A Soldier and A Spy – George Herbert Walker Bush And The Willie Horton Ad

Dear Mr. Walker and Ms. Vennochi,

I’m an oft-frequent reader of your Boston Globe columns.

And i enjoyed your columns about George Herbert Walker Bush. They were done well.

You did a fair job of capturing the twin facets of this man, the President. After all, don’t we all have a combination of ‘ying’ and ‘yang’ in our personalities?

However, in order to put your comment about Lee Atwater, the infamous Willie Horton Ad, and the 1988 U.S. Presidential Campaign, into an alternate perspective, I felt compelled to express the following.

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Those who came of age in the New Century, may not be fully aware of the ethos of the country back at the close of the last one.

In the Mid to the Late Eighties, the era of big puffy hair, shoulder pads, corporate greed, and actor Michael Douglas, one of the prominent markers that defined American cities was the rampant crime that pervaded it.

And New York City was the Proving Grounds for the scene.

Scrape the memory just on the surface, and who can forget?

-what came to be known as the case of the Central Park Jogger, a trader at Salomon Brothers (remember that name?), who was raped by hoodlums and left for dead in Manhattan’s Central Park,

Bernard Getz, a diminutively built man, who was terrorized and bullied continually and daily on the NYC subway on his commute to work, and who ultimately exercised his Second Amendment rights to render Vigilante Justice on the perpetrators,

-the Mormon teenager from Utah, the only son of his parents, who was shot and killed on his family’s first visit to the not-so-glittering-anymore city,

-the image of Mayor Koch visiting the lad in the hospital, and the boy’s sister who was a teenager herself, screaming at the esteemed Mayor and demanding him to leave the room.

If anyone cares to tear below the surface, this ‘Bright City with the Big Lights’ was on the verge of bankruptcy in 1975, and President Gerald Ford had to cajole Congress to bail it out with huge taxpayer dollars, thereby sealing his fate of not getting a chance at re-election.

Anecdotally, comes to mind a relative, who’d enlist in one of the many City Colleges (CUNY) for one course, barely make it to one or two classes, withdraw, and get a free pass on the subway for the whole semester using the student ID.

How great is that? God Bless America! Nobody will accuse us Indians of not being savvy.

Then, one fine New York morning, The Wall Street Journal ran a story on its front page, of how baggage handlers at the JFK, were brazenly looting passengers’ luggage on its way to the belly of the awaiting  jetliner, in broad daylight, right on the tarmac, and right under the noses of the flight crew.

If anyone bothered to take on the futile task of pressing charges, which in and of itself would take a full day, the thieves would get off with a hearing, and a second chance, a third chance, and so on, to endless chances. Not even a slap on the wrist.

We’re also in the know of four separate cases of friends and families, getting the entire contents of their car trunks pilfered out from parked spaces, all in NY,

and a couple of occasions where valuables were ransacked from the conveyor belt, one of them right when they were watching, at the airport, which is of course in Queens, doesn’t matter.

NY, under the ‘bleeding’ guardianship of Ed Koch, Mario Cuomo, (and David Dinkins, who will forever be known for sanctioning NYPD to ‘stand idly by’, as some Hasidic Jews were rampaged in the Crown Heights district of Brooklyn, I’ll never know why liberals are so anti-Semitic), had fallen into utter disrepair and downright decay.

Times square was a place where one didn’t dare be caught dead or alive.

It all came to a head, and the downward spiral culminated around the stretch, when one fine week, Time Magazine published their Cover Story, with the glaring and catchy title, ‘The Rotten Apple.

The Big Apple, no longer.

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It was into this disarrayed and malfeasant national context that Michael Dukakis , the then-Governor of the Bay State, launched his candidacy, banking on his extreme liberal positions, that had worked in Massachusetts (remember we used to be called Taxachusetts?), as he was of the strong conviction (bless his heart), that violent criminals should get Second Chances. And that, with ‘love and acceptance’, they could be rehabilitated.

During one of those ubiquitous debates with HW, even to a hypothetical and mostly egregious question as to what he would do, if his wife Kitty Dukakis were to be raped and murdered, there was only one response any man, other than Jesus, would offer.

Instead, to the horror of his aides and supporters, Dukakis demurred something about drug rehabilitation of deranged offenders.

The fact, that moderator Bernard Shaw would even ask this most outrageous question, shows how the country perceived candidate Dukakis.

And Kitty was sitting right there in the audience, mind you.

Just to keep straight records, I was one of the bleeding Dems during the said times, and even all through the Nineties, right up until September of 2001.

Which is another story. And I’m sure you don’t care.

Our daughter Mekhala and I were on an Air Canada jet out of Logan, making the start of our way to India, (the rest of the family would join a week later), to be a big part of my favourite brother’s wedding, when at 8.00pm Eastern, just as MA and other East Coast polls closed, the captain cracked on the intercom and made the announcement that the election was called for HW.

This was before Networks ceased the practice of calling elections before polls closed on the West Coast, (where the sun really sets).

