Friday, 28 June 2013

7QT Vol 11: The Miracle Edition

So I notice I start a lot of blog posts with 'So' like we're already in the middle of a conversation. But that's the charm of blogs, isn't it? They're like chats over tea, not essays, or dissertations, or formal letters. Anyway, what were we talking about? Right, miracles.

I have often wondered why people who have witnessed or experienced miracles don't talk about them all. the. time. How do you even know the strange and awesome things people have seen unless they tell you? Unless you're me, and you ask people "Have you ever witnessed a miracle?" Which if you knew me, would not surprise you at all to hear. I know miracles are not conclusive proof for the existence of God, because everybody comes us with some random other explanation for them (like your positive thoughts healed you, or something), but they sure do help in strengthening a faith that has already passed a logical test. And maybe for some people, it opens your mind to even consider the rational reasons to believe in something more than the material world.

So I decided you are the lucky audience who will hear some (not all) of the awesome and strange miracles that I have experienced or witnessed, or in some way been a part of. You are very welcome.


I'd like to introduce myself as the patron saint of people who want babies. Actually, what I will really be the patron saint of, is of course, humility, but one of my lesser patronages is wanted pregnancies. When I was a little kid, my mum and dad told me about a couple who had been married seven years (I think) and really wanted to have a baby. They asked which of us wanted to take the couple up as a our special prayer intention, and for some reason, I decided it was mine. Night after night, I faithfully prayed for them, even mixing up their names when it was late and I was sleepy, but I just HAD to pray that 'K and C have a baby'. And yay, a few months later they conceived, and I was invited as a guest of honour, to their son, A's 1st birthday party. He is now a gangly teenager who I see at Mass occasionally.


I take after my mum. One of her cousins had come to visit us with his wife about ten years ago. They had been married about seven years too, and no babies. This being India, where personal questions are not considered extremely rude, my mum asked them, "Do you WANT a baby?" (We didn't want to waste our prayers on people who were deliberately avoiding pregnancies.) They said "Yes!" and enthusiastically asked for our prayers... a year later they had their first son, followed by two little rascals in the years that followed.


Wait, there are more! My mum had been visiting France (doesn't that sound la-di-dah and fancy?) for another cousin's wedding, and was doing a little sightseeing with another cousin's wife, J, in Paris. J was American, and Protestant. They visited the Notre Dame Cathedral, and her cousin's wife asked what was behind all the candle-lighting. My mum explained that we asked Mary to pray for our special intentions. Struck by this, J asked if she could light a candle for her and her husband who ALSO had been married for several years, to have a baby. And yes, within a few months they were pregnant too, and now have a little girl and a little boy. I GUESS I'll have to give that one to Mary.


This one is an old family tale. About twenty years ago, when my family had five little children, and very little money, my mum was looking at a picture book with my four-year old sister, J. J pointed at a picture of some fruit and said, "Mama, what's that?" My mum looked, and her heart fell when she realized her children had never tasted peaches or plums, and didn't even know what they looked like. But such fruit were luxuries when we could only afford the basics.

That same morning, a fruit seller came by our house rolling his handcart, and guess what he was selling? Little baskets of peaches and plums! My mum was tempted... but they just didn't have the money. She said "Father, if You want my daughter to taste peaches and plums, YOU can provide them."

The same day, my sister went to play with a neighbour from our building. She was an only child, and their family was quite wealthy. My sister came back home, holding a little gift from them... yup, a basket of peaches and plums.


We've had plenty of financial miracles. We consider them our special privilege because both my parents are doing some form of Christian ministry, which is far from lucrative, and yet God has always given us what we needed when we needed it, and sometimes even when we didn't.

When I was 18, I began to feel called to do a teacher's certificate course. I didn't know for sure, but I was attracted to teaching. Since teaching isn't a well paid job here in India, I assumed the course couldn't be very expensive. And I suppose it wasn't, compared with other degrees and courses. But it was still a LOT of money... for my family who had no savings, no money set aside for college, and not much of an income. I freaked out, and felt like I should just forget the idea. But my dad took me aside and told me, "Don't worry about the money, you just need to pray and ask the Lord if this is definitely what He is calling you to." So I did. And a month before I had to pay the fees, a great-uncle from England randomly decided to send my family (and my cousins) a gift- twice the amount of money I needed for the course. I don't think my family was in the least surprised.


Wow, this is miracle-tale telling is more tiring than I thought. What else? Okay shortened versions. I, along with others, prayed for a woman who had a stomach ulcer. She had been for medical tests, and looked frail and tired when we met her. We asked her if she believed God could heal her, and she said 'Yes'. (We always pray that God will do whatever He wants, knowing that He could ask us to patiently bear the suffering He allows, and that He could bring greater good from that suffering, but also that His will could be that the person is healed physically, as a sign that He is present and powerful.) Anyway, before she went back to the doctor, we prayed again for her healing, and one of the men praying felt very strongly that she was healed. The medical tests came back in a few days... and there was no trace of an ulcer! Over the next few months we saw her put on weight and grow stronger and healthier. Yup, miracle.


