Friday, April 29, 2016

There is no forgetting...

The recent death of the four nuns belonging to the Kolkata-based Missionaries of Charity in Yemen, is hard to take in. They became nuns for a reason, they wanted to dedicate their lives to serving God by caring for the infirm and weak in society. They weren’t a threat to anybody, they were just caring for the aged in a war torn region. The people who shot them dead must have been really scared of what they stood for: love. Why else would they have shot harmless nuns and kidnapped a priest? They couldn’t understand this brand of love they depicted, and in typical barbarian fashion they decided to deal with it by eliminating whatever made them question their vile beliefs rooted in selfishness, vengeance and a self-gratification ideology.

Fr. Tom Uzhunnali, the Salesian priest supposedly kidnapped by the IS, was serving the spiritual needs of the sisters and so far there hasn’t been any news about his whereabouts. Official reports suspect that he has been kidnapped and one can only imagine what he is going through right now. Wherever he is, we can only hope and pray that he will get through this ordeal. This is the kind of life they lead, people who go out of their way to serve others in society. Though the nuns and the others who were shot down are no more, they have lived extraordinary lives and they will live on in the hearts of the people they sacrificed their lives for. They have loved and given of themselves more than most of us would in a lifetime, they embody the perfect essence of Christ.

And lastly, I cannot let the month April pass by without writing about the more than 200 Nigerian school girls who were kidnapped and kept in captivity since April 2014. What can you say about a world that doesn’t care for them, that doesn’t think they are worth rescuing? As of now no one really knows about their plight, almost all of them were forcefully married to their captives and reports are now arising that a few have been employed as suicide bombers. There is no effort being made to find them anymore, somehow no one seems bothered, especially the Nigerian government. Atrocities are bound to keep happening, this is not a perfect world, but how can one section of the world completely forget the other section that is suffering day in and day out. Life can be cruel, but those with a voice should never stop speaking for the voiceless. One should continue telling their tale and remembering them,reaching out to them if only in our thoughts… to forget them would be an even bigger crime.

This is an article I wrote for the church magazine...

Monday, February 01, 2016

And so it goes...

So where do I start.... January was fun, been so buried under books, didn't really find time to jot down stuff here. January started off on a fun note; after a midnight mass under flashing lights that were really giving me a headache, yeah, my church in the village is really big on tacky lighting... it's almost like a contest here. The more tackier and multicoloured the lighting the more it depicts your devotion I guess, and every religious establishment takes this rule dead seriously. I'm not kidding, I even went and told the guy in charge to please switch off the flashing lights during the service and he had the audacity to tell me to go inside the church and sit with the humongous crowd. Anyway, I went back to my place and whispered to my brother in law about the lack of etiquette in church festivals, and my sister glared at us and asked whether we had any ourselves...
 The church with the flashing lights and multicoloured stars...

After the midnight mass, we came home with the cousins, cut a cake, drank some wine and then set out at 2am to the farm. Once we got there, we got into the water tank and soaked around till 5am, downing tequila shots and eating unhealthy food, which I can say in hindsight is not that great when you find your head spinning in the morning. So no one was more surprised than me, about the way things turned out, anyway...
 Here is my river, a cousin took this awesome picture, thanks Veena :)
Another river we visited 
Met Indira there, rubbed her ears and they were like really rough with tiny hair bristles... her eyes were piercingly beautiful. 

And so it goes, that's what I'm listening to right now, check it out...

Don Williams, I remember his songs playing on the radio when I was a kid. Dad used to listen to him, Charley Pride and the like... but Don Williams always stood out, his songs have this evocative quality to them and this one here is no different, what he sings is heartrendingly true 'Nature goes about her business, with new surprises everyday.'

That's what 2015 will be remembered for, the surprises, the trips, the conscious unlearning, the stirring of the sands of time, the clarity amidst the din, and for the Sherlockian trip down the mind palace, where fragmenting into Christmas decorations and the heightening of every sensation was exhilarating and scary at the same time (kinda like the abominable bride, it was well worth the wait).
Here's to many more trips of the mind, body and soul... 

