Saturday, October 16, 2010

DAY 15 - Vijayawada to Visakapattinam

The priests of Loyola College, Vijayawada take turns to offer mass at the Nirmala Convent. Sr. Ancy introduced me to the priest who had come to offer mass today. We exchanged notes of our days in Loyola College, Chennai and about Fr. Kuriakose who was the Principal of the College during my time. After the mass and a hot cup of tea Sr. Ancy took me to the St Paul’s Cathedral, which is adjacent to the Bishop’s House. While at the Cathedral, Sr. Ancy introduced me to G. Deviah, who believes that he had a vision of Jesus. As a small boy from a poor family he used to help out the priests in the Loyola College, Vijayawada, in the refectory and the sacristy. As a 12 year old, one day in May 1970, as he was setting the table for the evening tea in the refectory a person of medium build and apparently of European descent, dressed in a towel and vest, appeared in the refectory and spoke to Deviah in a tongue that he did not comprehend. Not able to make out what the visitor wanted, he went to Fr. VT George, who instructed him to serve the guest some sandwiches and tea. The visitor took a bite of the sandwich and put the rest into his shoulder bag. All along the visitor had a beatific smile on his face and a hand raised in blessing. After the morsel, the visitor left the refectory and Deviah followed him. In a short while, a massive gust of wind forced Deviah to close his eyes. When the wind lifted Deviah could not see anyone, except a small cloud drifting off in the distant. Since that day, Deviah is a true believer and visits the Cathedral every day to offer his thanks to the Lord.
Br. Joseph Thampi was born in 1883 in Tamil Nadu. He embraced the Assisi way of life and joined the Third Order. He traveled extensively in the undeveloped and afforested regions of TN and AP. He finally settled in Avutappally preaching the Word of the Lord and living a simple life. He is said to have worked many miracles during his time and even predicted the exact date and time of his own death, which occurred on 15th January 1945. Today his tomb, the house where he lived and the well where he drank water from are places of pilgrimage – every year the center sees huge ingress of pilgrims and the faithful between the 14th and 16th of January. Many claim to have received miraculous help through the intercessions of Bro. Joseph Thampi. I visited this Holy center en route to Visakapattinam. All these experiences I had only because of Sr. Ancy. A big thanks to you, Sister.
The Rajamundhry-Visakapattinam stretch of 150 kms of the NH5 is a beauty. Nearly 90 kms from Rajamundhry is Tuni - a beautiful place with high, green mountains on one side. At the Visakapattinam Urban Development Authority Limit I was ‘received’ by my friend of many years, Thulsi Ram, his wife, Nandini, his son, Vishnu, Unnithan, Vijayan Sr (with his daughter and nephew) and Jr, Ganeshan, Krishnakumar and Manu. The gesture was indeed overwhelming. The presentation of bouquet and liberal use of cameras made many stop on the highway and some fantasized that shooting of some serial or movie was in progress!
I was ‘put up’ at the NSTL (a unit of DRDO) Guest House. The NSTL campus is itself half a hill station and picnic spot; the GH has excellent rooms and superb service. The security of the residential area and the maintenance of the GH are done by an agency run by a Keralite – Krishnakumar. Later in the evening I met with the Divisional Railway Manager; Mr Kashinath and I belonged to the same batch in the Railways. He is an exceptional Signal and Telecommunications Engineer.
A ‘Felicitation’ was organized by the Kerala Kala Samithi at 7 pm. The Samithi has its own premises in a central location in the city and nearly 125 guests gathered there despite the bad weather. The get together and the felicitation function was a touching gesture by the Keralites who had left the shores of their native land in search of work and livelihood many years ago. These outstation representatives of ‘God’s Own Country’ are doing exceptionally well in their chosen professions - one feels so proud of them. However, without exception, they are firm in their stand that they will never return to Kerala to earn a livelihood, but may end up there in their twilight years. They talk of the enabling environment in AP that builds entrepreneurship – hartals, bandhs and labor issues do not dog every effort. They are saddened by what they hear of Kerala’s politics and the lack of opportunities in the State. The evening wound up with great food and a few rounds of Anthakshari – the innate artist in the Malayalee was on display.


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