Identity, Alterity and Social Media: Coercing Silence

Here is one of my articles published two years ago in the Journal of Dharma, Vol. 43, Issue 1 (January – March 2018), pp. 85-110.

Of if you want another link to the same article:

And from here, you can go to the original link of the journal.

Home, sweet home

Nothing like a place called home. Your own sweet home!

In stead, I decided to visit my home for these three days – Friday evening to Sunday evening.

Since there was a government holiday to all government institutions on account of Shivarathri (a night of vigil for the Hindus in honour of god Shiva), our Arrupe Nivas Jesuit community decided to go on a pilgrimage to Tamil Nadu. It was to be by a seater-bus, and would take about 11-13 hours by bus to our first halt in Tamil Nadu. In the night. And that would be too long for me to sit – a back recently operated upon. After that there would be many hours of travel within Tamil Nadu, and that would jam my brittle back!

That worked out.

When the entire Arrupe Nivas got ready to go for this long pilgrimage, I had to rethink about my joining the pilgrimage. I would miss a few important places, though – St Devasagayam Pillai, Oriyur (St John de Britto), Kanyakumari – the tip of India where Vivekananda meditated on a rock facing the sea, etc. These would be such historical and spiritual treasure-troves. But I had to prefer my health (recently operated backbone!) to these places.

Whenever I visit home, or my siblings in Mumbai, it is a practice among other siblings whom I don’t visit, to fool me with the menu! They seem to know it all – much better than I know!

In fact, when I reached home this time, my brother from Mumbai called me and started teasing me – gave a long list of snacks and eatable my sister-in-law would prepare for me! After that my sister called me – she couldn’t do anything different from my brother! The nice thing is we all have the same synergy – all stand on their toes to help and support me. And all of us enjoy this simple fun.

The menu goes as usual – pathrade (yam-leaf cakes), salted jack, chicken and fish, neer-dosa and (water-thin, soft rice dosa).

This time around there was a slight difference: when I reached home, as always, my nephew started asking me to play cricket with him; I had to abstain due to three surgeries I had on my spinal disc in the recent past (especially the two in September and October, 2022). Then he changed his tune to volleyball; I again decline.

Then, my most favourite hobby – going to the river-side. We are blessed to have a river right in front of our house – Phalguni River; the village on the river-bank is called 12 Kawal, meaning the 12th branch of this river joins the Phalguni river in this place. So it is “12 Kawal River.” The village has one of the most scenic environs I have ever seen. That is a feast to the eyes. And I love to behold it.

Then, my nephew said, ‘come, let’s go to the dam.’ There are two dams built on the river very close to my house – one, a hydro-electricity project; another, a drinking water project. Since it was a hot day, and he wanted to go to the dam at around 1.30pm, I declined to go with him in the scorching heat.

But I did visit the river in the evening; my nephew didn’t accompany me since he was preparing for his catechism exam.

Catching up with alumns

Last few weeks have been exciting ones. For some reason, some of my former students thought it was time to catch up with me!

It started with a few alums of BVC (B.A. in Visual Communication). One of them called me a few days before coming to meet me, and told me she was coming to a place close to St Joseph’s, and had to meet me. Sensing the urgency in her voice, I started wondering if something was wrong! Sometimes, some of my former students do come seeking some help either in Letters of Recommendation for their further studies, change of job, some urgent advice, etc. But his lady’s urgency much more than that.

When on Friday she came – it was such a joy to meet her – the kid who used to sit in my class quietly and smile occasionally, then do some works given her and then speak to her neighbours, and, and and… This time she looked so confident, so mature, so warm…

And then we started talking. All the time, I was wondering if there was something she needed. Towards the end she told me, that she told her mother that she was going towards her (former) college St Joseph’s, and would meet me. It was then that her mother reminded her since she was coming this side, why not collect her UG certificate. And then, this young lady added, “Oh! Then I remembered, I had not collected my certificates!”

That was such a sweet revelation, so warm and fond thought!

Then, a couple of days before that another young woman checked if I would be free the previous week. And on a given day, she came with a young man – her fiance! She insisted she wanted to meet me in person. Upon meeting, she wanted me to be there for her wedding. I only wished my health was a shade better!

