Wednesday, April 7, 2010

The dream of the flying sikh and cricket--Dr.Ishanand Vempeny

Dr. Ishanand Vempeny
I have on my table the March 28, 2010 issue of The Indian Express (Ahmedabad). It contains an interview by Shekhar Gupta, the Editor-in-Chief, with Shri Milkha Singh the Flying Sikh (Ibid. p.14). This interview belongs to the category of the well-known series under the title Walk the Talk shown in the NDTV 24x7 and published in The Indian Express. Here the Flying Sikh expresses his dream for India in athletics especially in track and field events.
He talks about the “Rs. 2 lakhs set aside” for any Indian who breaks his record. To the statement of the Editor that “Every Indian wants to be Milkha Singh” the great athlete responds saying: “But I’m saddened to note that it has been nearly 50-60 years since, with a population of 100 crores, we could not produce another Milkha Singh. I want to see that happen before I die, because I’m now nearing 80 years of age…. Before leaving this world, I want to see some young boy or girl from India pick up the medal that I lost in the Olympics, and our National Anthem be played and the Tri-colour unfurled…. If Milkha Singh can win a gold medal at the Commonwealth Games in 1958, then why is there no Indian winning now?” (art. cit. ibid., p.14).
If Milkha Singh lost an Olympic medal in 400 meters in the Rome Olympics by a small fraction of a second, Shrimati P. T. Usha (The Payoli Express) too lost a medal in another Olympics even by a smaller fraction of a second in 400 meters. Instead of licking her wounds, following the example of the Flying Sikh, she too started dreaming about some Indian girls breaking her records. She runs a sports school with utmost dedication and competence to prepare potential medal winners, not in cricket but in athletics, especially in track and field.
Recently, I happened to read about some other Indian sports-achievers who dream big for Indian Sports. No one doubts about the great achievements of Geet Sethi (more than ten times, world champion in billiards), Prakash Padkoune (The first Indian to become the All England Badminton champion) and Leander Paes (First Indian to win an Olympic medal in Tennis Singles and ten grand-slam victories in doubles). Among many things in common in these three Great Indian Sportsmen, what strikes me most is their dream for creating medal-winners for our country in the International Arena. Padkoune went about training in his school future champions without too much bothering about the Badminton Association, perhaps the greatest obstacle for realizing his dream. While Geet Sethi went on winning laurels for India, he kept up planning to create in India achievers in Sports. He soon found a ‘soul-mate’ in Padkoune with the same dream. Recently the duo found Leander as an Ideal companion to realize their dreams for India.
After the Beijing Olympics I received from an Ethiopian Sportsman a fairly long letter part of which I shall cite here: “I was impressed by your talks on sports to college students when you visited Ethiopia almost a decade back. I was one among the students who came to congratulate you personally after your talk. You pointed out how sports, especially Football, can build us up not only bodily or psychologically but also in the civil virtues like cooperation, enhancement of achievement motivation, ability to think about the total good of the team rather than individual good and the awareness of one’s strengths and weaknesses. Your talk led me to foot-ball and for the last three years I had been the captain of the team of our region (Shashamane)”.
“What made me search for your address and write to you soon after the Beijing Olympics? When your archrival and neighbour China got more than 50 gold medals and many more silver and bronze medals beating even the Americans, your country could get just one gold medal and that too in an individualistic shooting event. But what shocked me most was that there were almost as many celebrations of this single gold medal in India as the celebrations of China for their more than fifty gold medals. In the Chinese TV shows the Chinese were laughing at the Indian celebrations for your puny little achievement. Though Ethiopia is a poorer and smaller country than yours we have been getting some Olympic Medals especially in long distance running including the Marathon. India’s fascination for Cricket seems to make her forget about other sports. Remember, this fascination for Cricket is only in some of the British Colonies. Thank God, Ethiopia was not colonized by the British”.
Cricket as a Banyan Tree
Who does not like to have a banyan tree near his house with its cooling shadows spreading far and wide? Not the trees or the herbs which are not allowed to grow because of the cooling albeit murderous embrace of the banyan tree. This is precisely what cricket does to Indian sports. True, cricket gives a lot of money and a lot of entertainment but it does not allow other sports, vitally necessary for the Indian youth, to grow and develop.
Cricket as the Drumstick Tree of an Indian Parable

