Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesdays at St Anthony's

I've been thinking about the past quite a while today. Suddenly, I remembered how Appa, Amma and I would dutifully make a trip to St Anthony's church in Ooty, every Tuesday for nearly five years. It's been a really long time since we frequented the church, as if it was in another lifetime and yet, I recollect it with such clarity, it could have occurred only yesterday!

Tuesdays were relatively freer days for Amma and Appa, and so we would make the weekly trip to Ooty town all the way from Lovedale. The trip always began with a visit to St Anthony's church (Tuesday being the holy day for St Anthony of Padua) and it always ended with a visit to the Higginbotham's bookstore at Charing Cross Road. As a seven year old child, I used to be in awe of the silence and solitude at the church. I would gaze at the massive crucifix at the center and look around at other people sitting on the pews. At that age I probably didn't understand religion or the fact that I, being a practicing Hindu, technically didn't 'belong' to a church. Ironically, almost every Tuesday, we would visit the Ayyappa Kovil nearby, once we had finished our prayers at the church. Growing up, I don't think I recognized that the two gods were different or even that the two faiths were 'conflicting'. But as you grow older, you realize that not everything is as it seems to be. Which is why I got a terrible shock when a friend of mine asked me, 'So, how do you get these copies of Our Daily Bread? I mean, you're not from my faith!'

And that once again makes me ponder on the somewhat contradictory nature of religion- It convinces the faithful that there is a god who is 'Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient'. So far, great. Sadly, most religious practices (not the religion itself) convince the faithful that theirs is a faith that is far more powerful than others, theirs is a god that is far more superior. No wonder religious fervor turns to blind fundamentalism!

As for me, am fortunate that I recognize Lord Ayyappa and St Anthony to be the same. I still miss our old Tuesday ritual of going to the church, even if I do make frequent trips to temples. So today, feeling nostalgic all of a sudden, I decided to learn a little more about St Anthony. I found out that he is the patron saint for lost objects and prayers to him can help the faithful recover whatever they have misplaced. In fact the popular phrase is “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost and must be found.”

Hmm, the world is as usual spinning around with crazy people doing even crazier things. Religion has so successfully spread hatred amongst people and fundamentalism seems to be the order of the day. So this Tuesday (Coincidence?), I pray to St Anthony to give us back what we seem to have lost in our rush to win this mad, mad race- our minds.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Road to Masafi

Masafi is a quaint picturesque town in the eastern region of the United Arab Emirates. One would usually pass by it while traveling from Dubai to the emirate of Fujairah. Last winter, I spent my holidays in Fujairah, thanks to Appa and Amma who have relocated there. Not surprisingly, we passed by Masafi quite a number of times, due to our frequent trips to Dubai. However, two trips caught my attention.

It was New Year's eve and we were returning from Dubai after picking Appa from the airport. It was around 3 in the morning and the road to Masafi was dark. A profound silence echoed from the depths of the Hajjar Mountains. As we approached Masafi, we saw the silhouette of a lone figure, outlined by the dim moonlight. We realized that it was a man trying to stop speeding cars, with the hope of selling his newspapers. Crazy guy, I thought. It's three in the morning, almost in the middle of nowhere and he pushes his luck by trying to sell newspapers on a deserted road?

And that would have been the end of this post, if I hadn't returned to Singapore at the end of my break. But I did come back- A week later, we were traveling on the same road, this time to Dubai, so that I could catch my early morning flight on time. And sure enough, as we approached Masafi at around five in the morning, we saw the Newspaper Man. This time, Appa stopped and got a newspaper. As we paid the Newspaper Man, I couldn't help but imagine what kind of a life his would be. Definitely someone hailing from the Subcontinent, he would have traveled to this distant shore, hoping to realize the 'Gulf Dream', which he shared with thousands of other people. Approaching the few cars that passed by the road at this lonely hour, shivering in the desert cold is definitely not anyone's idea of a dream job. Yet, I could sense the kind of satisfaction he derived from his sale, even if it would be his only sale for that day.

A few years ago, when we were in Bahrain, Appa and Amma had gifted me a book for the New Year. Appa as usual had written something inside it for me, a Spanish proverb: 'Traveler, there are no roads; roads are made by walking'. The Newspaper Man epitomizes that traveler, building the path to his destination, laying each stone with perseverance and hope. The Newspaper Man on the Road to Masafi. A true inspiration for all of us!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Temptation

It's been five days into the New Year and am trying hard to stick to my resolutions. At the end of the last year, I concluded that I had been gorging on way too many chocolates and ice creams, responsible for those extra pounds. Well, I'm not naive enough to believe that staying off these sinful items alone will help me lose weight but at least it's a start. And it's a test to see how much I can control my cravings. Gosh, is it hard!!

