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  Greetings to all our readers and patrons
Stewardship and Trusteesh
  By A.J. Philip  
  I ACCOMPANIED Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to South Africa on the occasi  
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Letter to Metropolitan
  By Rev A.P. Jacob and five other priests  
  Most Rev. Dr. Joseph Mar Thoma Metropolitan Most Rev. Dr. Philipose Mar Chrysostom Mar  
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Back to infancy -- they n
  By Shaheen Chander  
  ENJOYING a relaxed weekend, I was checking updates on the Facebook page. I came across a b  
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In communion with nature
  By Archana Sudheer Gayen  
  Artist-photographer-pastor is how one would describe Joshua Koodathinal John. Life is full of creativity and unexplored avenues for this talented young man. From cello-taping his wife and himself with Café Coffee Day garbage bags to keep the rain away to making friends with strangers on road trips, Joshua has a lot to share. His collection of paintings -- Dancing Wheels, Chasing Shadows -- was recently showcased at an exhibition in Delhi. In an exclusive interview to The Herald of India, Joshua talks about his creative self, motorcycle diaries and upcoming short film, 'Himalayan Headrush -- The Princess & I'.

Question: Your father is also an artist. How did this impact your creative self? What was your childhood like?

Answer: My heavenly Father let my earthly father's artistic genes pass on to me, which gave me a good start. However, the other reason why I took to art was because I grew up in a home without television. It meant that I had to explore creative ways to be occupied. The comic books my father bought for me (Donald Duck, Phantom & Mandrake) lit up my imagination and I began to draw them. I doodled all the time... still do. But back then, in rural Uttar Pradesh, without a TV to keep me indoors, I ended up nurturing my love for raw India and the outdoors.

Q: How was the experience of studying at Woodstock School, Mussoorie, and interacting with students from so many cultures?

A: Woodstock was another blessing from God. I was privileged to spend my teenage years in such a multicultural community of teachers and peers who were entirely different from what I had ever known. Creativity was applauded and I really thrived there. Through Woodstock, I was exposed to music, the nations and, of course, the Himalayas. Education came through not having uniforms, growing my hair long and going on numerous hikes. It came through sharing my life with people who saw me as a person and not merely as a student. There were people from over 35 countries, but each student took part of his own culture and bits from his friend's culture and created his own unique blend. Thus, we got the tag 'TCK' or Third Culture Kid.

Q: You recently held an exhibition of your paintings in Delhi -- Dancing Wheels, Chasing Shadows. Tell us little bit about it and the meaning behind the collection.

A: My motorcycle journeys across India and Nepal over the last seven years formed the backdrop to this series that depicted intimacy over industry and relationship over religion. Like pauses in between an ongoing pilgrimage, the works contained glimpses into days of motorcycle meditation and high altitude solitude. Creation, I believe is captivating because a good Creator out of love gives us the ability to delight in it. Our pleasure multiplies whenever we share those moments with others and let our journey ignite each other's imagination. My prime motive in sharing my work was to somehow help people realize that they are vital parts of a bigger story. The title suggests that we are but a small part of the big picture and we cannot see everything clearly, only in part. Though we are fully and entirely known by our Creator, as created beings we can only know and see as though peering through a mist. Yet, there is a joyful chasing because the shadows have a beautiful source and as long as we don't segregate the sacred and the secular, a new life is born which is on a journey of eternal purpose and thus the wheels of our soul can truly dance.

Q: You have travelled a lot. Share one memorable incident you encountered.

A: There are far too many memorable incidents but the most recent one was when just a few weeks ago my wife and I rode to Nepal. We had three days of non-stop torrential rain! In some parts the road had turned into a river as the metallic grey sky kept up its relentless assault. We even tried to cello-tape ourselves up with Café Coffee Day garbage bags, which made a funny photo, but was hopeless in keeping us dry. When we finally got to the Nepal border, I realized I had left all my original bike papers back in Delhi! It was an awful moment of despair, fatigue and defeat. Seeing our state, the Nepali customs officer sat me down, brought out a bag full of biscuits and snacks and told us not to worry. He offered his raincoats and told us to go and find a dry hotel room and come back the next day to get our permits. On that day, we received grace from an unlikely person just when we needed it most, which made it a moment I probably won't forget. It was one of the most hilarious trips we had ever done.

