Tuesday, May 30, 2006

To lift or not to lift

On my way back from college yesterday evening I saw this very old man on the road asking for a lift. The guy on scooter in front of me wanted to stop but by the time he pulled over (it was a busy hour) he had already gone very far, so he again sped up and left. Now the old man waved at me. I had a moment of hesitation; I have never given lift to anyone. And by the time I decided to oblige him I myself had gone quite a distance and turning back in that traffic was unthinkable. I continued driving.

I wish I had pulled over immediately.

Getting nostalgic about Eliot's "Prufrock"

In a minute there is time
For decisions and revisions which a minute will reverse

By the way that's not all!

Today as I drove back from sector 22 and reached the T-point from where I was to take right to come home, I had to stop at the traffic signal. As I slowed down another old man, though not as old as the one I mentioned above, walked upto me and asked for a lift till the traffic lights in sector 17. I told him that I wasn't going that way and would take a left from the round-about to go to 15. He said, "Today you can take a different route to 15." I was a bit surprised by his audacity. Anyway, I said, Ok, come. As soon as he ensconsed himself next to me he said,"Why aren't you running the AC?" Now I was zapped. I said, "It seems you have walked a lot today, had a strenous day." I still hadn't switched on the AC. I was trying to hint that such a demand is not very polite. "No it's just too hot today," he said,"I went to these small shops in 22, they are so suffocating." And in the same breath he said, "Aren't you putting the AC on?" When he mentioned it the second time I was actually amused. So guess what? I did put the AC on for him. As I drove him upto the traffic lights I was wondering if he would ask for any more favour. He didn't and got down at the lights.

Morals of the story:

  1. Your indecision almost always confounds you.
  2. When someone else makes a decision for you it may not be that bothersome after all.

(PS: Morals to this story are tentative and are subject to change)

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Taking a slip on the slip road

Out of all the confessions that I have to make the one about my poor driving skills is the least mortifying. So let me tell you what soup did I get into this evening. I had been to the St. Stephens School to arrange for something for tomorrow (SDC begins tomorrow!). I had parked my car on the side road, the one marked as the cycle track. So when we were done, I drove down this track. I took a left turn and suddenly my car took a jolt. I had gone over the embankment. As I tried to manoeuver my car out of that bother, I heard the chassis making an uneasy grating sound. Oops! I got down just to see the front left tyre deflating right in front my eyes. It seemed that the car was whistling as it settled fixedly on the pavement like an obstinate animal.

This was enough to totally unsettle me. I could sense people gloating around me. Aur chala gaadi cycle track par. Ab kharha reh yahan par. Hee hee hee!

I immediately called Joel, who had left just ahead of me. He said he would come back. Meanwhile I steal a glance at the people around, seeking some kind of sympathy. I see the man on the other side of the road selling cigarette, bidi and such stuff glaring back at me. What did he think of me?

Two guys went past me, looking at the car. I thought they were jeering but they weren't. In fact as they went across the length of my car, they turned and told me to get someone to fix the punctured tyre. It felt nice to have someone make an effort to help. In their haryanvi accent they guided me to the place where I could look for someone.

I got hold of this young chap, who quickly finished his cup of tea and came along with a spanner.

Joel had arrived by then. He looked around my car and did the talking with the young rescuer that I had brought. As I stood flummoxed there wondering how I managed to do this, my tiny helper suggested we should get a crane!! Or let's put a stone under the rear tyre reclining on the pavement and try to take the car over, he further advised. Joel asked him to get some people so that we could actually lift the car and put it on side. The boy went on the other side towards where that cigarettewalla was sitting. Meanwhile few people had gathered around my car. And before long I found that Joel and these five guys were lifting the front of the car and moving it. Then they moved towards the rear of the car and moved it completely. Wow!

Out of the four the two went on their immediately. I shouted 'thank you!' and one of them turned to wave at me. The other two guys kept standing there. Both Sikhs. They had struck a conversation with Joel as I oversaw that young resourceful rescuer of mine changing the tyre. I paid him and offered those guys some fruit juice there but they already had had. In fact its only while having it that they spotted me and came over.

Joel told me where to get the tyre fixed and we parted ways.

One silly thing. As soon as I heard the impact my car made and I decided to came down to look I took off my gaudy sunglasses (the only sign of my vanity). Why did I do that? Is there a relationship between a show of austerity and a crisis? I think I just got very self-conscious.

