Come to a better place

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I walked slowly and kept looking at the different plants by the roadside.

I saw one plant, quite tall, but most of its leaves were wilting. I ask this plant , “why do you look dejected. “The response from the plant seemed like “ It is my age that is showing”

Then suddenly I noticed a few tiny leaves, and shoots from one of the old branches peeping up. This  surprised me, and even encouraged me.

Surely there is a future for the old plant. Even though the old leaves wilt and drop to the earth; they  do not fall in vain.

The earth receives them into her arms and then gives birth to newness in other new plants and even leaves and shoots in the old plant.

So this set me thinking. Did not God call Abraham to a better place; to leave his immediate land and go to a foreign place.  What was Abrahams’s response? He trusted God and knew that God always gave the best. Even though he could not see it happening , he believed, and surely all throughout his life ,  he  looked forward to that better place.

Am I ready to bloom where planted and also to be ready to move to a better place when the time comes.

What appears to be slowing down, and diminishing is also ,getting ready for a better place.

The struggles of life, prepare one for a better life.

To abide with the Lord forever!!!

 

Our Mochi

 

His father Vithal Karande was the first  mochi in the village.

He is one of our  icons. None other than Ashok Karande our lean and  talkative mochi ( Hindi word for cobbler) We pass him by daily and he will always have a smile and a brief look at your footwear.

How is it today. Does it require a stitch or two? Or is it so dull and requires a shine like the brilliant sunshine.

He hails from a  family of traditional cobblers. He started in a big way, by stitching handmade shoes. …which were well made and quite well priced too!!

His father continued with usual repairs and shoe shines, in a different location of the village adjacent to a big bungalow. Ashok was given pride of place in a makeshift workplace under a staircase of a house, which serves has his ‘Operation Theatre’.

Now you will wonder why? He loves to call the shoes that he receives for repair, as his ‘patients’.

One of his immediate concerns is to ensure that “ Patient’s cha operation zala, thari, gari la , patnar “ ( The moment the patient’s surgery is done, he has to be sent home) so he says i.e He requires the finished shoes to be handed over, as he has limited place.

I was stunned to see him one day at the nearby Dockyard Road Railway Station. He had changed to his civies (normal attire) unlike his work clothes, which is a loose fitting pyjama, and top.

I enquired, after a brief struggle to recognize Ashok in  his changed appearance “ Kai, Ashok,  tumcha office sutli kai? Ani gari chalale? “   He then replied “ Ho,office sutli, pan, tumchi patient ajun gari nahi geli.” ( What Ashok, you finished for the day and going home? He replied” Yes, but your patient has still not gone home.”  In other words, ‘ you better ensure that you take your finished shoes home’.

In today’s world, where there is a throwaway culture, Ashok belongs to a slowly disappearing breed of cobblers, who still plays an important role in the village of Matharpacady. His place also serves as a meeting point for a little chat for some of the passersby.

Matharpacady itself is one of   a few preserved villages of quaint bungalows in the heart of South Múmbai,  struggling to retain its stature and resilience of old.  However Ashok gives us a  message that come what may  we can still retain oúr ‘ identity’ in a fast changing world.

These shoes were made for walking…….and when you need to look after them:

Just contact Ashok Karande, and he has  a solution for all ailments that affect ‘ leather shoes’, laced with some humour if you have time for a chat.

 

( Interesting characters of Matharpacady village, ….to showcase the traditions of more than 150 years old Heritage precinct…..now a tourist attraction , specially for the passengers of the Cruise liners)

PS: This blog has been reposted to include Our Mochi’s real name and his pic, with permission.

The Struggle 

 

He never gave up. He was of mild build, with intense eyes. His school days were like any other boy of his age. He studied well and participated in games and did well in his exams.