These are all physical miracles, but there have been far more of the other type- spiritual and emotional miracles. Which of course are less sensational, because it could all be psychological. But here's one. Some one I was close to had asked me to pray for a difficult relationship with a friend. It had been bad for more than a year, and despite all her efforts, it was like a stone wall between them. It was a source of a lot of hurt, because they worked closely together, and had many common friends. It was Holy Week last year, when I felt called to do a much more intense fast that I usually take on. Not like it was that intense, just intense for weak-willed me. Basically, I lived on bread and rice for the last five days of Lent, and offered it up for this particular relationship.

It was a difficult fast because I love food, and hate being hungry, and the only reason I stuck it out was because I was doing it with other people, and it would have been pretty pathetic for the person who started the fast, and announced it to everyone to be the one who gave up first. So I lasted it out, with one meal at Maundy Thursday that we couldn't really avoid because we had been invited for a 'Seder meal'. Anyway.

Shortly after the fast, my friend called and told me that something had changed, and she didn't know how or why. A barrier that had been there had crumbled. A hard heart had been softened. Resentment had been surrendered. Miraculously.

Okay, the end. I'm sleepy.

More Quick Takes at Jen's.

P.S. Go ahead and share your miracle story in the combox... I know you have one. I'd love to hear. Read. Whatever.

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Are We The Church?

One of the homilies Catholics hear a lot is the 'We are the Church' homily. It goes something like this- 'Look at the letters CH_ _CH. What is missing? U R! The Church is nothing without the people! The Church is not just the priests and the sisters! You are the Church!'

Every time I hear that I have mixed feelings, because we ARE the Church, but... the Church is not us.

Let me explain. If you care. Otherwise, press Ctrl+W.

The Church is basically the mystical body of Christ, the family of those who believe in Christ, and are in some way IN Christ (that's where the mystical part comes in, I guess.) When we are baptized, we are joined to that Body.

So, yes we are the Church. Kinda.

We are not the Church in the same way as the we could be members of an organization. It is something we are joined to, not something we create. The Church is not dependent of us for its existence. Even if you leave, the Church continues. I've heard people talk about the need to change the teachings of the church or the pews will be empty. They are missing the point completely. We're not desperately trying to fill up our churches in the fear that if we don't, the Church will be doomed. (Ha ha, it can't be, because Matt 16:18.)

Also, the Church is not a democracy. Yes, we should be open to making structural changes, and working on better strategies or approaches, but we are not free to change the deposit of truth handed down from Jesus to the Apostles and through the unbroken line of succession of the popes. So we are the church does NOT mean "I've heard that most Catholics use contraception, therefore those old, rigid rules should change," which is kinda how secular news talks about the Church.

Each individual Catholic is not free to make it up as they go along, because they are the Church. You are a member of the Church, but you are not the teaching authority of the Church. Sorry.

I guess the point of those homilies is that the laity need to wake up and take ownership of their faith. Our job is not to sit in the pews as observers or critics, or even supporters . The mission of the Church is not the responsibility of the priests and religious alone, which we occasionally help them with... it is OUR mission.
When you reach the stage when you realize that being a member of the Church is a huge privilege and responsibility, whether you are a priest, religious sister or lay person, oh, the freedom!

It's freedom because no longer is my faith is dependent on a priest's homily, my experiences with snippy parishioners, bad liturgical music, lack of Christian fellowship, or even the hurtful ways 'Catholics' have treated me at Catholic school. I can mourn with those who have been abused by certain priests, feel sorrow over the various scandals that crop up over Catholics who have forgotten what it means to be Christian. I can even look back at some of the shameful episodes of the Church's history like the Inquisition and the Crusades and some super-evil Popes, and that does not shake my trust in the One whose Body we are a part of, and He's the One who promised "The gates of hell will NOT prevail against my Church." Because of His words, I can see the difference between the sins of individual members of the Church, and the Church, the Mother, who gives me the Sacraments, and the Truth that I crave.

We are the Church, but the Church is more than us... thank God.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Creepy God Movie

How legitimate is a blog post about a movie that I have not actually seen more than two minutes of? Who cares, since no one is rating this blog for legitimacy?

So I was checking the movies showing yesterday on TV, and came across a super strange movie description. The movie was called 'Legion' and the description said something like 'God loses faith in humanity and sends a legion of angels to destroy the world.'


There were so many questions. How is that a plot? Does the whole movie consist of angels destroying people? Or does if it starts with that, what possible 'after' could they portray? And what kind of God is that anyway?

All these questions led me to stay on that channel for a grand total of two minutes in which I saw this:

TVs and radios are not working in a small country bar in the US. People start freaking out. Little old woman comes in, and knows everyone's names and personal details and charmingly greets them, until the waitress comes to serve her and little old woman asks her "How far along are you?" She's pregnant... and NOT married. (Start getting scared.) Old woman continues to look sweet and old and says "It's going to burn." Everybody turns in shock. "The baby's going to burn."

Suddenly everything gets VERY creepy and old woman transforms into horrific destroying monster.

At this point I come back to my senses and switch channels very fast.

What the HECK?

I don't even know what to say. I GUESS that was supposed to be a horror movie..? Or something?