A few days later, my another former PG student (I would often call them ‘kids’); she told me she wanted to meet me, and asked for time; I gave Saturday (04 Feb.). A day later, another of the same batch called me if I would be free on Saturday! The latter came first, with her husband, and told me her classmate would join, soon! She did join – the chat went on for about four hours!

A few more before and after these meetings.

Then, today, on 05 February 2023, it was the centenary of the Bangalore-based St Joseph’s College Alumni Association. We had a huge gathering – of over a thousand former students. In it, a few of my students, too! Some still shy to face me – since it is just a few years since they graduated only a few years ago; some yet to come out of the classroom-relationship mode, and others as warm as ever!

The biggest blessing I have received from God Almighty is that of being a priest and a teacher – rolled – two-in-one!

Admissions to ICMS, St Joseph’s University, Bengaluru

St Joseph’s University, Bengaluru-27

Institute of communication & media Studies {ICMS}

General Structure for

All-India Level Entrance Test SJU-COMET-(ICMS)/2023-24

Dear Student,

Welcome to the Institute of Communication and Media Studies (ICMS). ICMS is a prestigious academic Institute of St Joseph’s University (SJU), Bengaluru. It comes under the Deanery (School system) of St Joseph’s University (formerly St Joseph’s College).

We are happy to help you in your search for admission into some of the most sought after UG and PG programs in the field of Communication and Journalism anywhere in the country.

SJU-ICMS runs five stand-alone programs:

  1. M.A. in Journalism and Mass Communication (MCJ) – two-year Master’s program
  2. M.A. in Advertising and Public Relations (APR) – two-year Master’s program
  3. B.A. in Visual Communication (BVC) – four-year Bachelor’s program with honours
  4. B.Voc. in Digital Media and Animation (DMA) – three-year Bachelor’s program
  5. B.Voc. in Visual Media and Filmmaking (VMF) – three-year Bachelor’s Program

You could see details at this link {alternatley, you will be able to use website from 01 Feb. 2023)

Admissions: The programs under ICMS are much sought after for admissions, and we are under immense pressure to choose the most suitable candidates to study in ICMS at St Joseph’s University. Admissions are competitive, and are based on All India Entrance Tests called SJU-COMET.  

Each of the five programs have a separate entrance test under the banner SJU-COMET. Hence if you want to apply for two or more programs simultaneously, you need to apply separately for them; you will have to sit the SJU-COMET separately on different days/ in two different admission cycles, in different admission cycles. For example, if you want to apply both for B.Voc. DMA and B.Voc. VMF or BVC, you can’t sit the tests on the same day for both, since SJU-COMETs for all UG programs are held at the same time on the same day; the same is true of PG programs under ICMS (it means, you may apply anytime separately, but sit the SJU-COMETs for one in March, for another in April/later).

SJU-COMET for each program is followed by two levels of interviews – the first one is an expert panel interview, and for those selected, a second/final interview.

In 2023, all SJU-COMET will be conducted on campus, in Bengaluru. The candidates who clear the test, will be invited for an in-person panel-interview on the next day (hence, if you are coming from outside Bengaluru, you need to stay back in Bengaluru after the test at least for a day).

The candidates who are shortlisted from the panel-interview will be invited for a final interview at a later date. The final interview can be conducted in-person, especially for those who are located or residing in Bengaluru, or it can be conducted online, depending on the circumstances.

Please note that the old question papers provided for your reference here are only for your reference and are not guaranteed to be the questions to be asked in future exams. Therefore, it is important to be well-prepared in all related domains to make a strong case for yourself. It is advisable to use these question papers as a guide to help you understand the format, scope, and content of the exam, but not as the only source of studying. (You will find these question papers on the St Joseph’s University website, on the Institute of Communication and Media Studies page)


Foreign candidates are exempted from sitting the in-person SJU-COMETs
Institute of communication & media Studies {ICMS}

General Structure for

All-India Level Entrance Test SJU-COMET-(ICMS)/2023-24

1. B.Voc. Digital Media and Animation: SJU-COMET(DMA)

Component A: 10 marks [time duration – 20mins]

Objective: To gauge reading, writing and cognitive abilities 

Comprehension test based on a media and art-related thematic passage/article:

to be answered descriptively.

