Thursday, December 17, 2009


It dawned bright and clear on Monday 14 December and once again we joined the eucharistic celebration of the community in Silchar. We had a sumptuous breakfast with the community and left for Shillong by 9 am. The first part of the journey was what we were anticipating with foreboding, for we would have to traverse the same dirt track that had horrified us on the first day. After negotiating the rest of the road which was not too good we arrived by 10:30 am at Kalani and then moved onwards slowly towards the border of Meghalaya. The daytime crossing proved to be a mite easier than expected. But truth to tell the sorry excuse for a road seemed interminable. One also wonders how such roads can continue to exist in this day and age, where roadmaking has taken giant strides of progress. One only wonders at the governmental ineptitude that allows roads to deteriorate to this condition.

Once the dirt track was over the going proved to be very easy even though it was a climbing path we were on. The kilometers flew by and by 1 pm we found ourselves once more at the outskirts of Klehriat. We decided to dine at a small restaurant just outside the campus, since we had not been able to inform the community of our arrival. The food was delicious and we also had some time to meet the confreres and to freshen up for the last lap of the journey.

Leaving Klehriat at 3 pm we continued our journey passing the infamous Ladrymbai - a shanty town that has sprung up overnight along the road with very poor facilities of hygiene and a worn out road. From there it was quick time to Jowai where the traffic was intense. The light was fading and the line of trucks going on our way was interminable but Ajay was able to maneuver skillfully and by 6 pm we entered Shillong. Of course the evening traffic made further progress difficult and we reached SHTC only at 6:45 pm. It was the end of our trip - hectic, enjoyable and safe. We raised our minds and hearts to God in gratitude for taking us on the long journey without any major hurdles and for returning us safely home without too many aches and pains.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009


D-DAY arrived on Sunday 13 December. After an early wake up and a quick breakfast we made our way to Seling where the ordination was to be held. Our journey which began at 7:15 am came to an end an hour and a half later. The road was smooth and the going easy. Actually Aizawl is not very far from Seling. It is just the next hill but the time of travel is all about descending from one hill and climbing up the next. When we arrived hectic preparations were on to get the last-minute arrangements into place. We had a chance to take a quick peek at the work done by the SDBs especially the school and the church. The ordination ceremony began at 10:30 am and it has been described earlier. After the mass we had time to greet some old friends - SDBs and other religious before moving to the parish house for a quick festive lunch.

By 1:30 pm we were ready to travel again, this time retracing our steps on our homeward journey. Fr. John Zosiama stayed behind for various pastoral services that he will render in his native land. He will also spend some time with his loved ones before returning to SHTC in late January. We had two new travelling companions - Srs. Nildalin and Janicia - both FMAs travelling to their convent in Vairengte. We had a brief stopover for tea at Peace Home where we also picked up some quilts for our community.

By 4 pm we began the descent. This time the going was fast and by 7:45 pm we had covered the journey to Vairengte. Sr. Celestine Thyrniang fma awaited us with a lovely supper to replenish our tired bodies. She was also happy to see her two community members - they had provided some very interesting company for the first leg of the journey. After supper we continued towards our final destination for the day - Don Bosco Silchar.

Leaving Vairengte at 9 pm we arrived at Silchar at about 10:45 pm where Fr. Sebastian Palatty - the Rector and Headmaster awaited us with the keys to our rooms and we needed just a few minutes to bathe and retire into dreamland.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009


We rose early on Saturday 12 December to join the Silchar community for the eucharist at 7 am. The prayerful and devout participation of the hostelites (boys and girls) led us to think that they were all Christians, and it was only at the time of receving communion that we realised only a few of them were Catholics. Soon after breakfast we took a walk around the campus visiting the school and the technical institute and admiring the work being done in this corner of India.

By 9:15 am it was time to hit the road again and to begin our climb into Mizoram. The last part of the Assam road is still being done up - a four-lane highway is in the pipeline, which means the current state of the road is far from satisfactory. In an hour we found ourselves climbing into Mizoram. One of the unique features of the state is that houses are built along the road - often with very little other free space available. This also means that the road is the centre of business, the playground, the place for socializing etc. Drivers beware! The drive was cool and pleasant, the road till Kolasib was smooth in general.

We halted for lunch at Kolasib by about 1 pm. Most of the town had gathered in the centre to welcome and felicitate 3 wrestlers from the area who had won laurels in recent competitions. So security was tight and we heard the program begin with a prayer - not surprising if one remembers that Mizoram is one of the states with the highest percentage of Christians in India. One young man belted out with amazing talent "We are the Champions" ala Freddie Mercury from Queen. Well we had to tear ourselves away from the function for the road beckoned us onwards. The section from Kolasib to Aizawl was rough in parts and the last 20 kms were on a very narrow and winding road. It called for the driver's utmost concentration.