But those two minutes made me think of several things:

1. Ohmygosh THANK GOD God is NOT like that. God has never given up on us. He is not waiting, watching, and getting more and more frustrated with our sinfulness, about to explode with anger at a world gone mad. Maybe some of our dads have acted like that, but God is not a cold, angry judge. Even hell, which people think of as God's judgment is NOT! It is a self-inflicted judgment. That means anyone who goes to hell CHOOSES hell. (Yes, I know too many caps.) God doesn't force anyone to accept Him, and He respects our freedom. A quote I read: 'God is not against us because of our sin, God is with us against our sin." He's trying to save us from ourselves.

2. This is what some people really think religion is. If you don't follow the rules, God will punish. (And maybe we will, if He won't.) That's probably what leads some people (Christians?) to throw their pregnant children out of their homes. That's a cold, unmerciful religion which looks NOTHING like a God, slow to anger, abounding in steadfast love. But if that's what people think God is, no wonder they want nothing to do with religion.

3. Being an unwed mother is NOT a sin. Having a baby out of wedlock is NOT a sin. Having SEX before marriage is the sin, not having the baby. It is beautiful to see women who choose to keep those babies, and all the people who love and support such women. The point of Christianity is grace and redemption. No matter how far you've gone, there is ALWAYS a way back to God. There is no unforgivable sin. 'It doesn't matter where you've been or what you've done, what matters is where you go from here' according to Crystallina Evert, a chastity speaker. That's also why Catholics don't support the death penalty (except in extremely rare circumstances).

Okay, that's it. Weirdest blog post you read this week, I'm sure.

Friday, 21 June 2013

7QT Vol 10: The Pope Francis Edition

Obviously I have nothing funny, interesting or thought-provoking to say today, so I'm going to steal stuff from someone who does. Hey, also the Pope should have a blog, and join seven quick takes. Petition, anyone?

"Heh heh, no probs, Sue, and also, let me comment on your blog while I'm at it. I have a LOT of free time."

Anyway here, goes:

"In today's culture we are the minority, we have only one sheep, but do we feel the evangelical zeal to go out and seek the remaining 99? It is difficult, it is easier to stay home, and comb and hug the one sheep that we have. The Lord wants us, priests, to be shepherds, not hairdressers."
Yes! One sees all the SAME people at every outreach of the church. What is THAT about? Preaching to the choir, I guess. And call it mission.


"Resentment is like a full house with lots of people crammed inside so they can't see the sky, while pain is like a city in which there are still lots of people, but at least you can see the sky. In other words, pain is open to prayer, tenderness, the company of a friend and thousands of things that offer dignity. That's why pain is a healthier situation than resentment."
It's so easy to feel resentful with the slightest bit of pain, or even discomfort. Whose fault is it? Isn't it unfair and unjust? I don't deserve this! And yes, that cuts you off, from God, from people who can help, from the world.


"Salvation from sin is like being saved from drowning: Being upfront and honest about one's sinful nature actually helps create a more authentic encounter with God."
This is what I think is the biggest problem among Catholics. Everybody thinks they're doing pretty well. So the whole concept of salvation is not just unexciting, it's irrelevant. I only started growing in my faith when I realized what a big mess I was, and how desperately in need of grace I was.


“Each day, we all face the choice to be Good Samaritans or to be indifferent travelers passing by.”
Oh, ouch. That hits a little too close to home.


"Triumphalism brings the Church and Christians to a halt. A triumphalist Church is a half-way Church that is happy, well-organised and efficient but denies martyrdom and does not know that martyrs are necessary for the way of the Cross."
Triumphalism: Excessive exultation over one's success or achievements
We CANNOT avoid the cross... if we want to be Christians. Being a Christian isn't a matter of self-congratulation, or a place to relax and feel good about ourselves. We have to be willing to suffer, to fight our own sin if we want to see the Church flourishing.


"Saint Paul only irritated others because testifying to Jesus Christ makes everyone uncomfortable, it threatens the comfort zones. And in order to move forward, forward, forward … not to take refuge in a quiet place or in cozy structures, we need to exhibit that most Christian of attitudes: Apostolic zeal. Of this the Apostle Paul had an ample and admirable supply. He was not a man of compromise. No! The truth: forward! The proclamation of Jesus Christ: forward."
Love this one! Truth is scary. And making people uncomfortable is supposed to be the worst sin one can commit in the world today. Just play nice. Make sure everyone happy. And whatever you do, don't rock the boat!

“There are backseat Christians, those who are well mannered, who do everything well, but are unable to bring people to the Church through proclamation and apostolic zeal. Their fear of soiling the linen prevents them from going out in search of others, especially along the edges where the dust and the dirt, the muck and the mire are likely to accumulate. Do not become too polite, people who speak of theology calmly over tea. We have to become courageous Christians and seek out those who are the flesh of Christ."
Yeah! Not that I have anything against talking theology, or tea parties, but the world needs more than that!

More quick takes at Jen's!

Monday, 17 June 2013


Have you seen all the #firstworldproblems memes? (Why can I never remember how to pronounce that word? mee-mee.. mem... mey-mey... Okay, it's meem.)

For those who haven't yet come across this phenomenon, it is basically 'frustrations and complaints that are only experienced by privileged individuals in wealthy countries. It is typically used as a tongue-in-cheek comedic device to make light of trivial inconveniences.' (According to know your meme)

Like this:

Or this

But what the first world doesn't know is that such privilege is experienced within certain parts of the third world too. You'd think that if we can SEE the poverty outside, we'd be more grateful for what we have. Sorry, doesn't work that way.

