A Celebration of the gift of Fr Roland

February 16th, 2019. A date I’m not likely to forget because of what it has come to mean in hindsight. A close friend was celebrating her 50th wedding anniversary that day. And though she had mentioned it to me, the static on the phone or the tiredness of my mind had failed to register the same.
A chance meeting with another resident of my building who was actually “invited” prompted me to call up my friend and she confirmed the mass timing. She also told me that she had not “invited” me because she knew my older two kids were studying for their boards, 12th and 10th, which are key exams in a student’s life in India. I didn’t mind the non invite for the reception and told her as such, reiterating that I would be present for the mass.
I went, and was dazzled by the sheer love and, not to mention expense, but also the beauty of a simple ceremony. The mass was concelebrated, with Bishop Barthol as the main celebrant. It was then that I spotted him… during the homily and exchange of vows. Fr Mario, sensitive to the older priests around him was solicitous. Apparently the fronds of the floral decorations on the altar were tickling Fr Roland’s almost bald pate.
Fr Roland had been suffering from cancer that had already metastatized when he was diagnosed two years earlier. The doctor had given him just SEVEN days to live! That he survived over 730 days after the bleak prognosis is a testament to our Lord’s power as much as to the power of prayer of those who loved him and also those positive Bible verses that he used to shout out aloud on the terrace of St Pius Seminary. Even the ‘Big C,’ as I used to joke with him, seemed to cower down before this humble priest’s relentless prayer. And it did stop spreading, as his reports last year attested. When his doctor confirmed in open bafflement that the cancer had not only stopped spreading but was also shrinking, Father was truly excited. He attributed this to the power of prayer of so many people interceding for him.
So there he was: on the altar being tickled by the fronds. I knew I had to speak to him as I wouldn’t be able to make the time once the exams begun. I got the opportunity after mass and quickly went to the entrance after congratulating the couple. I caught him on his way out and asked if we could walk back together. He acquiesed and without any preamble told me that his cancer was aggressively spreading. I was a bit taken aback because the last I heard he was doing well. The cancer had been shrinking. He showed me his right arm. The sight was frightening! The arm just above the elbow was swollen to bursting. The cancer, he said, had metastatized with a vengeance. This time his lungs had been affected.
It was only a matter of time, he stated bluntly. He added the metaphor that he had been a boxer in his college days and now, God was calling him to fight the cancer; the road was all uphill, he added.
As we approached the main road, Father asked me on which side of the road I preferred walking. When I said I had no preference, he suddenly crossed the road surprising me with his agility and decisiveness.
He explained that the way he had taken, had fewer people walking incoming. (Suggestive of his life? The road less travelled by?)
He told me that he had to prepare a Hindi homily for the Hindi mass he was celebrating the next day in St Jude’s parish.
When I reminded him that we were moving out of Mumbai to Goa, he asked some searching questions about our move, the sale of our flat, the kids, jobs in Goa. He missed nothing. I asked him to pray for us. We had reached the seminary gate by then. Oblivious to the hustle and bustle around us, he laid his hands on me and, as was his usual habit, started praying in tongues. As he swayed and prayed, it dawned on me that it could probably be the last time he was praying with me. When he finished, I told him that he had to go on and climb Calvary while I stayed back. He joked if I was Mary at the Cross. So we parted.
When news came of his hospitalisation, I didn’t really expect the end to come within such a short span of time. It hurt that I couldn’t go see him. My prayer was tepid at best.
The end came on 6th May, a day before his birthday. I was grateful that I was able to be present for his funeral. I was crying for most of the funeral mass, thinking of how he worked ceaselessly through his final days. But Bishop John’s homily gave me the perspective I needed and I calmed down.
Father’s peaceful face hid the struggle he faced in his final years. Yet he ran the race of faith with a rare passion. Touching people’s lives. Praying. Teaching. Correcting. Joking. Praying some more. That sums up his life. At least from my perspective. I know you’re resting in peace, Father. Pray for us.

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Ermelinda

Author, “Her Story”

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Meet Sandra, founder, Sandra’s Book Club

Q: First, tell us how you came to be a published author and how you came up with the idea to provide services to authors.

A: I wrote my first novel, Esperanza: A Latina Story, WHILE I was still in college. The book follows the story of a 14-year old Mexican-American girl trying to get out of the barrio and make something of her life. Full of humor and refreshing dialogue, this book was voted as an inspirational favorite by teen readers. Shortly after that, I wrote the sequel entitled Beyond the Gardens, published in October 2009.

In the second book, the lead heroine gains new confidence and strength as she learns the hard way that “you can take the girl out of the barrio, but you can’t take the barrio out of the girl.”

I write stories with strong and independent female characters that I, myself, would like to read about. When I’m not writing, I get my fill on reading for the enjoyment as well as to improve my craft.