But his struggle started in college. He suddenly discovered a sense of freedom. He was popular in the class. He took part in sports and even captained the hockey team. The girls in his class liked him and this is where he stumbled . He got so involved with sport and his special friends that he just could not balance his life between sport, study and friends.
His first year was good and he succeeded in doing well. A key point in his studies was the method involved. He had always studied from notes prepared by the teacher in school days. Now times had changed and in college he had to either make his own notes from class lectures and reference books or then take the help of guide books.
With no proper system in place he left things to the last and when the time for exams came up, he would just crash. He never knew what had hit him ; this seriously affected his performances in exams and later led to him not appearing for some exams.
The struggle went on, into professional college with several changes in the chosen streams.
His breakthrough came about when one day he visited the college library. He borrowed a text book and tried his hand at making his own notes . ……It was then that he tasted success. He never looked back and thereon persevered through several other challenges.
How did he make this breakthrough. Two things happened . He had a mother who prayed for him daily, through all his struggles. He too discovered that his time of prayer with the Lord actually helped him immensely, and he gave a minimum of one hour of his time in prayer with the Lord.
This very struggle helped him to persevere and never give up. In his very weakness he discovered a loving Heavenly Father. It was then that his life changed from being indecisive and helpless, to a more confident man. He went on facing every challenge in the strength of the Lord, “ when I am weak I am strong” (2Corinthians 12:10), thus taking every one of them in petition to the Lord.
He was blest to be lifted from nothing to something. He wore many caps and now faithfully serves the Lord. That man is the one who writes this about his struggle and the result!!!

 

‘To Be’

‘To Be’

The gift awaits
As the day draws near;
Who are you?
The giver or the gift?
He came : The true light
In Him was life.
The life that is the light of man.

Are you ready?
To receive Him
The priceless gift,
And best of all?
His light shines in the darkness
And even today darkness cannot overcome it.

Then be a child once more,
Be born again,
Be transformed
Into His likeness
Reconcile, Renew and
Be His gift,
To your brother and sister.

‘In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.'( John 1:4,5)

Wish you the love, joy and peace of Christmas!

Grace filled Holiday

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Flying and driving seem quite different and yet so similar. Its true that pilots manouvre their aircrafts and drivers steer their vehicles. But my experience of driving to Goa by car was akin to flying. The route via highway NH4(NH 47 as it shows on signboards) is memorable. The roads have been maintained very well. No wonder that one experiences ‘flying’.

I called it Grace filled, as I am one who has at various times experienced ‘road rage’. This is so common specially in Mumbai. But the miracle of this trip was a spirit of calmness and peace.

Even in Goa, our outings were so good. Mind you, in India there is a lot of rancor about the demonetization, and people expressing their annoyance and frustration in this regard.

What I saw in Goa was so different. People were peacefully conducting their lives without much ado.

We visited family and friends within the few days on this trip. Our guest on this trip, a Brother, who helps us in community building work, took time off, to take in the breath of Goa.

Most likely his presence was instrumental in the grace we experienced. We were given warm welcomes at different homes. Hospitality in Goa is such that the best is offered at the dining table. ‘ No thank you, that’s enough’ is a phrase which will not be entertained. You can just imagine what happens when you visit three homes in one day.

The conversations brought back memories of the past. Pets, gardens and the well laid out properties, were  a good part of this fellowship. In one of the cousins place we witnessed Goa of old, where even farming was given importance. Ponds brimming with fish, cattle, ( with Gobar gas to provide home fuel), coconut trees, pet dogs reminded me of the natural Goa, which is slowly evolving to a modern Goa.

Methinks , that an avid photographer will thoroughly enjoy such moments; to capture memories and look back at them, is priceless. Now I understand why there are so many pictures of sunsets and sunrises. When you visit the beaches of Goa, the sunset takes your breath away. It is so beautiful that you will just look with awe; surely God is the Marvellous Artist in all His creation.

During this short sojourn, I was very keen on visiting an old cousin who I had not seen for the past 4-5 years. It gave me great joy to see him. He also shared some of his profound experiences of God speaking into his life. He lives alone and yet is in touch with the world around him. Another uncle was happy to see us, but did not speak much. Our presence was enough to bring him solace.

