Have you entered a home with 22 dogs barking their welcome to you .
It’s a home on the slope of a hill giving you a distant and picturesque view of Goa with rivers lakes and lush greenery .
We were received by Alcina,into the spacious home, for our meeting with Suzette. My daughter Annalize had been called for the trial of her wedding gown.
“When a client walks in, a human being walks in first, and before I lend them my hands I win their hearts . “
This is the motto of Suzette as Designer. For Annalize , the lace and material for her gown was just right ; the designing and fit most suited for the bride. Suzette works with passion to give her best .
However she is also an artiste, poet, author of short stories and has a non funded NGO for stray and abandoned dogs . But most of all a very compassionate person.
I saw some beautiful paintings, each of which has a meaning. I was surprised to learn that it had taken 2-3 years of deep life experiences , 2 month’s to put down a feature and 2-3 days to paint . In like manner, Suzette writes poetry and short stories .
Her pet project is really the pets she has rescued . When she refers to the universal opinion of the good breed of dogs over stray dogs ….she opines that dogs are just dogs , and love makes a difference in their response . She continues “ But who am I to preach the gospel of universality; idealised I am just an artiste who was designed to create art and not change the policies of the world .”
She has rescued 22 stray and abandoned dogs . The first was named Thomas ; he had fallen off a bridge and fractured his spine. She has nursed him to good health . All 22 pets have been rescued in some way and restored to normalcy… each of them having a name. The most recent pet was named ‘Blue’ as he has blue eyes. He is so affectionate, and kept licking my feet all over.
She also daily feeds 30 stray dogs outside who patiently wait at specific points as she drives on the food trail.
Suzette is a survivor of a serious motor crash , but was at peace even then. She has no regrets of any kind and believes that life is transient . She has a deep sense of spirituality. Her daily discipline includes yoga.
“I am ready for the call when it comes “ says Suzette.
So ended the encounter with a courageous lady of myriad dimensions.
My Lord and
Saviour Jesus Christ has been a pillar
of strength and peace, during the past 6 months of a rollercoaster ride. The
storms of life blew over but his presence was enough to see me through this
September and November 2018 , I drove to Goa several times with Anjean, to
prepare for our daughter Annalize’s wedding, Goa being the venue.
November I began to have a throat problem , which did not get cured with
antibiotics . As the problem persisted , I consulted a specialist who observed
a small mass on the tonsil during the oral examination. Subsequently , he
advised that a biopsy be done, which led to the early diagnosis of Non
Hodgekins Lymphoma. Dr Jaquie was very
helpful at the Hinduja Hospital,
from that first instance as well as
during my regular hospital visits for the chemotherapy later.
I also got a shock to know that my investments with our trusted broker were in
jeopordy , as his business had failed. His promise to repay everything , would
remain a promise until he hoped to recover, by merging his company with a bigger firm, in
the near future.
diagnosed on 13th December 2018 , and Annalize’s wedding was scheduled for 27th
December 2018. The doctor calmed us , specially Anjean and Annalize, and mentioned that the early diagnosis was very
helpful and the cancer could be treated and cured ( a blessing indeed). He advised us to celebrate the wedding and
commence my treatment soon after.
to the urgency and financial duress, I was constrained to take loans to meet
with these challenges.
Ralph , was a big help at this stage. He had come down from London for the wedding. All my
family proceeded to Goa which was the
venue . He stayed back to help me with my visits to the hospitals and so much more. I admired his
steadfast approach , not knowing that he was quite upset himself.
celebrations in Goa went off very well.
The Lord had given me a total acceptance of my health condition. I took
part wholeheartedly in the celebrations. My family too got over the initial
shock and all went well .
returned to Mumbai on 1st January 2019
and my treatment commenced on 2nd January 2019.
every session , I was admitted to the
hospital , to be administered the drugs. The specialist doctor and his team,
and the nursing care, was excellent. The after effects of the chemotherapy, were
at times very painful. Surprisingly
during 3 specific occasions Romeo Fernando, leader of the Community of the Good Shepherd, telephoned me.