Component B: 20 marks [time duration – 20mins]

Objective: To derive a visual impression of the candidates’ artistic and cognitive process.

Follow-up of an on-the-spot artistic production from Component A.

Component C: 10 marks [time duration – 5mins]

Objective: To test basic logic of the candidate in order to reason efficiently.

Test on basic logical capacity of the student, to serve as an indicator. The test may assume any of the patterns or a mix of below:

Component D: 10 marks [time duration – 15mins]

Personal Essay of 200-words.

Objective: To understand where the candidate finds herself/ himself in the larger scheme of the programme, self, and Jesuit values of formation.

Offline SJU-COMET (on 4th March) will be followed by two rounds of interviews:

  1. Panel-interview on 5th March for those who clear the offline test and
  2. Final interview at a later date for the shortlisted candidates (online for out-of-town candidates; in-person for local candidates)

Note: Candidates are encouraged to bring their portfolio for the panel-interview to demonstrate their suitability for the program.

2. B.Voc. Visual Media and Film Making: SJU-COMET(VMF)

On-campus Entrance Test (11.00AM, Sat.,4th March; Interviews: Sun., 5th March 2023)

Multiple Choice Questions

Part A: to test General Knowledge (from your habit of reading/ watching news media and observing world around you), reasoning abilities and aptitude for the programme – 20 marks

Part B: Cinema and art-related questions (fill-in the blanks/objective type) – 10 marks

Essay type

Subject specific – 20 marks

The offline entrance test (4th March) will be followed by two rounds of interviews:

  1. Panel-interview on 5th March for those who clear the offline test and
  2. Final interview at a later date for the shortlisted candidates (online for out-of-town candidates; in-person for local candidates)

Note: Candidates are encouraged to bring in their portfolio for the panel-interview to demonstrate their suitability for the program.

3. B.A. in Visual Communication: SJU-COMET(BVC)

On-campus Entrance Test (11.00AM, Sat. 4th March; Interviews on Sun., 5th March 2023)

Entrance Examination – Total 50 marks

a) Writing / language-10 marks- Descriptive- Short Essay

b) General knowledge/ communication-media awareness – 10 marks- MCQ

c) Introductory /basics of visual communication -10 marks-MCQ/ Descriptive

d) Basic knowledge of photography – 10 marks- MCQ

c) Basic knowledge about films, multimedia and mass communication (Advertising, PR, Films/ directors/ producers/ year of release, etc.) -10 marks – Fill in the blank

The offline entrance test (4th March) will be followed by two rounds of interviews:

  1. on Sunday, 5th March for those who clear the offline test and
  1. Final interview at a later date for the shortlisted candidates (online for out-of-town candidates; in-person for local candidates)

For the panel interview –

The students are encouraged to bring their portfolio or any documentation to demonstrate their skill-sets/suitability for the program (admission)

M.A. Journalism & Mass Communication: SJU-COMET(MCJ)

Offline Entrance Test (11th March, at 11.00AM) & Interviews (9.00AM, 12th March)

Admissions to MJC will have three major components:

  1. Written test (at St Joseph’s University campus, Bengaluru)
  2. Subject expert panel interview (at St Joseph’s University campus, Bengaluru)
  3. Final round of interview (online for the outstation-candidates)

In the written test (task), candidates’ knowledge of some of these areas will be tested:

  1. Current affairs – from their media reading/viewing habits (news and entertainment)
  2. Logical reasoning/ basic numerical abilities
  3. Advertising and PR
  4. Basic research
  5. Film/ television/ radio
  6. Digital / new media
  7. The larger field of communication

The test consists of i) fill-in-the-blanks or direct questions, and ii) short essays.

If you do not perform well in this component, you will not be given the opportunity to participate in the interview.

Interviews – 

The entrance test (11th Mar.) will be followed by two rounds of interviews:

  1. on Sun. 12th March ONLY for those who clear the written test and
  2. Final interview at a later date for the shortlisted candidates (online for out-of-town candidates; in-person for local candidates)

For the panel interview,

The students are encouraged to bring their portfolio or any documented evidence to demonstrate their skill-sets/suitability for the programme.

