Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Pilgrimage to Lourdes, France

On a tour for the soul
Sakal Times, Pune

Tuesday, March 20, 2012 AT 03:03 PM (IST)
Tags: Spice,   here & there,   travel,   France,   Paris,   Lourdes pilgrimage,   Camil Parkhe

Camil Parkhe shares a glimpse of the famous Lourdes pilgrimage in south-western France that attracts devout Catholics from across the world
We were travelling in a high-speed TGV bullet train from Paris to Lourdes. As as we approached our destination, I realised the passengers in our compartment could be the pilgrims. There were three couples with teenaged children; a young nun travelling with her septuagenarian father; and my wife, daughter and I were heading towards the world’s most famous Marian pilgrimage centre.
Lourdes station is a couple of kilometres away from the pilgrimage site. Soon after getting refreshed at the hotel, we hurriedly left for the shrine to attend the evening prayer service there. There were thousands of people on the streets, all of them proceedings to the same destination — the Lourdes shrine. Majority of them were Europeans, but there were also some people, like us, from other continents. We reached the huge grounds in front of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception and joined the multi-lingual Rosary prayer there.
Mother Mary is believed to have appeared to teenager Bernadette Soubirous at Lourdes 18 times in 1858. Bernadette has indeed transformed this otherwise insignificant town in south-western France. Due to the apparitions, Lourdes today is the third most important Catholic pilgrimage in the world, after the Vatican in Rome and the Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Mexico. After Paris, Lourdes is also the second city in France having maximum number of hotels. In fact, during our three-day visit there, I noticed there were few residential buildings but more hotels and shops, and other commercial centres, catering to the pilgrim tourists in the town.
The population of Lourdes is only about 16,000, but the town receives six millions pilgrims and visitors  every year. About 60,000 of these visitors are ill or physically challenged. I saw many such people being taken around in wheelchairs by nurses who wore blue tunic. They are not nuns, but health workers, I was told. I realised that banking on millions of devout visitors, Lourdes has turned itself into a major ‘pilgrim tourism’ centre of the world.
The major attraction in the evening was the candlelight procession in front of the Basilica. It is indeed a sight to watch, with statue of Mother Mary being carried by the faithful lot. A priest accompanying us told that the huge congregation is a wonderful example of how faith in Mother Mary gets strengthened.
Next morning, we attended a mass celebrated at the famous Grotto, the very site where Mother Mary is believed to have appeared to Bernadette. There is a statue of Mary in white robes and with folded hands, replicas of which can be seen across the world.
On the third day, we attended another mass celebrated by a cardinal in an impressive underground church, the Basilica of St Pius X, which is built under a garden. The mass at the underground church and the prayers at the Mary’s statue is a must for any visiting pilgrim.
A pilgrimage to Lourdes, like visit to the Vatican, is indeed a dream tour for any Catholic. But even for others, a visit to Lourdes, with its picturesque surroundings, can be a refreshing holiday.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

No loan for journalists

No loan for journalists

Sakal Times, point of View column

Friday, March 16, 2012 AT 11:22 PM (IST)
Tags: Journalists
Some professions have always been held in awe. Films, theatre and modelling have inherent glamour and have fascinated youngsters. For a long time, I have believed that journalism is included in the list of such professions. The advent of the  electronic media has revolutionised the field of journalism, attracting talented people. Mediapersons are certainly a privileged lot. They venture  in where even the angels fear to tread. They  have legitimate or ethical access to conventions, private parties, weddings and other celebrations of the celebrities from all walks of life. Some of the most cherished memories of my career are in fact covering events of Pope John Paul II, Mother Teresa and Indira  Gandhi  from a very close distance and shaking hands with prime ministers Rajiv Gandhi, V P Singh and Atal Behari Vajpayee.

The belief that mediapersons are a privileged a lot is evident from the fact that many persons flaunt the word  "PRESS" on two-wheelers and four-wheelers. This is obviously to seek priority or immunity in the event of a ban on traffic movement. Once I attended a meeting of journalists in Lucknow, where one of the main demands was to seek a ban all laundry owners in the city displaying the word, "PRESS," on their  two-wheelers and three-wheelers. I could well understand their opposition to the lesser mortals and non-deserving persons enjoying privileges of the journalists community.

This notion of being  a privileged professional cropped up in my mind when recently an employee of a finance company asked me about my profession. I had wanted a loan to purchase a two-wheeler for my daughter and I thought securing a loan for such a small amount would be no problem at all. On being told that I am a journalist, he turned serious and asked whether I had any other business or sources of income.
When I answered in the a negative, he politely told me that most finance institutions have black listed professionals including journalists, politicians and lawyers. These people are not given loans!