I was disappointed. But the Duke really had no chance. He had been lagging in the polls for a very long time.

So The Ad didn’t define Dukakis, as much as Dukakis defined the Ad.

So with that said, the Willie Horton Ad was fitting for the time.

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It was into this lethal mix Rudy Giuliani and his Law And Order message made their appearances, to a very liberal populace along the Hudson.

The year was 1992. The time was ripe. New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly for this big mouth Conservative.

To make this very long story not really short, Rudy cleaned it up, and the city was glistening again by September of 2001.

At the same exact time, a man who called himself,  A New Kind Of Democrat, (the fact he had to call himself that speaks volumes), The Man From Hope, ‘Three Strikes And You’re Out’-Bill Clinton, burst onto the national scene, unleashed his Charm Offensive, took American Political Scene by storm, forever changed it.
25 years later, in his raspy voice, with thinning hair, and occasionally shaking hands, the millennials may not appreciate what the fuss was all about, but believe it, he was different. He was a democrat and practical.
Even with the lackluster economy prevailing, no other democrat could have defeated GHW Bush. He had just won Operation Desert Storm. He was well-liked.
In the end, HW and the man who denied him a second term became like Father and Son. Speaks well for the characters of both men.
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Adrian and Joan, and all else, i welcome feedback.

good Sunday night…

mercy

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A Reason For Thanksgiving – 2018

“God is our shelter and strength, always ready to help in times of trouble.” Psalm 46:1

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So it was Saturday, November 10, 2018. Time: Approximately 5.15pm.

November, the Month of Thanksgiving Celebration on the American Calendar.

We, my husband and I, are on MA Route 2, going West, towards Gardner, with an eventual destination of Athol, MA.

We’re on our way to attend the retirement party for a dear friend of over forty years, a pediatrician who practiced in Gardner, and who has now retired and is moving to Southern CA, to be near his son’s family. The entire town of Gardner was throwing this party for him, who, I understand from the sentiments expressed during the evening, clearly had done so much for many of them, and for the town, over the past four decades.

His wife Sheila had moved already, and now it’s Mathachen who’s packing up the pieces of their last connection to New England for the Golden Sunshine of Southern California.

Now, I have nothing against Gold or Sunshine, but we’re both really beyond sad about Mathachen’s move 😢, but are pleased to have this one last chance to say good bye.

So we’re on Route 2W, as I said.

Thampi used to be employed in this area of Gardner and Leominster, for Simplex, and then Tyco after the two merged, and was pointing out all the Highway’s exit landmarks to me.

We didn’t want to be late, so Thampi is doing 65 (may be more) in the Fast Lane (paying no heed to Lilly’s lesson from the previous Saturday of ‘Being In The moment’ 😢), merrily explaining away, when literally and all of a sudden, this huge, white object appears in the middle of the lane we’re on.

Even to now, I don’t know what that item was. it was white, appeared of plastic, and it was large enough not to fit into anyone’s trunk, not even an SUV’s.

I suspect it had fallen from the roof of some vehicle.

As Thampi stopped chatting to make a quick swerve to the right, I saw a car looming on the right, and he did too, up and way too close and personal, Thampi swerved back to the left, fast back onto the fast lane, managing to avoid hitting the menacing article ahead, and the car on the right.

The whole sequence of events happened in the blink of an eye, a few seconds tops.

Traffic was swift for a Saturday afternoon, so sudden-braking most likely would have caused a rear ender.

After the ‘Shock and Awe’ settled minutes later, my first reaction was, wow! my husband handled that well. I always knew how he could maneuver roadways. But a few breaths afterwards, I realized it was the Divine who executed it.

Now, I don’t know if the car on the right had sensors that indicated we were popping into their lane or not, our Honda CRV certainly didn’t have them. But for sure, there was another kind of ‘Sensor’ in the works.

The incident rattled us both, but we arrived at the Country Club Function Hall in plenty of time, had a pleasant evening which is not part of this story.

I complimented Thampi for being so deft, which I always know he is, but he immediately corrected me, said it was a deft God who intervened.

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Well, This Is Not The End Of The Story.

The following day, Sunday, November 11, we were in church, on time even, seated in our usual lower left seats.

By now, we had missed attendance for a few Sundays in a row for assorted reasons, it’s a wonder that none of our Achens have yet issued any warnings for our dismissal. 🙏

There was Jeslin Achen in his vestments, giving the Sermon.

Achen had a story to tell.

Achen, Kochama, and Serah were on the road the previous Saturday, November 3, 2018.

At approximately 2.15pm, exactly 7 days and 3 hours prior to our incident, Achen was also in the fast lane.

Achen didn’t say at what speed, hope he wasn’t speeding, although I’ve heard that cops who pull over Reverends do not issue speeding tickets, assuming they’re on their way to do last rites for someone. I’m sure the cops don’t want to be in the way of someone attaining Eternal Salvation. 😉

Achen was on route from a parishioner’s engagement party, to a ladies’ workshop/meeting in our church and was running late.