          M.A. Advertising & Public Relations: SJU-COMET(APR)

Offline Entrance Test (11th March, at 11.00AM) & Interviews (12th March at 9.00AM)

Admissions-filter to APR programme will have three major components:

  1. Written test (offline, St Joseph’s University, Bengaluru campus)
  2. Subject expert-panel interview (offline, St Joseph’s University, Bengaluru)
  3. Final round of interview (in-person for local candidates; online for the out-of-town)

In the written test, the candidates’ knowledge of some of these areas will be tested:

  1. Current affairs – from their media reading/listening /viewing habits (news and entertainment) 
  2. Advertising, PR, marketing, branding
  3. Logical reasoning/ basic numerical abilities
  4. Basic research (you need to have studied math or statistics or accounts or economics at the 12th level)
  5. Digital domain

This test consists of –

  1. fill-in-the-blanks or direct questions, and
  2. short essays

If you do not perform well in this component, you will not be given the opportunity to participate in the interview.


The entrance test (11th Mar.) will be followed by two rounds of interviews:

  1. on Sun. 12th March for those who clear the written test, and
  2. Final interview at a later date for the shortlisted candidates (online for out-of-town candidates; in-person for local candidates)

For the panel interview,

The students are encouraged to bring their portfolio or any documented evidence to demonstrate their skill-sets/suitability for the programme.

Foreign candidates are exempted from sitting the in-person SJU-COMETs


Last month, Wilsy completed eight years. She, with her sibling Ebo, was brought in 2015 December.

Wilsy and Ebo are interesting names. Wonder why and what they mean?

Those years, we had young scholastics doing their undergraduate studies and living at Arrupe Nivas. One was Wilson, the other Ebanezer. Wilson was a very quiet young man, Eba, as we used to address him, was all mischief and life.

As we were struggling to name our puppies, these two young men came to our minds: their nature – quiet and sprightly. So we called one after the quiet Wilson as Wilsy – Ebo. The other, we called after the noisy Eba -Ebo.

Ever since the two became very day to us. The two grew according to their nature – one very diminutive, the other all noise and sound. But both harmless, extremely affectionate, even a thief would feel welcomed!

Pets ssrw a nice way to relax, a stress buster. They add much to our lives. If we can afford to look after pets well, we need to have them. If not, we shouldn’t.

Christmas and Kuswar with ChatGPT

This new kid on the block is an interesting one – in fact, mind-blowing app. Ever since I heard of it, I wanted to try it out. Today was the day. For now, the app is in research stage, and is free. But it goes pro, and poses a challenge to Google, we are likely to be forced to pay. Till then, I thought of making hay – creating some tweets and blogs and even some academic stuff! Here is my first attempt create a blog-post: it was good, but I had personalise it to make it authentic and human. Afterall, no AI and ML can substitute human-touch and intelligence/learning.

Rice Chakkuli (or badly known by others is murukku)

The Mangalorean Catholic community in Bangalore traces its roots back to the Mangalore region in Karnataka, India. It is known for its rich cultural traditions and celebrations, including feasts honoring patron saints, traditional music and dance performances, and elaborate processions. Two of the most notable Mangalorean Catholic celebrations in Bangalore include the Feast of the Nativity of Our Blessed Virgin Mary celebrated on 8th September, and the other is Christmas.

Rice Chakkuli (or its bad name is murukku)

Christmas is one of the most celebrated festivals in Bangalore as in Mangalore, and it is a time for families to come together and enjoy delicious food and sweets.

GuLiyo – pills for your good health at Christmas!

Mangalorean Kuswar, the home-made Christmas sweets, is an integral part of the Christmas celebrations in the Mangalorean Catholic community; and Bangalore couldn’t be left far behind. These sweets are typically made in large quantities and shared with family and friends as a sign of love and goodwill. Some of the most popular Mangalorean Kuswars include the boat-shaped neureo (pronounced Nev-ryo), which are fried, sweetened balls of rice flour and coconut; kulkuls, which are thin, spiral-shaped cookies made with flour and coconut; laddoos (rice ground with coconut and jaggery), kidi (literally worms! Don’t worry, that’s only a name. Kidi are made up of rice flour and jaggery and shaped on a fork to give the worm-y look, and then deep-fried), muyo (literally ants! Made of rice flour and jaggery; in cumin-shape and almost that size!), guLyo (pills, small rice-flour and jaggery balls, double the size of coriander or about 1.00-1.50cm in diameter), kokkisam (rose cookies, again made of rice-flour with jaggery/sugar and coconut), idiyo (rice flour with fillings of grated coconut and jaggery steamed in triangular/ minaret-like jackfruit leaves-container), and many others. As you will see rice, jaggery and coconut milk are central to almost all of these sweets. That is because these are the produce of Mangalore.

