Protected: And THEY finally got to know… (Part 1)

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You forgot to say me Goodbye…: A Niece’s Tribute

14th June ’01: It was a hot and humid morning on the outskirts of Mumbai city, as me and my Mom were trying to get to Mumbai University – Kalina Campus by autorickshaw, fighting dense morning traffic. The monsoons had not yet descended, making the trip a little less than pleasant especially since we were both used to air conditioned cabs in Abu Dhabi. “Something I will have to put up with for the next three years” I thought. Mom had come to India for a week to get me admitted to college (something all Indian parents get actively involved in someday if their kid joins an Indian University), and this was the first time she left my younger sister and Dad back home. At the campus we were hello’d by Rajan Uncle, shading his head with his zipper bag from the harsh sun. He probably came thirty minutes prior to us, and queued up on our behalf in the snake like unending admission line. He half-smiled and half-frowned, slightly irritated by our lack of punctuality and the heat. But this was Rajan Uncle – always went out of his way for any of us.

15th June ’13: I woke up from my afternoon weekend siesta, and still in my hangover state, saw the clock and was wondering if me and my sister could make it for a movie show. In the living room, my sister told me that Rajan Uncle had passed away a day before; he was alone at his apartment at the time. His brother went to the scene to check on him when he suspiciously did not answer any calls.

“No way!!” The news did seem strange to me.

A while later, as the news seeped in, I began to ask all sorts of questions.

“He wasn’t sick, was he? Did he say he was suffering from something?” My sister nodded her head.

“Not that I know of”, she too was in a state of utmost surprise.

I wasn’t particularly close to Rajan Uncle, but I had an unexplainable fondness. We were more attached to his wife – Margaret or Maggie Aunty as she was known, and her wonderful Easter eggs.

“Its good we went to Terence’s wedding, and met him…that was our last meeting with him.” I said, feeling somber and thinking what would have happened if I missed that trip. Terence, our eldest cousin from our Mom’s side got married just six months ago, for which the entire clan of relatives hailed to Goa for the big traditional event. Rajan Uncle was also there, and me and my sister crashed the Reception at the last minute (as we hadn’t planned on  attending, but I had a change of heart a day before, and decided to take the flight). We met and greeted everyone that day, amidst the sea of amused and confused faces, some of them even snarling at us like we did something illegal! Many, including Rajan Uncle thought my parents had masterminded the whole surprise, so I went around clearing the misunderstanding. He was his usual self, well dressed, with a plate of appetizers in front of him, and sharing the table with relatives.

“When is the funeral?”

“I think it has been arranged for tomorrow”, my sister replied. After an usually silent drive through the city, we got off at a local cafe and went in. Through the whole meal though, we could not stop the flashbacks that kept coming up, and reminiscing over them.

I didn’t know Rajan Uncle was a Hindu till I was old enough to understand. I grew up always thinking he was one with us, as I have often seen him in Church, for our trips and weddings. It was only when I spent time with my grandmother in the three years of my college life did I ask details about him and his relationship.

“They were very much in love” my grandmother would say. Margaret was my Grandfather’s sister, so their love story belonged to an era when such relationships were highly taboo even to talk about. To make things difficult, Rajan Uncle hailed from a high caste brahmin family, known for their piety and authority to conduct sacred Hindu weddings. Maggie Aunty too came from a staunch Catholic family. They were together for 21 years until Margaret’s demise on 17 August, 1999.

Puzzled Up:

That night I meditated upon death and its fascination. I’ve known to expect death in disease, prolonged illness, travel accidents and old age, but Rajan Uncle had none of these. And thankfully, he never knew or encountered these. Its like a book that forgot its concluding chapter, or hanging up without saying bye. I thought about the awkwardness of not having to call him the next time we go to India. I thought about his distinct voice that was loud – loud enough to hear even if you were in another room. I will miss the way the English to Hindi to Marathi conversations he would have with my Dad. I summed up a few interesting memories I have, and will cherish about him:

Memorabilia:

The Devoted Son

They say that one of the ways to know how a man will be with his wife, is through how he is with his mother. Rajan Uncle never turned away from his mother, or felt offended even when she could not understand his relationship with Aunty Maggie. He tried his best to carry out his duties as a son wherever possible.