Q: Your motorcycle and you are inseparable. Tell us a little bit about your biking trips and how you use it to learn more about people and cultures.

A: I like the motorcycle as my prime mode of travel because it's the most immersive way of travelling. I don't cocoon myself in a temperature-controlled cage of glass and steel but let my senses travel with my eyes. The motorcycle is a purpose-built machine that I use to connect with people. People are a whole lot more curious and open when you get off a motorcycle than a car. Travelling by a bike simplifies my life. Concerns become concise as I pack just the basic necessities and can stop anywhere. I offer help and get help. I get dirty and sunburnt and don't mind getting tired. Mechanics, tourists, remote villagers, road builders and other pilgrims like me make every cup of chai, each bite of chappati absolutely delicious! The journey disarms me in the quiet of my helmet and so once I stop I am open to talking with strangers like long lost friends.

Q: What has been your biggest achievement?

A: Achievement hints of having 'arrived' and I personally have not arrived in any area. I am a pilgrim who is still learning. One ongoing achievement for me would be that I love people more now than I did a few years back. That's because I am being led by my Loving Lord Jesus and also inspired by my gracious wife Asha. There is no achievement higher than the pursuit of loving God and loving people.

Q: Photography is one of your major interests. How did you get into this stream and what inspires you to do so?

A: Initially I began to take photos because I wanted to document my trips. I used these photos to make multi-media presentations and just tell stories and, over a period of time, I also began to paint the pictures I had photographed. Sometimes, a photo sums up the essence of my journey far better than words. It fuels future adventures, evokes powerful emotions, and helps me ascertain how things have changed since that photo was taken.

Q: You are in the process of making a short film/documentary Himalayan Headrush-The Princess and I. What was the thought behind it and how is the experience?

A: It's a documentary that is a sort of sequel to my first film 'Highway Headrush -- Delhi to Kanyakumari' which I made with two other bikers before I got married. 'Himalayan Headrush The Princess & I' is about how a man doesn't win his beloved's heart, marries her and runs off on his own adventure. The woman isn't some summit to conquer. She's the princess who accompanies you on an adventure. So my camera-shy wife and I ride up to the ancient Hindustan-Tibet road without any backup, cross deep rivers and landslides, survive altitude sickness, many falls and a bee sting. The underlining plot dares to tell the eternal story of love and marriage by drawing inspiration from our journey with our Creator.

Q: You also work as an Elder/Pastor at Capital City Church, New Delhi. How did you decide to get involved with the church?

A: Two things I said 'never' to in my school days. One, "I'll never live in Delhi" (it's been 11 years now) and secondly, "I'll never work with a church" (it's been 7 years). After school, I found myself heading into the advertisement world but soon realized I'll be selling my creativity to convince people to buy perishable products. My involvement with the church increased after I quit working for a model management company that worked alongside various ad agencies. I wanted my life to count for my Maker. I wanted to give the best part of my youth to knowing God and making Him known.

Q: What do you feel is the best way to reach across to people with the Gospel of Jesus Christ?

A: The best way to influence people is to 'not ask what the world needs but ask yourself what makes you come alive and do that, because what the world needs are people who have come alive'. Intimacy with Jesus enables us to discover why we were created and when we do 'that for which Christ took hold of us', we will truly impact those around us for God's Kingdom sake.

Q: What other projects are you working on at the moment?

A: I am working on my next painting series for an exhibition by mid-2010 and searching for producers who will get the rough edit of my film 'Himalayan Headrush' into professional hands.

Q: Tell us about your family.