A very touching moment of visits to family was one to another cousin who has been diagnosed with cancer. Joy, suffering , love and faith, and the expression of this faith in action was a revelation. We prayed together, more importantly for acceptance of the moment and God’s will. Her faith in God, over the  years and specially now through her suffering, has brought about a transformation in my cousin’s family, wherein her immediate family have become faithfilled and have renewed lives.

Our final day in Goa, was at the Bay15, a quaint place close to the seaside. Words cannot describe the sunset we experienced at this place. The ambience of the resort matched the environment.

Log cabins, a little swimming pool, a spread out dining area with each table having a natural  thatched roof, was so beautiful. That was the last day, but the best , as we had enough time on hand to relax and just enjoy the moment with a quiet meal.

I have only  shared  about the sunsets in Goa. On the journey back to Mumbai, we left before sunrise. We were just past the outskirts of Goa, when the sun rose in all its splendor. I was flushed with excitement, and saw this while driving and also in the side mirror. My wish was…..to photograph this scene. But all wishes cannot be granted. I was not alone , and the urgency to move on, prevailed.

Much later while reaching Amboli, we stopped for breakfast. Here we  made up for the missed oppportunity of clicking the sunrise. We got  a scenic view of the valley from the mountain top , a reflection of the sun’s rays from behind our vantage point. This moment requires to be still and just take in the awesomeness of nature.

We breezed through the remaining journey. At  lunch hour I got the windmills on their slow rotation. The best part of the journey was sailing through the Pune Expressway , above Pune, which made our drive that much shorter. I had never driven from Pune to Mumbai in 2 hours,  but was thrilled when this happened. The bonus of the entire trip was that we did not have to pay any toll fees throughout the journey, thanks to  the relief measure to offset the turmoil of short change against the retired Rs 500 and Rs 1000 notes.

I ask you a question. Can we smile even when we are immersed in difficulities. Can we be joyous inspite of the miserable conditions prevailing.

My answer is a resounding ‘Yes’ ! As this Brother says ,we can always rise above our circumstances. Nothing can stop that, when we have the eyes of a loving Father ‘God’ who cares for us as His own son/daughter.

 

CAUTION IN THE WINDS – a safe drive

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This is one drive which you will enjoy. We wake up early to beat the heavy traffic from Pune to Mumbai. Its 5am and we leave eventually at 5.45am

It is quite dark and the street lamps not bright enough for the broad roads. We have just finished a quiet retreat at Pashan Retreat Centre. We had to manually open the gates while leaving the premises, thanks to the missing watchman.

The slow drive to the Highway took about 20 minutes. The mist was not too heavy as we picked up speed once on the highway . Headlights and highbeam on.

The cool breeze was so invigorating . As we sped along we came to the toll booths. Once past the first one we drove at a good pace. However as we neared Lonavala, we were totally immersed in heavy fog. I was thankful for installing fog lights. It helped me to see at least about 10 feet away.

Obviously we slowed down to avoid any collision.

Surprisingly, one car zoomed past without much ado, and I wondered about his safety as well as that of other fellow drivers. He disappeared in the gloom of the fog and we drove forward carefully all eyes to see the next vehicles ahead , following their tail lights.

This was the best part of the drive. As we entered the tunnel , it swallowed us up in a thrice and we were once again out on a steep slope. We were immersed in a wet blanket of fog  over the valley below  and it  was such  a beauty to behold. A pity we could not stop or slow down to enjoy it more.

Breakfast was still an option. However my friend decided that we continue to drive to enjoy a good hearty one at home.

And so we drove as fast as possible, at times touching 120kms per hour, ( not really fast for speed demons) The benefit of skipping the breakfast stop, was that we reached Mumbai very early and beat the rush hour traffic. It was a very smooth drive, and we made it in just a little over 2 hours.

A surprise indeed, because when you travel in the evening peak hour traffic from Mumbai, you will be grateful to touch even the outskirts of Mumbai in one hour.