There is a parable in a Gujarati textbook for primary schools. Once the maternal uncle of some four children whose parents died of malnutrition visited his orphaned nephews and nieces. The eldest boy and the girl next to him have got out of their teenage while the third is still a teenager. Except the youngest the three could work in the fields. Without taking any such initiative, they eked out a living with the income generated by a huge drumstick tree in their ‘kitchen garden’. The children served a fairly decent dinner for their uncle and watched him taking the meal with the youngest. The three excused themselves from sharing the dinner with him saying that they had a very good lunch and were not hungry. From his conversations with the children and from what he overheard at night from the hungry children grumbling and complaining about their cruel fate, he found out that the children almost exclusively depended on the income from this tree. At night the uncle cut-down the tree and disappeared from the children’s home, his own home and hometown. After two years when the uncle came back to visit the children, the eldest of the four fell at his feet and thanked him for his “kind cruelty”. Cricket in India is what the drumstick tree did for the children.
The following lamentation of Milkha Singh is the collective cry in frustration of so many of our sports achievers: ‘Cricket has driven down the standard of every other sport. And I blame the media as well. I want to be frank with you. The media hardly gives coverage to athletics or hockey or volleyball or any game apart from cricket’ (ibid, p.14). How true it is! Among the English Dailies, The Times of India (TOI), devotes four pages for sports and this Daily had recently an editorial article on Hockey. But when I looked at the four pages of TOI today (03-04-2010) all the four pages were full of cricket, especially IPL news, except for a small patch on Hamilton and F1 competition. The other newspapers especially the vernacular papers fair far worse.
The volleyball tournament recently held in Pune, proved that India can be a world beater even in games which need athletically built youth above 6.5 feet tall. India beat such world-beaters like the teams from USA, Australia, Italy and the like and lost to Brazil only in the semi-finals. But there was hardly any mention in our media about this great achievement. No mention of the ATP tennis tournament nor even of the Kabbadi World Cup.
Cricket from the point of Anand Siriyavan & Ashish Nandy
(Eating with Our Fingers…. Consuming Cricket, in <>, Dalit E-Forum published on March 4, 2002)
No team-spirit: “Indian cricketers have excellent personal records at the expense of the team… The more Sachin scores centuries, the less India wins” (Though I do not agree, Siriyavan proves his point with many data). He tries to point out that Dhanaraj Pillai’s hat-trick in hockey or Ronaldo’s hat-trick in football will not have such a fate.
Suited to Indian Character: He tries to make his point quoting the great social philosopher Ashish Nandy. We Indians are not seriously aware of the economic value of time as to late trains, late coming bosses, uncaring ‘babus’ in front of long queues have become part and parcel of Indian life. Think of the five days’ test cricket! The high caste Indians are unwilling to soil their pants leaving such games like football, hockey, kabbadi, etc. to the farmers, tribals, dalits and the like. The weakest aspect of Indian cricketers is fielding because of their unwillingness to soil their white pants, unlike the Australians for example. Ashish Nandy says that “There have been several occasions when up to nine out of eleven players have been Brahmins in the team” (TOI, Mumbai, March 24, 2007, p.13). Ashish Nandy considers belief in fatalism and dependence on luck (rain, worn-out pitches for one team, mist for the first inning, etc.) “gives a field-day to astrologers, bookies and commercial magnets” (art. cit., p.14).
Wanted Urgently for Mother India:
Children and youth with (i) physical fitness (ii) psychic firmness and balance, and (iii) discipline.
Youth with (i) competence (ii) dedication (iii) team spirit and (iv) the ability to see one’s strengths and weaknesses. A few thousand young men/women with these qualities can make our motherland a super-power. Individual sports like track and field and team games like hockey, football, basketball, volleyball and kabbadi can contribute much to produce such most needed and most wanted Indians.
A Humble Letter to the Sports Minister
Dear and Honourable Sir,
Luckily for India today, it is not a world-renounced ‘sadhvi’ (BJP’s time) who is our Sports Minister. You are a sportsman by your own right and you are deeply interested in making India a sporting nation. Besides, being known as an incorrupt minister, the money assigned for sports and sports persons would serve the cause of sports. By your dedicated and competent service to sports you can build up Mother India as a great sporting nation and as a great power.
Honourable Sir, a nation’s great wealth is not primarily its gold mines or silver mines but its people with the qualities listed above under the title “Wanted Urgently for Mother India”. Here it must be remembered that almost 70% of Indians are below fourty which means the number of potential sports persons in India run into millions, more than the population of countries of Olympic achievers like Cuba, Jamaica, Netherlands, Switzerland, Newsland and even South Korea, Italy and Australia. Let us build up the nation by building up the youth of our country.
Sports have become today also a political reality, ‘political’ not in the suicidal politics of the Sports Associations of India, but the power politics played by countries like China. China-US rapprochement began with the well known “ping-pong politics” initiated by the former. The Beijing Olympics was primarily a living and challenging political statement: “The time has come. If there are any Superpowers, we the Chinese and the US alone are. It is a matter of time for us to beat the Americans in their own games”.

