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7.GUJARAT JESUITS’ CONTRIBUTION TO CONTEMPORARY LITERATURE IN ENGLISH

GIEWEC National English Literary Festival

K. J. Somaiya College, Mumbai, Nov. 30 & Dec. 1, 2012

 

GUJARAT JESUITS’ CONTRIBUTION TO CONTEMPORARY

LITERATURE IN ENGLISH

Fr Varghese Paul, SJ

The contributions of more than half a dozen Jesuits of Gujarat to the contemporary literature in English are well known. Their literature is read not only in Gujarat and in India but also in some English speaking countries around the globe. They are Frs. Carlos Valles, Hedwig Lewis, Varghese Paul, Ishanand Vempany, Joseph Mattam, Lancy Lobo and James Cyril Dabhi. There are also Jesuits in Gujarat who have authored books in English on theological, spiritual and socio-cultural issues and similar topics, like Frs. P D Mathew, Pablo Gil, Joseph Valiamangalam, Shekar Manickam, Jose Antonio Corral. This list is not exhaustive.

FR CARLOS VALLES, SJ writes in three languages: English, Gujarati and in his mother tongue, Spanish. He is one of the most known literary figures in Gujarati speaking world with more than 70 books in Gujarati to his credit. He has won many literary awards and gold medals for his outstanding literary outputs like Ranjit Ram Gold Medal and Kumar Medal[1], etc. But he is known internationally for his books in English and Spanish.

Fr Valles’ contributions to contemporary literature in English consist of some 28 books on a wide range of topics like religion, spirituality, psychology, interpersonal relationships, etc. Essay is his most favorite literary form. Most of Valles’ books in English are published by an internationally known publishing house, Gujarat Sahitya Prakash[2].

But, by way of an exception, Valles’ latest book in English “GANDHI: The Alternative to Violence”[3] is published by Navjivan. Like most of his books “GANDHI: The alternative to Violence” has wide appeal across people of all colour and race, different creeds and culture. The subject of his book on Gandhi has universal appeal in the English-speaking world. Fr. Valles through his personalized narration with plenty of anecdotes and examples makes Gandhi come alive.

I wrote an essay on Fr Valles in Gujarati[4]. In it I highlighted his multi-faceted personality as well as his versatile skills to write on a variety of subjects with both clarity and lucidity. His language is simple. Style is lucid. He argues or presents his point of view logically and forcefully.

FR HEDWIG LEWIS, SJ is perhaps the second most read Jesuit of Gujarat writing in English. I once wrote about him as “A Jesuit Author of International Repute”[5]. As a versatile writer Lewis has tried with great success his hands in different genre of literature like spirituality, education, history, biography, religion etc.

Perhaps, his most popular book on spirituality is “At Home with God”[6]. It has seen many reprints and editions. The book has been translated into a number of Indian and European languages. Lewis has more than 30 books published by various publishers in India and abroad. Apart from his books as a prolific writer Lewis regularly contributes articles to various national and international periodicals. 

Another very successful book of Lewis is ‘Body Language’[7], which has also gone into different editions and reprints. I have read its Malayalam translation[8]. As an influential and popular writer Lewis’ English books have been published by a number of well known publishers[9].

Both Fr Carlos Valles and Fr. Hedwig Lewis have their own personal web sites[10] which are much visited by people interested in their ideas and writings.

A third person with a personal web site is this writer, FR VARGHESE PAUL, SJ[11]. I write mainly in Gujarati and I have published 38 books in Gujarati. But I also write in English and I have authored 3 books in English published by two nationally and internationally known publishers[12].

My first two books in English are entitled “Love, Youth & Family” and “How to Make LIFE Worth Living?” Reviews of both the books appeared not only in India but also in an international periodical Trefoil published from Johannesburg, South Africa. My 3rd book in English, “Love is a Challenge!” like my other books is a collection of essays originally published in national weeklies like The Herald of Kolkata, The Examiner of Mumbai and the Indian Currents of New Delhi. It is published by Gujarat Sahitya Prakash.

My first two books in English have been translated into Malayalam. The Editor of Sneha Sena Fr. Vincent Pereppadan, SJ has translated “How to Make Life Worth Living” and it has been published by Yatra Publications[13]. Msgr. George Veliparambil, former Editor of Kerala Times daily has translated “Love, Youth & Family” and ST PAULS, Ernakulam published it.[14]

Fr Varghese has traveled widely and participate more than a dozen international World Conferences and presented papers on communication and mass media and conducted workshops on journalism and creative writings. His books are enriched by these world-wide experiences and international encounters. He has received national and international awards for his writings both in English and Gujarati.

DR. ISHANAND VEMPENY, SJ who did his doctoral thesis on a comparative study of Krishna and Christ[15], is a prolific writer in English with 8 books to his credit and innumerable scholarly articles in national and international periodicals of religion, theology and philosophy, etc. He has written books on religious, social, theological and political themes in English. He has also written and published three books in Gujarati.

Vempeny’s latest book in English entitled “National Corruption and Whimpering Hazare Hurricane” is in the press. As the title signifies the book deals with Corruption. He describes corruption as a wide-spread Cancer in the Indian Society.

Vempeny is a theologian of great repute. His first book in English “Inspiration in Non-Biblical Scriptures”[16] has been included in the list of Scholars’ Choice of Breakthrough Books in Theology. Two of his books in English have been translated into Malayalam entitled “Christian Sanyasam”[17] and “Matha Parivarthanam”[18].