The Loving Husband

He was committed to Maggie Aunty always – whether accompanying her to Church, traveling all the way by train due to her ‘flying phobia’, feeding her duck after her death, carrying out her funeral rites and even keeping the respect and relationship with all of us, truly showed his devotion and love.

The Honest Brother-in Law

When I was in Mumbai during my college years (two years after Maggie Aunty’s death), I remember receiving a call from Uncle saying that he would be visiting the coming weekend, and to tell Granma that he needed to talk, and that it was important. When I passed the message to Gran, a sudden anxiousness gripped both our faces. “Was he planning to remarry?” was the first thought. Even though we both knew that he morally and legally could, we had to practice putting up a ‘pleasantly’ surprised face to avoid any awkwardness. When the day came, he arrived with a large briefcase, and after a light snack (and our ever-increasing suspense) he opened to show its contents. It was Maggie Aunty’s financial savings that he wanted to distribute fairly among all of her relatives. Breathing a sigh of relief of having to put away our act for the day, Granma still asked him softly and with a smile, “Rajan….not planning to get married?” Uncle only smiled, and said a very assuring “No,” and after a brief reflective silence he said, “companionship is the most important thing to a man especially at this age, not the physical needs”. How true, I thought.

The Serious Uncle

Rajan Uncle was a nightmare to my brother Terence. Being close to his residence, he would ‘haunt’ him often especially post examination results. Rajan Uncle took matters like education, ambition, banking and accounting very seriously and frowned badly upon those who showed lack of responsibility. One was sure to get a long lecture from the old man. He would nag him about tutions, repeatedly question him where he would keep his marksheets, and checked his spending habits. Not just him, but all of us nieces and nephews would be the center of his concern.

The Financial Advisor

All financial matters of the family – from fixed deposits, insurance, to property planning were inadvertently discussed with him. His advise was unbiased and final. He even assured us that the Gold prices will go up soon! *sigh*

These are just a handful of the many beautiful memories I seem to remember. Several small snippets include his love of cooked duck, pulav, ‘cheek‘ (fresh cheese made from the first milk of the goat). When he and Maggie Aunty brought us Easter eggs, the many trips and holidays we had together.

Once very long ago, when my sister was just a toddler and learning her first few sentences, we had visited Uncle and Auntie at their house in Kurla. After a hearty dinner and a trip around town, we finally prepared to depart. I remember we were all seated in the taxi and continued to say our ‘byes and thank yous’ from the taxi window, while Rajan Uncle cautiously instructed the Taxi driver in Marathi, how to reach our place at Mulund, and which roads to avoid. The cab slowly started on its way, when my sister suddenly yelled at the window “RAJAN!!”. The cab driver braked, while we all looked stunned at her sudden shrill. It was almost commanding. And Uncle obediently rushed to the taxi window, where she was held on my mother’s lap.

“Ah, what happened? Bolo?”

“You forgot to say me Good Bye!”

The Catholic Hindu Link – Day 8: Seek, Ask and rid Ignorance

I was going through a number of interesting blogs today in my reader and (not surprised) read beautiful blogs that are so useful. Recipes, insights and a whole lot of interesting articles – unlike mine. All the same, I feel the urge to record what I am going through, as I am still in my spiritual journey. I am a big fan of St. Ignatius and his spiritual exercises, and his advise too was to keep a diary or a journal of insights, ‘signs’, visions, dreams or anything significant that moves the spiritual being into finding your sole purpose in life…or in catholic terms ‘finding your call’. His disciples – the so called Jesuit Priests also encourage us to think in this similar fashion. The ones in India have been particularly helpful, and I now have 2 priests of this order advising me in this relationship.

All this began ofcourse, only after I met Jaan. I still remember the night when he asked me what would happen if he wanted to marry me, and all I could say how impossible it was; not because of his personality, character, family or background but solely for his faith. “I can’t believe our faith could be that bad?” was his innocent response. I tried to tell him, its not your faith, but our faith that is downright mean in selecting potential life partners. Having said that, and not being able to digest the fact myself, it became the foundation for my search towards the spirituality of mankind. “There has to be a link, some connection” I thought. With it came several less-known facts that I will share over the course of these blogs. I know these blogs may not be useful to anyone, but perhaps someday down the line, this could give a ray of hope to someone who is struggling in a similar dilemma as myself.