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

In Search of Incredible

So December has been really hectic so far, well the actual craziness started with my sister's birthday on November 30th, when the city (Madras) started experiencing torrential rains. We were cooped up inside enjoying the downpour (little did we know that more was in store), taking pictures and getting drenched in the terrace and making merry like kids... the rain always does that, brings out the kid in you. So anyway, the rains continued through the next couple of days and then mayhem took over, the city started fragmenting into islands. It was chaos everywhere, but the stories that kept pouring in about ordinary people pitching in to help the flood affected people shed some sort of light on the whole ordeal. We tried to help by volunteering in church and driving around searching for bread and water to deliver to relief camps. We lost power for a couple of days, and that was another experience hanging out in candlelight; talking, musing and wondering if others were safe (we had difficulty contacting a few friends). 

Then the Bombay trip happened, I couldn't make it in time for a cousin's wedding because of the floods (ya ya yasser is awesome). Apparently, Yaseer, my cousin's friend braved the floods and made it in time for the wedding, a fact which was drilled into me by the bridegroom. But I did fly in a few days later and it was amazing, like unbelievably awesome the whole week in Bombay with the cousins. Growing up, me and the siblings used to spend almost every summer vacation with them in Bombay, and now going back there after eight years was like revisiting a part of my childhood. Those days we spent packed like sardines in the living room talking and giggling the night away, it hasn't changed... now more people have been added to the pack (the men we each ended up marrying) and all of them are incredibly cool too. it was a wedding to remember with many 'moments' to cherish and an atrocious amount of selfies that have become the highlight of the week (this Bombay trip deserves a post entirely to itself, will do that next year).

Then the moment we reached home in Nagercoil, we were out again caroling and creating a ruckus with the church gang, We cracked ourselves up over a truth and dare game that went on long into the night. After coming back to the city, the house was being painted and everybody was going crazy with the mess. So because of all the drama that has been happening, there wasn't enough time to set up the tree or assemble the crib, And I couldn't let Christmas pass me by without attempting to make something to remember,
So I set up this little crèche in my room. There was an old Asus laptop box lying around and I had some black chart paper, so sketched the parents and baby Jesus and strung some lights around and stuck a star. 
Placed some of the old pine cones here... 
Even the tag line of the Asus product seemed to fit in with the theme of the season, 'IN SEARCH OF INCREDIBLE'. The incredible is present in all of us, we just have to search inside ourselves to know it, to live it, to be it. 
Wishing you all a wonderful Christmas season and an incredibly exciting year ahead.  

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Paris

We reached Paris around 8 pm, it was quite cold and we went shivering to an Indian restaurant nearby. A few of us didn't want Indian food so we went to a pizzeria
 Had some wine (Chianti) and
pizza. This is the four seasons pizza that I ate. It was nice sitting here with the group and discussing stuff, I remember the song 'Take me to church' by Hozier started playing and then we started discussing that. Didn't expect to make friends on this trip, even now we stay in touch, so glad I met them. Another fun and tiring day came to an end, got back to our hotel and drifted off to dreamland.
The next day, had some really good breakfast of croissants and peaches with nutella,  and then set out to explore Paris, which has enamored writers for ages.
This was where we stayed, Hotel Ibis Paris Porte d'Orleans, pretty neat place.
 A bridge on the way
Visited the Miraculous Medal church first where mass was celebrated and then proceeded to Notre Dame Cathedral, which I blogged about during my last trip here
 Candles burning away inside the cathedral
 The pretty lighting inside
Visited the Sacred Heart church which sits atop a hill. After visiting the churches it was time for the Seine cruise. Paris is hopeful, young and exciting to observe, there are many couples of all ages on the banks of the Seine, just lazing around and talking or caught in each others embrace oblivious to the world passing by. There are groups of friends laughing, groups of hippy teenagers with their boom box dancing away, then there are the fit exercise types with all their toned bodies. Everybody seems relaxed and at ease munching away on a baguette sandwich, it really gives off this liberating feel, watching them... wondering if we had had the chance to be as mentally liberating as them, how our lives would be. 
 Caught sight of the Eiffel and everybody started clicking away to glory 
 This has got to be one of the most photographed structures in the world
 Then our bus deposited us right near the Eiffel, to take pictures. Evening had come and it was time to go back to the hotel. But a bunch of us were restless, how can you stay indoors in Paris of all places! One of our travel companions, her daughter lives in Paris, and she volunteered to take us out at night. So after gulping down some really good Indian food, a few of us set off to explore Paris by night.
Of course, a trip to Paris is never complete without hopping on and off their highly efficient and impressive metro system. 
The quaint cafes that line the sidewalks. we bought ice creams here and ate them as we strolled around this charming city.
A glimpse of the Eiffel at night
The Eiffel looks even more beautiful at night when it is all lit up, and when it sparkles every hour you know why it is the most visited structure on the planet. The people gathered below the tower turned out to be even more entertaining, they would hoot and howl and do all sorts of crazy things when the tower starts sparkling every hour. There was this group of teenagers having a great time on the lawns, when the clock struck 11pm, one of them got up and started striping.. and the others were laughing their heads off. It was crazy fun watching them...