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Summer Day Camp

For the next one week my mornings are going to be pretty hectic. Well for this Children's Camp, I have to report at 8:20 am! 8:20 guys is no joke. I hope I am not dazed through the whole camp. I hope my cast (I am incharge for the daily two-part drama) will be alert at least. These guys have been working really hard.

Prashant who plays the scientist Doc is a Colonel in the Indian Army. On a sabbatical for sometime he has very graciously agreed to participate in the play. He says that this is his way of saying thank-you to the Chandigarh Bible Fellowship for providing Sunday School to his eight-year old son Sam. Prashant is a busy man. Carrying his briefcase he moves about in the inimitable flourish of an army man. An avid follower of the stock market, he is taking this time to fulfil filial duties: taking care of his mother, looking after the houses, dropping and picking the son from the school, an occasional outstation visit. Phew! Lots of appointments to keep. His lunches are all pre-arranged. And then he takes time to memorise and rehearse. Jai Hind to this firm commitment.

Talking about commitment you have Mayuri (I almost wrote Basanti). She plays Casey, the detective. Casey ho! this is how I greet her. Mayuri not only has a major role in the drama she is also incharge of the singing. So while most of are struggling with our one engagement she is hitting two birds with hardly any stone (complaint). And by the way she has a professional job to do as well. She is a postgraduate in psychology and is currently working as a counsellor. She loves reading Max Lucado's books and presently is interested in knowing how was the Bible compiled. Word of God or words of men!

Then we have Ravi. He comes from Ambala to rehearse almost everyday. (And you thought the great stories of commitment are over!) However, right now he has gone to Delhi for his admission in a post-graduate management course. He plays Ried, the adventurer. He recently got a new pup. A golden retriever, I guess. They already have one at home. Two years old. Ravi once told me that his dog understands French. (Aside: Is the French world going to dogs?). He also coaches the football team of his school in Ambala.

Blade, the superhero is played by Ashwin. The young associate pastor of the CBF has the most comic role. Preparing for the play he has already delivered two sermons and it seems he is going to speak on the Sunday after the summer camp as well. He thought after 21 he will be free to concentrate on the play memorizing the lines and all, but there is no let off in sight. He sure is the upcoming superhero for the CBF; sermons and summer day camps all piled up on his fresh SAIACS-graduate shoulders. Yesterday he told me that he made his own breakfast. Tried to cook the ommlette without using oil! And of course then it would not come off from the pan. Finally when he did succeed in scraping it off, the ommlette (or whatever was left of it) indicated that salt of the earth was used rather abundantly. Super effort.

The other two cast members working from behind the stage would be Abby and Dia. They are going to manage the puppet, Bubbly (FKA Becky). The only thing I knew about these two girls was their craze for the Harry Potter books. But I am impressed with their felicity with the job at hand.

Ravi, Ashwin and I are going to manage rest of the puppets.

For the puppets, more then the voice we need to work on our arms. Aaaah! it hurts man! Holding the puppet for so long.

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Gita Updesh

Know that in all cases
whatever in existence is
powerful, glorious, and beautiful
issues from but
a spark of my splendour
(Ch. 9 Text 41)

I received this most beautiful and very portable copy of the Bhagvad Gita from a sparkling light of His splendour. The first thing that we read together appears as the epigraph of this posting.

This initiates me into the choir of the Song Divine.

I had bought a copy of the Gita many years ago, never got down to reading it though and then someone borrowed it never to return. A couple of years ago I borrowed another copy - of the same kind that I had bought - from Joel (wow, he appears second time in my blog on a single day) but again somehow wasn't able to read it consistently.

Now with this extremely handy copy (measurement in cm: 6 x 4.5 x 2.25) I am sure I can read it fairly regularly

My mind goes to Paul who exhorts us to concentrate on the poweful, glorious and beautiful in Philippians 4:8

Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honorable, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

Statements of Faith

I don't quite remember what set me and Joel talking about the statements of faith the other day. He was explaining his problem with such assertions. These statements are meant to define what you believe in. But in reality what they achieve is they define boundaries; deployed to keep the "other" out. This has been part of the western religious experience and tradition where one Christian denomination had to rigourously distinguish itself from the other. The statements of faith were meant to provide a uniform identity to the adherents of a particular religious group. They were to select friends and foes by replaying these statements in their mind.

Historically speaking this was an exercise in community building which responded to the needs of burgeoning democarcy. Like rise of nations in the west in post-Renaissance period the religious denominations also had to develop secure borders.