For starters I would recommend people (catholics) to read A Jesuit’s Blog while doing Bible Study. This priest gives awesome insight into how the Gospels should be interpreted. Next, I would recommend avid readers to purchase or download the book: How Big is Your God? By Fr. Paul Coutinho SJ. This book encourages us to look into the other wider dimensions of God that we feared to look at, simply because we were conditioned to think that God existed within the dimensions of our knowledge of Him….within our box of thoughts. Thinking more than that was probably punishable by hell. Reading these books / blogs liberated my sense of faith and I began to meet God in the very realm of existence itself.

Coming back to what happened the other day, my mom has still not got over the 10 tier cake demand, and I have been equally stubborn. After much meditation, I realised that we both have a tremendous sense of insecurity behind our actions – my mom fears that I wont be carrying out any of our wedding traditions, and I fear that my mom may intimidate all of their wedding traditions! And hence the stubbornness from both of us. It was the weekly day off, and thankfully they all left to Dubai for the afternoon and left me to myself. They expected me to go out anyways, which I did. Jaan thought of cheering me up by taking me to the movies to see Man of Steel, but despite the multiple shows, all the best seats were taken. So I changed my mind and suggested he take his mom out grocery shopping. She mentioned to me earlier that her food stock had depleted at home, and she was looking for some kitchen gadgets to make her work easier, now that she has to cook by herself. I didn’t expect Jaan to take me along, and I fretted because I was dressed in Jeans which I thought his mom might not be too approving. Seems she didn’t bother at all, and quite immediately got immersed in the fruit market at Mina Street and purchased bulk food stocks – fruits, vegetables and herbs of all kinds. I assisted her in carrying, and moving around. I even learnt a few things about fresh fruit selection and yes – bargaining!

We watched the sunset at the Corniche, and then turned towards the Hypermarket at the Airport Road as I had suggested for the kitchen gadgets. For some reason however, she was not too impressed, and ended up buying only the apple slicer, and other groceries. I was afraid to turn home late, fearing that my folks had come before me and to avoid the awkward question of who I was with, so they hurried through everything and loaded the car. Jaan told me he’d drop me off first. While driving, the song ‘Om Jai Jagdish’ played in his music list both to his and his mom’s surprise. She was so happy to have heard it, and said that we should listen to it as the first thing every morning. This statement settled on my mind for a long time….much after I reached home, after my folks came, and during my meditation at night. I have known this ‘bhajan’ (hymn) to be only for Hindus, probably addressing a particular diety? I googled for its translation, and was surprised to find that not only were its words so beautiful, but this hymn addressed the God most High, the formless, omnipotent and Supreme Creator of the Universe. Its asking for the grace to remain protected, happy and blessed for the day. Sometimes ignorance can lead us to miss the most beautiful meanings to some actions. The translations have been posted below:

Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Mighty Lord of the wholeUniverse
All Thy devotees’ agonies
All Thy devotees’ sorrows
Instantly Thou banisheth
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
He who’s immersed in devotion
He reaps the fruits of Thy loveLord,
he reaps the fruits of Thylove
Floating in a cloud of comforts
Floating in a cloud of comforts
Free from all the worldlyproblems
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Thou art Mother and Father
At Thy feet I seek eternal truthLord,
at Thy feet I seek eternaltruth
There’s none other than Thee,Lord
There’s none other than Thee,Lord Guardian of all our hopes
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Thou art Godly perfection
Omnipotent Master of allLord,
omnipotent Master of all
My destiny’s in Thy Hand
My destiny’s in Thy Hand
Supreme Soul of all Creation
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Thou art an ocean of mercy
Gracious protector of allLord,
gracious protector of all
I’m Thy humble devotee
I’m Thy humble devotee
Grant me Thy divine grace
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Thou art beyond all perception
Formless and yet multiform Lord,
formless and yet multiform
Grant me a glimpse of Thyself
Grant me a glimpse of Thyself
Guide me along the path to Thee
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Friend of the helpless and feeble Benevolent saviour of allLord,
benevolent saviour of all
Offer me Thy hand ofcompassion
Offer me Thy hand ofcompassion
I seek refuge at Thy feet
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Surmounting the earthly desires
Free from the sins of this life Lord,
free from the sins of this life
Undivided faith and devotion
Undivided faith and devotion
In eternal service unto Thee
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Oh Lord of the whole Universe
Mighty Lord of the wholeUniverse
All Thy devotees’ agonies
All Thy devotees’ sorrows
Instantly Thou banisheth
Oh Lord of the whole Universe

