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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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Ode to Advani
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
IT is increasingly apparent that Mr L.K. Advani's swansong is being painstakingly composed at the RSS Headquarters.

For a man who launched a scathing attack on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his supposed proclivity to run to 10, Janpath to take orders, the glaring irony of it all must indeed be hurting at the personal level.

Mr Advani's political career, however, is replete with such ironies and contradictions. From the demolition of Babri Masjid, when he is reported to have wept after his frenzied followers brought down the disputed structure in culmination of the mass hysteria generated by his Rath Yatra, to his denial of knowledge of Kandahar episode, Mr Advani has always tried to strike a balance between his hawkish image and the mantle of a statesman that he tried in vain to don.

When history judges Mr Advani, surely his muted and almost reluctant expression of dismay at the happenings in Gujarat and Kandhamal will be recalled.

It would also be recalled that the man who always accused the Congress of "appeasing" Muslims as part of vote bank politics accused the same party of "betraying" Muslims during the 2009 election campaign.

His act of joining the Communists against the Indo-US nuclear deal demonstrated how political expediency took precedence over the role of constructive opposition in his scheme of things. His subsequent declaration that the BJP would implement the deal if voted to power only strengthened this perception.

No account of Mr Advani's political career would be complete without a reference to his description of Muhammad Ali Jinnah as secular. The damage control that was attempted on his return from Pakistan where he made the famous remark failed and he was shown the door by the RSS.

Mr Advani's fondness for titles is another facet that stands out. He was called "Loh Purush" or the Iron Man when he held the reigns of the Home Ministry. One would have quite understood if Shivraj Patil had been described as "Kapda Purush" or Cloth Man but no explanation was forthcoming on the origin of Mr Advani's title which a section of the media lapped up.

In his second innings he gleefully accepted the title of the "Prime Minister in Waiting" that his fawning acolytes bestowed on him. The drubbing at the hustings that followed was, therefore, definitely a rejection of his leadership and the militant face of Hindutva epitomised by Varun Gandhi that blossomed under his care.

This is something that he found difficult to come to terms with. It was the organizational apparatus that was faulted for not taking the "message" of the party to the masses. What message was it?

Advani did not explain why he gave the party ticket to Varun Gandhi if the message sent out by him was not his own message.

Despite the many contradictions that Mr Advani lived and sometimes promoted, I would remember him as a leader with certain charisma, who kindled the fire of Hindutva, giving it wider acceptability, for making BJP a force to reckon with in Indian politics. And also for his aborted tryst with greatness!

The writer is Assistant General Secretary of New Delhi YMCA
Importance of family
  By WCF  
  CONCLUDING its 2009 meeting, the World Congress of Families (WCF) has issued its Amsterdam Declaration on the Family. The document defends the natural family as a "fundamental" of society and advocates its protection and encouragement.

The Congress, which took place from August 10-12 in Amsterdam, describes itself as the world's largest gathering of pro-family leaders and grassroots activists.

The WCF Declaration affirmed the statement in the United Nations' Universal Declaration of Human Rights that says the family is "the natural and fundamental group unit of society, and is entitled to protection by society and the State."

Following previous declarations, signatories affirmed that the family rests upon "the lifelong marriage of a man to a woman, for the purposes of welcoming and nurturing new human life, providing love, companionship, and mutual support, building a home rich in functions, and strengthening the bonds of the generations."

"Religious organizations should be free to uphold their own moral teachings about marriage and family in the public square," the Declaration added.

The Declaration described the family as existing prior to the state. It called for "sound laws and policies" that support the natural institution of marriage, discourage divorce, encourage commitment to childrearing, and respect parental authority in moral and practical education.

It specifically addressed sex education, saying it should be "parent-guided" and focused on self-restraint, fidelity, and responsible choices.

Discussing the response to the HIV/AIDS pandemic, the Congress endorsed a program of "abstinence, faithfulness and character building" to reinforce family life, break the "cycle of infection" and best serve the interests of children.

Calling for the expansion of access to pre- and post-natal care and counseling on "positive alternatives" to abortion, the Congress endorsed the promotion of breastfeeding as a child survival strategy.

The Declaration called for the protection of vulnerable human life, "especially at the beginning and end of the life cycle."