In the world where definitions of democracy and nation are being rewritten there is a need to revise the rationale of statements of faith.

In the pluralist world in general and in India in particular Christians have to be wary of such heavily westernised concept of "statement of faith."

My mind goes back to Brahmbandhab Upadhyay, the dynamic intellectual and a Christian theologian in Bengal, the editor of journals and later a nationalist revolutionary who was disowned by the Church in early 20th century. Upadhyay instead of confining himself in the historically conditioned statements, took a bold step, a heroic decision to call himself a Hindu Catholic, instead of a Roman Catholic.

Indian spirituality is embracing. However this is not to say that everything goes here in India. The sharp debates in the Indian intellectual history between Sankara, Ramanujan and Madhva give an example that debating and clarification of postions is an important ingredient of Indian tradition.

Upadhyay carries on that tradition.

The dynamic process of "exclusion and embrace" (a term courtesy Miroslav Volf) will give regenerative impetus to our communitarian journeys. The fossilized statements of faith can impede the progress.

Friday, May 05, 2006

Kierkegaard's birthday & Marx's

Since yesterday I had been feeling that there is something special about 5th May. But what? I wasn't able to recollect. I had a vague feeling that perhaps it's a birthday of a childhood friend, long forgotten but whom I have been longing to meet.

It's Soren Kierkegaard's birthday today. Born in 1813 AD.

I remembered that last year I remembered him by reading two short pieces about him written by W H Auden.

This year I decide to approach him more directly.

To begin with I read the "Preface" and "Prelude" to his Fear and Trembling.

The preface is a little gem about issues of faith and doubt. Here he calls attention to the fact that Descartes has been so grossly misused by the subsequent doubters. He reached a particular position after a strenuous exercise in honest thinking. The contemporary doubter, on the other hand, doesn't struggle with issues of knowing or having faith but, in fact begins with doubt.

Descartes - the rationalist par excellence, Kierkegaard says, arouses "deepest emotion," primarily because he was a "quiet and solitary thinker, not a bellowing night-watchman." In Kierkegaardian estimation that seems to mean that Descartes was finding his own way in the labyrinth of philosophical thinking upto his time. He did not intend this to become an easily aquired public attitude.

"Dexterity in doubting" is cultivated over a long period of time. Like the way it happened with Descartes, who maintained "equilibrium of doubt" and never became a nihilist or a hedonist.

When people invoke Descartes to justify their scepticism, they are doing something that Descartes never did. They begin from where Descartes arrived.

And he further says tha just like dexterity in doubting is not acquired in a few days or weeks, "dexterity in faith" is a "task for a whole life time".

Descartes, he says, never wanted to "make it a duty for everyone to doubt." He needed to use this particular method for himself because it "was justified in part by the bungled knowledge of his earlier years."

I need to reflect on these issues (faith, reason, doubt) which pertain to my new vocation Kierkegaard, I hope becomes a good sparring partner. By the way some of his insights compel me to say that he is a most contemporary writer with a piercing sense of irony. His diagnosis of modern condition does not leave out the postmodern enigmas.

It is Karl Marx's birthday too. Born in 1818 AD.
An estranged friend of fiery youthful days.
Must get back to him too.

Wednesday, May 03, 2006

Daily News and Brother Lawrence

  • In Baroda a 2000 strong mob burn a man alive in his car.
  • Terrorists kill 22 innocent people in Jammu & Kashmir.
  • Pramod Mahajan's condition grows worse.
  • Suryanarayan beheaded by barbarians.

Man against man.

Not to mention, man against woman.
Woman against man.

Explosions of hatred.
Implosions of guilt.

Mankind stands condemned.

In the melee of debilitating images, the memory of Brother Lawrence:

"He said that as far as the miseries and sins he heard of daily in the world, he was so far from wondering at them, that, on the contrary, he was surprised there were not more considering the malice sinners were capable of. For his part, he prayed for them. But knowing that God could remedy the mischief they did when He pleased, he gave himself no further trouble."
I take lead from him. Trusting in goodness of God is the first step towards a postive action to bring change in the life of the nation and the society.

Karl Barth said somewhere:

"The clasping of hands in prayer is the beginning of an
uprising against the disorders of the world.
Brother Lawrence was not a practitioner; a socio-political activist that is. But he does help to form a perspective from which a practitioner can approach his vocation. A vision of hope in the fallen world.