My parents and I drove down to Oman to welcome the New Year. Being the last day where I could treat my taste buds to that wonderful heavenly taste of chocolate, I gorged on it, all the while thinking mournfully about the very next day, when I would have to say a firm no to it. New Year's Day dawned bright and sunny, spreading the promise of a glorious 2011. I didn't think much about my resolutions, until my aunt offered me... some London Dairy ice cream. 'There's just a little bit left. Why don't you polish it off?'. It took all my resolve to say no and I fled the kitchen, thinking that if I stayed a minute longer, my resolve would melt like butter on hot toast.

Suddenly, chocolate and ice cream seemed to appear magically everywhere I went. A challenging test for my resolve. The next day we went out for lunch to celebrate my aunt and uncle's wedding anniversary. All was fine until...dessert. Fried ice cream was the most celebrated dessert item in that restaurant, so everyone was keen to sample it. And once again, I found it hard to refuse it. 'Just a little bit won't hurt', Appa coaxed me. Amma told me, 'Don't act too smart'. ('romba over aa panaadhe/jaasthi kaanikanda ketto'). A small voice inside me said, 'I have 363 days more to stick to the blessed resolution anyway. Maybe I can indulge just a teeny weeny bit'. But a stronger voice told me a resolution is a resolution and I must stick to it no matter what. I watched wistfully as they 'oohed and aahed' over the ice cream. I consoled myself with a small dish of 'Banana Toffee'. (I reminded myself that it was as sinful as chocolate and ice cream, but at least I was sticking to my resolve. So there!)

Then, just yesterday we went to Deira City Centre for a few rounds of last minute shopping before I return to university. And voila!! I just had set foot in the huge mall and I caught a whiff of yummy Häagen-Dazs ice cream. And then Baskin Robbins! I strode on, trying as hard as possible to ignore the little rebellious voice inside. As I put my mind to other matters, I found it easy to ignore that little voice. Sure, it surfaces every now and then. Even now, it's coaxing me to take 'just one little bit' from the chocolate box in the fridge. It's not a silly crash diet that I seek. It's just a question of how far I can stick to my determination. It's just a question of how I can resist temptation. I shall certainly not yield to temptation!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Tuesdays at St Anthony's

I've been thinking about the past quite a while today. Suddenly, I remembered how Appa, Amma and I would dutifully make a trip to St Anthony's church in Ooty, every Tuesday for nearly five years. It's been a really long time since we frequented the church, as if it was in another lifetime and yet, I recollect it with such clarity, it could have occurred only yesterday!

Tuesdays were relatively freer days for Amma and Appa, and so we would make the weekly trip to Ooty town all the way from Lovedale. The trip always began with a visit to St Anthony's church (Tuesday being the holy day for St Anthony of Padua) and it always ended with a visit to the Higginbotham's bookstore at Charing Cross Road. As a seven year old child, I used to be in awe of the silence and solitude at the church. I would gaze at the massive crucifix at the center and look around at other people sitting on the pews. At that age I probably didn't understand religion or the fact that I, being a practicing Hindu, technically didn't 'belong' to a church. Ironically, almost every Tuesday, we would visit the Ayyappa Kovil nearby, once we had finished our prayers at the church. Growing up, I don't think I recognized that the two gods were different or even that the two faiths were 'conflicting'. But as you grow older, you realize that not everything is as it seems to be. Which is why I got a terrible shock when a friend of mine asked me, 'So, how do you get these copies of Our Daily Bread? I mean, you're not from my faith!'

And that once again makes me ponder on the somewhat contradictory nature of religion- It convinces the faithful that there is a god who is 'Omnipresent, Omnipotent and Omniscient'. So far, great. Sadly, most religious practices (not the religion itself) convince the faithful that theirs is a faith that is far more powerful than others, theirs is a god that is far more superior. No wonder religious fervor turns to blind fundamentalism!

As for me, am fortunate that I recognize Lord Ayyappa and St Anthony to be the same. I still miss our old Tuesday ritual of going to the church, even if I do make frequent trips to temples. So today, feeling nostalgic all of a sudden, I decided to learn a little more about St Anthony. I found out that he is the patron saint for lost objects and prayers to him can help the faithful recover whatever they have misplaced. In fact the popular phrase is “Tony, Tony, turn around. Something’s lost and must be found.”