So this tree branch strikes Achen’s car, but somehow escapes causing injury to the occupants, or serious damage to the car, while Achen watches in horror through his rear view mirror the same branch striking the windshield of the car just behind, whereupon that driver pulls over into the breakdown.

As Achen was re-telling this story during Sermon, I’m in disbelief: is Achen talking about us, we didn’t talk to him, so how could he know?

No, uncannily, Achen experienced a similar occurrence on a different day, one week prior.

I turned to look at Thampi’s face to read his reaction, I even poked at him, he’s sitting there, didn’t say a word, but I knew what he was thinking. His thoughts were the same as mine.

If we had not gone to church that day, we would’ve missed Achen’s testimony.

Just so parishioners know, later in conversation with me, Achen related that the car did have some damage to the wheel housing which was fixed later in the week.

Whichever way you read the 2 narrations, one after the other, and whatever, if any, significance you attach to it, the ‘coincidence’ of it all was spell-binding for me.

So it is in this spirit of the Season of Thanksgiving, I’m sharing this with you.

The 1621 Pilgrims of Plymouth Plantation had plenty to thank God for.

And make no mistake, so did the Wampanoags of Mashpee.

Wish you a Thanksgiving that’s Happy…

Mercy

Sevika Sangham Centennial At Carmel MarThoma Church Boston

One summer day this past July, I got an email from Thankam George, Carmel’s tireless Sevika Sangham secretary. ‘Vinu George’s’ email ID shows up in our in-boxes at least once a week, sometimes more.

But this time was different, the subject line was left blank, and it was addressed only to me.

Thankam wanted to know if I’d be willing to give the Church Calendar’s Annual Sevika Sangham Day message, in September of this year.

Surprised by the request/offer, and even more so honoured, and even flattered by it, I said I’ll get back. It didn’t take me long to think. Just had to run it by one ‘important constituency’. 😉

24 hours later, I accepted it.

Given two whole months to ponder and prepare, and pray incessantly, below is what I delivered, to an unexpectedly generous and warm audience.

A few came just to support, and here’s where my heart thanks all.

Thankam had allotted 25 minutes, 5 for the history of the ‘Sangham’ and 20 for the message. I took 20 total.

After you stop laughing at the ‘what’s a girl like that doing in a place like this’ (not a joke) line, taken from a 1970’s commercial, and get past it, (warning: it is long!) and any meaning touches you, or if any part speaks to you in any special way, I welcome feedback and critique.

Meant every word.

Key admission: Some of the thoughts were ‘lifted’ from our previous Achens’ and Thirumenis’ sermons and Bible studies, and many more of them my own, one seriously from my very own Dad.

Thank you, Papaji. hope i made you proud.

matters not, all God’s Words. Source of infinite comfort.

As always, a good evening…

mercy


halleluiah, padi-dum jnan,

yeshu-vinte, sannidhi-yil,

jeeva kalam, aradhikum, unnathane

athama-vilum, sathya-thilum, nithya kalam  —- 1994 Maramon

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Good Sunday morning, everyone!,

If any of you is wondering what a person like that is doing in a place like this, believe me, I understand, I’m wondering the same.

Just the same, I’m requesting for your earnest prayers radiating my way, for the next 20 minutes.

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On this, the eve of the 100th anniversary of the founding of the Suvishesha Sevika Sankham of the MarThoma Church, I feel uniquely privileged to stand here, and speak to you briefly from the Word Of God as IT speaks to me.

The Malankara MarThoma Syrian Church is known in the Indian subcontinent, for being extraordinarily innovative, on a range of persuasive matters that pertain to the issues of the society at large, none more poignant than the idea of empowering women in their own world, and the world outside of it.

Out of this progressive vision of the founders of the church, was born an organization set up explicitly for women, to provide them with a chance to go out of their limited spaces of mostly mundane household duties and chores, and make no mistake – they were mostly chores, and enable them to realize their full and God-given potential, to perform service to the larger community, as well as to their nuclear and extended families, with whatever individual skills they possessed.

Thus started the Sevika sangham.

What is most important to note on this Platinum Jubilee occasion is, this was singularly the brainchild of one Kandamma Varghese, who lived from 1876-1964.

Known as the Traveling Secretary, she hailed from a CMS family in Kollakadavu, near Mavelikara, was a studious student at CMS school, before marrying at age 20, one Varughese Vadhyar, from a MarThoma family in Thumpamon.

Three children and 10 years later, Kandama was subsequently widowed, an event which paved the way for the rest of her life.

A woman of immense faith, she saw this major setback, as God’s Calling and followed it as such.

Sevika Sangham was a product of her tireless efforts and evangelistic fervor, which were then confluenced by the nurturing of a saintly and benevolent Metropolitan, Abraham MarThoma, who shared in equal measure, Kandama’s passion for evangelization.

The organization was inaugurated in February of 1919, literally at the Maramon Convention Pandal.