When you've grown up with privilege, it is way too easy to get used to it and assume that it is your right. Entitlement and all. And even when people living five minutes away from your home live in tiny sheds, it's hard to identify with them.

Living in a world where most things come fairly easily, our fluent English guarantees us good jobs, and we've never had to wonder where the next meal is coming from, we feel sympathy for those who don't have all that... and still we complain like whiny 3 year olds when we have to face minor discomforts.

I'm not here to point fingers, because I'm just as self-centred as the next privileged individual.

Let me give you a few examples to prove that this is not humility talking.

Most of middle class India has cleaning ladies who come in to sweep and mop the floors every morning. A few years ago I was between jobs, and used to stay up late in the nights, and sleep every morning (after waking up to eat breakfast because that's the rule in my home). But every morning, the cleaning lady would come in, and start sweeping the floor, cleaning the windows, dropping dust over the sheets covering me, and overall driving me nuts. "FREAKIN ANNOYING WOMAN CAN'T SHE JUST LEAVE ME ALONE AND LET ME SLEEP IN MY PEACE!!!" was the extremely Christian thought in my head most mornings. Yes, while a woman more than twice my age cleaned MY room, and I stayed in bed, doing... nothing.

Yup this meme, IS about me, though I didn't make it:

What about the irritation when I wake up in the morning, and the cup of tea made for me by my parents DOESN'T HAVE ENOUGH SUGAR... AGAIN! Do they hate me????

Or when I'm watching TV, and my brother's phone signal interferes with the TV signal, and I miss bits of the serial I'm watching. Could ANYTHING be more frustrating??

Or when the Internet stops working.. for a few hours? GRRR... THE UNIVERSE MUST HATE ME TOO! It's a conspiracy between the universe and my parents!!

I'm not alone. These are some of the problems people face in my little privileged world:

Good nail polish is SO hard to find! You have to get it from the US, because it's SO overpriced in India!
The problem with having a job is that you don't have time to have a life!
Uggh. My fancy and expensive cell phone is SO annoying, I can't figure out how to get the darn thing to do what I want it to!
The rain is SO annoying... I have to wear these stupid raincoats and my feet get wet on my way to my air-conditioned dry work place.
The monsoons make my life SO hard- I get stuck in traffic jams in my fancy dry air-conditioned car listening to music.*

Okay, I don't mean that people who are privileged never have problems or frustrations. Neither am I saying only poor people deserve sympathy. I'm just saying:
  • Get some perspective. There are REAL problems, and there are minor inconveniences. Do a quick check about which one you're going through when you find yourself moaning. 
  • If you're so caught up in your own rich people problems that you don't even know what it feels like to be poor, fast for just one morning. That surely gives you some perspective. By which of course I mean it gave ME some perspective. 
  • Read a book about people who suffer real deprivation, and walk in their shoes... even if it's just through your imagination... for a couple of hours. Don't run back too fast to your comfortable world. Reading about parched, thirsty, drought-ridden sufferers made me run for a glass of water and savor the taste.
  • Don't stop there like that stupid song that said 'Well tonight, thank God it's them instead of you.' We don't just feel grateful that we don't suffer like other people... we get out there, and do SOMETHING.
  • And please, every now and again, take a look at your spending habits, and say "Do I REALLY need that?" "Consumerism has accustomed us to waste. But throwing food away is like stealing it from the poor and hungry." sez Pope Francis.
  • STOP COMPLAINING ABOUT EVERYTHING! Your life doesn't really suck!
Okay, I'm done preaching. Gotta walk the talk now.

(But I can't resist posting a few more of these.)

*Not quoting anyone I know verbatim... don't get mad at me!

Friday, 14 June 2013

7QT Vol 9: The Catholicism Series Edition


Yesterday my mum and I watched one episode of Fr. Robert Barron's Catholicism series. I had been really excited about this, because the whole Catholic online world was talking about how awesome the series was, and even the usually critical, just-because-it's-Christian-doesn't-mean-we-should-applaud-bad-quality crowd was singing it's praises. My mum had to do a session about the liturgy, so we started off with Episode 7: "Word Made Flesh, True Bread of Heaven: The Mystery of the Liturgy and the Eucharist”.


First of all, it IS beautiful. The video quality was awesome, and I got a taste of the beauty that I have come to associate with Catholicism. With the music, the shots, and the commentary, it really is quite an experience. To hear sound theology, interesting examples and analogies, anecdotes and perspectives from the gentle, but persuasive Fr. Barron, made me SO happy.


But. I'm also a little disappointed. (WHY? scream the Fr. Barron fans everywhere) Well, I was REALLY hoping for something that I could use to draw the common Indian to the truth, beauty and goodness of the Catholic Church, something that would appeal to the deepest hunger of their hearts. And it does do that for me. But the words that Fr. Barron used were far too elevated for most Indians to connect with. He's awesome, he spoke truth... but he didn't speak it in a way that common man could get. Even average English-speaking Catholics would find it difficult to get.