His reply destroyed all my lofty notions about my profession. Finance agencies treating journalists on par with politicians, whom most of us hold in utter contempt, was most unnerving. The only solace he offered was that I could seek any amount of loan in the name of my wife. A teacher, she is in a more respectable profession. There must have been some incidents, which forced the finance institutions to blacklist some professions. But this incident has totally changed my way of looking at my profession.

On 17-03-2012 03:34 PM rob said:

Relax Camil. You are a great journalist. Why bother about a finincial inst? who anyway have no credibility except amassing money and more money. To hell with them, pl I would like you to have the same intensity as you always have. Congrats keep up the good work, we need committed journalists like you. By the way, during my tenure in school, twice I have had journalists 'gehraoed' me as they had vested interest. They forced accusations, as they were 'sent'. so these things do happen.

Social engineering in Goa

Social engineering in Goa


Sakal Times, Point of View  column

Friday, March 09, 2012 AT 09:14 PM (IST)
Tags: Social engineering,   Francisco Sardinha,   Goa politics

I was aghast over a decade ago when Francisco Sardinha of the Congress deserted his party's ministry to form his own government, supported by the BJP. That was the first time a BJP-propped up government had come to the power in the coastal state. Sardinha, a Catholic seeking the BJP's support to fulfil his ambition to become the chief minister, left many people like me completely shocked. I could not understand how Catholic politicians could support BJP --  a party seeking its inspirations from the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh whose anti-minorities policies were not secret. Although I no longer lived in Goa, I presumed that the Goan Catholic voters would not support any politician forming an alliance with the BJP. It was akin to Muslims supporting Narendra Modi in Gujarat.
But this week, Goa electorate gave a clear mandate to a BJP government led by Manohar Parrikar. The victory for the BJP was possible -- especially in Salcette and other parts of south Goa -- only because the Catholics there had preferred the saffron party while rejecting the Congress and the NCP.
Parrikar has indeed successfully played the card of social engineering to bring his party to power. His party nominated many Christians and supported some independent Christians, many of whom have been elected. This is the third time Parrikar will take over as Goa chief minister but this is the for the first time that he has won over both the major communities in the state -- Hindus and Christians. Of course, the BJP state leadership’s conversion was clearly due to its realisation that it was not possible for the party to come to power without the backing of the Christian community, which forms nearly 30 per cent population in the state.
The Goa BJP unit has indeed been a "party with difference," far different from its parent body at the national level. In Gujarat too, Chief Minister Narendra Modi has been working overtime to woo the minorities although he continues to be anathema for his own party during poll campaigns in other states. Muslims in Gujarat seem to have left behind Modi's anti-Muslim image. In Uttar Pradesh five years back, Mayawati had discarded her upper caste bashing and nominated many Brahmins and other upper caste candidates for the state polls, helping her to win a landslide victory.
The Goa model should serve as an eye-opener not only for the BJP but all political parties not to project themselves as messiahs of a single caste or community. That would hopefully usher in the real era of secularism in the country.

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On 15-03-2012 07:42 ?.??. Fr. Michael G. said:
How long will Christians support Congress inspite of their sins of corruption and lethargy? Let us hope that with this term in the hands of BJP the Chrsitian politician will learn a lesson. Goa politics portrays Christianity as not any different from other religions.

On 15-03-2012 05:47 AM diago almeida said:
Thanks for the insight Camil, but if you see over the years the goans in goa and else where majority of them are selfish esp. the politician where they want to enmas wealth and power for themselves and their fly. Examples are plenty in goa itself.

On 12/03/2012 07:35 PM suresh deuskar said:
The paper sees through the glasses which are of their chosen colour.

On 10/03/2012 06:16 PM val dsouza said:
the christians elected on the bjp ticket remind me of an old limerick which i cannot remember correctly, but the gist is - a woman went for a ride on a tiger; the tiger came back with a smile on its face and the woman inside. maybe someone remembers the limerick exactly.

On 10-03-2012 02:09 PM rob said:
Yes, magic in Goa Politics. No doubt about it. Mr. Parrikar has played his cards intelligently and skillfully. Full marks to him and his party. Please do not forget the track record of Goa, how often the elected members switch over and betray. Very few members in the assembly, so let's wait and watch. Hopefully, Parrikar and BJP will remain longer and complete their term. Let's keep our fingers crossed.