Monday, May 27, 2013

Jesuit theologian Fr. Samuel Rayan

by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
May 2013
Photo Courtesy : P K Jeevan Jose

A spiritual discourse - Fr. Samuel Rayan

Fr Samuel Rayan was gazing intensely at a book that bore the image of Sree Narayana Guru. After a while he says “Kumaranasan was a dedicated disciple of Sree Narayana Guru and I am an ardent admirer of Asan and his poems. With that, he began reciting his favourite poem from Asan’s ‘Veenapoovu’ ‘Ha! pushpame, adhikathungapadathilethra  Shobhichirunnithoru ranjikanakkye nee Sree bhuvilasthira -- innu ninte yabhuthiyengu, punarengu kidappithorthal and he went on reciting the full 40 slokas of the poem.

Fr Samuel Rayan, fondly called as ‘Rayanachan’ is a Jesuit theologian who has written more than 300 articles. He was at Kochi a few days ago to release his book ‘’ Naleyilekkoru Neelkazhcha’, a collection of his articles organised by OLAM. Though his memory was sharp while narrating his child hood days, it played hide and seek when asked about the contemporary times. After giving much stress to his memory, he says. “It is about future I have talked about in most of these articles in the book.”

‘Fr Samuel Rayan’ was a name which reverberated among the Christian radical humanists during 1960’s and 70’s. His articles in Christian theology were often discussed in national seminars organised to compile opinions on what changes should be brought into the church in the wake of second Vatican council. When the voice of liberation theology started spreading its wings to other continents from its birth place, Latin America, Fr Rayan’s  voice was the strongest from India. As the definition goes,  Liberation theology, an interpretation of Christian faith through poors suffering, their struggle and hope, and a critique of society and the Catholic faith and Christianity through the eyes of the poor, Fr Rayan gave a human Indian face to liberation theology in the country.

Fr Rayan’s apathy towards the rigidities of Catholic church was evident in his writings. He vehemently protested against the hollowness of rituals. He wrote in his book “Rituals should always stand for humanity. Jesus always indulged in discussions and arguments concerning the rituals offered in the Church. He discussed about Sabbat, sacrifice. But every time it was his intention to break the myth and redefine it. For instance, observing Sabbat should be for the goodness of humanity and not to put shackles on them. It is not the sacrifice, offering or rituals that ‘lord’ prefers but compassion and justice.”

In another section of his book, he narrates a story told by Masao Takenaka, a Japanese Theologian. In Seoul, one of the biggest garment factory owner sacked four women for they urged to improve the working conditions and also asked not to make going to church compulsory. The garment factory owner was one of the elder in the church. The factory has appointed a chaplain to counsel the workers.

 It blatantly denied freedom of religion and advised complete surrendering and patience. The four girls raised their voice against it and submitted a memorandum with the church and the latter did not even bother to inquire the veracity of things. They were keen on listening to Billy Graham, an American Christian evangelist.

Fr Rayan asks in his book, in such a situation who will salvage the poor? If their rights were not listened to, who will pay heed to the cries of poor people, asks he.
He says, “Rice is for sharing, bread must be broken and given. Every bowl, every belly shall have its fill, to leave a single bowl unfilled is to rob history of its meaning; to grab many a bowl for myself is to empty history of God.”

Thursday, May 9, 2013

published in The Hindu

As life ebbed away:  We do not know who they are. This heart-wrenching scene of togetherness as their life snuffed out emerged when rescue workers in Dhaka were clearing the rubble of an eight-storey building that collapsed on April 24. Over 900 lives were lost when Rana Plaza, that housed five garment factories employing nearly 4,000 workers, came down. This picture shot by Bangladesh photographer Taslima Akhter perhaps captures an entire nation’s grief in a single image.

The confessor back with cold feet - Meenakshy Reddy Madhavan

The picture of a seven year old girl, hiding a small notebook when she goes to her class room, just to jot down whatever comes to her mind was like stating the obvious. No other vocation would interest her but writing. Besides, by bequeathing a strong legacy of writing, Meenakshi Reddy Madhavan could not be anything else but a woman of letters.

But surprisingly whenever she wrote she did not hesitate to take a detour from her parents’ style. Unlike her father, the veteran writer, N S Madhavan who loved to fathom the depths of literary fiction and mother Sheela Reddy who always delved into non-literary fiction, Meenakshy loved to ferret out the possibilities of commercial fiction. Ask her why, she says “I realised that no writer talks about a woman like me, a metro and urbane woman whose heart is global but has not lost the link with the tradition. I wanted to explore the pull between these two extremes,” she says. And because of that, there are no clashes as the family has three different genres of writing, she adds with a mischievous smile.