Friday, April 2, 2010

My Jesuit Vocation---Anoob Mattekadan

My Jesuit Vocation- A Call To Universality.

A Vocation is a unique gift from God to each and every person. One’s vocation is a two-way gift. It is priceless gift of God for each individual and the affirmative response is one’s gift to God. Jesuit vocation is a loving response to the invitation of the Eternal King, and a Jesuit offers himself to the King. The will of the King is to conquer the whole world and all his enemies, so the vocation of a Jesuit is a universal vocation. It is a call to be with Him and to be sent away on a mission.
My Jesuit vocation is an apostolic vocation. He sends his apostles to the world as the sheep among the wolves. Jesus tells his apostles to be as shrewd as serpents and as innocent as doves. A Jesuit should be a scholar and it is inevitable for him to have the knowledge of the world, where he lives. Life is a challenge for each Jesuits for his call is to be a person in the world but not of the world.
The modern world thirsts for justice and search for the real truth. The world is filled with injustice; racism, cast system, child labour and human trafficking are still remains as the realities in the third millennium. There are people and organizations fighting against these injustices. Each Jesuit has the responsibility to fight against these evil.
The Society was established with the prime purpose of defending and propagating faith. The Jesuits should lead men towards God and the Truth. Social injustice and inequalities still rule the world, there are inter and intra religious tensions, crimes against children and women are rising day by day. To bring Justice and truth to the people is a universal task and it’s a challenge for me and each and every Jesuits.
Globalisation creates many rich and poor in the world. The rich becomes richer and the poor, the poorer. Modern sophisticated instruments and machines and computers make more people jobless. The increasing prices of food and other necessities make the condition of the poor still miserable sometime even one meal at a day is out of question for many people. Poverty in the South Asian and African countries are global issue. To feed a hungry stomach is not and easy, by the Jesuit vocation I am called to face that challenge.
Modern political scenario of the world is alarming. Most of the modern politicians and political parties are least bothered about the welfare of the citizens. Their ultimate aim is to obtain power and profit. Politics is no more a service but it is a business. The world is divided by wars and conflicts. Terrorism has become a threat for the humanity. Communal violence continues to disturb the peace and tranquility of life all around. Jesuits are sent to this world to preach the Good News of Peace.In the world I am a carrier of peace.
From the origin, the society has always worked for the betterment of the whole world, and continues the same work zealously, by adapting the changes suitable to the modern times. The upliftment of the poor and marginalized has ever been a prime concern of the Society. Wherever I am, as a Jesuit I have the responsibility towards these unfortunate human beings.The so called ‘main-stream cultures’ have become a threat to the ancient and valuable indigenous cultures. The Society has become their voice in their state of being voiceless. Preservation of cultures is necessary to keep the marvelous cultural diversity of the world. The Society helps the endangered cultures to keep up their originality and richness. Inculturation has ever been a part of the society’s mission, since its beginning; Matteo Ricci in China, De Nobili in India, ‘Reductions’ in Latin America are few examples. For the effective mission and for better relation with the people the Jesuits adapts the lifestyle and cultures of the people whom they work with.
The Jesuits are known as the educators of Europe; not only in Europe but in other continents too the Jesuits had been the pioneers and establishers of good educational institutions. To live a dignified life education is necessary, education is a pathway to successful life and knowledge, and it is also the most important factor in building up a better human world. The Jesuit education has its own peculiarities. Jesuit educational institutions educate persons not only for attaining knowledge, Jesuit education educates the persons to live life for others and create responsible persons who contribute for the progress of the nation and humanity. I have to live my life fully for God and others and I have the responsibility to teach others to live for one another.
Jesuit vocation is also a pastoral vocation. Jesuit has the responsibility to lead the people to God. The ideal of each Jesuit is none other than Jesus the Good Shepherd. A Good Shepherd is ready to sacrifice his life for his sheep. The Society has many brave sons who sacrificed their life for Christ and His people, to defend faith and to propagate the Good News. I am called to sacrifice my life for others.
The Vows of poverty chastity and obedience makes me more free and gives me the real freedom to live my life fully for God and others. The vows help me to discern the will of God more clearly. Through the special vow of obedience to the Pope the Society submits herself to the Pope, to be sent anywhere for the mission. The Society remains ever loyal to the church.