A: I am married to the most beautiful and gracious woman on earth called Asha. She is my helpmate in every sense. My father runs the Biblical Counselling Trust of India and promises to revive his painting days. My mother works at Shalom Home for Aids patients and at home she hosts people non-stop. My sister is an English teacher to foreign students and can't wait to be married to a wonderful young man called Jonathan. My in-laws are with the church we are in and have been faithfully serving and raising leaders across the country for nearly two decades.
Delhi's lotus
  By Vinod Gopi  
  AANAKKARA VADAKKATHU household -- the shooting location of Lal Jose's new film 'Neelathamara' (Blue Lotus). For the first time in Malayalam, an old movie is being remade. Except for Samvrata Sunil, most of the actors are debutants. Malayalam's pride M.T. Vasudevan Nair arrives to see the shooting. Most are scared of interacting with MT. With great reluctance, the lead actor asks him: "Sir, is there anything to improve?" With a smile on his face, he tells her: "As Kunjimalu, you are perfect".

Readers may be familiar with MT's old Kunjimalu but this new Kunjimalu is Delhi's daughter. She is Archana Kavi, daughter of Jose Kavi, head of the India section of the Union of Catholic Asian News (UCAN) and Rosamma, Junior Nursing Superintendent at B.L. Kapoor Hospital.

She is the first Kerala girl from the capital to become a lead actor in a Malayalam movie. While she had merely gone to Kerala to do her graduation, she returned with a degree and the label of a film actor. Her entry into the film world is like the climax of a film story.

While she was doing her Bachelors at Mar Agasthianos College at Ramapuram in Pala, she had the chance to anchor a television programme. Archana anchored a fun-filled programme called "Bloody Love" aired on a private television channel. In that programme, her role was that of a "Love Guru". Specifically, her job was to give advice to all those who have loved, were in love or have plans to fall in love. Finally, she was featured in the video album 'Himamazha' (Snow Rain). The album was done by art director Gokuldas for which he received critical acclaim. As did Archana.

It was around this time that Lal Jose was on the lookout for the lead actress in 'Neelathamara'. As many as 2,000 candidates appeared for the screen test at Ernakulam. Out of them, 10 were shortlisted. It was left to MT to make the final call.

The interview with MT was at Kozhikkode. Archana had only heard about him. Neither had she read him nor seen him. MT did not talk to her for long. He just asked her about her family background. He told her that he wanted to see her wearing a dhoti. The film's crew had not made arrangements for it. Somehow they managed to get a dhoti for her. It was the first time that Archana was wearing a dhoti. She felt uncomfortable when she appeared before MT in her new outfit. "Return only after food", said MT. It was the invitation to step into the world of Malayalam cinema. Thus Archana became Kunjimalu.

Blossoming of the Blue Lotus

Circa June 18, 2009. When Jose Kavi and Rosamma celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary, Archana was at Aanakkara, a small village in Palakkad before the arc lights. The first scene was of Kunjimalu, a servant in a large household, shifting a calf from one post to another. However hard she tried to pull the calf, it would not move. By the time the scene was shot, Archana had sores on her palms.

Until then she had never visited a shooting location. Since she had anchored on TV before, she was not afraid of the camera. But when the shooting began, her heartbeat began to race.

Clothes were her main problem. She had never worn the dhoti (Kerala dress) before. "Others didn't seem to think of it as a problem at all. And when I realized that the servants in the households there wore such clothes, I felt confident," says Archana. "The moment I felt comfortable in these new clothes, the shooting became easier."

There is a lot of difference between Kunjimalu of 'Neelathamara' and Archana, who lives in a flat at Patparganj in Delhi. In her own words: 'I and Kunjimalu are poles apart".

Kunjimalu is an innocent village girl -- a servant in a large household. Whether happy or sad, she keeps everything to herself. She has very few friends -- Manikuttan, the calf, and Ammini. Kunjimalu has a strong belief in God and takes all her decisions after a prayer. In fact, for the answers to all questions she prays to the blue lotus in the lotus pond. If the lotus blossoms in the morning, it means her decision was right.