Hmm, the world is as usual spinning around with crazy people doing even crazier things. Religion has so successfully spread hatred amongst people and fundamentalism seems to be the order of the day. So this Tuesday (Coincidence?), I pray to St Anthony to give us back what we seem to have lost in our rush to win this mad, mad race- our minds.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Road to Masafi

Masafi is a quaint picturesque town in the eastern region of the United Arab Emirates. One would usually pass by it while traveling from Dubai to the emirate of Fujairah. Last winter, I spent my holidays in Fujairah, thanks to Appa and Amma who have relocated there. Not surprisingly, we passed by Masafi quite a number of times, due to our frequent trips to Dubai. However, two trips caught my attention.

It was New Year's eve and we were returning from Dubai after picking Appa from the airport. It was around 3 in the morning and the road to Masafi was dark. A profound silence echoed from the depths of the Hajjar Mountains. As we approached Masafi, we saw the silhouette of a lone figure, outlined by the dim moonlight. We realized that it was a man trying to stop speeding cars, with the hope of selling his newspapers. Crazy guy, I thought. It's three in the morning, almost in the middle of nowhere and he pushes his luck by trying to sell newspapers on a deserted road?

And that would have been the end of this post, if I hadn't returned to Singapore at the end of my break. But I did come back- A week later, we were traveling on the same road, this time to Dubai, so that I could catch my early morning flight on time. And sure enough, as we approached Masafi at around five in the morning, we saw the Newspaper Man. This time, Appa stopped and got a newspaper. As we paid the Newspaper Man, I couldn't help but imagine what kind of a life his would be. Definitely someone hailing from the Subcontinent, he would have traveled to this distant shore, hoping to realize the 'Gulf Dream', which he shared with thousands of other people. Approaching the few cars that passed by the road at this lonely hour, shivering in the desert cold is definitely not anyone's idea of a dream job. Yet, I could sense the kind of satisfaction he derived from his sale, even if it would be his only sale for that day.

A few years ago, when we were in Bahrain, Appa and Amma had gifted me a book for the New Year. Appa as usual had written something inside it for me, a Spanish proverb: 'Traveler, there are no roads; roads are made by walking'. The Newspaper Man epitomizes that traveler, building the path to his destination, laying each stone with perseverance and hope. The Newspaper Man on the Road to Masafi. A true inspiration for all of us!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Temptation

It's been five days into the New Year and am trying hard to stick to my resolutions. At the end of the last year, I concluded that I had been gorging on way too many chocolates and ice creams, responsible for those extra pounds. Well, I'm not naive enough to believe that staying off these sinful items alone will help me lose weight but at least it's a start. And it's a test to see how much I can control my cravings. Gosh, is it hard!!

My parents and I drove down to Oman to welcome the New Year. Being the last day where I could treat my taste buds to that wonderful heavenly taste of chocolate, I gorged on it, all the while thinking mournfully about the very next day, when I would have to say a firm no to it. New Year's Day dawned bright and sunny, spreading the promise of a glorious 2011. I didn't think much about my resolutions, until my aunt offered me... some London Dairy ice cream. 'There's just a little bit left. Why don't you polish it off?'. It took all my resolve to say no and I fled the kitchen, thinking that if I stayed a minute longer, my resolve would melt like butter on hot toast.

Suddenly, chocolate and ice cream seemed to appear magically everywhere I went. A challenging test for my resolve. The next day we went out for lunch to celebrate my aunt and uncle's wedding anniversary. All was fine until...dessert. Fried ice cream was the most celebrated dessert item in that restaurant, so everyone was keen to sample it. And once again, I found it hard to refuse it. 'Just a little bit won't hurt', Appa coaxed me. Amma told me, 'Don't act too smart'. ('romba over aa panaadhe/jaasthi kaanikanda ketto'). A small voice inside me said, 'I have 363 days more to stick to the blessed resolution anyway. Maybe I can indulge just a teeny weeny bit'. But a stronger voice told me a resolution is a resolution and I must stick to it no matter what. I watched wistfully as they 'oohed and aahed' over the ice cream. I consoled myself with a small dish of 'Banana Toffee'. (I reminded myself that it was as sinful as chocolate and ice cream, but at least I was sticking to my resolve. So there!)

Then, just yesterday we went to Deira City Centre for a few rounds of last minute shopping before I return to university. And voila!! I just had set foot in the huge mall and I caught a whiff of yummy Häagen-Dazs ice cream. And then Baskin Robbins! I strode on, trying as hard as possible to ignore the little rebellious voice inside. As I put my mind to other matters, I found it easy to ignore that little voice. Sure, it surfaces every now and then. Even now, it's coaxing me to take 'just one little bit' from the chocolate box in the fridge. It's not a silly crash diet that I seek. It's just a question of how far I can stick to my determination. It's just a question of how I can resist temptation. I shall certainly not yield to temptation!