Like every published author, I was emailing book bloggers, asking them to please review my book. But, like querying to a publisher, most of them were unresponsive and some weren’t interested. And, of course, I used paid services that would list my book in their newsletters, reaching potential readers that may or may not review my book. That worked out okay. But let’s face it: getting reviews is tough. It’s hard when your book isn’t well publicized and no one is willing to give it chance. That’s what started my book blog. Initially, it started as just a blog for my own personal reviews on books that I read. At that point, I started taking requests from authors and publishers. My own personal review would be free, but, of course, like every other blogger, I only chose the ones that I wanted and rejected those that I didn’t. Yes, my readings tastes are pretty open in a wide variety of genres, but there are some that just don’t really interest me (i.e. westerns, politics sports, etc.) So how do I help those rejected authors get reviews? After all, I couldn’t possibly review them all. That’s when I came up with the idea of starting a book club of readers and a review program to supply authors with more reviews besides the one that I give them. Readers can sign up to get free books from authors, and authors can get reviews for their books. It’s a simple, easy, and convenient program. And it’s working!

Q: How can this review program benefit writers?

A: The review program allows authors to list their books and reach a wide range of readers. It’s been a hit so far! About 85% of participating authors get at least 1 – 2 reviews on Amazon, and we receive over 75 reviews a month from readers. And the best part about it is that we offer free ways for authors to list their book in our program. As an author, I totally understand that budgets can be tight, which makes it harder (maybe even impossible) to promote your books. Most authors shy away to any promo service when there’s a price. What better price is there than FREE?

Q: What do you think is the most important aspect of a book to make it sell?

A: The story itself along with a fabulous cover is definitely important. But probably the most important would have to be reviews. Let’s face it: reviews are the life blood of any book. More reviews equal a greater online exposure and a higher sales ranking, which, could result in sales. My book, Single Chicas, has over 70 reviews, and that has given me more royalties on Kindle sales. The reviews made the difference because before I got no royalties, and now I’m surprised to actually see one come through knowing that I didn’t do any promotion. Book reviews are definitely the key thing here.

Q: How is your author review program unique?

A: My review program is unique because I offer a free option for authors, and I do that because I want authors of all kinds to get a fair chance at getting reviews for their books. Every book deserves a review. These are HONEST and LEGIT reviews. There is no buying reviews here. Readers are free to 

choose any book and reserve the right in whether or not a review gets posted. It’s all strictly voluntary and 100% honest.

Q: I see on your website that you also do graphics. Would you mind telling us a little more about that end of your service?

A: As a graphic designer, I help authors with book covers, bookmarks, flyers, social media graphics, headers, and so on. I often try to offer clients bundle packages that include graphic design, book promotion, AND an opportunity to get listed in my review program to reach potential reviewers daily. I definitely know what authors want and I try to give that to them in a bulk deal.

Q: How can authors and readers sign up?

For authors interested in submitting their book to get reviews, please go to: 

https://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/2020/08/submit-your-book.html

For readers interested in signing up to read free books, please go to: 

https://sandrasbookclub.blogspot.com/2019/09/read-review-program.html

Writing a Second Book and my Fav Poetry Teacher

On a very rainy day in July, I hunched over my laptop and published my first book, “Her Story” – a womanist perspective on Mary of Nazareth. On Amazon Kindle. Amazon also gives me the option of offering paperback subject to print on demand. A small number of book sales has started showing. Nothing close to great. Strictly small. But the process has been empowering. Suddenly I find I have an author page to manage. Two. One on Amazon. One on Goodreads. Great so far. And I have almost completed my second book in this series on marginalized women characters in the Bible.

The idea for a series actually came when I was uploading my first book on KDP. That’s Kindle Digital Publishing for the uninitiated. I already had a clutch of poems and poem ideas on these New Testament women. Yes, you read right, poems! I have written in verse. Free verse. Simple. Flowing and easy to understand.

I have found this resistance in people when it comes to reading, studying, let alone writing, poetry. Maybe we’ve not had the best teachers when it comes to teaching poetry. In my case, my college professor John Conrad Coelho was and is the best person I know to teach an uninitiated person the art of understanding a poem. I remember him teaching us Wordsworth’s “Lines written a few miles above Tintern Abbey” – how long he took till we understood the term ‘cataract’ which turned out to be a waterfall! None of us had ever heard of this aspect of ‘cataract’ before. Every time we took our Hayward (that was the name of the editor of the textbook, not what you’re thinking) to class, we knew we were going to learn something interesting. Those years imbued us with a sense of clarity when it came to poetry, poetic thinking and also critical analysis.

Looking back in fondness at those days rushing from one class to the next, little did we know that the stage was being set for the enactment of our own life plays. Scattered across the globe now though we may be, whenever we do connect, one of the things we definitely chat about is our shared memories of being in Professor Coelho’s class.

Here’s to one of those greats! Viva Professor Coelho!

On Being A Tugboat

Discipline…how much I need thee!