GuLiyo – pills for your good health at Christmas! In Close-up

The preparation of these sweets is often a communal affair, with family members coming together to share in the joy of the holiday season. Making these sweets at home not only allows you to save money, but it also allows you to customize the flavors and ingredients to your liking. Plus, there’s something special about enjoying a sweet that you’ve made with your own hands, especially during the holiday season. And above all, sharing these sweets among neighbours and friends is a special joy. Compare this to today’s sophisticated cakes bought from impersonal bakeries!

Here is Bangalore, people prepare these. At home in Bangalore, we prepared plenty of Kuswar. After I returned from Mumbai (a short medical break), I witnessed our cooks (Sumitra, Jackline, and Joseph – the first two are Siddhis from north Canara, and the last is from Honnavar in North Canara, too) preparing Kuswar. So much of interest! I remembered my childhood when I was actively involved in making Kuswar, with my mother and siblings. Here, of course, I don’t have that privilege – irrespective of my health. But I enjoyed watching them and giving them company.

What India Needs

Someone asked mailed me to write a speech on ‘What India Needs’. It was for a gathering of vice chancellors and ministers.

I was not too keen on it because my health doesn’t permit me at this juncture . But still, I started writing; spent about 5 days writing it. On the 3rd day of the countdown, I called and asked if it was still necessary. “Yes”, so I completed it and mailed it on the 2nd day of the countdown.

I am not at happy with the speech. In normal circumstances I would have had much more to tell. But not this time; but I have put in quite a bit of time and energy. I am not sure if it was used. Here it is:

Higher Education: What India needs?

There has been a lot of thinking and speaking going on about the status of Higher Education in India. To make education more relevant, the Govt of India came up with the National Education Policy 2020, and the Govt of Karnataka was the first state to implement it, almost immediately. While India is getting ready to implement NEP 2020 in the next few months, Karnataka would have completed two years of its implementation.

This gives us an opportunity to look at higher education in India, its status, and reflect on what is it that we are looking for in terms of higher education, and if what we look for is in line with what the country is looking for, what India needs.

As per UGC’s latest updates, we have 1078 universities (Sept) and 42,343 colleges across the country. These staggering statistics point to the fact that India is an educational hub of the world. With such a large number of colleges and universities, and a massive youth power wanting to be a part of this educational endeavour, everything seems to be set up in India’s favour.

Education contributes a lot to employment in a variety of fields; millions of our youth are employed in diverse fields in both public sector and private. But the question is – is this contribution to India’s growth sufficient from a such a large sector?

If we look at it critically, the contribution of our universities and colleges to society and nation-building in terms of policies, inventions and discoveries, innovations and newer practices – is negligible. Most of our new ideas, technological tools, and innovative practices come from the West; we borrow a lot of ideas and practices which are already developed and tested in societies, and we build on them. The Indian youth and or entrepreneurs have struggled to establish a company of the size, magnitude, and innovative nature of Alphabet/ Google or Microsoft or Apple or Samsung or Tesla or Amazon or Saudi Aramco on their own. Tools and techniques and services of these companies have become a part and parcel of our daily life in India and the world. We have tried to replicate a few of them [like Flipkart]; but these are not our innovation – these are modelled after some foreign companies. It points to our education and training our youth get in their formative years.

Think of the pandemic Covid19 – how did our educational institutions respond to the huge challenge posed by the pandemic to the world? mostly, we were clueless. By contrast, the University of Oxford was one of the first ones -if not the very first- to respond to the pandemic through its cutting-edge research; as a result, we have had Covishield vaccine, which helped us to deal with the pandemic, at least for the time-being.

