Saturday, October 30, 2010

The Pitcher Plant of India

A pitcher plant is a carnivores plant that 'eats' flies, insects and insect larvae to get nutrition. Insectivores or carnivores plants are actually fascinating, they look like normal plants, with roots, stems and lovely flowers; but when you see them in action, you see a wonderful mechanism provided by nature to them to become accomplished hunters. It is indeed marvelous to see a plant capture a fly and then digest it leaving just a husk behind.

Now that you are familiar with the category the pitcher plant belongs to, let us become a little more specific about this particular genus. The pitcher plant is called so because it has a pitcher like  cupped form of leaves with a lid. In this 'pitcher' these plants capture their prey. These plants belong to the nepenthes genus.

During my stay in the village of Meghalaya, we went to this power plant which is situated up in the Khasi Hills. Here I saw a peculiar sort of a plant every where among the hills.


The locals told me it was the Tiew rakot plant, found here in abundance; but when the power plant engineer told me it was the pitcher plant, and was an endangered species I couldn't believe my eyes and my ears! I remember asking him,'The pitcher plant? The one that eats flies and insects?'. The answer I got was affirmative, and the feeling I got was that I was a part of one of the Discovery Channel shows!

I could not believe my stroke of luck to find an endangered carnivores plant in the hills of India. But there were more surprises in store for me. Do you see a pitcher like growth in the above image? With a closed lid?
Well that is the food bowl of the plant. All the insects, flies, larvae are caught in that pitcher shaped organ and then digested in it. Gross, isn't it?

So, here I am amid the scenic beauty of the Khasi Hills, still trying to digest the fact that I am here among the abundant growth of pitcher plants, when I see my lovely local friends jumping up and down the hilly slopes there hands full of the pitchers of the plant.

I could hardly believe my eyes when I saw them opening the pitcher and drinking its contents as if it were the elixir of life. It took a lot of self control not to throw up to see them drinking from the fly digesting innards of a plant. What I found out later was that this 'water' trapped in the pitchers was of medicinal value and could cure stomach and kidney problems. They asked me to sample one, but for me the idea was still too gross, I just did not have that sort of guts to taste that fluid. Yuck! Anyways to try and convince my friends not to offer me this drink, without hurting their feelings was a tough job. But eventually they stopped forcing me.

They filled the rest in a bottle and after that I remained thirsty till we reached back to the village, eyeing each bottle of water offered to me suspiciously. I do believe them, it must be having some undiscovered medicinal value. But for me I was satisfied to carry a specimen of the plant to take back home. Later, at home I did a bit of research and found that it was the only pitcher plant India has and goes by the botanical name of Nepenthes khasiana. 

It is a marvelous plant, the wonders of Creator reflecting in its uniqueness. All I hope and pray is that it should not become an extinct species. Discovery Channel, here I come!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Reconciliation - For All Round Peace

Reconciliation is a term that has a lot of depth in it(at least for me). All Roman Catholics know that the sacrament of reconciliation is a great gift from our God. Today, here I would like to explain reconciliation as an act from different levels and point of views, and how it leads to an utmost level of peace, because we all know peace is so very important for a healthy and full life. To be simple there are four types of reconciliation:

  1. The Divine Reconciliation: Okay, this is the obvious one. Reconciling with our Creator is being in one accord with Him. Our will and His will need to be the same, our dreams, our actions, our feelings, all should be in sync with the Almighty. It is an empty life if we are away from God, if we have not reconciled with Him. So the Divine Reconciliation is the first and foremost step to attain peace. Our God is a God of Peace and obviously to get peace what could be better than to go to the direct source of never ending, everlasting PEACE.
  2. Reconciliation with Fellow Humans: Once thorough with the Divine Reconciliation, most of us already know that we cannot be at peace with God if we hate/dislike/are indifferent to a fellow human being, be it our family, our friends, our colleagues, or a stranger walking down the street. As long as you have something against someone or some community you'll never be able to remain in your reconciliation with God. Removing prejudices helps a lot in this case, also forgetting old grudges; and most important of all forgiveness for others can help us in human reconciliation. When I have nothing against a single person on this planet, I am at peace.
  3. Environmental Reconciliation: Oh please, don't call me a green freak! I don't need to say much about the human made afflictions that Mother Earth has to go through. The human greed is stripping away the earth of its beauty, tapping into powers way beyond our control and messing up with the fine balance of the universe, the way it was created. Picture this, a great man totally reconciled with God and fellow beings and sitting in an underground bunker waiting of a freak tornado to pass, will he be at peace? I don't think so. There will be some who will say that nature, weather and atmosphere are not in our control, but I would like to counter, true it is not entirely in our power to avoid certain environmental mishaps, but that does not justify our constant interference in the natural balance of Universe. Reconcile people, reconcile. With the nature around you, before it is too late.
  4. Self reconciliation: When was the last time you thoroughly loved yourself and found nothing lacking in you? I am not talking about being narcissist, but we all do hate ourselves fully or partly. 'I wish I was a little taller','I need to lose weight','I don't like my complexion','Why doesn't my hair remain straight!'... The list goes on. Seldom in life do we love ourselves the way we are, we always try to change something in us. Of course, changes and improvements are good and needed part of our growth, but is it absolutely necessary not to like ourselves? How can I give love to others if I don't love myself? How to I be at peace with others if I am not at peace with myself? Self acceptance and positive self image can help us in the long run. Self reconciliation is the toughest of all, but once achieved there is no looking back.