She even falls in love with Haridas, the son of her master. She even asks the Blue Lotus. "Will the Blue Lotus blossom the next day?" The film is all about her innocent prayers.

Unlike Kunjimalu, Archana is quite open. She has a lot of friends in Delhi as well as in Kerala. She is the "Love Guru" who advises others on matters of the heart. The only thing in common that Kunjimalu and Archana have is the innocent face. And that's the real reason why she was selected as Kunjimalu. "Besides, my energy level and thick skin. What else?"

When the shooting was over, Archana had one regret -- she could not read the script written by M.T. Vasudevan Nair though she held it in her hands. This is because she cannot read and write Malayalam, though she can speak the language fluently.

* * * * * * * * * *

Twenty-seven years ago Jose Kavi migrated to Delhi from Kannur in Kerala. Archana is the youngest of the two children of Jose and Rosamma. Brother Ashish is an MBA student at Nagpur. Archana studied in Delhi till her plus two. It was to get acquainted with Kerala that she took admission in Mar Agasthianos College at Ramapuram. Usually, a person's turning point is when he or she leaves Kerala. But for Archana it was exactly the opposite.

"I love Delhi. In my case, nothing in my life has ever gone as planned. I never had the desire to act in a movie. This just happened", says Archana about her turning point. Right from childhood Archana's ambition was to become a journalist. But now she has abandoned that plan. The reason? There is no retake in journalism.

Now this lovely lass is getting ready to act in a movie that will be directed independently by art director Gokuldas. "I have not thought about new films as yet. It was pure luck that I could play the lead role in my first film itself. I pray that I get such good roles," Like in the case of life, Archana has no plans in the case of films too.

So, will the new "Neelathamara" be better than the old "Neelathamara"? She answers with a smile: "I have not seen the old "Neelathamara". I will see it after the film's release. The new "Neelathamara" is a good movie. We all have acted well".
(Courtesy: Malayala Manorama)
Translated from the original in Malayalam by A.J. Philip
Mr Success
  By A.J. Philip  
  SUCCESS has been a way of life for Thankappan Pillai Anil Kumar. Ever since he bought a plot of land in front of our house at Kayamkulam and built a beautiful two-storied house a few years ago, I have been admiring his enviable lifestyle. Every time I visit Kerala, I spend a few hours with him discussing everything from existentialism to environmentalism but never even once has he tried to sell an insurance policy to me.

This is despite the fact that he breathes insurance, rather than air, and does not mind speaking about it for hours together. Few people outside the insurance circles know that he is a successful insurance salesman and he has set his target to become India's number one development officer. You may ask how a person working in a small town like Kayamkulam can even think of competing with high-profile insurance executives in cities like Mumbai and Delhi.

The question arises only because you do not know Mr Anil Kumar. In a freewheeling interview to The Herald of India, he throws light on his life and achievements. Excerpts from the interview:

Question: Please tell us about your early life.

Answer: I was born in a lower middle class family at Kulakkada in Kottarakara taluk in Kollam district in Kerala. My father was a photographer and mother a homemaker. He enjoyed copying Ravi Verma's paintings in his spare time. I was one among four siblings. I had an uneventful school life. I did my Pre-degree and B.Sc in Physics from St. Stephen's College, Pathanapuram and NSS College, Pandalam. I did not have much of an ambition except to get a job in the government. So, after my graduation, I began preparing for various competitive examinations. In my spare time, I helped my parents in their domestic chores.

Q: What was a turning point in your life?

A: I applied for the post of Central Assistant Intelligence Officer and appeared for a test in October 1993. I got the appointment letter in January 1994. I underwent training as an intelligence officer at Shivpuri in Madhya Pradesh from January to August 1994. The training was indeed tough. I got training in the handling of various weapons. As part of the training, I spent some time at the Sonam Gyatso Mountaineering Institute at Gangtok in Sikkim.