What I mean is while Indian higher education sector is a very large canvas showcasing our youth power in the world, we would like our colleges and universities to win lot of more laurels and recognition at the international level – like our ideas need to be so special that they find a place in our day-to-day lives; that the world needs to adopt them. Very few of our ideas and inventions and discoveries are found to be worthy and unique enough to merit a Nobel prize in various disciplines. While much smaller countries and their universities and college in America and Europe are in the forefront of research and innovation, movements and practices, bagging honours, I am left wondering where are our Indian universities and colleges? While our education has the magnitude and quantity of the largest kind, does it lack in quality? Why are our educational institutions not recognised enough at the international level?

While India takes a lot pride in its large educational infrastructure, and does need all its youth to be enrolled in higher education and benefit from its institutions, what India urgently needs is life-enhancing quality and innovation.  

For that to happen in higher education, a few conditions need to be fulfilled and a climate needs to be created.

First and foremost, Indian academia needs the freedom to grow in diverse directions. There is no one way of education or growth in any educational system, because the ways of life are diverse. While there could be a very broad and general framework prescribed for education, we cannot have a single trajectory; a specified, single trajectory will create assembly line products which India does not need at this moment; such an educational landscape will not nurture unique and creative graduates which India needs. Hence it is best that higher education be left to the imagination of educators and academicians. If a particular college or a university does not cater to the aspirations of young India, that institution will not last; hence educational institutions will learn to cater to the needs of our youth and needs of our country.

Another aspect that India needs in its institutions and on educational campuses is freedom – freedom to think and speak; that is when a democracy comes alive. When the youth of a country can think differently, think in diverse directions, and speak fearlessly a country throbs with life. That is when creativity and criticality are nurtured. Innovation and new ideas are all about creativity and criticality.

This is what will fill our colleges and universities with life and energy. That is what will help our youth to dream new dreams; that is what will help our young India live in dignity; that is when our young India can not just join a job-market, but can create jobs in millions. Our long-cherished dreams for StartUp India, Make-In-India, vocal of local and many others will be fulfilled. That is when our county will awake to a newer horizon –

As our National Poet Rabindranath Tagore sang in his Geethanjali, Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high, into that haven of freedom my father, let my country awake.

Back to the market place

It’s been twenty four days since I took a break from St Joseph’s University and Arrupe Nivas, Bengaluru.

Mangalore International Airport – it’s Christmas season; but there seems to be some hesitation to extend Christmas wishes on part of Adani, who has acquired this Airport because of the humongous contribution of Christian Ms to this region and the country.

The pain of surgeries and illness became a blessing in another way: spending time with my family. I have never had a longish time with them anytime in the past since 1986. No longer than three days at a stretch. Thank God,  I have a very affectionate family, which doesn’t look for any gains from me; they value me as their own. That, probably, is the rarest and the best feeling anyone can experience.

Chatrapathi Shivaji Terminal in Mumbai. The airport looks really beautiful

In Mumbai,  I spent most of my time with my brother, and almost equal time with my eldest sister – about eight-nine days, a couple less than with my brother. Spent two days at St Xavier’s College, Mumbai, and its XIC – Communication Centre. I missed visiting my second sister, who was all tears, when her daughter (my niece) called me on video for a chat. My sister was crying; a painful sight just before my departure.  I couldn’t meet her because my brother-in-law, niece, and grand nephew had contracted severe cough, and I couldn’t afford to expose myself to it because of the effect coughing and sneezing have on my vulnerable back.

Then, on 9th December,  I travelled to my second brother Gilbert’s place, my ancestral home – basking in nature’s lap and beauty. Thanks to my eldest brother Ben and sister-in-law who accompanied me (due to an engagement). Here, my nephew (Gilbert’s son Gavin) keeps me busy with a variety of things like teaching him maths, playing Ludo, Snake & the Ladder, and Donkey (card game!). He wants me to play cricket with him, but I can’t! As usual, my (second) brother here and sister-in-law are very concerned about me – feed me with all that they can afford to.

