The Story Today

What is the essence of good story telling . The days of ‘Once upon a time ‘ have long since changed . Today a story can be short , sweet, and dynamic , to catch one’s attention.

As stories develop . Some end with with meaning and some seem to leave the reader to speculate . There can be more than one ending in such cases .

The best of course will be a story ending with a message .

How does one begin a short story? Do we just plunge into it and pick up the different aspects of characters involved ? Or do we introduce the story in a formal way and describe each character in detail.

How does one do this ? Bringing a character alive is a gift . Probably one can visualise persons we have seen and start describing them to get an understanding of the skill of description.

In a dialogue , lots can be said . Well known authors go on to even bring out the dialects and characteristics of a person in the course of the dialogue .

Stories can appeal to young and old. Some authors specialise in children’s stories.

Then there are different categories which are referred to as genres . There can be ones with humour , crime, adventure and romance .

The key to good writing is editing. We can have two elements with us . The good one which appreciates and affirms . The bad one which criticises . A balance of both goes a long way .

We nurture our writing skills when we take time to read , and devote an equal time to write .

Cultivating this daily habit , helps in improving our expressions in writing .

So let’s be creative and bring out the best of our dreams and fantasy .

Edinburgh and Greyfriars Bobby

The visit to Edinburg was keenly anticipated. We thought of joining the walking tours with a guide .

This idea had to be shelved as I realized that at Edinburgh there were steep slopes and being a senior citizen I would not cope with this .

Anjean and I with our daughter Larissa and her husband Lloyd agreed that we do our own walking tour.

There seemed to be a holiday atmosphere. People were dressed in colourful summer attire, good walking shoes and cameras .

We began our walk with first a visit to Starbucks . The coffee and hospitality was warm and efficient.

We then proceeded to the St Giles Cathedral which has so much history…. a bit of heartbreak in that , bringing into focus the split in the church . I was very impressed with the stained glass Windows. The special cordoned area for the choir , seemed quite unique.

St Giles Cathedral

As we walked along , we approached the Edinburgh castle . This was a good spot for photographs .

I was surprised to be see the India Cross made of sandstone. It was erected to commemorate the 78th Regiment of Highlanders who quelled a mutiny from the Indian soldiers who fought against British rule in 1857. The Regiment was jointly awarded the Victoria Cross .( I wonder what happened to the Indian soldiers )

The India Cross has an elephant carved at its base . This elephant badge was awarded to the regiment in 1803 .

Thirty years later the regiment brought a real elephant to Edinburgh. It was well looked after with beer etc and led parades at ceremonial occasions.

We resumed our walk and refreshed ourselves with waffle icecreams .

The most interesting part of our walk was to see a statue of Greyfriars Bobby erected for his fidelity .

Statue of Greyfriars Bobby

The legend goes that Greyfriars Bobby befriended Colour Sergeant Scott . He would follow Scott to his home at 38 Candlemaker Row . The latter trained him to move from Greyfriars Kirkyard when the guns from Edinburgh Castle sounded at 1pm to Traills Coffee House at 6 Greyfriars Row where he was fed his dinner of a hot meat pie . Colour Sergeant Scott often joined him there.

When his master died in 1858 ,Greyfriars Bobby followed his master’s remains to Greyfriars Churchyard and lingered there until his death in 1872.

We had a quiet moment at the Churchyard .

Our walk ended with a sumptuous lunch at one of the popular restaurants Macker’s Mash Bar. We chose to sit out for our meal. If you are familiar with Glasgow and Edinburgh you notice many seagulls flying around . I was shocked to see a bold seagull land up on the table nearby after the diners finished their meal, to enjoy the remainder!

One cannot forget the grand architecture of the buildings at Edinburgh . George Herriots School was a spot where ‘Harry Potter’ fans show so much interest . Of course the story is quite different from the reality .

The pastry shop Patisserie Valerie was quite appealing. Lockkdown has not been helpful as the display was limited and the pastries we selected were well decorated but not too fresh.

We strolled around the shopping centre . The trams plying through the town caught my eye.

Finally we made our way back to the car park and Lloyd and Larissa saw us home to Glasgow after a long drive back .

A walk in the cold wintry air

My grandson does not believe in a walk . For him it’s more a frolic and a jump into any puddle.

“Daniel, you’ll get wet “ I tell him .