Peace be with you all....

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Our Journey Back Home

Our Journey Back Home  

The return journey was pretty uneventful (compared to the previous journey, ofcourse). We reached station on time, the train arrived and departed on time and we had our proper places.

On our way back we discussed and shared different experiences that we felt during the village stay and at the convention. We also discussed our possibilities of being or not being a part of the next convention in Jalandhar. We all decided to be back to Shillong next year just to relive our memories and to meet the new families that we are all now a part of.

Excited to be back after a life changing experience we all couldn’t wait to meet our families and friends to share our feelings and experience.

National Youth Convention – Shillong

National Youth Convention – Shillong

Due to heavy traffic we reached late to the venue and thus I missed the welcome march and mass. But I reached when the North East was showcasing its rich culture through the various forms of dancing. After a wonderful cultural evening we retired to bed.

Next morning, 14th October, we started with the morning prayer by the Taize brothers, followed by inaugural function with the chief guest, the governor of Meghalaya Shree Musahari.

The three days in Shillong, we had rejuvenating talks, workshops on various current issues and cultural programs at night by different regions of India, and who can forget the live performances by the very talented north eastern bands and choirs. I was a part of the workshops on peace building by Fr. Jerry Thomas and prolife by Mr. Sebastian Kattukaren. Both these workshops broadened by horizons and filled me with the spirit to do something for the society at large.

I made a lot of friends from different parts of the country, learnt a lot about the Indian diversity. I also enjoyed being a part of the Eucharistic Celebration in the Syro Malankara and Syro Malabara rites.

But the cherry on the cake was the Concluding Eucharistic Celebration by His Excellency Archbishop Salvatore Pennacchio, who is the Apostolic Nuncio in India. The Holy Mass was attended by more than 1,00,000 Catholics from Shillong and nearby diocese. His Excellency Archbishop Salvatore read out the message from Holy Father, His Highness Pope Benedict XVI for the youth of India. During the sermon the Archbishop Salvatore appealed to the youth of India to take out time from there mobiles, sms, internet, television and to give that time at the service of Our Lord Jesus.

During the closing ceremony of the VIII National youth Convention, the venue for next youth convention was selected, the venue being the city of Jalandhar.

I knew I was taking back home a lot of things from Shillong (no I am not talking about the shopping I did...), I learnt a lot, enjoyed a lot, and met youth from all backgrounds. It was a great experience altogether.

The Village Exposure

The Village Exposure

Three girls from Mumbai, a sister from the same place and I were all assigned to Ladrymbai Parish(Good Shepherd Parish) headed by Parish Priest Fr. Sherman. Due to multiple delays mentioned earlier we reached the parish house after 12:00am. The parish priest and others, even though we arrived late, were there waiting for us to welcome us.

We were treated with warm cups of tea and snacks at midnight to cure us from the weariness of our long journey; their impeccable hospitality was enough to make me forget the painful journey.

The Mumbai girls left immediately to their village after the snacks, while Sr. Erica and I were asked to spend the night there and then to leave the next morning for our village. We were shown our rooms with comfortable beds and warm blankets and after refreshing myself with hot water provided I retired to bed.