The beauty of my ancestral home fascinates me no end

Now, on 12th December,  again it’s time to bid goodbye to my ancestral home. There’s added pain: one of my distant uncles died on Sunday afternoon after a fall at home on Wednesday  and due to negligence (rustic ignorance and poverty) by his family. They took him to a nearby hospital on Thursday, who asked them to take him to another hospital. His family was still clueless. Gilbert – like a Good Samaritan – intervened and had him taken to the major city hospital. There Issac, my uncle, had to be put on ventilator, which again was delayed by his family. Gilbert had to force them; by then, it was too late. Finally, on Friday, as I reached my ancestral home, this uncle was put on ventilator. On Saturday night, we were internally told that my uncle was gone; he was kept on a ventilator for a different reason. Yesterday,  Sunday afternoon, they had to pull out the ventilator, and my uncle died officially. It has been a painful thing : we were good neighbours,  reaching out to each other day in and day out.

A House for Ms Niece

My niece is getting married. Twelve more months to go. But if you observed her demeanor, you wouldn’t say there’s anything great happening! She is cool like a cucumber. She goes about as usual, works as usual and moves about like anyone else. She is one of the sweetest, cutest kidsin the block – extremely well behaved, talented, deeply spiritual and actively involved in the parish community in social and spiritual service. She is a full-time job holder too!

But there’s one thing she looks excited about: a new house. After her wedding she would be moving out from her dear parents’ nest, with her spouse, a stone’ throw away, into a cocoon of her own.

Yesterday (04 December), she wanted me to bless her house. The house would be ready next June. I told her, in house- blessing, we don’t bless walls as much as people living in it. And once she moved into it, I would gladly come and bless it for her. Then she told her Dad, my brother. And I can’t say no to him.

Architectural Image of the building

At her new house, I met her fiancé , with his mother. The house has a makeshift elevator for construction purpose. They don’t, easily permit anyone move into it for safety reasons. We were escorted to the 22nd floor of the 42- storey tall building, where the apartment is.

It’s a 2BHK, spacious apartment. I liked it. My niece, her fiancé, his mother, my brother, and sister-in-law are very proud of it. Oh! What a view of the city! My brother’s current apartment, a 12-storey building, looked too kiddish, compared to it! That’s the language used by my brother to describe his proud owner-daughter’s new house!

Then we blessed the house, blessed the young couple, and wished them well, and moved to my sister’s house close by, for a day, before I go to St Xavier’s College this afternoon, where there was to be held a nice program.

Nearby buildings from my niece’s apartment under construction

The program: Before I left Bangalore, Dezma was kind to find my contact, and invite me to a Public Relations Consultants Association of India (PRCAI) event for an Academic Connect with PRCAI, on 24 Nov. She wanted a few of my collegues and students to attend the high profile event in Bangalore. But I told her that I won’t be there, due to my medical leave, and my student’s end- semester exams. Then she told me, they had arranged another event at St Xavier’s on 5th December, with Dr Felicia Blow, Associate President of Humpton University, USA, and National Chair of American PR Society (PRSA).

I was thrilled to attend this. Though I don’t feel fully fit, I wanted to attend it for my students, so that I network with experts and industry. But, last evening, I received a message from Dezma that the event was cancelled since Dr Blow hadn’t obtained a visa to India! Sounds familiar?

But PRCAI still had managed to have this Academic Connect with Dr Blow online on 08 Dec , and I am a special invitee, thanks to Dezma. Over to St Xavier’s, and with me my sister and brother-in-law to ensure my comfort! Lucky, me!

Basking in love and affection

It’s been a few decades since I left my family for a noble, divine, spiritual cause. As per the norms of the Karnataka Jesuit province which believes that we should be super-human or meta-human, I hardly spent time at home after that. The longest I spent at home at a stretch was not when my parents were alive. Back then, the longest was three days at a stretch during my ordination in December 2000. They were longing to have me at home for a longer duration – for at least a week, especially when they would see other priests and religious, even Jesuits from other provinces, spending weeks and months at home on holidays! But, no; we were to transcend all those ‘worldly’ attractions. With all this longing, my mother was gone in 2007 and father in 2014, and with that, the strongest attraction to visit and spend time at home also was gone.

After my parents were gone, till this year, my longest stay at home at a single stretch was four days in December 2020, i.e. after my first surgery on my spinal disc. Coincidentally, in all my life, my longest stay at “home” (more specifically with my home-people) came now – after my third surgery to the same spinal disc in October 2022! This time it is not at my ancestral home; but with my siblings in distant Mumbai, where my eldest brother and two sisters live.