Q: Why did you leave the Intelligence Bureau?

A: There were some personal reasons. I also realized that I could at best rise up to the level of a Superintendent of Police (SP). Homesickness was another reason that prompted me to look for better options. My opportunity came when the results of the clerical grade examination that I had appeared for as early as in 1991 were announced. I got the ninth rank in the examination and got my posting at Pathanamthitta.

Q: How did you reconcile yourself to becoming a lower division clerk after holding an officer's post in the Central Government?

A: Yes, it was a difficult choice. But it offered me an opportunity to return to Kerala and be closer to my family. Even at that time I was certain that I would not remain a clerk all my life. I saw it as a stepping-stone to success.

Q: What was your experience as an LDC?

A: I did my work as sincerely as I could. I spent my spare time reading books. I was always looking for an opportunity to get into a better job. I had many lady colleagues. They would request me for mutual transfers. Since I was a bachelor I would always oblige them by accepting frequent transfers to new places. That was how I reached Kottayam. My office and the Divisional Office of the Life Insurance Corporation were in the same building. The LIC was looking for Development Officers. I thought of giving it a try. The LIC officers also encouraged me to apply.

Q: Was it not risky, leaving a secure government job?

A: No, I did not see it as a risk. On the contrary, I saw a great opportunity in the new job. There were no limits to the money I could earn. Here was a job in which I could prove my mettle. I plunged into it without any hesitation. In five months, I did business worth Rs 1.2 crore. Within five years, I got the 80th rank in the Zone consisting of Kerala and Tamil Nadu. I never looked back. As on July 31, 2008, I attained the 13th rank at the all-India level. On June 1 this year, I was promoted as Senior Business Associate with powers to appoint my own staff and receive insurance premium on any policy sold anywhere in the country in both cash and cheque. Now, my ambition is to become the Number one Senior Business Associate in the country.

Q: What was the most satisfying moment in your insurance career?

A: I sold a policy to a labourer at Arattupuzha and collected the first premium. The sum insured was Rs 10,000 with double accident benefit. The next day he died in an accident. Since I had immediately deposited the premium money in the office, there was no problem in settling his claim for Rs 20,000. The money came handy to his family consisting of wife and two children. This gave me enormous satisfaction. Today 250 agents work under me. I spend a lot of time in training them. I always tell them that they should not tell lies while selling policies. The policyholders should be given the correct information so that they never get the feeling that they have been cheated. As a result, most of my agents are considered successful. I have some women agents who thought they were "useless" until I recruited them. Today they earn Rs 20,000 to Rs 50,000 per month. We consider ourselves as members of a large family. My constant endeavour is to keep their motivation at a very high level. I consider this as a great social service.

Q: Who are your role models?

A: I am highly impressed by the success achieved by US President Barack Obama. I enjoy telling the story of Greek philosopher Socrates. Once a disciple asked Socrates about the secret of his success. He asked him to follow him. When they reached a river, Socrates asked him to take a dip in the water. Socrates used the opportunity to forcibly drown him. The disciple used all his might to resist Socrates. At that point, the philosopher released him from the depths and told him, "Use all your strength to attain success and you will succeed in life". I use power-point presentations to convince my agents that they all have the potential to succeed. I consider a successful person as one who is able to balance his personal and professional lives. I believe there are eight ingredients for a successful life and they are 1) health, 2) wealth, 3) knowledge, 4) character, 5) communication skills, 6) memory, 7) punctuality and 8) strong belief in God.

Q: Please tell us about your family.

A: I got married to Deepthi on May 5, 2001. We have two children -- Aditya, 7 and Akshaya, 4. Deepthi, who is a graduate, helps me in making power point presentations. My children have inherited an interest in painting. Though I have an interest in painting, I do not get time to indulge in that passion. My mind is focused on achieving the Number 1 slot in the country. If I can be the 13th among 28,000 development officers in the country in 10 years, there is no reason why I can't be the No. 1 in the next few years.

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