BREVITY's Nonfiction Blog

By Kirsten Voris

I was going to let this anniversary go unacknowledged.

I must have known it was a big deal. I wrote it in my calendar. One year out. July 26th, the day I took the decision to sit down for a specific amount of time, on specific days every week, to write. No matter how I felt or what else was going on.

Guess what?

For one solid year I have been sitting down, for a specific amount of time, on specific days of the week to write.

I wasn’t going to mention it. But that’s just false modesty. And feeling shy about outing yourself is counterproductive when you’re in the business of writing personal essays.

You might be wondering how I did it.

I had some help. From the Tucson Writer’s Table. What we do, is write. For two hours. Together. At a table. Every Monday. After…

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Lockdown Good Friday

Unless a grain of wheat
Falls into the ground
It still remains
But a grain of wheat.
But if it falls and dies…
Then it bears much fruit…

Jerusalem was quite in lockdown the day after the Passover. The streets were mostly deserted. But there were crowds on the outskirts. Outside the city gates. A man was going to be crucified. What a buzz of excitement that created! A crucifixion! No one from the current generation had witnessed one. Hence the jostling crowds.

The already battered man was tottering under the brutal weight of the cross and the Roman soldiers’ jabs and jibes. So terrible was the sight that some women swooned. Others keened. Some murmured in groups. One bold young girl, they say, braved the soldiers’ rough shoves, and wiped his blood-scarred face. The flowing blood was making it difficult to find a firm footing and the cross laden man kept falling. A man, an onlooker from the crowd was roped in to support the ‘convict’. The slow procession finally reached Golgotha. There the Roman soldiers following due procedure crucified him along with two convicted thieves. The crowds began to clear in preparation for the Sabbath lockdown that would resume soon.

A few stragglers lingered. A gang of Pharisees came to the foot of the cross to mock the dying man. Then snorting and chuckling at their joke, they walked away. The last set of people were mismatched, old and young, men and women. They exchanged a few words with the man on the centre cross. The Roman soldiers shoved them back. They too were in a hurry to get this done with. There was some conversation between the crucified thieves and the crucified one. The dying man’s wrists had stopped dripping blood. His feet were nailed together. That’s where the blood was oozing and congealing. His end came after he gave out a loud cry. The Roman soldiers were precise in their actions. They speared his side. Blood and water gushed out! Proof of his death. They broke the legs of the other two to hasten their death.

Bringing the dead bodies down from the tree was a tricky affair but they managed it, Joseph of Arimethea and Nicodemus. The mother held her babe for the last time before the body was cleaned and embalmed. The Sabbath was at hand. They hurried with the burial and locked down the entrance to the tomb with a huge round boulder of stone.

To wait for the first day of the week when they could return and give the body a more formal burial.

My Birthday

A report of my birthday

By 6.50 am, got everyone ready for college and school and mass and rushed out of the house to see husband bent over rear left tyre pumping in air with a cycle pump. Flat tyre with five minutes to spare for mass to begin! And, guess what, I DON’T panic. Just take it in my stride. As if going for mass with a deflating tyre were a regular affair.

Thank God for tubeless tyres. At least you can drive some distance with one tyre flat.

Get the tyre fixed after mass.

Oh! At mass, my dad has gone in advance and told the priest it’s my birthday and the latter makes a special prayer for ‘Ermelinda bai’ during mass. I am ready to die of embarrassment. I dutifully join the communion line and the priest tells me to stand aside – he’ll give me both species(bread and wine) after the rest. More embarrassing. And my little one asks in a loud whisper why father didn’t give you communion… All fans were off, it being a very cold morn… So everyone, even the somnolent, heard! Aaargh!

Finally, back home for breakfast. Made some chapatis and packed the little one off to school. My parents wanted to drop her off since they had some errands to run. She refuses to go. I convince her that I’ll be on the rear of the scooter and she agrees to go to school.

All this before nine. I trudge up to my house and a friend calls. I have still not eaten. My head has started aching. My mother calls on my husband’s phone. Do you want chicken pattice or veg ones? I say to my friend, I’ll call you later. She and my mom say ok and both hang up. My sister calls immediately after. A short while later I’m munching on chapatis with coffee.

Then the husband rises to do his task of the day: disposing of the wet waste in the compost cans while I linger over my newly bought plants, where do I plant what…

My aunt comes over from next door to wish me and gives me a large bunch of ‘tamdi bhaji’ – organic red amaranthus, laal matt… Then I go over to her place with dad to repair her washing machine adaptor. 45 minutes later with my plumbing efforts literally down the drain, I go to pick my little one from school where a parent casually observes that the scooter’s back tyre seems punctured! What! For the second time in the day, I go to the local puncture nikaalnewala and then head home. Complete my cooking by 1.30. Go to pick up the other daughter and return by 2.

The rest of the day was pretty uneventful!

Oh! Did I mention the seven large gossipy peahens I met in the neghhbouring fields?