I realize that he didn't make Catholicism to evangelize Indian Catholics. It was probably aimed at the Western world, the intellectuals who have grown cynical and bored with what the world offers. I guess it's supposed to whet their intellectual and aesthetic appetites. And I know that is a need, and I really hope and pray that it does help them. But for my ministry in India, it does not fit the bill.


I did think of one possibility- what if we (got permission and) dubbed it in Hindi... and simplified the theology so it could explain the same truths, but in a simpler way? The visuals are amazing, so we'd get the feel and the beauty. It would take a talented theologian fluent in both English and Hindi to manage that.


Another possibility I am still ruminating is inviting friends and acquaintances over for a dinner and Catholicism viewing and discussion once or twice a month, the kind of people who would be able to grasp it if not in its entirety, but at least a large part of what Fr. Barron attempted to convey. It's no use inviting theologians (who are the only ones who would fully get it), but people who are very comfortable with English, but also interested in using their minds and engaging their hearts in something more than a Hollywood movie. Yes, I'm talking to you Man of Steel fans. ;-) What I mean is, if you don't have an appetite for it, it won't satisfy you.


I suppose I should watch the rest of the episodes before making up my mind so firmly on all the pros, cons and possible uses of the series. Anyway, in spite of it not being EXACTLY what I was looking for, it IS awesome, and I hope we're going to see more quality, beautiful media emerging from hearts and minds transformed by Christ and His Church.

More quick takes at Jen's!

Wednesday, 12 June 2013

Beauty Is Confusing

So, I guess the whole Internet world has seen the Dove's Real Beauty ads. And everyone's like 'Yay, you're more beautiful than you think!" Except for some people who said, "Why are the majority of the women white, young, and skinny?" And then some of the people were like, "Perfect parody material!"

But the one thing the Dove ads did do for me is to think more about beauty. And the more I thought about beauty, the more questions there were.

Like, is beauty objective or subjective? People say "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." and "Everyone is beautiful". But then, how can one possibly become 'more beautiful', by accentuating one's features with make up, or losing weight, or straightening one's teeth with braces? And yet, that is often our experience, as seen by the MANY makeover movies girls love to watch- Princess Diaries, Miss Congeniality, Sabrina, She's All That, My Big Fat Greek Wedding, etc. Not to mention, our personal experience- get a good (what is 'good' if it's all subjective?) haircut, wear some eye liner, and suddenly guys are checking us out. Why would we call anyone 'gorgeous' if everyone is? You can SAY everyone is beautiful, but your eye is still drawn to a particular face over another.

Beauty: A combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight.

But who defines beauty? Haven't we all bought into beauty-as-defined-by-society? Maybe people are checking us out, because they have been trained by the culture to define beauty in a particular way. Ads, movies, beauty magazines and the people around us all re-affirm this particular perspective of beauty (all. the. time.) The extremely infamous Fair and Lovely cream ads in India make me furious with their equation of beauty with fairness of skin. And I KNOW people have blindly accepted this equation, which is why women bleach their skin or wear thick layers of powder for their weddings (and matrimonial pictures), and matrimonial ads regularly feature the description 'fair, slim, tall'.

But but but.

How does the experience of beauty cross cultures? Haircuts, fashion and body shapes change, but we still talk about 'classic beauty'. Faces that give us pleasure. Faces from different cultures and countries and races and ages, which all seem to have even, symmetrical features. I read about an experiment done with babies, how they spent more time looking at more typically beautiful, symmetrical faces.

But but but.

Is beauty the same as 'physical attractiveness'? Is inner beauty a whole different category? (Funny aside: Years ago I met a girl who had heard from a common friend that I was a 'good sort of person' or 'had a good heart', and she did a double take because she was so sure that had meant I was extremely unattractive.) Is the world divided into 'beautiful' and 'ugly' people? How much does beauty matter? Does being beautiful make us lovable? When women long for beauty, are they really longing to know they are lovable and loved? Has beauty been equated with lovableness for so long that we can't tell the difference? Or is there an innate desire to be beautiful?

And if everyone really is beautiful, why do we prefer to look at certain type of faces? Does it mean WE need to widen our perception of beauty? What about say, (graphic example warning) a girl whose face has been splashed with acid? If we find that unattractive, does that mean we just can't see the beauty of an acid-splashed face? Or acne? Have we bought into society's lies when we try to get rid of it?

Okay, enough questions. Here's what I do believe, even if they're not completely coherent or unified thoughts:

1. Beauty is more than physical. I think it shines from the inside out. A woman who has allowed goodness to transform her soul, who walks with confidence and joy, who knows she is loved... that's beauty, and if we don't see it, that is OUR problem. That is why almost every happy bride is beautiful.

But that also means not everyone is beautiful (though everyone has the potential to be beautiful). You often see people's character shining out of their eyes... for good or for bad. It's hard to see beauty in a cold, hard, proud, spiteful, fearful, or ill-tempered face.

2. We DO need to widen our perceptions of physical beauty, and challenge the perceptions that society forces on us. Dark is beautiful. It's not just okay to be a different body shapes, it's your brand of beauty. The movie industry rarely portrays 'normal' faces. That struck me when I visited the US- I wasn't used to seeing 'normal' American faces after all the Hollywood movies. The ad industry in India also supports a narrow definition of beauty by only using fair actresses. The very few non-fair actresses in Bollywood are so unusual that they are always referred to as 'dusky'. And I've never seen a REALLY dark leading lady in a Bollywood movie. (Fine, I don't watch a lot of Bollywood movies, but still.) We have a variety of different shades of skin in India... why don't we see them on screen?