He prayed fervently with me , pleading of the Lord for my healing ; and with God’s grace I was relieved from pain. His intercessory
group prayed regularly for my healing. I cannot forget my mentor Ken Knoecker ( Elder of the
Servants of the Word) , for all the prayer and support extended to me, during this
time. I also discovered , the aspect of sharing my
suffering with the Lord, and interceding for others.
from my Community (Community of Jesus: Light of the World) and the local Church and Communities ( Sword
of the Spirit Communities) from far and
near prayed for me. There was an
outpouring of love as members regularly telephoned or visited me, and also prayed with me. People who I hardly knew as well as old
friends, assured me that they were
praying for my healing and visited me.
daughter Karen with her family from UK,
specially changed their flight schedule, ( which involved a fresh ticket) to be
with us for the first session. Subsequently my son Ralph took time off , for
one month from his job in London ( while working from home) to be with us in
Mumbai for the next sessions. Annalize too spent more than a month later and
finally Larissa was with us in May.
administered 6 cycles of chemotherapy from January to April, and after the 4th
cycle , the petscan showed that I was clear of cancer. Praise and thanks to
This was a
time of great restoration and renewal. I had plenty of time to pray and read
scripture. Importantly , Ambrose our community member brought Holy Communion
for me daily, which was a source of healing and kept me positive and
willingly took up responsibility to lead the Community of Jesus: Light of the
World , in my absence during these months. His numerous visits were an indication
of a brotherly tie, which I deeply cherish.
I also saw
bonds of brotherhood within my extended family being renewed. My two elder
brothers, Allwyn and Gerald who are doctors, and my niece Joanne (also a
doctor) , reached out to me in significant ways.
cared for me so well . Diet and
medicines were constantly monitored. So I came through these months peacefully.
Dane, a young man from the Youth group ,
was kind enough to drive us to the hospital on several occasions . Some of my
community members also took time off to be with me at the hospital. But Anjean
was my constant companion.
meantime , help poured in from various sources. I am truly overwhelmed at this
me His love , through these brothers and sisters.
assured me that His provision is enough
A few days
ago , when again I experienced a
setback, I was assured by the following words from scripture:
‘Give us this day our daily bread ‘( Matthew 6:11)
further reflection and study, I was led to believe that daily bread is for daily sustenance and not to
accumulate wealth. Bread also signifies the Eucharist ,which is life giving.)
A little further :
‘ No one can be slave of two masters; he will either hate the first and love the second, or treat the first with respect and the second with scorn. You cannot be the slave both of God and of money.’ ( Matthew 6: 24)
‘ Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you are to eat and what you are to drink, (Matthew 6:25a)………..‘But strive first for the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things will be given to you as well.’ ( Matthew 6: 33)
Isaiah 55: 1-3
‘ Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
Though you have no money , come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost , wine and milk.
Why spend money on what is not bread,
your wages on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.
Pay attention , come to me;
listen, and your soul will live.
listen , and your soul will live.’
(Isaiah 55: 1-3)
The Lord has revealed his love and
care so much more during these days. He is truly my Saviour and Healer and I can trust in his provision
For this I say “Thank you Lord”
And “ thank you” to every person who
has reached out to me.
The little fellow Tim the sparrow flitted about searching for tasty morsels from the plants ; alongside was Tiny his partner also foraging. Most of the gang of crows led by Doug unofficially claim the area of the huge Mayflower tree as their own.
Then far above we have a visitor McMoran. He is of medium size and has a tinge of green on his wings and head. He has an awkward squark and darts from one branch to another. Do I know his breed? He looks good and is very rarely seen in the vicinity.
What can you expect then? Lets count Doug and his gang. ..about a dozen, and getting into a frenzy.
“ Is that how you guys welcome me , a tourist ? “ questions McMoran
“ Says who? Are you are a tourist? “ caws Doug. “ You look like a trespasser.”
An upset McMoran squawks back “ And who decides who am I”
“ The May flower tree has existed since the past 60 years; my great-grandparents nested here.” Replied Doug.
A nonchalant McMoran continued moving among the topmost branches . Who can stop him?
The chorus of caws increases, and strangely….subsides . The gang of crows realized that , numbers do not matter. Courageous McMoran did not get blown away by the aggressive crows.