The Congress further advocated the protection of the physical, mental, social and spiritual development of children. It professed support for "pro-child" social, cultural and legal structures most optimal for children and endorsed work arrangements that allow parents to spend more time with their children.

The Declaration also proposed the natural family as the solution to poverty, saying support for those in extreme poverty should be given in "a family context" while family home ownership and micro-enterprises sold be encouraged. It endorsed the renewal of rural economies as alternatives to migration to cities and affirmed "intergenerational solidarity" beyond the nuclear family.

The World Congress of Families said its statement may not necessarily reflect the views of individual speakers and delegates.

Congress participants from the U.S. included Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention's Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission; Austin Ruse, president of the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute; president of the Population Research Institute Steven W. Mosher; and Dr. Allan Carlson, WCF founder and president of the Illinois-based Howard Center for Family, Religion and Society.
Jinnah Fan Club
  By Sarvjeet Singh  
  THE din over the djinn of Jinnah seems to be acquiring higher decibels with ex-RSS chief KS Sudarshan fondly recollecting Jinnah's 'secular' credentials. It is ironical that Sudarshan has chosen to blame Mahatma Gandhi for the Partition of India while echoing sentiments that find wide acceptance across the border.

Mahatma Gandhi has for long been the object of hate in the Sangh Parivar and its affiliates; not because of his liking for Nehru (which according to Sudarshan sparked off separatist tendencies in Jinnah), but for Gandhi's unwavering commitment to the safety of Muslims in India and the gesture of releasing Rs 50 million for the fledgling nation of Pakistan.

Jinnah, on the other hand, showed no such inclination and sense of responsibility. As history would vouch, he did little for the minority community being massacred in Pakistan. Jinnah astutely fuelled the fears of the minority community of undivided India by raising visions of Muslims being 'swamped' by the majority Hindu community. The bloodshed that followed was a fallout of the same.

The dragon of communalism that Jinnah chose to ride in his quest for power had gone out of his control. Jinnah's new set of admirers are not alien to riding this dragon and that, perhaps, explains the empathy they have for him. The hollow foundation of propaganda and disinformation on which Pakistan was built on was laid bare when a larger number of Muslim chose to stay on in India.

For more than six decades, the Pakistani establishment's central theme has been to prove the two-nation theory right. Successive Pakistani governments have gone the extra mile to tell the world that Partition was not a mistake, but a dire necessity as different communities cannot live in peace with each other in India.

At a certain leadership conclave, Pakistan's ex- President Parvez Musharraf, when asked about Pakistan's subversive designs, stated that India needed to put its house in order, as disgruntled elements from a community would always find sympathy in Pakistan. A secular, peaceful and strong India will always mock at the basic premise of creating Pakistan, but that in no way can undo history.

Perhaps it is this realisation that has prompted the Pakistani leadership to concede recently that the threat to its existence stems not from India but from fundamentalism within. Fundamentalism that stoutly refused to accept that Hindus and Muslim could co-exist peacefully 62 years ago!

Sudarshan, Jaswant Singh and all the other admirers of Jinnah and his divisive brand of politics, interspersed with occasional bouts of secularism, have chosen an unlikely hero to discredit Gandhi, Nehru and Patel. Good luck to them.
  By Papri Sri Raman  
  Airport Security: Rookh, rookh, STOP. Who is it?

Shah Rukh: Shah Rukh.

Security: Shah Rukh ?

SRK: Yes? That's Right.

Security: Shah Rukh? Shah Rukh what?

SRK: Shah Rukh Khan.

Security: Shah Rukh Kahn? As in Kahn? Oliver Kahn?

SRK: No, No.

Security: Then? As in...

SRK: No, no , not Louis Kahn either.

Security: Then?

SRK: No, Khan as in Chenghis Khan.

Security: Chenghis Khan? You mean 'the' Chenghis Khan?

SRK: Yes, 'the' Chenghis Khan, my great great ancestor. I am his 223rd

Security: 223rd, that sounds familiar, let me check it out...

Security: Man, that's come up on our computer!

SRK: On your computer?

Security: We are 223 years old.

SRK: India is more than 2,300 years old. Our Mohenjodaro, you know, we
had toilets and baths there then.

Security: Mohenjodaro? Let me check! That's Pakistan man!

SRK: It's an ancient city, you know. Shared heritage... Indus Valley civilization...

Security: so, you know about civilization... are you an artefact thief?