3. Neglecting our health for the original design of our body often detracts from our beauty. I think everyone has the potential for physical beauty, but they do have to take care of their bodies. That's why we encourage friends to exercise, not because they need to be skinnier, but because they need to be healthier... which is usually more attractive. If someone is born with some deformity, there is nothing wrong with getting it fixed... because it's a DE-formed. It is a problem with the original design. As our souls can be distorted by our bad choices, so can our body change for the worse if we develop unhealthy eating habits, smoke like a chimney pot, or become anorexic.

4. If you really LOOK at people, you will see their beauty. If we see them as more than status symbols, or something to be used, or lusted after, you will begin to see their intrinsic worth, their dignity, their person-hood, their uniqueness, their attractiveness. Look at an old woman. At a beggar. At a mother. At a baby. If you see the WHOLE person, you see beauty. Sometimes all you see is potential beauty. But it is there.

5. Some women are not physically attractive, but that's okay. If we're weighing physical beauty against inner beauty, guess what, inner beauty wins. If you don't think so, you don't count. That's what was wrong with the Dove ad- the women's self worth was defined by some random guy's perception of their beauty. What if the guy or the world DIDN'T thinks she was beautiful? That was definitely within the realm of possibility. What if they HAD looked like the pictures they painted of themselves? Did that make them less valuable? Did that justify a lower self-esteem?

A commenter on one of the blogs I posted below said, "I know that because of certain defects that can happen, either genetic or through health problems, a person might not manifest the physical beauty they were created to manifest, but I do think that each person was created by God to manifest even physical beauty, and we will see the completion/fullness of that in heaven."

6. Women ARE more beautiful than they think they are. That's the only thing I do agree with Dove on. But the deeper answer they need to know is that they are also more valuable than they think they are- and their face and body may reflect that, or they may not, but that does not change that it is true. Neither pregnancy, wrinkles, accidents or sickness can change their priceless worth... to a God that loves them.

Here are some other takes on the topic:

Beauty is Objective
Not Fair
Stop Saying All Women Are Beautiful

Tuesday, 11 June 2013

Questions For Mama

I love asking TPQ. That's what we called them in teacher's training- thought-provoking questions. This is something I may have started doing when I met my friend S when we were 16. We once almost came to tears in a heated discussion of.. wait for it... "Does the soul leave the body, and that is the moment when death occurs, or does the body die, and therefore the soul has to leave?"

Yes,we were some interesting (read: weird) sixteen-year-olds. The thing is, I don't think up these questions. They just pop into my head at random moments, and whoever is with me gets the benefit of hearing them. Unfortunately for her, I spend a lot of time around my mum. She groans when she hears the words, "Do you think..." and cries "Please don't make me think!" She has enough going on in her head, and doesn't want to enter into the realm of speculation, or theorizing and philosophizing about life.  

Here's a list of questions I've either really asked my mum, or thought of asking, and then held my tongue, because I make her brain hurt.

When you were young, did guys put their arm on the back of a sofa as a preliminary to putting their arm around the girl?

Does this sound theologically sound to you- God has already forgiven the sins of everyone in the world, but we need to accept the forgiveness He offers in order to be saved?

Are you happy?

Does our family buy particular vegetables because we like them, or just because they're vegetables?

Why do you think people seem to be getting married later?

Are you an introvert or an extrovert?

Were you close to any of your aunts or uncles?

Did you ever think you would be the mother of five children?

What are your thoughts on censorship?

I told you it was tiring to be around me. Oh, interesting, whichever way you look at it.

Monday, 10 June 2013

The Mandatory Post Facebook Fast Post

I don't know why I'm writing this. Everything that can be said has been said. Everyone who does a Facebook fast for whatever reason writes about it. Still, my experiences are my own, even if they reflect so many others' experience.

A brief recap of my relationship with Facebook- I joined about six years ago, and enjoyed it no end. Unfortunately, every time I had regular access to wifi, Facebook began to suck every free moment that was not specifically assigned to another task. It also increased my (suspected) ADD problem. I couldn't focus on anything for over a few moments. I went from being an avid book reader, to a blog reader, to a FB home page reader. Can anything be more pathetic?

Anyway, I felt strongly called to make a break with FB (at least for a while) last January. There were other reasons*, but the main reason was that I had just moved back home, and my family had gotten wifi. Also, the work that I do is largely unstructured, in that I don't have an immediate boss, or eight hour work days, or specific daily deadlines.  That led to hours suddenly passing with completely ridiculous amount of FB time. I knew there was more I wanted to do with my life. I also realized that the people I admired most were either not on Facebook at all, or very sporadic FB users. They were LIVING their lives, not posting statuses about them. And I wanted that too. So I quit.

It was a breath of fresh air. My day opened up. Since I didn't have a default time waster, there were so many more possibilities.

But of course the obvious pitfall was the tendency to find a FB replacement... which I did with the many blogs I read. And sometimes with Snake. And sometimes with Solitaire.