The Hindu Catholic Link – Day 5: To Listen or Not to Listen

I am so Ms. Sulken the Supreme….had another day of silent treatment between me and Mom, and there goes my weekend – entirely at home 😦 My fault all the way…I am a bad ice breaker…I always was.

Anyways, I didn’t entirely stay at home..I had to rush to work for an important task, and completed a few personal chores along the way back home. My weight is the same as I checked yesterday…not an ounce lost. This made me re-analyse the diet again. It seems that I had miscalculated my food intake – instead of consuming 250 grams of cooked rice, I have been eating atleast 400g, so in reality I was consuming 838 calories and burning just 315 calories! No wonder my weight stills stays the same of 80.7 kg over the past one week. I still haven’t figured out what is the next course of action as no restaurant in the area serves diet food unless I am willing to blow my budget. This would mean that I would have to cook some wraps or soups for myself…hmm, while this seems like a likely solution, after a while it would get nasty having to re-heat my food in a cockroach infested office microwave. My next alternative would be to have a large soup at Tim Hortons, followed by a salad wrap around 5pm to kill any possible hunger pangs. Along with some fruit juices in between meals so as to feel full and stay hydrated. This would cost me a max AED 19 per day, which is not so bad. Hope this works…I have a week ahead to check.

I love blogging now…ever since I changed the theme it feels so new like my own personal diary, it doesn’t matter that not many even read my blog, but I do feel this journey important enough to record. A couple of weeks ago my sister complained that there was no guy like Jaan left in this world. She’s apparently going through a rough patch with her own relationships, but who doesn’t? It didn’t come easy for me either. I still remember the day I met Jaan for the first time, there were several people who advised me against getting close to him. Reason? His religion / faith was different from mine. His personality, goodness and honesty was simply bypassed. “It wouldn’t work out anyway” was the ultimate explanation. Unfortunately I come from an era and society where religion lies the foundation for your choice of partner or risk having a failed marriage due to obvious irreconciliable differences and remain the butt of everyone’s jokes. Our culture also demands deep respect to our families and especially parents, so going against them was a very ugly social suicide. I still thought a friendship shouldn’t be so harmless (no I really wasn’t thinking that way secretly), and waited for time to tell me where it all lead. I had to keep everything secret. But over the course of these last 4 years and 6 months, I realised I’d be a fool to have left him just due to religious prejudices. When you can’t leave the guy, then the prejudice has to be re-examined. When all religions define the world as united brothers and sisters, and when all human beings are to be respected, why do these sentences dissolve at the time of a cross-cultural marriage? What are these differences that ‘break up’ a marriage? Can they be worked upon or discussed? This relationship not only matured my jaan in several aspects, but opened by eyes into the real meaning of being a Catholic and even more into the Spiritual dimension of my faith.

Its good to listen to others, as one may never know when the advice can save you from catastrophic circumstances. But even more important is to listen to your heart and outweigh the reasons why you should or should not take a step / decision. I don’t believe in blind, infatuous love. But if the love you have for a person is purely and solely for what he is to you and how much he respects everything you do, then hold on to that love, and pray that the rest may be shown to you through faith.

 

The Catholic Hindu Link – Day 4: The Reflection

Its been 3 days of exercise, but I didn’t notice any notable change in my weight. I admit I haven’t lost a gram despite taking care of all the details and this was quite a sadist disappointment to face in the morning. I didn’t feel any lighter either, noting that my jeans still don’t need a belt to hang on. Do I need to wait for some more time? I am running out on  it actually.

