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!
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 ?
What does a young man do at times when the pandemic is prevalent.
Sam looked out of his window facing the road at Bandra. He is tall , very observant and a computer wizard . At heart he is compassionate.
He saw a very dejected looking man plodding past his home, at the end of the day . He seemed tired. Eyes were intense and lips red from chewing Paan . He was a bit grey, heavy set, with a drooping moustache.
Sam guessed the man needed help.
He hurried out to meet this man
“Where are you going ? Can I help you?
“Oh , I don’t know where ; I’ve lost hope “replied the man
“What is your name? Why are you not wearing your mask,” ( for protection during the Covid pandemic)
He quickly pulled out his mask and then replied :
“ My name is Mohan. I worked as a manual labourer at a godown, in Sion. Now there is no work , what can I do.”
Sam asked him a few questions about his work in the current pandemic . This triggered a flood of responses .
“Due to the restrictions most constructions have stopped. So how will there be any work? “
“Will you return to your village? “ enquired Sam
“I am worried as there are limited trains and many people like me ( migrant workers) are returning to their homes in the villages . “ said Mohan
“Do you have a place to stay? “
“Only for one week more , as I don’t have money to pay rent for the next month.”
“How about your food?”
“I cook just Dal /Rotis and veg , what is available, just one meal a day
It then struck Sam to direct Mohan to food counters set up outside the church nearby.
“Mohan, please go to St. Peter’s Church and you will meet some people who will help you.”
“Also Mohan , I will help you in booking a ticket to go home at your village. But please take care and wear your mask ok?”
Mohan’s entire demeanour changed . Hope returned , with a simple gesture of compassion from Sam .
How can I help others during these times of trial ?
If you see your brother standing by the road
With a heavy load …..
Try a little kindness ( song by Glen Campbell)
Yes at St Peter’s Church , like many others , volunteers are doing yeoman service in providing food packets to many who are in need .
( Paan : is chewed after a meal or even at anytime . It is made of betel nut , chuna : slaked lime and red katha paste : from acacia tree and wrapped in betel leaf )
So what I say , should be for the good of listeners.
Do I speak to build up or destroy ?
Can I be an instrument to build unity ? Which is better? To spew venom or speak words of wisdom .
How will I be aware of my words? A good way will be to reflect either at the end of the first half of day or at the day’s end.
Surely I will know I have spoken well, and can note that as the highlight of the day.
Recalling poor words , will help me to avoid that in the future .
How do I speak with wisdom .
Listening will help a lot. One gets a good understanding of the context of things said or unsaid. An analysis of the conversation in progress , helps to give a good response .
Spending time in quiet meditation and prayer goes a long way. Wisdom comes from above. It’s a gift of God .
Am I boring? Do I talk too much ? I think many including me will not realise this .
A better way is to take interest in others ; in their successes , struggles , worries and their joys too. Giving the other person a chance to speak helps to generate a good exchange of speaking and listening .
When I write , Is it the same ? Here lies the difference. Unless I get feedback on what I write , there will be no exchange of thoughts from my dear reader .
The beauty of writing , though , is that it’s an invitation to come on to my plain of thought.
You may have heard that cancer is curable. But you need to know that inspite of good medical research and care, the cancer can return. My type of cancer was considered the milder one. In 2019 I went through 6 sessions of Chemotherapy, from January to April. There was a gap of 3 weeks between each session. There were some bad side effects and that is the time I found solace in prayer and importantly others praying for me. God gave me courage and grace to endure and by June 2019 I was cancer free.
This led me to think that I now needed to lead a full life and make the most of the extended time given to me by the Lord. My children arranged for us to be with them from August until November, partly in Dubai and the remainder in UK. Anjean and I were overwhelmed with joy to be with them. I did a lot of travel, and met so many of our friends, community members and family. I even got an opportunity to play tennis, which I had not done in the past 25 years.
However on my return to India, in December I was diagnosed with a mild relapse of cancer. So after a round of investigations I was given 6 sessions of radiation . The subsequent report was good,
Then in April suddenly I saw some nodules on my right arm and shoulder. My doctor sent me for a petscan and it showed that the cancer had spread to 4 different areas. I was shocked. Over and above the shock, I was given to understand that Non Hodgekins Lymphoma is generally curable; but if it returns , then I fall in the category of 40% where it will not be cured. So this left me quite stunned.
