Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Sabzimandi Monday

'Sabzimandi' refers to our vegetable market here in Pakistan. 'Sabzia' means vegetables. Since late last year, I have started joining our staff in going to the market for our weekly supply of veggies. Monday is our 'sabzimandi' day.

We usually leave our place early in the morning so we can buy real fresh vegetables and avoid the crowd and the traffic jam.
I always look forward to our Monday market 'tour'... since it is also one of the few times I am able to go out of our compound.
But other than this, the market is a nice place for interacting with people, 'the locals' especially (that means practicing my Urdu as well) and in getting to know a little more about Pakistan's culture and tradition.The sight of vegetables too in various shades and shapes is refreshing especially in the morning. It truly is a nice way of starting the week.
Over time, we have also developed some friendship with our favorite 'dukhandars' or store owners. They know that we come on Mondays and so they wait for us and if we're not in a hurry we also share a cup of tea with them.
It's also a nice way of doing business... and of keeping the loyalty of customers.
We sometimes spend practically the entire Monday morning in the market. Often when we reach home I feel exhausted but I always look forward to returning there again. It seems absurd that one gets refreshed in a place like the vegetable market, more so in Pakistan's sabzimandi, but that's it. Didn't St. Ignatius ask his good Jesuits to meet God in the market place?
Today is Saturday and it would not be long before I'd get to see the market again. And quietly, in the sabzimandi, thank God as well for His gifts of vegetables and fruits, for His grace of nourishment and delicious food and for His many other bountiful blessings.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Silent Work of Grace

Times are tough on this side of the subcontinent. And with war now going on in Afghanistan compounded by volatile local political situation, insecurity due to terrorist threats, high rates of unemployment and increasing prices of basic commodities—our future could even get tougher. Yet in such a difficult and seemingly discouraging situation, we are sustained by the silent and slow yet steady work of grace that we encounter each day. We are witnesses to the unfolding of stories of hope—little miracles and successes that Don Bosco is able to achieve through and in the lives of our students and lay collaborators.

As we journey with the young people of Pakistan and strive to provide them with the opportunity to learn and to live and grow together in harmony and mutual respect despite their differences—in religion, in caste, in tribe and in dialect among others, we see as well their growth, their transformation. These things keep us moving and motivated despite the difficulties and discouragement that we sometimes encounter. Though we look to the future, we work one day at a time; though we hope to reach out to many, we focus on those God has sent us for now.

And as I more and more immerse myself in the mission entrusted to us here, I am also able to better appreciate Don Bosco’s approach. Joy, optimism, reason, loving-kindness, music, sports and above all, Jesus’ message of compassion, forgiveness and understanding possess an irresistible appeal that penetrate into the heart of the young regardless of the faith they profess, the language they speak or the color of their skin.
Pray for us then, Salesians here in Pakistan, and for all our lay mission partners as well as all the young people God sends us that we may continue to dare and to hope and to see, beyond our daily troubles and trials, the work of divine grace, slowly, silently but steadily strengthening us as we forge ahead.

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

My Philippians 2:6-11

Sometimes it just happens that we are struck by inspiration--touched by the divine and all of a sudden the 'poet' in us emerge. We were praying vespers last Saturday and when we reached the third canticle--Philippians 2: 6-11, I just got so distracted that I had to take a pen and paper and write down some of the lines I am posting here now. I don't know if it makes any sense but let me share it just the same.

This is my personal version of Philippians 2:6-11.

Oh what great love that satisfies;
divine and pure, the love of Christ.
Godly state he sacrificed;
our sinful ways he paid the price.

He chose to dwell and live as man;
lower than the lowliest one.
And unto death a faithful Son;
his cross, his death--salvation won.

We praise your name Oh Jesus Lord,
to whom God's glory is bestowed.
We bend our knees; we bow our head,
we proclaim your love until the end.

Oh what great love that purifies;
divine and deep, the love of Christ,
throughout our life your name we praise
until with you Oh Lord we rise. Amen.

Not a big accomplishment though... but even for this I am grateful. Truly the Lord surprises us in a lot of wonderful ways.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Marching On

We are beginning another month. The weather is changing as well. It's now spring--and Pakistani spring lasts only for around a month they say. Then the long summer sets in. After experiencing some initial difficulty with winter, I have also adjusted and gone comfortable with it... now temperature is rising again. And that would need another adjustment on my part.I have been here in Pakistan for seven months now. And I consider myself still a new-comer.
With only seven months of experience, I am still struggling to learn the language, eat/enjoy the local food (which is quite spicy), adjust to the weather (that goes very cold in winter and terribly hot in summer), understand the native customs and traditions and overcome homesickness and loneliness that come once in a while.Since I also come from a predominantly Christian country I had to change and adjust some of my mindsets and approaches to doing mission and apostolate especially in this place where Christians are a minority. And this I guess, I am still learning up to now.
Life here is a continuous adjustment, constant learning of new things and nonstop challenge to do things better. There are a lot of risks to being a missionary here. Well, that's certainly true, but I guess that's only one side of the equation--there are also a lot of opportunities to serve, to be happy, to be able to share and to learn and gain new insights from the very people we serve.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

Goodbye... for now!

I write these few lines this evening before I finally go to bed--at an unusually early time since I am sure tomorrow will be a long and tiring day. I am joining our other community here in Pakistan starting tomorrow. And I am both happy and sad, excited and anxious as I bid my present community goodbye and move in to my new home. But I am sure that this is yet another invitation for me to trust and to obey. And so I embrace my fears and sadness and put myself in the hands of God.
It might also take a while before I'd be able to blog again. Keep me in your prayers that I may bloom where I am now being 'replanted.' May our good God bless us all!

Saturday, April 30, 2016

The Movie Of Bollywood

Lagaan It's the Oscar Awards season again and I have not yet seen any film nominated this year in any of the categories. Not even Meryl Streep's Julie/Julia. This is something unusual for me since I enjoy watching free movies a lot. But as they also say 'when God closes the door, He surely opens a window.'

I am now, on the other hand, discovering the beauty of Bollywood. It was actually duty and our boys that introduced me to Indian films. Since our boarders watch movies every Saturday evening--which I guess is one of the highlights of their week as well, and I have to 'assist' (i.e. be present with them) them even at this time. Of course, having been so accustomed to Hollywood movie-making, I also had my initial shock and dissatisfaction with Bollywood.

Here, films are generally longer (often more than 2 hours) with songs and dances interspersed within the scenes and dialogues. They also usually have slower phasing in their narration with several (or maybe more than the usual) subplots interacting and affecting the entire storyline. Little by little though, especially when I started picking up familiar Urdu words (Hindi is very related to Urdu) I also began to appreciate Bollywood production. They are rich and fascinating.

I can still count on my fingers the number of Indian films that I have seen--from the classic Lagaan, to the more contemporary Qurban, Paa, Taare Zameen Par to Johnny (which is about Don Bosco), to the more controversial M3 Idiotsy Name is Khan and of course, my favorite Three Idiots (thanks to Br. Castilino for leading me into this film) among others whose title has now escaped my memory.

Everytime I watch these films, I had to enter as well into a different frame of mind in order to understand and appreciate them better. And since films--art forms, mirror reality, they also provide me with a closer glimpse of their culture, life style, traditions--their ways of perceiving and interpreting the world in which they live in and which I am now trying to be a part of.

Healing Wounds

He was pierced for our offenses...
by His wounds we are healed. Praying for a meaningful and grace filled holy week...
God bless us all.