We owe the both of them an enormous debt of gratitude.

Under the Sevika Sangham banner were also established, the Vanitha Mandiram, a refuge for single older women, Shalem Agathi Mandiram, both of Thiruvalla, the Vanitha Bodhini a print publication, counseling and job training for the needy, and Deppy Pirive, a one-of-a-kind, home-based offertory, these among some of the most notable ones. Many of these initiatives were significantly ahead of their time. Women-centric Bible studies took on great importance, as well.

A Suvishesha Sevika is one who spreads the Good News, the Gospel of Jesus Christ, by serving others.

And even in a patriarchal society such as arguably ours, folks would have a hard time resisting a church-mandated ordinance, especially if the promotion was coming from the vicar and the church hierarchy.

This mile marker date is particularly remarkable, because it took place exactly one year before the 19th amendment was ratified and added to the United States Constitution, giving, for the first time, American women The Right To Vote.

Imagine that.

And that’s not all, it came nine years at the heels of The Church dedicating a school, just for girls, under the charge of 2 British Protestant missionaries, Mrs Nicholson and Miss Maccabin.

Nicholson Syrian Girls’ High School in Thiruvalla, founded on February 2 of 1910, was devoted to educating young women, with the highest academic standards, in an explicitly Christian, and distinctly MarThoma setting.

A reading of Kandama Varghese’s biography shows, that she was influenced and inspired greatly by the missionary zeal and revivalist style church preaching of these two women.

At the dawn of the twentieth century, women generally didn’t take part in mission activities, nor did they preach in churches. Kandama did both.

I’m a proud graduate of this institution, as are my mother and my sister.

Needless to say, this training, in part, led me to today.

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I thank:

The Almighty for affording me this once-in-a-lifetime honour,

The Church for facilitating it, through Thankam George, who placed her confidence in me, and entrusted me with this task on this date,

-Jeslin Achen for his gentle, spiritual guidance along the way,

-Most profusely and unequivocally my supremely engaged parents, both of them really, who set me on a path of firm persuasion that, our Scripture, from beginning to end is the inspired Word Of God, all Connected and Eternal. The Alpha and the Omega. This is for you!,

-Three girls named Nisha, Yamini, Mekhala, who live on the Continent’s two coasts and in the middle, who resolutely remain the front and center of God’s Plan for me,

-and lastly, and with my heart and forever, my husband, who always keeps my back.

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Let us pray….

Dear Heavenly Father, give us the wisdom to discern Your Word and Your Will for us, so that we may use them for the purpose of advancing Your Kingdom on earth.

This, we ask in the name of Your Son, our Redeemer. Amen.

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The church has designated four passages as this Sunday’s lectionary.

We’re focusing on just two of them today, one from the Old Testament, and one from the New.

They’re both linked by a recurring theme. I’ll condense them into five parts.

1.       Following God’s Plan, and What Happens When We Do.Exodus 1: 15-22 (Sheena)

The midwives were a huge and essential part of the ancient child bearing experience, when death during childbirth, of the mother orthe baby, was an unfortunate and frequent outcome.

A midwife’s job was to protect the life of the mother and that of the baby with the tools available to her, when not too many of them existed.

Their task was not to see to it that the government’s directive was fulfilled.

As a separate thread, this reading could play into certain national debates on ‘Right To Life’ and such, however that’s not the awareness I’d like to underscore here.

This passage is also not about government, versus, private citizens.

It is about God’s plan in human life, versus, human plans at odds with God’s plan.

And this particular verse goes on to claim that, as a result of the midwives’ moral decisiveness, God multiplied the Hebrew nation.

It further tells us, that the women feared God, which provided them with the vital courage needed to stand down a brutal Head of State, and they were given, by God, families of their own. Not just children, but families.

This theme of God blessing a whole people because of the actions of a few is displayed throughout the Bible.

Our individual actions can be a source of blessing for a community, but also may have harsh consequences.

Moses, who gave the world the Ten Commandments, the bedrock of human civilization, a blueprint for how to create a lawful and prosperous society, one principally centered on worshiping God, was an infant thus spared from the malevolent decree of a monarch, by the sheer disobeying of it by 2 women, in this case the mother and sister of the said child.

We now move on to 1500 years later in Biblical chronology, but God’s Words still resonate with the same theme. Which brings us to the next point.

2.       The women followed Him around.          Mark 15:38-41 (Mareen)

Here we see women in a different role, but the message that remains, is of them doing the right thing, often at great risk to themselves.

The women were the last ones at the Foot Of The Cross. And they were the first ones at the Empty Tomb.

By calculation, this led to the shortest duration of mourning period ever known.

This is in precise contrast to the men who had been handpicked by Jesus, who perhaps spent even more time with Him, and who nonetheless had abandoned Him in His hour of aloneness and agony.

If the women had left the scene in a distraught state, or if their debilitating sorrow had prevented them from going to the tomb in the early morning hours when most would be sleeping, they would have had to mourn for longer. Their pain would have extended needlessly.