He smiles and looks for the next one .

“Grandpa, look, I’m only a little wet”

But when you see him, the wetness is more than you can imagine .

However Karen is patience personified. She happens to be my daughter and Daniel’s mother.

We walked for about 45 minutes As a senior citizen I tried a bit of slow running . The cold air of Clarkston was refreshing but biting through the 3 layers of coats.

Seeing Daniel tag along and jumping into the puddles left me wondering. From where did he get that energy and adaptation to the cold weather (3*)

Daniel’s fun ends with fatigue setting in after about 30 minutes, and he cries out “Mummy carry me.” I’m amazed at how Karen can carry him the rest of the walk as he is quite heavy.

We are in the midst of the pandemic.

But the walk with social distancing keeps us in good health.

For Daniel …..the puddles and frolic are the escapades from the routine at home.

This little blog was written during the winter in Scotland

An amazing recovery

Who can explain the miracle of healing ?

This has been a long journey of cancer since the past two and a half years .

I’ve been through 2 cycles of chemotherapy, one cycle of radiation and immunotherapy after which my doctor in Mumbai shared that he had done his best. Nothing more could be done in Mumbai and I was given just 3-6 months to live.

He recommended Car-T Cell therapy which is currently the newest treatment available in UK.

We were told this in November 2020.

Now here is where the hand of God intervened in my life. My son Ralph sent us his details from London , so we could apply for dependency visa. In a matter of a few weeks we were granted this visa and our flight was arranged by our children to fly into UK on the 3rd December.

This was a sudden departure and left us no time to even think of any concerns of leaving home .

Our time was just right to celebrate Christmas with our children in UK.

In Scotland, we were given a warm welcome by the leader of the Community of the Risen Lord. A few of our friends too reconnected with us and assured us of prayers.

In January I was given a call by NHS for consultation with the doctor . That was a scary meeting , when I was told the risks involved with the new treatment. However I chose to go ahead , as this was the final recourse .

In February my T- cells were taken for re-engineering and within two weeks I was admitted for 3 weeks at the Queen Elizabeth University Hospital when my T-cells were re-administered into my blood stream .

Thanks to God , I did not suffer any major side effects except for a loss of appetite, for a short time. The care given by the team of doctors and nursing staff was outstanding . Even the food provided was good .

I must share , that throughout my two years of cancer treatment, I had lost count of the number of Covid tests and blood tests done . Also petscans , biopsy, the Hickman line and the PICC line , were things I just accepted.

After 3 months my petscan showed that most areas were clear of cancer except a few remained . Then by end May 2021 these also cleared up ; however a small area in the lower back still glowed in the petscan .

So a biopsy was done and on 17th June 2021 , I was finally given an all clear report .

There was a moment of concern when I caught a cough and cold virus from my grandchildren . This got aggravated and led to me being hospitalised . Antibiotic drips were administered and I’ve recovered .

Looking back , I’m amazed at the events which led to my cure from cancer .

This does not mean my life here on earth is endless, but to appreciate the new lease of life God has given me .

He is the living God who cares , loves and heals . He is my greatest treasure . I know that I can now suffer the loss of everything here, in the knowledge that God is always present to hold and care for me .

I’m extremely grateful to all my family , friends and community members, my priest friends and Brothers of the Servants of the Word who have been praying for me and reaching out to me in so many ways.

A special thanks to members from the Sword of the Spirit Communities worldwide , who have been praying for me . My batch mates from college too have been encouraging and offering their prayers .

I’m grateful to my children Karen, Annalize, Ralph and Larissa for all their help. My daughter Karen and her husband Tommy, have been hosting Anjean and I in Scotland . They have been with me through all the visits and checkups at the hospital . Anjean has been my rock , always praying for me .

What is my purpose in life ?

…..importantly to accept all that God sends into my life and sharing the suffering with Jesus who can continue his work of redemption as only he can , through each of us .

…… to give glory to God in all that I do , accepting his will at all times. May his name be praised for evermore.

The best version of oneself

How does one become the best version of oneself ?

This struck me when I got an insightful comment on my blog ‘Captain or Manager’ by Michele of ‘Rabbitpatch Diary’ an avid blogger who left me with this comment “Thankfully this world is big enough for all of us to shine. “ The essay was on who makes a better leader the captain of a football team or it’s manager.