The General congregation 35 was an inspirational moment for he whole Society of Jesus. Like the earlier Popes, the present Pope too said the following words “the church needs you, counts on you and continue to turn toward you with confidence”. From the beginning of one’s Jesuit life till the end of the last breath, his spirit of Magis leads him on. ‘For the Greater Glory of God’ is his motto. As the church admits our contribution it also challenges the Society and each Jesuit to reach the geographical and spiritual places where others so not reach of find it difficult to reach.
St. Ignatius has left us a great legacy of the Spiritual Exercises. The Spiritual Exercises continue to give strength, courage and zeal to the Jesuits and man others in the world. The strength from the Spiritual Exercises enables the Jesuits to be selfless in this selfish world. And it provides the energy to live in the world but not be of the world. As an Apostle of Christ and a son of Ignatius I have the duty to spread the word of God as well as the power of the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola in the world.
Media are the best way to educate and enlighten the minds and hearts of the people. The word of God can be effectively spread through the modern communicative media. The audio- visuals, Internet services and mobile phones brought a dynamic change to the world. Communication has become simpler and more effective. The Jesuit institutions do tremendous work to spread the Good News and the Kingdom values through the modern media. The younger generations of Jesuits are invited to do more in these areas and I feel that it is a challenge for the Jesuits.
General Congregation 34 initiated the process of Collaboration. The Society has achieved better results through collaboration in various fields such as Social Work, Refugee Service, Social Action and Education. The inter provincial and intra provincial collaboration would help the Society to become more unified and to reap richer harvests in its missions. Collaboration with other organizations, other congregations, laity and the people of other faith would enable the Society to reach the areas we have not yet reached and to bring out the best in others and in ourselves.
The mission of the Society is always aimed at the Kingdom of God. Even though a particular mission is focused in a certain locality, that is only a part of the universal mission of the Society. Even as a scholastic when I study ‘for the Greater Glory of God’, I contribute to the universal mission of the Society as best as can. If I am a man of discernment I am never bound by any law, but only by the law inscribed by the Holy Spirit in my heart. The vows present me the true exterior and interior freedom and make me available to any one at any time for Christ’s Mission.
As a missionary, I may not be able to live long but I can live my life fully for God and for His people. There may be oppositions, sometimes even from my own fellow brethren but if I am convinced of God’s will nothing would be able to stop me. As a Jesuit I should be always obedient to my superiors, and I should be a man who sees God in my Superiors. My obedience is not a ‘blind obedience’. My obedience would be obedience to the will of God through proper discernment. The people of the world may cause harm to my life, while I do the will of God, but I would be ever loyal to my Mission and Christ. The reward may be losing of my life but it would be a gain for my soul. The Society gave the church numerous martyrs and saints. My Jesuit vocation is a call to sainthood too; if it is God’s will it’s a call to be a martyr. The saints and martyrs have ever yielded richer fruits for the universal Church. They are the precious possession of the Universal Church.
Each Jesuit has the responsibility to make the world a better place for others and then for him. I have to be a channel of love of God and I have to love the world as Jesus loved. Whatever I do in the world should be the result of my love for the world, and then they would bear much fruit.
The world projects individualism, secularism, hedonism, as great qualities to follow. But as a Jesuit I have to challenge the world and humbly prove to the world that these are wrong but humility, love and service are the qualities, which makes the world a better place to live.
As a young Jesuit, I may have the qualities to attract youth. There are tremendous strength and potentialities hidden in the youth, if they are channelised in a constructively, there can be marvelous results. My responsibility includes building up better youth, wherever I am. Teaching catechism to the children is one of the chief duties of the Jesuits. I am responsible for creating the future. I have the responsibility to impart the knowledge of faith and Gospel to my younger brothers and sisters.
I may not be able to do everything at a time. But what I can do for Christ is to take up the assigned task as Jesus would take up and fulfill the task as Jesus would, with the help of Jesus. During my formation and later, I may have to struggle, I may have to face challenges and I may feel helpless. But always I have to turn towards God, for He is the ultimate source of my life and my strength. Whatever I am doing at present or in future are not because of my own strength, but by the strength of God. He gives me the strength so that I may serve others those who are in need. And my Jesuit Vocation invites me to pray with St. Ignatius of Loyola, “Lord Jesus, teach me to be generous; teach me to serve you as you deserve, to give and not to count the cost, to fight and not to heed the wounds, to toil and not to seek for rest, to labour and not to seek reward, except that of knowing that I do your will. Amen.”
Anoob Mattekadan