What about Tim and Tiny. They finished their search for tasty morsels and have enjoyed their time in the sun. Did they get overawed by the number of crows and their size?
Each is gifted differently. The ability to use their gifts will decide their future. Every weakness is compensated by a strength. What about the crow? Does his appearance deceive you?
The crow is one of the most intelligent and sturdy birds. No wonder , beauty in this case does not matter. They care for their young and mourn for those who die.
Sparrows though small, send their young out early and they begin to fend for themselves.
Who was the visitor ? Dear reader, you need to help me as I can only describe this quiet tourist.
Lets hope he comes again with more of his kind. And may he be welcomed by all the natives of the good ole May Flower tree.
‘Ye shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.” ( John 8:32)
Man has fought for freedom. To be free from all that chains one’s liberty.
So what is freedom? I wonder at the world around me. But then I see the birds in the sky , some on the trees above me. They languish among the foliage. Their only concerns are for the next morsel of food or to build a nest for the young. They stretch and sing and fly to different places.
I hear the screech of the parrot. Does anyone tell it to stop its sound ? Who defines boundaries and territories? Each one to his own place in this land. Who governs their lives? Who provides for their food, shelter and protection?
Yes no government can meet with standards to govern nature. Its only our beloved Father God our Creator who knows best. He has given each a measure of ability to live.
So what is freedom?
I may share what is not freedom. When a man subjucates another to deprive him of living a full life- and forces his way of thinking on another; then it is the beginning of slavery. It is also when truth is covered by lies, so that the common man is deprived of knowing his rights .
Any wonder that Rabindranath Tagore in his poem shared his view on ‘true freedom’
Where the mind is without fear
…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’ ……..
Man begins to live a life of freedom where there is trust and no fear.
So when you know the truth , the truth shall set you free.
Pilate said to Jesus, ”What is truth?” (John 18:38)
Have you sought this answer?
Seek the Lord first and you will find all the answers.
‘’ Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you shall find; knock, the door will be opened to you.
For the one who asks always receives; the one who seeks always receives; the one who knocks will always have the door opened to him. ‘ (Luke 11:9-11)
And Jesus goes on to say ….’ If you then who are evil, know how to give your children what is good, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”
So when you effectively pray and ask then and only then
will you discover the truth and you shall be free indeed.
Then you will understand why the birds and the fish and animals live a life free of worries.
They trust their Creator implicitly for all their needs.
You will know then, that there is no need to stress and strain over what to eat and what to drink and what to wear. ( Luke 11:29) Your heavenly Father well knows you need them(Luke11:30b)
Know also that there are consequences, when man is deprived of his liberty or freedom.
History is replete with examples , that highlight good or bad govenance.
So once again, “ You shall know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” . ( John 8:32)
I sit out on my terrace with the overhanging Gul Mohur tree. As I sip my coffee and enjoy the grilled cheese sandwich , I realize that I am actually beginning to smell the coffee.
The past two months have been so hectic, that there was just no time to stand (or sit)and stare. November and December vanished like the wind.
Memories flood back, and I savor all the visitors from far and near and specially my family visiting from London. Our home was so full , that naturally we were all out of our comfort zones but still happy. A hasty hunt would either help discover things I needed or leave me dazed at being unable to do so.
It was a mix of meetings, both serious and also of fun. Travel became a part of this time, when we visited our home town in Goa. There was a week end at Matheran a hill station. And I did get an opportunity to walk ( a really long walk) with a Brother from London and was so fatigued that I also lost my favorite Nike cap. The most beautiful moment I treasure was to see my dining table surrounded by all my children and also two grandchildren. An eventful birthday celebration was preparing a ‘go jetters’ cake for my 4 year old grandson; he celebrated it with a few friends and later with the orphan children at Mother Teresa’s Asha Dhaan. My second daughter’s, birthday was eventful as her special friend proposed to her and there was an engagement the next day, in the presence of our two immediate families.
I wonder how these months passed. Christmas was so eventful ; there were moments of quietness in the Advent Recollection , Joyful Thanksgiving services, Children’s Christmas parties, and one of the first ever…when the Eucharist was celebrated in the neighbourhood Cross Oratory for those of our sick and aged members who are unable to attend the church services.