Next day after a healthy breakfast, we left for our village, Jalyiah. As we entered the house of our host Christopher, we were welcomed by a bunch of school kids ready with a welcome song. We had a bit of rest, met Christopher’s wife Maria Goretti, their three children, eldest girl Deikmen I Mary,7 and sons Edisuk, 4 and Fridian Joseph 3. Then accompanied by Christopher, Sr. Erica and I left for house visits.

We visited many families, Catholics and pagans, rich and poor, ones with concrete homes and others with thatched houses. Everywhere we went we were welcomed as one of them. I witnessed poverty, sickness, illiteracy and yet among these simple rustic people was a love far beyond comparison.

Evening we were welcomed again by the church youth group outside the church followed by a community rosary. In a village of 600 families there were only 60 Christian families, but all of them had a strong faith.

The next day we visited the Leshka Hydal Power Project, a 3 hour uphill journey from our village. The natural beauty of the hills took my heart away and I really wished I had more pairs of eyes to take in the beauty. Majesty and power of Our Lord could be witness in the hills and valleys. The power plant was gigantic in proportions, and one could clearly see the reach of human intellect.

Returning from the project, we had a mass in the local church. It was our last night in the village and the villagers were ready with a farewell song. Next morning we left for Shillong.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Our Journey from Ahmedabad to Shillong

Our Journey from Ahmedabad to Shillong

We had a train at 3:30p.m from Ahmedabad to Howrah and then another train from Howrah to Guwahati, from where we would be taken to Shillong in a bus arranged by the ICYM (Indian Catholic Youth Movement).

But as we all have experienced at some or the other part of our lives not all goes according to our plans. And so when we reached the station we came to know that our train was delayed by 7hours! Well that was certainly a bit discomforting. Fr. Lawrence suggested moving to Gomtipur parish to spend time and we all agreed. The delay did cause incontinence but I also got to visit a parish I had never visited, pray in a church which I would not have been to in normal circumstances, meet a loving lady who at once was filled with motherly care for me and to have a delicious supper.

We reached back to the railway junction only to be welcomed by the news of further delay of the train. When we finally boarded the train after 12:00a.m we had to hunt for seats(did I mention we did not have reservations?). Well after a lot of hardwork and haggling with the TT from Fr. Lawrence and boys we finally managed to get a place to sleep. For another night we again had to hunt for a new place, but somehow amid the chaos I felt very calm and safe deep within.

Soon our concern was not the place to sit or lie down in the train, it was to catch the other train from Howrah where we did have reservations. Our train which was initially 7hours late was now running 11hours late, further more delay and we would miss the other train.

We entered West Bengal with the delayed trained which threatened to be delayed further and it seemed like a race against time. As our train took a halt at Sankrail(a local station) which is about 20mins from Howrah in an express train, our fellow passengers and locals asked us to get down and board a local train to Howrah which would get us to Howrah earlier than our express. It was a chance we took and went for it.

We boarded the local at 3:20pm and our other train to Guwahati was at 3:30! We were all a bit scared, as it was a huge gamble, but for me apart from being scared I was enjoying the experience of traveling in a local West Bengal train, again an experience which I would never get in normal circumstances.

In 30mins we were approaching Howrah Junction. As we were entering the station we were all filled with the same emotion, the one that you get when you are entering a station and witnessing your train leaving the station. It is bitter. It is hard. But well there was a little compensation, atleast we reached an hour before our ‘express’! And we did manage to get another train to Guwahati.

Once we reached Guwahati on 10th Oct, we were welcomed by NYC volunteers, and before we knew we were in a bus going uphill to Shillong!

8th National Youth Convention-Shillong

8th National Youth Convention-Shillong

On 7th October morning I woke with a mixture of feelings going through me; I was full of anticipation awaiting a new adventure in life, I was filled with excitement for this would be my first trip to North Eastern part of India, I was a little confused knowing not what to expect, but most of all I was prepared with the determination of representing Gujarat and the Arch Diocese of Gandhinagar.

It seemed like yesterday when I had a call from Sr. Josephine to find someone to go to NYC to be a part of the convention representing our Arch Diocese, though it actually happened months ago I could clearly recall saying ‘yes’ to it without even thinking. So, on the day of departure as I was readying myself I was thanking God for the once in a life time opportunity I had received.

