of fascist leaders who will curtail my freedom of expression and tamper with the basic fabric of this country. But come May 16th, that may be my fate. So all I can do is to appeal to all my fellow citizens. Judge not this man and his governance in the coming years through the filter of your religion. For that filter will filter out the truth and replace it with passion and foolishness. Judge him and his governance by the facts. And if the freedom that we hold so inviolate is threatened, please do not sit by and watch. Do not consider whether I am a Hindu or a Muslim, whether I am pro or anti-Modi. Defend me. Defend your Muslim brother. Defend this country from those who would build a totalitarian state based on the majority religion. Please let the philosophy of Voltaire inspire you - I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. Let no man, not even one so accomplished and popular as Mr. Modi take away that right. 

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Is Modi sorry?

Mr. Narendra Modi, who is likely to be crowned our new Prime Minister come May 16th has many things going for him. He is a strong leader, he is a crowd puller, he knows how to use rhetoric to the best effect, he has managed to sideline all the other leaders of his own party and he runs on a plank of development that he claims to have overseen in the always prosperous state of Gujarat. This looks like a CV that any country would be happy to have in its Prime Minister. His biggest problem has been explaining the events that took place in his state in 2002. There is a fear even among his most ardent supporters that maybe Modi had more to do with the Gujarat riots than he or the BJP would care to admit.

Now if (and I hope this is not true, though the facts seem to speak otherwise) he did have something to do with the lack of police protection offered to the victims of those few bloody days, the question then is, is he sorry for them. The country has been waiting and hoping that he would lay those demons to rest at some point and take some responsibility for the events that took place on his watch. But he has remained silent on the issue. I ask myself, why? Would it not be easy to bring all the facts to light, publish the records of the meetings where he is alleged to have asked the police not to act and punish his own partymen, RSS colleagues and the errant policeman who were responsible for the violence. Even if he was completely innocent, should he not at least take some responsibility for the events that happened when he was in charge? By keeping silent he has deprived all of us who would like to look to him as a leader with some semblance of understanding of his acts of commission and omission. His silence suggests at least some element of guilt, I feel.

I have long struggled with this, but now I wonder, is it because he is sorry? Does he wish he had not been party to the deaths of 2000 souls? Political compulsions may force him to remain silent, but maybe in his heart of hearts he wishes he had acted differently. It seems like a pipe-dream, especially given the recent statements that have been coming from him and his party. But that's what I would like to take away from these videos. That is what I hope is true. May this country I love never again have to bear the weight of communal violence foisted on it by petty political machinations.

Watch this till the end.