So always start early, drive safely and arrive home in one piece; as some hoardings displayed in the past mention “ Start early, drive safely to enjoy safe tea with your family”;  and “You have someone waiting for you at home.”

Gene’s Lifeline (One day at a time)

This true story is all about grace. It starts with early days of experiencing rejection, then gradually reformation and finally reaching out to others!

Gene was the  youngest of 4 siblings ..who were much older ;  the brother 13yrs older, and  two sisters 8 and 9 years older.

Due to financial constraints, first his father went to the Middle East ( where earnings were good)  and then his mother. All his older siblings  moved out into jobs of their own. As a result Gene was left alone.

He came home from high school and college to an empty home.

Many years later his father finally returned to be with Gene and hoped to make up for the lost years. But within 15 days his father passed away.

Lonliness ate into Gene … though he pretended to be okay during the day, when his neighbours met him. To escape this lonliness he watched movies every night ….sometimes the same movie 10 times

Gradually he  got the taste of alcohol , charas and ganja…

He  stopped going to church for 5 years.

When addiction set in he tried to kick the habit but failed repeatedly ; until he came across  the 12step method followed by  the participants of the Alcoholic Anonymous  programme.

The motto “ One day at a time” had a great impact on his life.

His mother also returned after some years. She encouraged Gene with the simple motto; when there are many closed doors, you will find one which will open. She prayed for Gene fervently.

He started going to church again, and  realised that he gained strength from the Eucharist  to overcome his weaknesses. His prayer to the Lord was “ help me just today to be free of addiction”. This was his prayer daily.

He did this for 6 months and realised that he was getting renewed. Thereafter he spent two to three hours daily, before the Lord and received immense grace.

He did not know how to begin life anew. So he visited Asha Dhaan every day from 6.30am morning to 6.30 pm. He began the day with the nuns at the Eucharist and did odd jobs at the centre. Sweeping, cleaning, helping the destitute by shaving, cutting nails and many other simple jobs.

After 6 months of volunteering at Asha Dhaan with Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity, he discovered his vocation, to reach out to destitutes specially those addicted to drugs and alcohol

He was greatly encouraged by the Sister in charge. He also remembered Mother Theresa’s words “ to help others, one should help oneself…fill one’s belly first and then one learns to help others.”.

He then started being a Sales man for Encyclopedias.  He also trained to be an athlete inspite of having a handicap of the right hand. Later he started sales of building materials. He volunteered to request Pharmaceutical companies to donate drugs which the destitutes needed in the various homes.

He led a life of “ do not worry about tomorrow” and went on the streets to help many addicts and street urchins. He even shared his meals with them on the pavement.

Soon he volunteered his services to Don Bosco’s Shelter , and met his mate in Shobha. She influenced him to get more organized and start a Trust . This was the beginning of Jeevan Dhara, which means Lifeline.

He continued to visit the chapel and faithfully till this day spends at least 2 to 3 hours before the Lord. This is where he gets all his wisdom, grace and perseverance to continue .

Life is not a bed of roses even now. Gene continues to carry his cross  bravely.

Of course the nature of his trials comes in many other forms. Now there are people who question his integrity. As a result of envy, there are times, when he faces opposition, even while  compassionately serving the poor and destitute. He has already been recognised in the church for yeoman service, with the “Fr. Salvadore Rodrigues Award” by the Catholic Sabha, in 2015 and 6 months later was given an award by the Siddhvinayak Temple Trust during the Diwali Festival.

His main refuge and fortress is the chapel , in the presence of the Lord, who gives him strength for each day.

He encourages people with his  motto “ One day at at time” . I have been greatly influenced by his faith, and perseverance; to give prime time to the Lord, in silent prayer. He is an outstanding example of what the Lord can do to strengthen the weak.

He has started centres in Cheeta Camp ( one of the big slums of Mumbai), Mankhurd, and Lonavala . He extends help to the families of drug addicts, alcoholics and aids affected.  He had also started centres in Colaba, and Dahanu, but had to give it up, after opposition from unexpected quarters. His main focus is to help those who are addicted to drugs and alcohol, to go through a program of deaddiction. He also has included an outreach to help the aids affected persons. Most of these afflicted are people with limited finances. In addition , Gene has Study centres( Baalwadis) for children and youth of  the affected families. In keeping with the interest of Football, he has started a coaching programme for the youth in the slums and has a talented Nigerian who serves as coach.