The women’s desire to be in close proximity to the Lord, and to be of service to Him, undoubtedly diminished the magnitude of that pain.

In our grief, we often tend to leave the unbearable and retreat away from the Lord.

but these women’s steadfast love for Jesus is what enabled them to follow Him all over Judea and Galilee, and subsequently stick around and be present for the Ultimate Visit and be part of The Great Commission.

According to Hebrews 11, “vishwasam enne-tho ashikunna-thinte urappum, kanatha karyangal-ude nishchaya-vum akunnu” …

It is faith that brought them to the grave. They must have convinced themselves, ‘maybe He didn’t die, may be He’ll come back the way He said He would. He did insinuate at times He’d return after three days, didn’t He?’

But they also demonstrated that faith without love is futile. And they loved the Lord.

There is a circumspect opinion in theological circles that the Hebrews Epistle was written by Priscilla, one of the leaders of the Early Church.

By most accounts, it was not one written by Paul.

Point 3: The women served the Lord’s needs by serving His people.

Not only did the women not want to leave a suffering Jesus, they were there to comfort a bereaving Mary, a mother who lost her firstborn.

Matthew and Mark’s Gospels say that they had followed him through Galilee, and cared for His needs.

And Luke says, they had used their own funds to help Jesus and His disciples. They had been through so much with Him and His mother, even taking care of their material needs when possible, now was not the time to bolt.

Any time we’re called to tangibly serve people in church or community with our funds, or food, or presence, we’re serving the Lord.

The women did all this without expecting to sit at Jesus’ right hand, or to be given any positions of authority. Either would’ve been unthinkable for the tenor of the time. Then, as now, societal norms were dictated by existing traditions.

And they were not defeated because their expectation was never about Jesus becoming the King of Judah and Israel.

They were just grieving the loss of a beloved man who had healed them in body and in spirit, comforted them with non-judgmental love, and had given them hope that something beyond what was visible in front of them was just around the corner.

Point 4: Church As A Caring Unit, and Not As An Institution.

The women were physically close enough to the Cross according to John’s Gospel, to hear a weakened Jesus whisper, to Mary and then to John (John being the only male disciple who stayed through to the end), ‘He is your son. She is your mother’. Jesus entrusted their physical care to each other.

Here was the founding of the Church. A caring and care-taking church.

Even as Jesus chose Pathrose as the one on whom the foundation of His Church would be laid, just before He cried out in His final hour, ‘It Is Finished’, before He announced his Earthly Mission completed, He turned it into an entity, where people who are not blood-related would take care of each other as though they’re family.

And let’s not lose sight of the fact that, in the end, it was two women, and not the petrified male guards at the tomb (Matthew 28:4), who were commissioned to spread the announcement to the world, of what they had heard directly from the Angel.

‘Indeed, He’s Not Here, For He Is Risen’, the proclamation on which stands Christendom.

The cost of Eve’s transgression has now been paid in full. and Sarah’s. and Rebecca’s. and Leah’s.

Final point: Equal Access

The curtain was torn from the top to bottom. Not from bottom to the top. The mandate was from Heaven.

The God of the Old Testament, who instructed Aharon, the first high priest of Israel, to set apart the Holy of Holies, where only priests from the Levi tribe were allowed to enter, away from other worshipers, gave way to a New Law and a New High Priest who just opened it up wide, so that each of us believers, is endowed with priesthood of a different kind.

And now, Levites and lepers, Jews and Gentiles, the Saved and the Lost, recent converts and AD 52 Christians, the Chosen and the Marginalized, Travancore Suriyanis and Native Americans, those from the East of the Big Blue Sea and those to the West of it, all have equal access to the Kingdom. And women have equal partnership in this invitation.

In fact, women were the first two invitees to this New Covenant of Grace.

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Thank you all for praying with me, for me, and for listening to me.

A Deal For A Deal

Good Morning!

First God created everything. And He saw that it was good.

Then He created man. That was the best.

Then He put man in charge of everything. So far, so good. God, in His abode, smiled.

Man was endowed with a superior brain by God, which made him very innovative, and he discovered Poly Hydro Carbons. Oh, ouch.

That was the beginning of the end.

Then he went further and made plastic straws.

Which started to choke and kill some of God’s Creation from Day Five.

Jesus Wept. Again.

Now we began to wonder what happened to man’s heart.

So now you’re thinking, what does this all have to do with me?

OK, Seattle, where our daughter Mekhala lives, has just outlawed the use of plastic straws, the first such law in the country.

From our several visits to the Pacific Northwest, I can say that Washington is at the forefront of environmental consciousness. Good for them.

Here’s where I come in.

Now, anyone who knows me knows that I have a serious case of OCD regarding, among other things, the use of everyday disposable items. In fact, I’m receiving treatment for the same as we speak. From my husband. So it’s free of charge.

The slogan Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, for me, is in that order. Reduce first. Then what we have, we try to reuse. Then if it must be in the third category, recycle it.