SRK: No, No, I am an actor!

Security: Come to this room please.

SRK: (I hope they are done now, wipes his brow.)

Security: We have to ask you some more questions, since you have come
up in our computer...

SRK: I was only joking, you know, like Heath Ledger's joker.

Security: so, are you planning terror, sabotage, murder, suicide?

SRK: No, No...

Security: Can any one vouch for you here?

SRK: I am here on business...

Security: What business... evil business...?

SRK: No... film business, movie business?

Security: You are only pretending... you are the Joker, the epitome of
evil, you said so yourself a few minutes ago. Don't deny it now.

SRK: I said, I was only joking...

Security: Every word you say is being telecast... we advise you to be
careful what you say

SRK: I repeat I am only an actor

Security: What can you do?

SRK: Dance around trees...

Security: In the USA actors don't dance around trees.

SRK: Yes, I know (scratches his head)... what can I say, how can I prove
I am an Indian actor...

Security: you said you were Chenghis Khan's descendent, he was Chinese.

SRK: Mongol.

Security: you are Mongol?

SRK: I am Indian... from Indus Valley civilization.

Security: So you are 2,300 years old ?

SRK: If you say so.

Security: You are or you are not?

SRK: (wiping sweat)... can I use the telephone please?

Security: (speaks into the computer) Suspect seeks communication
facilities, Sir. 2,300 years old, Sir, Fragile. Request suspect be
moved to Edwards Airforce Base, CSEI, Sir, for further investigation.

SRK (has by this time given up. He sits down and sings to himself):

Raghupati raaghav raajaaraam,
patit paavan sitaram
seetaaraam, seetaaraam,
Iishvar Allaah tero naam,
sab ko sanmati de bhagavaan

Security (speaks to PC): Urgent, Sir. Suspect communicating in an
alien language Sir.

SRK: Hey, Ram!
Ramzan, month of piety
  By Rafat Sultana  

IT is around 5 in the evening. The lady of the house is busy preparing different dishes. Fruits have been chopped off for "chaat". A plate full of dates is also there. Since the weather is a little hot, one can see a jug full of "sharbat" to quench the thirst. The "dastarkhan" or the dining table is full. All this is not to entertain guests. This is the Islamic month of Ramzan and the time of breaking the day's fast is nearing. The sunset is not far away.

Such scenes are there in almost every Muslim home in the evening during the month-long fasting period. It is to begin in India and its immediate neighbourhood either on August 22 or 23, depending on the sighting of the moon.

Moon-sighting sometimes leads to confusion, but it is unavoidable. This is a tradition which is being observed in almost every country. In an area where weather conditions make the sighting of the moon impossible, there is no alternative but to begin the fast on the completion of 30 days of Shaabaan, the month that precedes Ramzan.

Moon-sighting creates a kind of excitement among the devout. When the moon is sighted, Muslims exchange greetings among themselves by saying, "Ramzan mubarak ho". Greetings for fasting? Yes, it is a reality. They consider themselves as being lucky to have found an opportunity to observe the Ramzan fast, the most pious Islamic month.

The Muslims who observe fast do not eat or drink anything during the daytime. Drinking of water is also prohibited. Life becomes normal after sunset, when one is free to enjoy any kind of food till a little before sunrise.

All Muslims are supposed to offer prayers (Namaz) five times a day throughout the year, but they are very particular about the prayers during Ramzan. One can see the mosques full to capacity at the prayer time during the fasting month. There is a special Ramzan prayer, "Taraweeh", which is offered along with the night prayer. Fasting Muslims are very particular about "Taraweeh".

Ramzan fasting is one of the five pillars of Islam. It is next to Namaz in the scheme of things in Islam. In fact, Ramzan fast is a greater test of one's belief in Islam. The person observing the fast does it voluntarily. No one can force a person to skip taking food and water if he or she is not determined to do so.

Ramzan has special significance in Islam because the Quran began to be revealed to Prophet Mohammad during this month. Most Muslims make it a practice to read the Quran at least during Ramzan.

Fasting helps the devout inculcate a strong sense of discipline. It also creates a kind of environment when the fasting person tries to shun all such activities as can lead him to a wrong path.