Still, on the whole, I think the fast was a success for me:

  • I started reading books again.
  • Since I gave up blogs too during Lent, the Internet stopped having as much control over me.
  • I did a lot of things that I had not made time for in the past- I baked, I cooked, I started a new blog and wrote regularly for it, I spent more time with my nieces, I made cards, I went to sleep earlier, and woke up.... I can't say early... but at a regular time that made enough time for peaceful prayer in the morning. With my extra time, I worked on fun projects like a family video project for my grandmother's 80th birthday and selling Easter egg baskets at our church.
  • I had the mental energy to focus on my work and make progress in it. 
  • I was able to say yes to the many things that people asked me to help with, without feeling overburdened.
  • I started going for weekday Mass far more often.
So four months later, why have I rejoined Facebook?

Well, the main reason I guess is connecting with people who I wouldn't meet regularly in my daily life. I have close friends in different countries, and the downfall of my fast was that I lost contact with some people who I was very close to. Of course, with some, email and Skype filled the gap. But I was not able to be part of the community I had been- liking new baby photos, rejoicing in their good news, sympathizing with the bad.

But now I know my weakness- my tendency to get distracted really easily, and how much I am losing with my focus. So the only way I'm letting FB back into my life, is with safeguards. The biggest safeguard is not having wifi... yup, I'm moving out pretty soon, and my new home is most likely not going to have wifi. 

I experienced that for three months last year (after about a year of constant wifi), and it was amazing. My housemate and I just added to an 'Internet list' of things we needed to get done, and once or twice a week found a place where we could use the wifi, catch up on emails, and download some blog posts and anything else we wanted to read later. 

So, yes, I'm back on Facebook, but I am no longer going to allow it to control my life or attention span. There is too much more that I want to do with my life.

Here are some fun, thought-provoking, sort of related posts to giving up Facebook :

*Another reason was that I also wanted to delete the years of information about myself accumulated on Facebook.
**National Catholic Register doesn't seem to be loading in India, but if you click on the 'cached copy', you can read the article.

Friday, 7 June 2013

7QT Vol 8: Monsoon Edition


So June has begun... and the monsoons are here! It's my first Indian monsoon in three years! I was out of the country, and though I had rain, nothing can compare with the wet-mud-smell, thundering-and-dark-at-5.30 pm, electricity going with a distant BOOM!, ugly-raincoat-wearing, hot-chai-sipping Indian monsoon experience. Now my mum just has to make hot onion bhajjyas (extremely unhealthy but perfect for the monsoons) and it will be all I remembered and hungered for during my exile.


My dad keeps saying, "This is not the monsoons!" This is the man who spends most of May saying, "The monsoons are coming" every time he sees a cloud. But now that it's pouring, the weather has cooled down, and we've bought our rain gear, he denies it. Fine, technically, it's till the pre-monsoon showers, or something, but for all practical purposes, it's pretty much the monsoon experience.


Monsoon is a weird word. Mon. Soon. Mawn. Sooon. MON-soon. Mon-SOON. Just say it enough times. To make this take slightly more intelligent, here's the origin of the word monsoon:

The English monsoon came from Portuguese monção, ultimately from Arabic mawsim ("season"), perhaps partly via early modern Dutch "monsun". (Via Wikipedia of course)


I didn't always look forward to the monsoons. That's because when I was a kid the smell and feel of the monsoons was mixed up with the smell and feel of new stationery, textbooks, school bags, covering notebooks with brown paper, buying lunch boxes and lunch bags, and a NEW SCHOOL YEAR. Which, by the way I hated, partly because I'm an introvert and partly because the Indian school system sucks. Also, it was the end of the lazy, reading-my-eyes-out summer holidays. But now I'm an adult, I love what I do, and no more school ever again! Yay monsoons!


Speaking of fashion, there is just no way to survive the monsoons with any semblance of style. What cool people do is make sure they are rich enough to own cars, so they don't really have to deal with the monsoons at all, except to splash hapless pedestrians. (It happens!)

What the rest of us do is wear cool-ish rain jackets. My cool sister (not that you're not cool, J) used to own a bright yellow rain jacket that was for the epitome of fun, cool, fashion statement. So rain jackets are the way to go, right?

No! Because when you're riding a bike (which we do a lot), the rain jackets can only take a light shower. If it's pouring, your legs get drenched, and unsightly wet patches appear in awkward places. (All Indian bike riders know what I'm talking about.) (Also, I like parentheses.) So fashion goes for a toss, and I resign myself to long ugly raincoats. But wait, it gets worse. Even raincoats let in rain in the gaps between the buttons. Rain ponchos? Nope, because they don't have sleeves.

Alas, the only fail-proof method of staying mostly dry is the most painfully unfashionable one advocated by my mother- the backward raincoat method. Yup, you put on your raincoat so the buttons are behind you, thus keeping your front dry, and your dignity in shreds.

(Shall we call this #firstworldproblemsinthethirdworld or feel better about ourselves by calling in #thirdworldproblems?)


The best part about the monsoons is that there is NOTHING that feels better than curling up in bed with a good book and a cup of tea when it's raining outside. Of course, the worst part about the monsoons is that there is nothing worse than knowing you have to get out of bed and leave the house when it is a dismal grey rainy day outside.