Then began the chemotherapy at end of April, which was given in two parts ….a full day session and a half day session to complete one cycle. I was scheduled to take 6 complete cycles. Again I saw the provision of God in my finances through family, friends and medical insurance. By June 2020, I was again given a scan which showed an all clear report. My doctor though recommended that I complete the 6 cycles so that the treatment dealt with the cancer thoroughly. This last part has been very painful and I have had bad side effects. Constant Diarhoea and inability to retain a normal meal. Anjean has been rock solid with me at this time to standby me, praying and looking after all my needs…truly an angel to me as her full name is really ‘ Maria dos Anjos’.
I am grateful to my children, who have been doing their best , even though so far. They give us the feeling as if they are with us, with their numerous phone calls and even zoom meetings to pray together.
I specially acknowledge a good neighbour Hansel Baptista. He has gone out of his way to help to take us to and fro to the Hospital for these sessions. Hansel has become like a family member to us, in the absence of our children. Likewise Ben and Sandra, have always been ever ready to help us at any time ( we specially appreciate the times of intercession) . Aroon and Elaine from our Community and neighbours Avina and Carmen have made special efforts to reach out in significant ways . The call to pray from current community leader Eugene Peres, via telephone network of members, before every chemotherapy session has been a blessing.
Yes , prayers from my own Community of Jesus and Communities in India and all over the world, specially London, Glasgow and Dublin and Manila, and the Brothers from the Servants of the Word, have sustained me with courage and grace, to live a life fully. The Lord’s presence is sufficient indeed. Romeo Fernando and his team of intercessors from the Community of the Good Shepherd have been consistently praying for me.
Finally I acknowledge Fr Nigel Barett our Parish Priest from Our Lady of the Rosary, who made a special effort to bring me Holy Communion on a few occasions when I needed the Lord so much.
This has set me thinking about a lot of things.
Did I seriously think that after the first round of treatment and being cleared of traces of cancer that I will not get it again.?
Did I ever realize that many caṇcer patients suffer much more than me.
Am I aware that I have courage and a positive approach , only because this comes from the grace of
God and that many people known to me and even not known are praying for me?
What am I going to do in the months ahead? How will I respond to a God who loves me so much?
Finally , should I not accept that the final call can come any time irrespective of all the medical treatment I receive ?
So this second round of cancer relapse has helped me to realize and relook at life.
Importantly it is a reminder to me that my life on earth is limited. It has given me the assurance that whatever happens, as long as I live now…………
‘If we live we live to the Lord ; and If we die, we die to the Lord , whether we live or whether we die, we are the Lord’s.’ ( Romans 8:14)
We visited London on a few occasions . On one of these trips Anthony Bull hosted Anjean and myself. Our daughter Larissa was single and staying with the Bulls ōver the past two years.
Anthony ānd Julie have a loving family . They are active in Community life . Their interests are varied . Anthony is a senior professor in Imperial College. He is a sportsman at heart and very fond of rugby. His keenness to keep fit results in him riding to the college on his bycycle.
Julie is an engineering scholar. Students of maths have benefited from her proficiency in teaching this subject. She has a passion for pottery and I was impressed to see some of the crockery in use, which was her handiwork. They have 3 very accomplished children.
Our stay was short and sweet. But some interesting memories still linger.
On one of the days the assorted cookie jar was kept for evening tea . I think those cookies were one of the best I’ve had, of different flavours and most enrobed with chocolate .
Now when the home members had left for work, next morning I began to feel the pangs of hunger by mid-morning. Visions of the delicious cookies came to mind. I searched for the jar and then helped myself to a few.
Later that evening , when all returned from work, Anthony enquired “ Lets have some of the cookies”
Wonder of wonders ….the level of the cookies in the jar had reduced considerably .
You can imagine how surprised we all were.
Where did the cōokies disappear… I looked āt Anthony, and saw a faint smile appear …..
“Can you guess who ate the cookies?”
Anthony shared some interesting aspects of his life. His interest in sports led him to work on the study of the cricket bat dimensions . His research on this, led to the standardisation of the bat, based on his inputs. His efforts on standardisation of the tennis racket however did not progress as those in authority did not accept his inputs. The result of this shows today , as tennis players use rackets of various dimensions and materials, which may not heip in keeping a level playing field.
I was very impressed to hear Anthony’s story of how he met Roger Bannister the famous athlete who was the first to break the sub 4 minute barrier for the mile.