Efforts are made to share food with relatives, friends and acquaintances at the time of breaking the fast -- "iftaar". Some people go to the nearby mosque for this purpose. Others invite the devout to their houses for "iftaar". The food (sehri) that is taken a little before sunrise is a family affair -- no outsider is there.

Over the years, "iftaar" has acquired political overtones too. Politicians in places like Delhi organise it to increase their following. Embassies of different countries also organise "iftaar" parties. But political "iftaars" have very few participants who have observed the day's fast.

There is a festive atmosphere in Muslim-dominated localities throughout the fasting month. Bazars are full of shoppers after sunset. One can see teashops and eateries full of people.

The month-long fasting ends with the celebration of Eid-ul-Fitr, popularly known as Eid. It is the day of thanksgiving. The Eid prayer is offered to thank the Almighty for having provided the Book, the Quran, for the guidance of humanity. Thus, Ramzan and Eid are inseparably linked to each other.
  By Karen Burton Mains  
  I THINK that welcome is one of the most Christlike words we can speak to each other.

And yet, how rarely this happens. This word is shriveling because of disuse. How rarely do people stop in their busyness to greet one another, to chat on the block, to have a cup of coffee and talk about their day.

How infrequently we inquire as to strangers' names, ask questions that indicate interest in their lives and families.

How wonderfully rare it is when someone whispers, "I haven't seen you for long, I missed you." How marvelous to hear, "You always make our times together special." We must learn to give to one another the words of welcome.
Freedom from want
  By P. Koshy  
INDIA won freedom in 1947, so that there are unhindered chat sessions on all topics 24x7!

While debates and discussion progress, the freedom we won turns worthless. As for the rich and the elite sections, life goes on with chats, networking and partying. For the 'aam-admi', it is life under the dark clouds of un-freedom.

A serious lack of political will is what one can observe, when it comes to programmes and policies for enhancing economic and social freedoms. If we look at some of the policies and programmes, it seems that many of them lack a grassroots touch.

Altogether, they give an impression that they are part of building a good image, a PR exercise. Winning an election is more of a good media management. A large number of programmes and schemes have been initiated since Independence. Take, for instance, the recent initiatives -- Bharat Nirman, Sarva Siksha Abhiyan, National Rural Employment Guarantee Scheme and National Rural Health Mission. Intended to ameliorate the condition of the poor, such policies and programs are indeed praiseworthy.

But a closer look at them, their design, administration and end result would force us to conclude that there is lack of commitment and political will when it comes to improving the lot of the poor.

As former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi observed, just 15 per cent of what is being spent on rural development reaches the villages and the end beneficiaries. Is this the scenario, even today?

It would be interesting look at the ground realities when it comes to project implementation. In 2005, on a village visit, as part of monitoring a project in a remote village in Orissa, the villagers brought to my notice a tube well dug for them under some development scheme, as there was a severe drinking water scarcity in that region.

I was told that the tube well was inaugurated just a few days back by an official. But they also brought to my notice, a trick played by the people who completed the project -- the hand pump was connected via a pipe to a nearby pond just a few meters away.

Thus when the villagers pumped water, what they got was water from the nearby pond. They risked contracting waterborne disease like typhoid and cholera.

For a party to implement its policies, it needs a strong cadre base, which can really activate the state machinery whenever it fails or refuse to deliver. For parties with little mass support and grassroots networks, implementing social programmes or even running an effective government is out of question.

Recently, the 'Business Standard' reported that workers abandoned work under the National Rural Employment Guarantee Programme (NREGP) after being paid just Rs 13 for a day's work in Randheja village near Gandhinagar, Gujarat. Is it all not a waste of public resource and, above all, an unethical way of public administration?

In this country, with such a mammoth bureaucracy and with falling cadre activism among political parties, moving the administrative apparatus would be really tough. From political leaders who could win an election by their own grassroots base, today we have leaders who not only are not willing to contest but who can move to the top without winning a direct election.

They come with some training abroad, speak "Queen's English", participate in visual media debates and build their image and climb the power ladder.

When Mahatma Gandhi wanted the Indian National Congress to be away from power politics, he probably wanted to use the party workers to remain away from power games to facilitate development. He said India is "yet to win economic freedom, social and moral freedoms" just three days before his martyrdom.