One small step for a woman. Another small step for mankind.

Are we still wondering where I’m going with this?

OK, You know those little plastic bags at the produce isles of our grocery stores, that weigh zero milligrams, that we all use and discard with all abandon? Yeah, that one.

I have a suggestion. After we bring them home, empty it, place it back in the reusable shopping bags which I’m sure you already use, and take it back to the store to put more veggies and fruits in.

You ask, ok, if I do this, what’s in it for me?

For anyone who takes such a pledge, to continuously and always do this, drop me line to let me know, and I’ll make them a (one-time) favourite snack of theirs.

Of course, the snack has to be something from among the assorted items in my cookbook. Like, if you say, you love Iranian caviar balls served with a touch of Dijon mustard on toasted brioche, and a sprig of sage on the side, that’s not my gig.

I got this idea of reusing these silly bags from our daughter Yamini who lives in Minnesota, (another progressive state), where she does this already.

A tree is always near a fallen apple.

However, my husband is already stressing about the prospect of me getting so many pledges that I’ll be in the kitchen constantly, instead of taking care of him.

Read on for the the following from the Washington Post which is what prompted me to make this post.

Some of my liberal friends are already gleeful that, for a change, my post this time is not about some ‘far-right’ political proposal.
Happy Thursday…keep your cool today. It’s going to be a scorcher along the Eastern Seaboard…

mercy

Red/White/Blue In One Of The Thirteen Original Colonies – An Ode To ‘A Midsummer Week’s Dream’

“We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.”

“The separate and equal station to which the laws of nature and of nature’s God entitle them.”

The Pre-Ample to The Declaration Of Independence Of The United States Of America from Great Britain. 

Thank you TJ for always assuring that The Creator is ever-present in your poetry.

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The Fourth. July. 1776. 2018.

Life. Sun. Liberty. Sand. Happiness. Splash. Self-evident Truths. Bluest Sky. Pursuit. Sea Gulls.

The Creator. Always The Creator. Thomas Jefferson.

Works of fire. Fire on the grill. Fire pit on the beach. Sea weed. Beach reed on Dune walks. Cod shacks.

Pool in sand edged with rocks. Breakwater Rock. Rock of Ages.

Arms wrapped on arms on a wrap-around porch.

Footprints in the Sand. Sand Castles. Sand Alligators with green eyes. Sand everywhere. Sand in the house.

Clams. Calm Ocean. Clawed creatures.

Massachusetts. The Bay State. Sparkling water buzzing over Buzzards Bay. Mist droplets approximating dancing crystals.

Yet again, The Creator. The One Who Calmed The Seas. And Walked On It.

Sunrise. East. Sunset. West. Tide. High. Low.

Three Girls. Three Boys. Seven Grands. Two Grands. Eight days. One Grand week.

In all fairness, Fairhaven is a fair haven. It was one for the books. Facebook, that is.

Last day. Last hour. One last walk on the beach. Tide had come in. The highest. The alligator with green eyes, Mekhalamama’s artful creation in wet silica, had disappeared. Forever. The rock completely submerged. And just a memory now. Just as the week.

A glorious week.

All kin nestled back in their homesteads.

Manoj Achen and Jeslin Achen, your prayers meant more than you’ll ever know. In the absence of my mother, you will do.

May God travel with you, as He did with us.

Happy July, everyone. Fourth and beyond.

mercy

‘Mahal Sneham’ – A Seat At The Table

This is the third year in a row when I have attempted to do a written tribute to my dad on his birthday. This year would be his 102nd. February 13, 2018.

There is a song in our hymnbook, Kristhiya Keerthanangal, that starts with the lyrics, ‘Mahal Sneham, Mahal Sneham’

Several of our hymn book songs are from over one hundred years ago, a big chunk of them attributed to Sadhu Kochukunju Upadeshi, (who wrote ‘dukha-thinte pana-pathram’ in 1915). Imagine that. Talk about being immortalized. Well, as he should be.

However, there are also melodies that don’t have an author mentioned, or none known. ‘Mahal Sneham’ is one of those songs. And I do have a story to tell about it.

You may challenge me on this. But here is how I recollect it.

We were at the Chepad parish from 1957-1960.

During this time frame, occurred a visiting stay at our home by a particular upadeshi. Sadly, and uncannily, a key element I can’t recall precisely about this account is this upadeshi’s name. It was some sort of a ‘Biblical’ name like Pathrose or Markose. Markose, I’m leaning towards more.

Even with this name confusion, I can recollect Upadeshi’s unmistakable physique. Dark-skinned, a bit short and stout, wearing a white cotton juba-and-mundu ensemble, with a very low-cost towel (thorth) on his shoulder. I remember this part vividly and with my heart.

You see, Markose upadeshi was from the ‘Paraya’ class. This, too, I’m certain of. Why? we’ll get to the ‘why’ a bit later.

This forgotten evangelist wrote the favoured song, ‘Mahal Sneham, Mahal Sneham’. And he, for sure, doesn’t own the copyright to it.