Tuesday, December 01, 2015

Lourdes


So after a nice breakfast in Burgos we started on our way to Lourdes. 
Fields of gold in France 
Driving through France was fun, the scenery is amazing like this field of bundled up hay. 
Rugged mountains
The castle of Lourdes in the center.
Our quaint room in Lourdes
As soon as we reached the room we had to walk to the Lourdes shrine for mass. We had mass in this chapel directly above the grotto.
River Gave, near the shrine
The massive shrine 
The site of the apparitions
The source of the water that Bernadette apparently dug up from the ground
By 5 pm the Eucharistic procession started, and nuns were walking with this blue ribbons contraption.
The Eucharistic procession
The procession ended in this massive underground church  
It started raining heavily by the time the procession got over and it was nice walking in the rains near this roaring river to a restaurant for Indian food at a Sri Lankan restaurant. There was the usual rosary procession at 9pm, but it was raining then too and everybody was huddled under their umbrellas. You can check out the candlelight rosary procession in this old post. It was a tiring and cold day, but incredibly beautiful too... I think it's the location of Lourdes. The mountains and the river nearby makes everything seem surreal. 
Woke up early the next day and had mass in this beautiful chapel.
The view from the upper level of the shrine

After this we had breakfast in the hotel and then started on our drive to Paris.

Arriving in Burgos

The past few months have been terribly crazy, so many things have been happening (mostly in my head), that there aren't enough words to make sense of it all. It all felt like the ground beneath me was cracking open, the familiar ground that I knew growing up was now shifting and rearranging itself. The catalyst that set it all in motion and the beacons that shone upon a path, have been of immeasurable help and I don't know what I'd do without them. 

Anyway, I wanted to finish this travel post of 2015, before the year got over... so let's get on with that. So in the last post, we had just finished our candlelight procession in Fatima, Portugal. The next day we had a guide who took us around the premises, explaining the apparitions and the story of the three shepherd children, Lucia, Francesco and Jacinta.
The main church was under renovation and we couldn't enter it, but to its side is the grave of Francesco, the shepherd boy, depicted with a lamb on his lap.
This is purportedly the site of the Marian apparitions, a small open air chapel is built over the place of the apparitions.
This is the entrance to the new massive church situated right opposite the main shrine,
A rather scary statue of Jesus inside, I don't know why they made him seem weird. Anyway, we said the rosary in this church.
Mass was held in the hotel we were staying at.
Lunch was quite good, legume soup along with fish and rice.
And a baked apple for dessert. 
Then we got in the bus, and started on our way to Burgos, snapped this picture on the way out of Fatima, a scene of the three children who made this sleepy little village famous. 
Reached Burgos quite late, after a very long drive and had a fulfilling dinner of spaghetti and wine
with some roast chicken
In this hotel in Burgos, Hotel Rice Maria Luisa.
Pretty neat rooms... I really liked this hotel, the people were extremely friendly and helpful. Settled into a deep blissful sleep, the wine working wonders. The next day we set off for Lourdes...