On 7th October accompanied by Fr. Lawrence and Arvind from Nana Kantharia, Vinod from Vadgam and Jagdish from Kalol I set forth to experience a new world. Just a day before leaving I found the theme song of NYC from the internet, and before I knew I was in love with the song. The theme of NYC being ‘Live The Word, Liberate The World’, the song was so apt and appealing that I could not wait for the actual convention.

I would like to divide my experiences into four major parts for ease of writing and also to maintain a proper chronology. The parts are as follows:
·        The village exposure
·        Our journey back home.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

My Quotes III

Well here is another part of my quotes. Do not forget to tell me which one is your favorite. For the first two parts kindly go to My Quotes and My Quotes II

  • Be where you are, and you will never grow.
  • Not all the things you think you need, are good for you.
  • What you can, what you should, what you must; are all dependent on you.
  • Courage is, turning a deaf ear to what your fears have to say.
  • Use brain first, brawn next.
  • If your rose is a thorn to others, it is not a rose indeed.
  • Never break a broken heart.
  • Don't have a price, have value.
  • Helping strangers can be a great personality boost.
  • We celebrate birth, we mourn death and we sleepwalk through life.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Love Your Enemies... Or Atleast be Tolerant to Them

We all have someone, we don't get along with, don't we? I have one... oh wait maybe two... three? Oh leave it lets come to the point.

In such a diverse society we live in, there is always someone out there that we totally dislike. This dislike can be because of the differences between two person, because of some past event that hurt, because of competition, because there is a thing called hatred at first sight.

Anyways whatever may be the reason, the fact is that we all do have these enemies.

Now, our behavior with the people we don't like, distinguishes us from others. as Jesus says in the Gospel of Luke 6:32-36  "If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' love those who love them. And if you do good to those who are good to you, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' do that. And if you lend to those from whom you expect repayment, what credit is that to you? Even 'sinners' lend to 'sinners,' expecting to be repaid in full. But love your enemies, do good to them, and lend to them without expecting to get anything back. Then your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High, because he is kind to the ungrateful and wicked. Be merciful, just as your Father is merciful."

OK, to be very truthful, this portion of the scripture is something I have been trying to attempt and have failed a lot of times. I tried everything, but somehow I am not able to like(let alone love) my enemy! So now I am trying another method.

Instead of trying to 'love' or 'like' these people, I am learning the virtue of tolerance. I am letting these people be, I believe once I master the virtue of tolerance(not in the negative sense), I will move towards accepting them, the way they are, differences and everything else.

Acceptance will be followed by respect, which will be followed by 'love'(well, if everything works out fine!).

The point here is, it might not be possible for us to instantly love or like a person we have something against, but we all can atleast practice the act of tolerance and mercy.

We should not forget that the heavenly Father loves us despite our iniquities, we too should practice patience, mercy and love with our fellow brothers and sisters.


He broke the 20 year old fast

There was a 30 something guy. He was the regular guy you meet in day to day life. He had a stable job, a beautiful and helpful wife, a kid who was his life source. Life was a feast and he had fun living everyday a full life. Lets call this man Joe.

Now Joe had observed a strict fast for last 20 years, nothing at all could make him break that fast, the coaxing of his wife, the bullying of his friends, the gentle requests of his parish priest, the subtle hints of the neighbors, nothing. He had everything in his life(or so he thought) and he really did not need to break his fast.

Now, Joe was leaving for his office one fine morning, when he met with a terrible accident. Joe was hospitalized and was on life support. When Joe regained consciousness, Joe saw his family and friends around him with concerned looks on their faces. Joe's child finally came forward, held his father's hand and said. "Pa, won't you break your fast?".

Joe went into a flashback and his entire life seemed to be fickle and empty. He decided to break his fast.

Slowly he looked up, as the entire group stared at him in disbelief, Joe looked at his wife and said,"Honey, will you please pass me the Bible."

His 20 year fast of not reading the Word of God, was broken.

Months went by, and Joe read the Bible with interest and vigor, he was still in hospital, and doctors said he was reviving faster than usual. Six months later, he left the hospital as a changed man. He thought he had everything he needed in life before the fateful accident, thus he never used to read the Holy Scriptures, after the accident when he saw everything he ever owned could be taken away in a split of a second, he came to know that the Bible and the words and promises in there were his only hope. The more he read, the more his heart took courage.

How many of us are Joe? Fasting from the daily Bible reading. Are you waiting for a life threatening situation to turn towards the Word? Think again. You might not be as lucky as Joe.

Break Your FAST