A man with barely an elementary school education and nothing further, expertly knew the Bible, especially the New Testament and its message, backwards and forwards, and this song is somewhat of a summation of Paul’s Letter To The Romans.

Markose upadeshi was an itinerant preacher, (‘upa-‘deshi’, is ‘someone who is not of the local’), and my innovative dad in his ever-Gospel-spreading mode, and bursting with energy, discovered his bio-data from somewhere and invited him to the parish and to stay with us.

A big convention ensued thereafter on the church premises, that drew huge numbers of people from across the spectrum and from long distances, eager to hear first-hand upadeshi’s testimony of conversion.

From Hindu to Christian. From the Paraya caste to MarThoma.

From working with his hands making dried leaf mats in the green lush of South Asia of the late 1950’s, to preaching the message of a First Century Carpenter from the arid wilderness of the Middle East.

The Sabha for its part, I believe, possibly has no record of what I’m recanting, but believe me (I’m not quoting anyone famous here!), this account is accurate.

And there is a story within this story. Two Tales Of A God’s Messenger.

As most of us would acknowledge, there was a caste system solidly in place in India of old. There were rules of conduct for each class that, in the process, separated them.

There were the four castes that ‘counted’, with placement in a particular order, and were reported in history books and Sacred Texts.

Below that, were the ‘untouchables’ and the unrecorded. (The word ‘untouchable’ should be stricken from the English dictionary of idioms. I hated writing it just now.)

(Mohandas Gandhi in his infinite Godliness called them Hari-jans (God’s people).)

The Paraya (‘Pariah’, or ‘outcast’) class was part of this last sect.

Even though this was an edict of the Hindu religion, Travancore Christians practiced it with serious gusto. Those belonging to these castes didn’t eat with us, use our utensils, enter our houses, didn’t address us.

Most Definitely, they were not given A Seat At The Table.

Except: My dad did. Markose upadeshi stayed with us for a few days, slept in one of our spare beds, and most movingly, had a chair at the dining table next to my dad.

In more ways than I can say, my dad was ahead of his time and place. For better or for worse.

In 2018, one might ask, ‘what’s the big deal’?

I’ll tell you what the deal was. And that is the story within.

As much as folks wanted to hear upadeshi speak, many, many were grumbling about this arrangement. Out of earshot of my parents, they would make sneering remarks about this man, and berate my parents (‘how dare they commit such an outlandish act’, ‘thalaku vattano’?’), obviously unaware a little girl was listening.

To this day I remember one parishioner ‘joking’, ‘kochama-ku eneem payku prashnam kanathillalo.’ See the Paraya class was ‘designated’ to make mats out of dried grass. So, ‘my mother wouldn’t have to buy these mats anymore. Upadeshi can make it for us’, is what was being implied. Never mind the man perhaps hadn’t done it in, like, may be ever.

You see, my concern as a child who understood, was not for the poor upadeshi, or for the unfairness of the social strata.

It was for my parents. These persons who were their benefactors turning on them this way. It stung.

My dad had the softest spot for evangelists, (and for household help, a separate story for another day).

He had an uncompromising habit of tithing exactly 10% and not a paisa less.

There was an empty Horlicks bottle, (which in and of itself was a ubiquitous item in many households, the liquid version of which my sister and I were made to drink every single day), on top of my dad’s book shelf, in which this money was kept. This was set aside for these preachers and others like them, and would not be used for another purpose under any circumstance. Markose upadeshi received the bottle’s entire contents upon his visit.

I must admit, missing further from this account is, what set in motion upadeshi‘s conversion in the first place, or when this song crept into our song book. Somewhere in the 80’s or later. It most certainly was not there in the 60’s. My mother, who possessed a photostatic memory, would’ve known if I had asked her before lapses set in.

Thank you Markose upadeshi for this song, on behalf of all those who have ever been moved by its meaning and melody, for the past sixty years, and counting.

Every time our pianist Christy’s foot goes to the pedal on the church piano with notes of the opening lines from this song, or when Achen spontaneously breaks into it, at the start of the communion round, my heart flutters with thoughts of,

a prairie village in a distant place, in a time long ago and long gone, in Alappuzha district along the coastal plains of the Arabian,

and a ‘touchable’ man who was Touched by God, and another one who assisted in the man’s journey.

That and when I see a Horlicks bottle anywhere.

Happy birthday, Papaji.

 

 A great Love that secures you A Seat At The Table.

Mercy

The Back Story – 03.04.16

Our little guy is now a week old.

And in our Seattle household, ‘All Quiet On The Western Front’, has morphed into just the name of an old movie.

Meanwhile, I got to musing more:

According to the Kerala Syrian Christian inheritance practices, (again to repeat myself with that word by making it sound like we’re some kind of chosen people!), Thampi, being the youngest of 2 sons of Achayan (his dad), had inherited the family house.