Far from madding crowds. Away from heaps of works.

But not too far from the head-aches of the seat that is associate with me – especially with the exams fast approaching, and students ‘really worried’ about their Hall Tickets for lack of attendance! And then there are a lot of office-related matters which keep me occupied. But that is not as bad as the Hall Tickets and the novel reasons students come up with!

Back to my siblings…

I have a lovely, close-knit family. I have always been the cynosure of my family. Though I don’t work for them (not even a penny-worth job do I do for them!), though I don’t earn a penny for them, though not a paisa of my salary goes to any of them! Simply for the pure love and affection. For reasons immaterial, or call it spiritual. That is why they value me.

My eldest sister has been “tempting” me to “take a few months’ off, and spend time with the family”. It has been her dream for over last three decades! She challenges me, ‘when the entire world has holidays, what is so special about you? Aren’t you a human being?’ she would challenge me. Against love, I have no arguments!

My eldest brother too wants the same, but he is a bit more rational – doesn’t insist. He would always wind up his conversation, ‘if you can convince your superiors to permit you to…’.

This time, when I went under the scalpel, my sister made it a point to visit me in Bangalore traveling all the way from Mumbai to Bangalore via Mangalore. She wanted to keep me company for my entire stay in the hospital. That would have been disastrous (for whomever it may concern!) I strictly forbade her, and -against her will- managed to send her back! As per norms, I was comfortable with a hired employee staying with me in the hospital.

But before she left me, my sister challenged me to take me to Mumbai for three months on holidays. Crazy sister! I laughed at her. So did my cousin who was with her. But not my sister. Then, of course, this Mark had some very similar language to speak. He also ensnared me with swapping my teaching in lieu of leave away from St Joseph’s. This time I started thinking about it. When I spoke to my Provincial (Fr Dion), he was very supportive of the idea. That was a sweet surprise. So, I reached Mumbai.

In Mumbai, my siblings are fighting among themselves. And it feels very good! Wait – they are fighting to host me, to convince me with whom would I stay longer. So, first 10 days I spent with my brother, sister-in-law and niece. This time, I have had to listen to my brother, no bulldozing him with my reasoning (:- And then my sister-in-law fattened me like a calf for the sacrifice! Niece -as usual- is extremely sensitive (though she works late nights and wakes up late to go to the office). On the first night of my stay with them, she realised the bed was a bit too low for me to get up for any need. The next night she convinced her dad (my brother) to give up her bed for me! Such sweetness!

In the meantime, my sisters have been fighting with my brother for keeping me with him for so long! The eldest sister means business! She really put my brother off with her rants! Finally, he told her – “come and take him away with you; but you arrange transport, I won’t drop him to your place!” I was to go my second (“elder”) sister’s house on Wednesday (30 Nov.); but her family have come up with some health emergency. Unfortunate. That has kept me in my first (“eldest”) sister’s house. God! The way she looks after me, including giving some medicinal oil massage (which is not necessary, at all!) … The 10 kgs I lost after my surgery have come back with a vengeance, thanks to my sister-in-law and sister! I am surrounded by the variety of and my favourite “country” dishes and food that I have missed from my mother’s hands for long.

Both in my brother’s house and sister’s house – there are only two things they didn’t/ don’t do for me – i) they don’t eat for me, and ii) they don’t sleep for me – everything else – they do for me; for a man who is absolutely useless to them! Absolutely undeserved. A place to experience what is care! For no reason. And I cherish every bit of it as long as it lasts, with a heart full of gratitude to them and to my God.

Out and on the way

It’s over a month since I underwent a surgery. Tomorrow, it is going to be 40 days. From the time I was struggling to take a step, to what I am doing is amazing – I walk about two kilometers non-stop; then climb a 12-storey building up-and-down! (Did I say 12 storey building!?)

That is the difference between someone of your own and a working-relationship of externals. The family fights for you; fights with one another for you!

I hope this never ends – but I know all good things have to come to an end; and so this too will.

For now, I am waiting for a theraband to strengthen my muscles, and then to deal with the pain and slight numbness with the prolonged sitting. When I am back, that is how my life will re-unfold – prolonged hours of sitting, and I want to be fit for it.