These were times I was called upon to help in different ways. It was challenging but rewarding.
Then the New Year started with a bang!
We had our own Community Council meetings and Team meetings followed by presenting the Thrust for year 2018 for my church community. Through this also, it was only the Lord that I could rely for guidance .
And now as I gaze up to the widespread branches with the leaves providing cover from the midmorning sun, I see the pigeons, crows, wood barbets, all at peace.
Do they ever have a fast paced life? I see them preening their feathers. The crow cawing lazily. The wood barbet carefully observing me , a little away from the little round hole he pecked away in the bark, some days ago.
Looks like its time for his family to begin.
Then I remember this quote from St Bernadette to her Sisters
“ Do not just be a channel for grace, but a reservoir, an overflowing reservoir. No sooner has a channel received grace than it pours it out. A reservoir waits to be filled up and then offers grace to those who come to draw from its superabundance.
If you do not act wisely, you exhaust yourself in senseless work.” (The Private Notes from the book ‘ A Holy Life – The Writings of Saint Bernadette of Lourdes’)
Yes it makes sense to “smell the coffee” , with a friend and at times even when you are alone.
But really, are you ‘alone’ ?
‘ And know that I am with you always; to the end of time.’ ( Matthew 28:20b)
So the next time you have your coffee ( or even tea) savour the moment, listen……. and
Life is a series of stages and we move from one stage to another. I was young and had a different perspective towards age. Oft times I wondered why do retired people still seek to work when they should think of the many youngsters waiting to get suitable jobs.
However now the tables have turned. I am on the older side. Yes I still think it a good thing to help the young people get jobs. But then there are opportunities even for a person at my age. So which is better : to rust or to wear out.
I am reminded of this quote “ In Him we live and move and have our being.” So I begin to understand that at the different stages of life , the calling starts changing.
Its only when we are aware of the indwelling Holy Spirit that true wisdom and understanding begins to take place. The Holy One helps me to discover more and more of the numerous gifts and talents that He has blessed me with. There is of course one corollary: Will I use this for myself selfishly or for the common good.
My perspective will change once I understand this. What I receive I share and help others.
The more I do this . the more am I blessed. The Dead Sea is an example of ‘receiving;’ without ‘sharing’ or ‘giving’. There is no life in the Dead Sea; this may also happen to a person who is selfish.
At this moment I thought of writing on the ‘Empty Nest’ Syndrome. But that would be a bit too pessimistic. When the Lord has blest me so much, who am I to cling to my children?
‘They come through you but not from you,
and though they are with you yet they belong not to you,
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts,
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams’ ….quoting Khalil Gibran.
So this Christmas when my whole family returns to India , to celebrate with Anjean and I, it is indeed time to rejoice. I will not think that it is only for a short time and after that back to a quiet existence. As one preacher said “ Live every moment” as every moment is a gift from the Lord.
Advent is indeed a time of preparation. In a bigger way it is a renewed waiting for the Child Jesus in our hearts. I am so excited as I will indeed see my grandchildren Samuel and Mary Ann and my children. Memories flood back to my childhood, when I too waited for Christmas . I may not have understood the full meaning of Christmas, but at that time it was Toys, Sweets and Family time…..Santa Claus a fantasy , which collapsed when we turned 11years old and told the truth. The birth of Jesus , gradually took on a deeper meaning.
So what next? Families will come and go….. Come January normalcy may return. But will it?
There is One who is changeless. Let the mountains and hills disappear, and the seas roar away; the biggest miracle awaits , when you and I encounter the Holy One. I don’t think I will ever regret this aging process. (By the way, a child begins to get old from day one)
There will be challenges, victories and defeats, sufferings, and failing health….but wait a moment……I will share something very special …I am one day closer to meeting my Lord face to face. This is a very reassuring reality. Do I want to go to heaven ? Yes for sure.
Then I too realise that I cannot experience the next stage without dying. Are you afraid? Am I afraid? Well when I forget the truth of who is with me then these are the few moments.
So it is important to know “ In Him we live and move and have our being” (Acts 17:28) , then joy will take over from sorrow, and then we can look at every day with hope for eternity.