October 31is a ‘special’ day! Besides being the last day of a month, it is a day-filled with anniversaries and commemorations. As the clock ticks away into another new day and new month and one sits back and reflects on the day, a whole wave of HOT thoughts grips one’s heart and soul. In these silent moments, one realizes that there are certain basics necessary for a meaningful way of proceeding. This day in some measure reminded us of these:
Today we observe the 400th death anniversary of a great Jesuit Saint Alphonsus Rodriguez (1531-1617). A Spaniard, he joined the Society of Jesus at the age of forty and spent most of his religious life in ordinary responsibilities, which he undertook with great love and dedication. In a letter addressed to the Society of Jesus today, Fr Arturo Sosa, the Jesuit Superior General writes, “For 46 years Brother Alphonsus was of service to everyone from the porter’s lodge of the College of Montesion. His fruitful apostolic activity was sustained by a spiritual life rich in interior movements. The porter’s lodge of the College was the place that allowed him to animate students, counsel the city’s ‘important folk’, accompany many, and help all those in need”. It is 400 years since St. Alphonsus went to his eternal reward; however today, there is much that we can still learn from him particularly his ability to listen to others and of his humility.
It is also the birth anniversary of Sardar Vallabhai Patel who was born in 1875 in Gujarat. Patel was part of India’s freedom struggle and was India’s first Deputy Prime Minister and Home Minister. He earned the sobriquet of ‘Iron Man of India’ because of the courage of his convictions and his unflinching objectivity. In an impartial manner he did all he could to ‘unify’ the various factions in an independent India. He had no hesitation in banning the right-wing Hindutva organization the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) saying, “All their (RSS) speeches were full communal poison. It was not necessary to spread poison. As a result of the poison, the country had to suffer the sacrifice of the valuable life of Gandhiji. Even an iota of sympathy of the Government or of the people no more remained for the RSS. In fact, the opposition grew. Opposition turned more severe, when the RSS men expressed joy and distributed sweets after Gandhiji’s death. Under these conditions it became inevitable for the Government to take action against the RSS”. Patel was committed to the idea of a secular India where the Constitutional rights of all Indians were respected. He was objective to the core. A value which we all need to imbibe; many of us are so easily swayed by our ‘likes’ and ‘dislikes’ and are conditioned by subjectivity.
In 1984, we were in New Delhi when Indira Gandhi, the then Prime Minister of India was assassinated. It was a dastardly act by any count. What followed was even worse, when thousands of Sikhs were brutally attacked, burnt alive, massacred in Delhi and in several parts of North India. We were part of an initiative to bring healing to a city, which was broken and divided. We met many of the victim-survivors and others who suffered – listened and documented horrendous eyewitness accounts. Perpetrators were named. Unfortunately, the wheels of justice move slowly particularly when the system is not transparent.
In his quest for ‘Satyagraha’, Mahatma Gandhi reminded us that, “Truth never damages a cause that is just.” Even as we write this, we hear of another attack of violence in New York on innocent people. All violence must be condemned; however, violence may stop only when we address endemic issues with total transparency. Some also celebrate ‘Halloween’ today by wearing masks; these ‘masks’ need to come off! Our world cries for authenticity. Mother Teresa drives home the point saying, “ Honesty and transparency make you vulnerable. Be honest and transparent anyway”.
In the call to Discernment, taking inspiration from the above, I realise that I need to be Humble: to listen to what the Lord is telling me; the inner voice; to what others are saying. I need to be Objective: to look at the reality impartially, without any prejudices, looking always to the greater good. Above all, I need to be Transparent: to focus on and stand up for the truth – however bitter it is, whatever the consequences be. As October 31 slips into history, warm memories with HOT thoughts!
(The writer is a human rights activist. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org)(Published on 06th November 2017, Volume XXIX, Issue 45)