Gene has such a kind nature, that he can walk into any area, even the most dangerous slums or bastis, without being harmed. He has been accepted as one , who has no hidden agenda, but only the good of those he helps.

Funds keep coming in to help him in this work. However , it is never enough. He remembers a quote of his Mentor Fr, Richard Lane Smith, which helps  him  keep his feet on the ground

“ When Funds come in, do not get carried away by them. Be strong in faith”

Thus Gene soldiers on, one day at a time , to serve those in need , with his eyes fixed on Jesus.

No wonder, he was at one time known as the Street Messiah.

As he continues his work with ‘ Jeevan Dhara’ , he is ably assisted by his wife Shobha. He is also blest with a beautiful and talented daughter, Sasha. She is still in primary school, but shines in sports and studies.

In conclusion, I am reminded of the words from Sirach 35:16,17

‘The one who serves God wholeheartedly will be heard;

his petition will reach out to the clouds.

The prayer of the humble person

pierces the clouds,

and he is not consoled until he has been heard.’

Indeed Gene’s lifeline is the Lord Himself!  

Gene D’Silva can be contacted on

Email: write2jeevandhara@yahoo.com

Postal Address:
7,Rear Helal bldg ; Dr. Mascarenhas road,
Mazagon, Mumbai, 4000010
India

To Emulate a Hero

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We have heard a lot of heroes till date. Some in the sports field and some as leaders in critical times.

Here we have a collegian Harry who has always looked up to the great athletes of the past Olympics.

Harry was of medium height. He had well toned upper arms and chest, short cropped hair and sturdy limbs, well equipped to do middle distance running. He trained regularly and dreamed of making it to the Olympics.  He also read a lot specially about the renowned athletes of our times and even of the past.

He trained sincerely and tried to learn new techniques to do better.

Harry heard about Michael Johnson and then recently Usain Bolt. He dreamed of becoming like one of these athletes.

Now  the college athletics were a few months away. He trained even more. Every morning he woke up , whether in rainy weather or not. He left early mornings with a few fellow athletes, to train at the University Grounds. Joe was a good friend but also a good competitor. Friendship never came in the way of their races.

They both trained for the 400 , 800 and 1500 metres . Their timings were quite closely matched. Harry was the stronger. Joe was lanky and tall, and had elegant strides. It was a contrast of styles.

Harry very determined and focused, whereas Joe was casual and aware of his natural talent.

Harry dreamed of whipping all the others in the his events. He quadrupuled his training efforts. He sacrificed all his time and energy only in this direction.

Joe once teased him: “ So, are you trying for a clean sweep of the 400, 800 and 1500? Oh yes, you have your heroes in mind: but it requires a lot more. Lets see how you do it ?  Don’t forget , I am also in the running.”

Harry quite nonchalantly replied “ I will do my best”

“Oh! I really mean to win”,  retorted Joe.

Ten days before the  University Athletics,  Harry caught the flu. He was down with high fever and had to take prescribed treatment from his doctor. Dr Bratt, believed in heavy dosage of medicines, with the prime purpose of reviving Harry back to health and the upcoming Athletics.

“Harry , ensure that you take these medicines thrice a day and rest enough. I think in 4 days you will be okay”, assured Dr. Bratt..

Joe trained in his own quiet way, without any pretensions of winning as Harry dreamed.

In 4 days Harry recovered from the flu . He had lost weight and was a little weak. However he resumed training and was ready for the final day.

The usual tests for dope were conducted and Harry and Joe were given the green signal.

The three events  were held over two days , and both Harry and Joe reached the finals of all three events. Their timings in the heats were quite good, Joe’s  a little better than Harry.