I had a sit-in at home this weekend, mainly because of an argument that ensued between me and my mom in the evening (its regular, once in a while we’re bound to express some mild tantrums). When these things happen, I lose all mood to do anything outdoor – I am a born sulker. So besides watching a marathon of movies on the tube – Enemy of the State, Dhoom (Indian), Gladiator and This means War (all in parts ofcourse), I took some time to reflect on my current relationship, and if at all I was being realistic.

Looking at some of the notes I had printed a year ago from internet sources on Catholic – Hindu marriages, and its ongoing list of requirements I can’t help but think if me and jaan will ever be ready to go through it. Our kind of marriages require a special dispension from the bishop, due to ‘disparity of cult’, and my spouse is supposed to know that I will be vowing to do ‘everything in my power’ to raise my children as catholic. I don’t know if Christ was a ‘catholic’ as such, but if I stuck to just Christ’s teachings of just 2 commandments: Love of God and love of neighbor, I think I could do fairly well. Today’s catholic teachings however  insist on their obligations of the sacraments, the Sunday school classes and the devotions. Jaan doesn’t have a problem about how I raise my kids, but he told me that he wouldn’t want to offend his mom in anyway, so I’m expecting that they will grow up confused. I don’t even know why I need to think all this…I would be happy if God gave me the grace to have children, the grace to teach them about God will come in its time, I believe.

The best part I’ve noted being a Catholic is that we are so unwelcoming. Non- catholics cannot receive the Holy Eucharist . Why? because they are not sanctified enough, or unaware of its sacredness, so what if they were? Why was Judas Iscariot given the privilege to receive it?

I receive mentoring from time to time from an Indian Jesuit priest, who assured me that its not a problem at all to marry a Hindu, and told me to find God in everything and every circumstance. Even if my diocese apparently had problems conducting a marriage ceremony, he said I would be most welcome in his parish in India. I can only hope that he stays available until then. Even the Pope now has been very encouraging, that Christ died for the salvation of all despite all what his interpreters and representatives have to say.

My only concern is that I hope I aint being unrealistic and foolish in where this all has to end. My best friend (who doesn’t know about my relationship) keeps sharing with me the numerous misunderstandings she and her husband has had over religious beliefs despite both being Roman Catholics, and this keeps reminding me to re-think. Ego is definitely something I will have to let go.

The Catholic Hindu Link – Day 3: Looking for roots

Such a sleepy day…

I really must work on my beauty sleep as these workouts drain the energy out of the next day. Yesterday’s training went particularly successful. I say so, because I intended to give up and take a cab / bus after every 20 mins, but pushed on. Had to force vision myself in my target weight, which seemed at that moment the only motivation factor.

The day went particularly eventful when I showed Mom the picture of a catholic classmate who finally tied the knot with her Hindu boyfriend. I must admit that I was looking for excuses to discuss the issue with my mom and this seemed liked an only, though rushed kind of way. Her reaction was quite upsetting, to my surprise. I had expected her by now, to be more open minded toward such events, but rather she came up with stomach-churning questions that I did not have convincing answers to. My classmate looked gorgeous in her Indian bridal wear and since there was no picture with her in a gown, mom assumed she did not solemnize her wedding vows in church. I asked her why that was so important to her, expecting her to signify the importance of a church or priestly blessing. But her response was however more focused upon the vows that the couple was required to make with regards to children upbringing, catholic rites & obligations. To her, the only reason why a mixed marriage should take place in a church was to ensure the Christian continuity. Even more was she visibly upset that I contested these obligations and reminded her that these were by now largely relaxed. The Catholic party in a mixed couple marriage is required to “do everything in his / her power” to raise the children as Catholic. She did not digest it too well and asked how I felt about it without any intention to get my explanation.

Unfortunately, our conversation was interrupted by my aunt’s consistent calls which took an hour of my mom’s time, leaving me disappointed and highly anxious.

I admit I am a tad too conscious about how this will turn out. But when I take time and meditate over the last 4 and half years, and how there’s been such a huge transition from where it all started both for mom as well as myself, I know I will be ok.

Fanaticism can be a dangerous education, as it can ruin your ability to think beyond horizons, creating a sense of fear if your wisdom blew off limits. Following any theology calls for looking at the roots from where it all started, the reasons for certain events or sayings, rather than the rules and obligations that were later created to organise it.