So if our nuclear family had been making India our home for the last half century, Mekhala being the youngest of 3 girls with no brothers, would have inherited our Pallipad house. To make it more cumbersome, prior to their marriage, David would’ve had to agree to this set-up, because this would mean he would give up the same rights from his family.

And Will being the only son of Mekhala, youngest or not, would be poised to inherit it subsequently.

So how fitting is it that Will is named after the original owners of the house, P. (Panackal) A. (Abraham) Eapen: Achayan, Will’s great grandfather, and also Achayan’s grandfather. Achayan’s name, in conformance with the custom, was naturally from his grandfather Abraham Eapen.

So Will and his great, great, great, grandfathers. That’s three ‘greats’. They Make up the substance of this story. life has turned full circle.

God answers prayers. If not always, at some point. If not now, some day when you’re not looking.

And what I would give to see Achayan’s face right now.

Achayan was an only child of his parents.

When we ended up with 6 daughters between his only 2 sons, Achayan used to say half-jokingly, that all the desperate prayers of valli-amachy (his mother) pleading with God to grant her at least one girl, were finally answered in the form of 6 girls years later, but with no boys in the mix.

I have no clue why Amachy didn’t beg for another boy, you know, as in ‘an heir and a spare’ as they say in the British Kingdom, but she wanted a daughter.

The family lore is that Amachy, who was from Thalavadi Amprayil family, once went to the Edathua ‘perunal’, which was right next door, and did a ‘nercha’, but kept it an ‘open secret’, because ‘good’ MarThomas were not permitted to participate in ‘nercha’. I think she pledged a few chicks to the palli or something.

Achayan had 2 daughters who ended up with 4 sons between them, but they didn’t ‘count’(!), as you all well know why.

I’m not certain how many of our progeny are cognizant of the fact that we come from such a methodically configured culture.

And there would be rancor if anyone tried to break the mold. And mostly no one did.

Say what you will about the apparent male chauvinism involved in all this – I’d rather call it patriarchy – but what it did also, was to create an order, at a time when we needed to keep it all together.

The second, third, and beyond, generations would undoubtedly benefit from being conscious of our past, no matter how far removed they are from it.

Past can always inform the future. For better or for worse.

So now ‘Back To The Future’:

When we had Mekhala, after having 2 girls, and Thampi’s brother having had 2 girls (then another one later), everyone including my parents were anticipating the ‘answers to all their prayers’ in the form of a boy, as an inheritor of the family name, the house, and the so-called wealth. Achayan used to call our Pallipad house Mekhala’s.

What transpired next: so Mekhala was born 11 days past her due date. When no easy phone service from the US was available back home, the whole universe – which meant the family and a whole lot of neighbors – were anxiously awaiting the news to hear if the ‘heir apparent’ had arrived.

And on February 20th, the whole village awoke to see the telegram guy bicycling towards the Kochupurackal house, and within moments, as cousin Kunjachayan’s daughter Susy was seen running away from the house in tears, and our beloved Kuttan asking helplessly ‘thampi thampuranu pinnem oru pennano?’, word spread like wildfire that ‘poor’ hapless Kochupurackal Babychayan had another girl grandbaby. Milling around the house courtyard, they sympathized as best as they could, with Achayan and Amachy. “vidhiya, babychaya, kochame – entho cheyyana”.

Valli-amachy gave away too many chicks. 🙂

By the way, all 3 of our daughters have heard this story more times they can count, so don’t feel bad about breaking this to them gently. I was also one of the souls who shed tears that February day.

Years later, would I change a thing about that girl baby or any part of experience? The answer is: emphatically no, no way on earth.

And little did anyone imagine their prayers will be answered in the form of one Will Stephen Fentin.

Call it a willful Will or God’s will.

I felt really compelled to share this as a post-script to my posting from last week.

While doing so, I was also imagining David, Mekhala, Laila, Nora and Will, living in our Pallipad house – which no longer exists, not even one brick of it.

Regardless, it was fun picturing them living next door to Pandarathil Thankachayan (a relative), Percattu Kunjumon, Krishnan, Venu, et al.

The best was visualizing Kunjipennu drawing water from the well, and Thomachen, the vegetable vendor haggling over the price of one-day-too-old achinga.

And imagine, these things didn’t happen in Harappa and Mohenjo-Daro, the ancient sites of the Indus Valley Civilization, it was just some 30 plus years ago, and it happened in that watery dip called Kerala’s Upper Kuttanad.

From Travancore to Seattle. From deep Southern India to the Northwestern United States. I found it hard to wrap my head around it.

Anyway, thank you for indulging me, and allowing me to reminisce. I had fun. I’m sure some of you stopped reading long ago, like at the half-way mark. 🙂

————-

And further with the movies theme, as sweet Will was taking his sweet time last week, contemplating when to come out head first to say hello! to the world, he granted ample time for Ammi to teach his big sister (all of 6 years old) how to make yogurt at home, who was fascinated it could even be done, and also to see ‘Trumbo’ and ‘The Martian’. Go see it.

Very fondly,

mercy