A rainy day looks very different depending on where you're looking at it from.


And of course we must have a picture!

More quick takes at Jen's!

Thursday, 6 June 2013

30 Before 30

So clichéd, I know. But goals are good right? The real question is, are these goals, plans, ought-to’s or just random dreams? I guess some of each. I suppose if I were super-organized, I’d make sections for different categories. But maybe I’m just going to dream without categories.

1. Read the Catechism of the Catholic Church. See, this is both an ought-to and a want-to. Know what you believe, and all. It seems so boring from the outside. But when I HAVE to read a bit for research on a talk or something, I’m captured by the beauty. It isn’t dry facts. It’s philosophy, truth, beauty. Why don’t I just read something that beautiful then? Because it’s soo much easier to read a blog post than open a fat red book. I have programmed my mind to accept only nugget-sized beauty and wisdom. To my loss.

2. Take a hiatus from life and write a book. Introversion + writing = Dream come true. I don’t even know for sure what I want to write about, or for whom. I started a children’s book about school once, but got dragged down by negativity (because I hated school), and soon abandoned it, rather than searching for a new angle. I do want to study the art of writing a little, and develop the skill. 

3. Travel to the north of India. I've been to the south, and loved it. I've been abroad, but I've never explored the beauty of the Himalayas, seen the Taj Mahal, or the beautiful Kashmir valley.

4. Invite my friends over to a fancy homemade dinner.

5. Do a fun reading programme with kids from the slum.

6. Read at least two well-written books about India.

7. Plan a fun, casual event for like-minded Catholic singles in my city to meet and mingle, without expectations, pressure or desperation. Yeah, we don’t really have that. We have official ‘marriage mart’ kind of things, announced at our church, that scare the heck out of me. If I had a good disguise though, I’d consider attending, just to blog about it.

8. Become comfortable speaking and teaching in Hindi.

9. Be a joyful bridesmaid at one of my close friends’/sister’s wedding... or a bride at my own. I know, I know, the only control I really have over this one is prayer. But at least I should do that. But also, No. 7 may help.

10. Watch Star Wars. (This is about to happen, because my brother borrowed the set from a friend.)

11. Watch Downton Abbey. Because I'm a Catholic blog groupie, and all the Catholic bloggers are talking about it.

12. Speak to high-schoolers at my alma mater talking about chastity, relationships, self-image, identity and God.

13. Go on a silent retreat. No question why I need to do that.

14. Blow bubbles. (I mean, yes, I have done that at some time in my past, but I want to set up a bubble-blowing date with my friends. Don't bother psycho-analyzing that.)

15. Watch the 'Catholicism' series by Fr. Robert Barron.

16. Read Jennifer Fulwiler's book.

17. Record a bunch of sweet ‘How I met My Husband’ and ‘How I Met my Wife’ stories. 

18. Be able to run for half an hour without collapsing. Yeah, I've never done any consistent exercise in my life.

19. Own more than one saree. Sari. Saree. Whatever.

20. Take my nieces out on regular dates. 

21. Sketch. In a sketch book.

22. Initiate a conversation with a complete stranger.

23. Regularly go to sleep early and wake up early.

24. Develop a style. Fashion, I mean. Not just second hand clothes, and whatever somewhat matches. Perhaps even jewelry occasionally. About time, huh?

25. Go to World Youth Day. I mean, once you cross 30, you can be arrested for trying to attend.

26. Do a Random Acts of Kindness project.

27. Do pedicures for women who are on their feet all day. The cracked, dry, dirty feet of most Indian women have tugged at my heart strings for years.

28. Write a story about my life (so far).

29. Own a bookshelf .

30. Do a fun photo shoot with my family (on both ends of the camera)

Do you have a 30 before 30 list? Or 40 before 40? Or a bucket list of any shape or form?

Tuesday, 4 June 2013

Indian Fail

I tried, really I did. When Indians go shopping, it is understood that they must bargain, or they're pretty much not Indians/ gullible foreigners. With my lack of Hindi and strange nameless shop-o-phobia in the past, I didn't even attempt it. But having grown in confidence, and still enjoying the freedom of adulthood, I make more of an effort now.

So, my sister and I were attempting to buy some pretty printed wrap around skirts.

Me: (In passable Hindi) So... we're buying three, so you'll give us a good price, right?
Shopkeeper: No, no, I already gave you a discount and (spiel about not making a profit that I got the gist of, but not the details)
Me: But we're buying three! Okay (calculating) we'll give you eight hundred rupees for all three.
Me: (wondering why he isn't reacting)
Me: (sotto voce to my sister) How much had he asked for?
My sister: Um, I think Rs 250 for the two shorter skirts, and Rs 300 for the longer one.
Me: [Facepalm]
Me: [Avoids shopkeeper's eyes and forks over the EXACT AMOUNT OF MONEY HE ORIGINALLY ASKED FOR.]
Shopkeeper (obviously) (to himself): Idiots.


Riding my two wheeler on the way home, a dithering guy also on a two wheeler suddenly darted forward almost in my path.

Correct Indian response: Blow horn REALLY LOUDLY AND AGGRESSIVELY
Wrong Indian response: Screech "Duuuude!" in an aggrieved voice

Guess which one I picked?