Starting at about 2 pm we reached the outskirts of Aizawl by about 4:30 pm and our first stop was at the home of the sisters of Fr. John Zosiama. We were welcomed by a cup of hot tea and met some of the other family members of Fr. John. We then drove on into the city of Aizawl and took in the various sights ending our tour at the Cathedral - a beautifully constructed Church, with taste and artistic value.

Finally we drove back to Durtalang where we turned into "Peace Home" - a centre for women who seek detoxification from addictions - belonging to the MSMHC sisters. We were welcomed by Sr. Rose Pythei and her team. After a quick wash we sat down to an enjoyable supper. After supper and a long chat with the sisters we retired to our room for the night. Our beds were made with quilts and blankets for unlike Silchar, Aizawl and its environs get pretty cold at night. After a long chat with Fr. Mattachan who had also come in for the ordination we hit the sack.

Monday, December 14, 2009


Just back from a tiring but enjoyable trip to Mizoram - one of the easternmost states of India. We were there to witness the priestly ordination of our SHTC student Deacon Dominic Thuan. A goodly crowd of about 1000 people had gathered to participate in the service which was presided over by Bishop Stephen Rotluanga of Aizawl. The service was held in Mizo and moved smoothly. It was a touching ceremony with moments of deep significance like the prostration of the deacon for the litany of the saints and the silent laying on of hands by the bishop followed by all the concelebrating priests. After the service there was a felicitation program for the newly ordained priest.

Well the journey to and fro was pretty eventful - and we did it in 4 days...albeit with many stops and at a leisurely pace. We began from SHTC on Friday 11 December morning - the original group consisted of Fr. George Maliekal - Rector of SHTC, Fr. John Zosiama - Registrar of SHTC, Ms. Blandina Lamare - a friend and collaborator in Salesian work in Shillong and yours truly. Of course not to be forgotten was our driver Ajay Tirkey. The first leg was through the Khasi hills into the Jaintia hills. We passed through the town of Jowai - part of the coal belt that has grown phenomenally rich due to the 'black gold' that is being mined constantly with all the repercussions that this entails. We paused for a solemn lunch at the Don Bosco centre in Khleriat. The Salesians here run a parish, a couple of schools and other youth activities. In the pipeline is a mini-stadium that is being completed. The MSMHC sisters are close collaborators in the work. Frs. John Mathew, Marius and Kenny were on hand to welcome us and treat us to lunch prepared with much care. We took a look round the campus and soon bid goodbye to our kind hosts and get back on the road.

At 2:30 pm we were moving on towards the border of Meghalaya and on into Assam towards the town of Silchar which was to be our night halt. The road was smooth and the going was good until we crossed into Assam at about 5:30 pm. Then began an ordeal that words cannot describe. The road seemed to vanish into a cloud of thick dust. By then the darkness was thick and the only thing that kept us going along that bouncy dirt track - which is officially part of the National Highway connecting Meghalaya with Mizoram and Tripura - was the procession of vehicles trudging relentlessly along the same path. This section seemed unending and at about 6:30 when the worst seemed over we paused for a tea halt. Unfortunately the place we chose served no tea just some 'chana'. So after the pause we took to the road again. This time the road was better but still very rough. Two level crossings also kept us from speeding to our destination.

Finally, at about 7:45 pm we sighted Silchar and our relief almost led us to miss the turning to our Don Bosco centre. Thanks to some very good lighting we sighted the centre and entered to enjoy the warm welcome of the confreres and the technical students who reside in the hostels. We were eager to get to the rooms prepared for us and to get the dirt, grime and most of all the memories of the torrid time we had endured out of our systems. By 8:30 pm we were in the refectory for a leisurely chat and supper with the confreres of the community - Frs. Sebastian Palatty, Ignatius Sangma and Br. Regi. They shared with us information about the centre and its activities - principally the school and technical institute. After supper we soon hit the sack and enjoyed the restful bliss of warm beds. It was a very consoling end to a day that had been fairly up and down.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009


We broke up for the winter vacation on 5 December. And our community has moved to different parts of India and some overseas too. It is time for winter camps, for mission experiences, for village visits, for time spent at home with family and friends.

Here in Shillong the mercury keeps dipping and what is more alarming is the level of ailments reported by the common man. Normally they say that winter is the healthiest time but this year things are not going too well.

Yesterday - Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception - many of us were present for the first religious profession of 15 MSMHC novices. What a beautiful ceremony and for many of us it was a time to recall our first steps in religious life as we rededicated ourselves to the mission we undertook years ago.

So happy Advent to all. We await his coming into our hearts and we prepare to welcome him in the poor, the suffering and the weak...He comes, He comes, He ever comes...