With her third book Cold Feet hitting the markets, Meenakshi was all excited and was in Kochi as part of its promotional tour conducted by Penguin books. The book is all about the lives of five women who live in the metropolis - Mumbai and an account of their daily lives. But primarily it takes the reader on a roller coaster ride of emotions. “I have also talked about a character who is a lesbian,” she says.

The author appeared extremely happy when I told her that I came to know about the promotional event of her book from her blog Compulsive Confessions.

“I should update it more often,” she says with a grin.

Incidentally, her father N S Madhavan who carved a niche in the perceptions of the Malayali readers with his renowned work Lanthan Batheriyile Luthiniyakal, translated as Litanies of the Dutch Battery, was born and brought up in Kochi. Meenakshi says that she is all excited to be here for her father always said it has one of the prettiest bookstores. “It’s right on the sea front with a huge glass window and you can watch the ships sailing through,” she says. I have been to Kochi several times and I love Fort Kochi the most, she adds.

With more than twenty lakh visitors for her blog, she says that she never expected such a huge response and is happy that she could maintain it for the past ten years. “I started the blog with a pseudonym eM as I was a bit bothered about how people would react to the kind of stuff I was going to write. But in no time, the readers identified and I had to come out of the cocoon. But I am so happy that I could maintain it for such a long period,” she says.

About her parents' reaction to her blog, she says, “They were ‘super supportive’. They like my writing.  Hey, I am their daughter, they will definitely not discourage me!” she says.

Asked why is she often referred as the Bridget Jones of India, she says “Honestly, I have no idea. Since you are the one who put this question, I have to seriously think about it.”

Most of her stories were centered in the two metropolitan cities - Mumbai and Delhi. As the author lives shuttling between these two cities, she says that most of her writing contains the pulse of them. “Both cities have different feelings. When you land in the Delhi airport, the waves of tension starts hitting you, unlike Mumbai. When Mumbai is crowded, Delhi gives you privacy. But you just can’t take auto in the middle of the night relaxingly in Delhi as you do in Mumbai. You know the kind of stories we are getting now-a-days from Delhi,” she says. She also cautions to stay safe when I said that I usually leave office very late.

Apart from writing Meenakshi is the editor of Brown Paper Bag.

by Shalet Jimmy
published in The New Indian Express
April 2013

There was a time when Sreelatha used to begin and end her days with versification. The scribblings went on till she had a collection of poems. It was then that she decided to use it as a thread for writing a fiction. Thus was born her debut book,’An Eternal Romantic’.
Set in three places, Kolkata, Kerala and London, the book delves deep into the undulating emotion ‘love’. The story revolves around the ebbs and flows of the protagonist Indira’s life. She becomes a schizophrenic due to her first heart break. The story speaks about her delusional state of mind and its thoughts. But the woman dares to fall in love again. “The language is poetic. Since I have centred my story entirely on my poems, you can read both poem and prose through this work,” she says.
Ask her one of her favourite lines,
she recites
“...tell me, my love
when the grey hair shines
and the weak spine groans
all the beauty of the outside
has faded, tattered and torn
till the day I die
will you keep the romance alive ?”
Though there are autobiographical elements in her work, she says that the characters are purely fictitious. “It abound with my experiences. The protagonist is a doctor and poet like me. I have included my experiences, observations and inherent knowledge. But the characters are born out of my imagination,” she says. Sreelatha says that her debut work is absolutely different from the second book which is progressing. “ The second book is a usual prose but ‘in an eternal romantic, poetry dictates the prose,” she says with a smile.
Dr Sreelatha Chakravarthy’s creative expression was confined to a single poem she wrote during her college days. Much to her discontent, her passion had to be shoved off to the back burner as her later course of life also did not give her suffice time to think of her passion. She became a busy medical practitioner in Mumbai. But the much-anticipated break came when she had to leave her job in Mumbai and accompany her husband to Ghana, Africa.” The break was kind of a boon. In Ghana too,I was attending patients, but the schedule was not as hectic as in Mumbai. With sufficient time, I plunged into my passion, writing,” she says.
Now, Sreelatha has become a full-fledged writer. She lives in Thripunithura with her husband Krishanu Chakravarthy and children Kshitij Chakravarthy and Trishna Chakravarthy.