Lastly I remember their pet cat , Tiger. He adopted them rather than the other way around. Tiger had occupied the premises before Anthony and family had moved in and begun the renovations . Tiger too became a friend and even posed for pictures.
We were grateful to Anthony and Julie for hosting us, but importantly that Larissa had a home to stay during these few years.
It was lockdown time since April in London due to the Covid 19. Here again Anthony and Julie were a big support to Larissa on her wedding day 21st March 2020 .Larissa wedded Lloyd in a quiet ceremony with only a dozen guests present in the church. We had already returned to India in November 2019. The plans for an India wedding did not materialize due to the corona virus pandemic.
Anthony has been very active in raising awareness of Mental Health and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Through challenges on Facebook, with the pushups , it certainly gives hope at these times of the lockdown and social distancing. Thank you Anthony for this initiative with your brother Andrew, and getting so many involved.
We know that even though Larissa and Lloyd are now settled in their rental apartment, they do have a family who will always reach out to them.
Who knows , on our next visit we may see some more cookie jars.
These are some memories of my wedding with Aṇjean, on 26th May 1985. Naturally, our 4 children missed this wedding. They have now grown up and spread their wings to other countries. This blog is dedicated to them.
The miracle of answered prayer : much before our wedding date was finalised, we surveyed the Mumbai venues for our wedding. We may have gone for the Catholic Gymkhana venue which was the most convenient for wedding receptions. However Anjean surprised me by suggesting the Air India roof garden. The AI head office was my work place. It was certainly not a venue for weddings . Her response was you make the request and I will pray to Mary Help of Christians . On tenterhooks I approached the Director of Administration with the request , and I was stunned when he acceded to it.
Which is more important ….the bride or the car: the bridal car was supposed to leave from Mazagon to ṭhe bride’s location at 3pm . Till 3.15pm the car had not yet left . Under great stress, I went out to check on this, and then the famous words spilled out …”Which is more important the car or the bride?” On paper the question seems an innocent query, but it was expressed in a tone which made the decorators (my close family volunteers) quell at such anger, and the car was despatched immediately.
Arrangements at the reception venue: since this was going to be the first wedding reception of the kind (Catholic wedding : a celebration of dinner with dancing) , frequent phone calls kept coming home to me. How do we set the tables? The table cloths are flying with the wind. We want additional manpower. Why? Because the regular catering staff wanted to join in the celebration. I was so exasperated that I decided not to answer any phone calls. In those days mobile phones had not yet existed.
At the St Anne’s Church: Anjean’s favourite colour showed in the pews which were tastefully decorated with yellow flowers, specially done by Mother Teresa’s nuns. My cousin Blossom and her choir were ready in advance at the church.
We had three priests celebrating the Eucharist. Fr Juan ( St Anne’s) Fr Hillary Rodriques ( my spiritual advisor) and Fr Matthew ( Nagpur) . Fr Hillary’s homily on Luke 1: 42 , “Nothing is impossible to God” stayed with me for many years of our married life, and helped me to grow in surrendering any difficulties to the Lord.
Air India Nariman Point : Our entry at the roof garden was so dramatic. It gives me goosebumps as I remember the 7th Galaxy band striking up the grand entry of the bridal couple with the tradional tune …. Some flashes of memories come to my mind. The fast lifts at the AI office was a treat for the young children who were bold enough to take the lifts to the uppermost floors (22nd) and back. My little nephew Adrian was covered with powder as he enjoyed rolling on the dance floor.The 7th Galaxy belted out music, even more enthusiastically when they recognised some of our guests from Goa . There were Beatle songs and also the Portuguese medley to bring everyone into the mood. Talking about moods, well a lot of gifts came in through the security gate by our guests from Goa, which also helped a good deal in raising the spirits : these contained mature and good wines and spirits carefully gift wrapped. My Dining Facility Staff joined in the wedding celebrations with gusto. They were also given a share of the spirits that were sneaked in.
The reception ended with group photographs taken for memories.
Finally the time came for us to move to our new home in Matharpacady. I did fairly well in carrying my bride Anjean over the threshold . But then we both climbed the stairs together helping each other as we progressed with family life.
Karen , Annalize , Ralph and Larissa , may you treasure these little anecdotes of your parent’s wedding.
Photo credits: Subodh Amin
( pictures taken on regular film, and later copied by digital camera)