In the 400 metres finals, Harry was not fast enough and placed a distant third. Joe came in 1st, smashing the meet record by 0.4 seconds.

In the 800 metres,  Joe again ran a tactical race and came in first, with Harry in second place.

It seemed that Harry’s dream of 3 in a row was going to be a complete washout, without a single win.

He got ready for the 1500 metres. This was his favorite  event. The race started at a good pace. Harry ran  to  keep up with the pack. At the end of the first lap , he was in third place. By the second lap he moved to second place and maintained this until the end of the third lap. Before the third lap ended  and the last lap began, he burst into his best speed, overtaking Joe and the rest . However 20 metres away from the finish, Harry tripped over and sprawled onto the track.

Joe  overtook him but then stopped to look back. He was overwhelmed with pity for Harry. But before Joe could do anything to help, Harry stood up and ran like a gazelle to finish in first place. Joe failed to catch up, to finish second.

Joe and Harry hugged each other, and could not believe at this sudden turn of events.

Harry tried to emulate the great Johnson and Bolt , but then struck his own mark by winning the 1500 metres in this fashion.

And Joe….. he was as casual as ever. Notwithstanding his loss in the 1500 in such a dramatic way. He was happy to win the two other events i.e. 400 and 800 metres.

Can I pretend to be someone who I am not?   Is it okay to strive to emulate my heroes ?

Think about it…..we are all gifted in different ways; each given in different measure, which highlights the  motto  “  strive to give off your best”. I think Joe and Harry both did that, each a hero in some way.

Dande’s care for Mother Earth

This man is multitalented. He is an expert photographer, interior designer, landscapist, which includes rock garden and finally a horticulturist.

He promotes natural products like coconut oil, which is helpful for many ailments.

One of his prize creations is “liquid gold” which promotes growth and keeps plants absolutely heathy.

I was very impressed to see his garden. Even though Goa experienced heavy rains, and many flower bearing plants got affected, we still saw his garden looking good.

His Benauli Coconut tree is only 3 years old with a height of about 5 feet, and has already produced coconuts in plenty; he says this is the first  case, to see such fast growth.

His little pond has  an abundance of fish, but he does not feed them. They live just like fish in rivers , from natural sources in the pond itself. They  breed in large numbers, but he did not tell me the name of this species. At times harmless snakes also came there to feed on the fish. ( I have an aquarium of tropical fish, which require feeding  from dry shrimp food or red worms)

His “  liquid gold” is a real wonder.  My wife is an avid lover of plants and I have seen the change that has come in our garden after using this liquid. Plants are absolutely healthy and soon some start bearing flowers in abundance.

What struck me is that Mr. Dande,  loves his work and is a  firm believer in looking after the environment. According to him, all the natural disasters have in many ways occurred because, man has not cared enough for his surroundings.

We procured beautiful begonias in pots. He also had brilliant red anthuriums  which we rarely see.

The waterfall in his garden, flows rapidly into the pond. Lotus leaves float on the pond’s surface. A rock creation seems to climb upwards, and nearby is a natural rock bench. The overall ambience was so peaceful. Just talking to Mr. Dande, gave me hope that if every one makes an effort to care for our environment, we can look forward to more beauty around us……To  make it a better world!!!

A visit to his garden is most welcome : address – Ashok Dande,  Nagali, Taligao, Goa India 403002 .

This day -To-day -Matters

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Amazed am I

To see the rapid change

All around me

Things that looked forever

Now suddenly disappearing

Into the global phenomenon

With so many names

One of them ‘Diaspora’

 

Pray do we know anything

Of the future

Oh yes the past

And the present ,

Who does not !

Children grow up

And move on….

Can you ever ever go

Into their future lives?

 

Save the present and

Live it to the full!

Life in abundance

Every moment to cherish.

After all life is a gift

No matter what age

And what circumstance.

 

You and I have 24 hours

Live as if this day

Is all one has

You will then know

Important from the unimportant

Learn to forgive, love, care, and also

Rejoice,

For this is the Day the Lord has made!!!!