So striving to be a better version of oneself , rather than comparing oneself with others is a big step in being a light for the pathways of life . A light at home , or outdoors in the dark can shed light to all . A life lived well can be an example of good light, always ready to reach out and mentor the younger people . Can I pass on to others what I receive ?

Light has an identity of its very own , always shining out . However I need be to be aware of self glorification, which can be detrimental, and that very light loses its lustre.

How about ‘salt’ ? It cannot be seen. Yet, a lack of it in food is noticeable. There is a tastelessness. The identity of salt is to give taste . If salt cannot provide taste it is useless .

Unlike light , if salt does its job well , there are no accolades. Rather it loses itself completely .

This is service at its very best …a dying to self for another .

An example of this is where a mother can play the role so effectively as children grow up , caring at every stage … no wonder when they become adults , mothers are remembered the most . Do mothers get awards ?

We are all blessed with various talents . How we use them is important , so we can be salt or light in this world .

We pray for that grace, to bring out the best of the talents bestowed us by the Lord , to become the best version of ourselves.

“You are the salt of the earth; but if salt has lost its taste, how can its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything, but is thrown out and trampled under foot.” ( Matthew 5:13)

“You are the light of the world. A city built on a hill cannot be hid. No one after lighting a lamp puts it under the bushel basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all in the house. In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16)

A fair poll ….for honesty

In a democracy one looks forward to a fair poll . Since the days of the ballot paper vote, the EVM ( Electoral Voters Machine) is the recent development. On the face of it , this may seem a good way of voting . It is quick and immediately sends the vote to the respective candidate , once the voter presses the button of a particular candidate .

Have you heard of the EVM being misused or even of defective machines . There have been reports that in such cases , whatever button is pressed for voting a specific candidate , the vote does not go to that candidate, but elsewhere to another candidate through manipulation of the machine or through a defect.

Political parties have been raising their voices to revert back to the traditional ballot paper.

This may be a better option and give less chances for any fraud.

You may be aware of booth capturing by goons who deprive the people of their fair vote .

There have been cases , shown on video , in a certain country , where inspite of having ballot paper vote , the ballot boxes were being stuffed with fake votes for a particular party . No wonder these dubious means of conducting elections ensures a particular party or person continues in office .

What constitutes a fair election ? Will we see the days of honesty being given priority .

Will we see democracy being replaced by a dictator or fascist government?

One of the most disturbing developments is to see elected candidates being bought over by the party in power.

Whom do we blame the giver or the receiver ?

What is your opinion of what constitutes a fair poll ?

Captain or Manager ?

Damien and Sean were two good friends in high school . They made it to university together .

Damien was a sportsman and loved football . He was tall and tough , with tousled hair , aggressive and practical .

Sean had expressive eyes, brilliant ideas and a friendly approach . He was of medium height and neatly attired

During their life in University , Damien shone in sports specially in football . He captained his team and led from the front.

Sean too did well . He was an all rounder. He did well in academics and also took a lot of interest in sports. He followed the latest exploits of the football team .

What are the attributes of good leadership ?

On and off the field !

Damien is a hands on leader . He inspires his team by his aggressive approach ; a never say die attitude even in the face of defeat .His presence on the pitch , gives an impetus to the team for playing at their very best.

What about Sean ?

Sean can strategise for the team . His knowledge of team players helps in the final lineup or to bring on a player as substitute at crucial times of the match . He also is a great motivator .

The half time chats mean a lot to his team when they are trailing the opponents . He can advise, and change tactics with positional play.

His interaction with the seniors on selection or inducting new players goes a long way .

Empathy, and emotional intelligence too goes a long way in understanding the team members . It’s not only about winning but also about dealing with a loss or poor performance.

Do you think one is better than the other ?

We have great examples of team captains becoming managers/coaches later .

Some examples are

Zinidane captained France at the World Cup and now successively manages Real Madrid

Steve Gerard captained England , Liverpool and now manages Team Rangers .

One cannot forget Sir Alex Ferguson who had a long and successful tenure with the ManUnited team. He balanced discipline with love, and team members remember him as a father figure.

On a personal note , I am very impressed with Juergen Klopp with the way he handles his team , Liverpool. You can see his response to victory with such enthusiasm and defeat with maturity.

So dear reader a penny for your thoughts for whom you think offers good leadership

Damien or Sean ?