A second freedom struggle is what is needed as former Supreme Court judge Justice VR Krishna Iyer said in a call given for it at the first Annual National Convention of India's Second Freedom Struggle for a hunger-free, caste-free and corruption-free India at Sevagram Ashram, Wardha, on January 30 and 31, 2009.
The writer is with Samadhan Foundation and can be reached at

  By Rabindranath Tagore  
  Where the mind is without fear and the head is held high;

Where knowledge is free;

Where the world has not been broken up

into fragments by narrow domestic walls;

Where words come out from the depth of truth;

Where tireless striving stretches its arms towards perfection;

Where the clear stream of reason

has not lost its way into the dreary desert sand of dead habit;

Where the mind is led forward by thee into ever-widening thought and action---

Into that heaven of freedom, my Father, let my country awake.
  By Catherine Doherty  
  HANDICRAFTS serve as a means of communication among people who are afraid, shy or sick, or even people who speak different languages. There is something reassuring, homey, pleasant and relaxing to see someone embroidering or knitting in an airport or on a train.

One feels a trust and confidence about such a person. If one has some similar work at hand, one becomes friends almost without words. Or one might ask what the other is doing; and a bond of friendship, gentle and warm, is established with this person who only a short time ago was a stranger. The handicraft is a bridge.

All creative effort is from God, and people who do handicrafts create. To create is to be at peace, for in creating one is joined with the Creator. Creativeness is one of the needs of our humanity and one of the gifts of God to us.

Handicrafts also are one more way of restoring us to wholeness in the natural and psychological order so as to better restore us to Christ. The loneliness of modern people has almost reached a point of no return; but in a common effort of creativity, men and women may find someone else who is interested in similar crafts, and become friends through their craftsmanship.

Friendship is still the most precious possession that a human being can share. So handicrafts open the door to both friendship and creativity. These aspects go together, for friendship both creates and demands creativity to grow.
Love teaches
  By Grace H. Ketterman  
  ONE of the most essential ingredients of education is the parents' attitude and example regarding basic curiosity and a desire to learn.

It is not so much the didactic or 'book' learning that is important in parent-child relationships, however. It is, instead, educating children about life -- and death, about themselves -- and others; about their world -- and how they fit into it.

The love of learning and the curiosity that will only be satisfied through finding out about something -- that is a parent's means of prompting a child to become wise and to respect and appreciate the teacher.

My parents encouraged my love for learning (and for them) by their examples. The Dad who took time out during a busy day to show a little girl a baby chick being hatched, a brand-new baby colt on its first wobbly walk, or a litter of pink squealing piglets did not know the impact those simple sights would have on her life!

He was teaching her about creation, the Creator and her own place in God's scheme of things.

Through my parents' reading, I learned to love books; through their philosophy, I learned to think; through their humour, I learned to laugh; through their discipline, I learned obedience, respect and self-control. It was through their faith that my own was born.
  By C.H. Spurgeon  
THE act of prayer teaches us our unworthiness, which is a very salutary lesson for such proud beings as we are.

If God gave us favours without constraining us to pray for them we should never know how poor we are, but a true prayer is an inventory of wants, a catalogue of necessities, a revelation of hidden poverty.

While it is an application to divine wealth, it is a confession of human emptiness. The most healthy state of a person is to be always empty in self and constantly depending upon the Lord for supplies; to be always poor in self and rich in God; weak as we are personally, but mighty through God to do great exploits; and hence the use of prayer, because while it adores God, it lays the creature where it should be, in the very dust.

Prayer is in itself, apart from the answer which it brings, a great benefit to the Christian. As the runner gains strength for the race by daily exercise, so for the great race of life we acquire energy by the hallowed labour of prayer.

Prayer plumes the wings of God's young eaglets, that they may learn to mount above the clouds. Prayer girds the loins of God's warriors, and sends them forth to combat with their sinews braced and their muscles firm.

An earnest pleader cometh out of his closet, even as the sun ariseth from the chambers of the east, rejoicing like a strong man to run his race. Prayer is that uplifted hand of Moses which routs the Amalekites more than the sword of Joshua; it is the arrow shot from the chamber of the prophet foreboding defeat to the Syrians.

Prayer girds human weakness with divine strength, turns human folly into heavenly wisdom, and gives to troubled mortals the peace of God. We know not what prayer cannot do! We thank Thee, great God, for the mercy-seat, a choice proof of thy marvelous loving kindness. Help us to use it aright!
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