Rays of Light

Malachi 4:1-3

But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness will shine out with healing in its rays ; you will leap like calves going out to pasture

You O Lord Renew us

With rays of righteousness ;

Each morn a reminder ,

that light overcomes the dark

When the sun comes streaming in ,

it brings light and warmth

but your Son true light of life ,

brings joy and restores

Renew us O Lord,

with rays of love and mercy

And bring healing in it’s wake

As we wait on you

Thank you Lord,

Is my prayer today,

remaining ever faithful

to you the Holy One

The Time Warp!

As my head touched the grass , my mind drifted into dreams of the past .

I remember Kahlil Gibran quoting that homes caged the dreams of people who needed to be free . In the midst of comforts they lost their freedom to experience nature .

The touch of grass , the cottony clouds above against the backdrop of the azure sky .

Memories go back to an evening near the Daal Lake . The grass had a golden hue and the waters of the lake a shimmering silver with the sun setting gradually . That was a sublime moment .

Then I remember the time a few of my friends went camping in the hills . We carried some food and spent overnight at that spot. A visit of a snake interrupted the quiet night and we had a restless night after that.

Memories to the University Stadium where I trained on the racing tracks . Victories in the 1500 meters race shine out from that time warp. Specially taking the lead before the last lap with a final burst of speed to leave the others far behind .

We played hockey matches at the centre of the grounds . Captaincy gave me the buoyancy to lead the college team with determination. We played the best team those days … and limited them to just a 2-0 victory . We defended so well that our skillful opponents could not easily penetrate our defence , to increase their score.

A highlight of one match was to avenge a rough tackle on my team mate . I waited for an opportune moment and swung my stick onto the Center forward’s leg instead of the ball . Obviously I was penalised . To top it all , that opponent came to deal with me aggressively after the match.

However the opponent captain was known to me and intervened to settle the matter amicably .

Another memory comes back while on a 3 day camp with youth . We trudged up a hill . On reaching the top we got an amazing picture taken of several youth jumping into the sky together.

The most memorable of all was the time I visited London for my daughter’s convocation. At her celebratory party , I sang my favorite song ‘Geeen green grass of home ‘ tweaking the words to honour her.

The memories of my home still linger as in time I’ve moved on to new events , places and find that they become memories too!

Can homes shackle us from a glimpse of freedom ?

Or is there something better still to come ?

Where nature and heaven beckons !

Burnout ?

A lot has been said about ‘burnout’. To me it is a gradual exhaustion of both our mental and physical condition ?

This had taken a toll on my entire being . I got so caught up with meeting deadlines, that I realized my life line was in jeopardy . Will I burn out ?

Who will understand this.

I need to reflect on this myself. Which means to slow down. Awareness of the present is so important.Who has been my anchor if not my Saviour Jesus Christ when passing through troubled waters . Awareness of his presence is even more important.

‘Should you pass through the sea, I will be with you ; or through rivers, they will not swallow you up. Should you walk through fire, you will not be scorched and the flames will not burn you.’ (Isaiah 43:2 )

He has seen me through every challenge. As a student through the difficult days of academic and exam stress, and failed relationships.

Then in the work place to get along with my colleagues , bosses and subordinates.

Along with these challenges , health factors have come in through physical and emotional breakdowns and to a more serious illness like cancer.

There have been times of great success too ! He has literally lifted me from the ashes to high places.

Jesus has been my fortress and tower to run to in times of distress . He gives strength, courage , grace and most importantly his awesome love.

I cherish the people he sent into my life. From family to friends and doctors to even those who have been severe critics . All had a role to shape me into the person I am now.

What is my secret ?

It is to abide in Jesus . Without him I am nothing . He makes it clear when he says

‘I am the vine and you are the branches . Whoever remains in me, with me in him, bears fruit in plenty; for cut off from me you can do nothing .

Anyone who does not remain in me is like a branch that has been thrown away – he withers; these branches are collected and thrown on the fire and they are burnt. (John 15:5,6)

To remain in him , I need to spend time with him in prayer, read scripture and frequent the sacraments .

Many today say “ I do not have time.”

In today’s situation , can the same be said ?

If a person loses his job , I’m sure he will have enough time on his hands . What happens when severe illness strikes?

So why wait for a dire situation to arise ?

Why not start praying daily ; to seek the Lord and be saved ?