Vempeny writes articles or books on topics like, for instance “Conversion”[19], which are on the lips of people. But he goes deep into his subjects giving their lasting values in true perspective.

The author has traveled extensively in India and abroad attending conferences on ecumenism, Christology, philosophy and has presented scholarly papers in some of the International Conferences and Seminars.

DR JOSEPH MATTAM, SJ holds a doctorate in theology from Gregorian University, Rome. As a professor of Theology he has lectured in good many theological colleges in India and in other Asian and African countries.

He has served as the Founder and Dean of Gujarat Jesuit Regional Theologate at Ahmedabad and of Gujarat Regional Seminary at Sevasi, Vadodara. He has also conducted workshops and seminars for Priests, Seminarians, Sisters and Bishops in India and abroad. 

He has authored a number of books like ‘The Religious Life Within a Christian Vision of Reality”[20], “The Land of Trinity: Modern Christian Approaches to Hinduism”[21] and “Celebration of Life, Rediscovering the Sacraments”[22]. These books reveal his scholarship in the different fields like religion, spirituality and theology.

He has also authored or edited several more books in collaboration with other authors and scholars. Joseph Mattam with S. Kim has edited two books: “Mission and Conversion – a Reappraisal”[23] and “Mission Trends Today, Historical and Theological Perspectives”[24]. “Hindutva – an Indian Christian Response”[25] is a book which he has authored together with P. Arochiadoss. Besides, Mattam has written and published more than 150 major scholarly articles in national and international journals.

DR LANCY LOBO, SJ is the Founder-Director of Centre for Culture & Development (CCD) at Sevasi, Vadodara. He is a well known research scholar. He has written several scholarly books and articles in English and Gujarati. Most of them are of national and international interest.

Dr. Lobo’s book entitled “Malaria in the Social Context”[26] is a scholarly study of Malaria and health education in Western India with implication also for the rest of India.

His book “Globalisation, Hindu Nationalism and Christians in India”[27] deals with Christian minority in India in the context of globalization and growing religious fundamentalism. The book “Poor in Urban India, Study of Slums in a Western Indian City”[28] authored by him together with Biswaroop Das. It deals with urban poor in India in the context of Surat slums.

Lobo has also authored together with Shashikant Kumar “Land Acquisition, Displacement and Resettlement in Gujarat 1947-2004”[29]. The book is a first comprehensive research study of land acquired for 139 developmental projects in Gujarat and its adverse effect on displaced people.

Lobo’s latest venture through CCD is the organization of a national seminar on “Union State Relations” at Sevasi, Vadodara. On the occasion Dr. Kamala Beniwal, the Governor of Gujarat released a book “Economy and Society in Globalizing Gujarat”[30] edited by Lancy Lobo and Jayesh Shah. These same two authors have also written a scholarly book entitled “Forest and Tribal’s Livelihood: Their Changing Characters”[31]. 

As a Sociologist, DR JAMES CYRIL DABHI, SJ has written on social, educational and human right issues. He is presently the Research Director of Behavioural Science Centre, Ahmedabad. He was the Executive Director of Indian Social Institute (ISI), an internationally known NGO in New Delhi. He has also worked in Afghanistan.

He has lectured and conducted training programme as visiting professor in Jamia Millia, New Delhi, Banyan University and Heart University of Afghanistan. His research papers have appeared in English publications. Some of them have been translated and published in Hindi and Gujarati. 

His writings in English reflect his scholarship and interest in social research, managerial development of socio-civil organizations and in education. His book “Leadership in Educational Organizations”[32] is especially remarkable as it is jointly published by two internationally known NGOs – Afghan Research and Development Institute (ARDI) & Indian Social Institute (ISI), New Delhi.

Dabhi’s latest book in English is “Development Versus People: Gujarat Model of Land Acquisition and People’s Voices”[33]. The book contains a research study which reveals the benefits of a few who got the possession of the land at the cost of the people like Dalits, tribals, fisher folk and Muslims, who lost their land and livelihood.

FR. P. D. MATHEW, SJ, is well-known in India as an eminent lawyer. He is the Founder-Director of Nyaya Darshan which is a Centre for Human Rights and Justice at Vadodara. He has worked earlier as the head of the legal department of Indian Social Institute, New Delhi and of Behavioural Science Centre, Ahmedabad.

Mathew is the editor of “Legal News and Views” magazine and also a Gujarati magazine “Aapno Adhikar”. Both these legal magazines promote knowledge of law to general public. He has practiced law for many years as a Supreme Court lawyer at New Delhi.

He has written extensively on various aspects of law, publishing scores of pamphlets on Human Rights of children, of women, of citizens, etc both in English and Gujarati. His law writings are the fruits of his teaching and conducting works and seminars on law all over India.

Some of these pamphlets of law have been published in two books “Know Your Rights-I”[34] and “Know Your Rights-II”[35]. He has also published a third book entitled “Freedom of Religion and a Debate on Religious Conversion[36].

Missiologist DR JOSEPH VALIAMANGALAM, SJ is presently the Rector of Vidya Deep, Regional Seminary at Sevasi, Vadodara. He is a founding member of Fellowship of Indian Missiologists (FOIM). He has contributed several research papers on Missiology published by different national and international periodicals. He is also the co-editor of Navajuni, an English in-house quarterly magazine of Gujarat Jesuits.

Dr Valiamangalam has authored books both in English and Gujarati. He has written two books in English. His first book entitled “The Mission Methods of Fr Joaquin Villalonga, SJ”[37] establishes him as a Missiologist.

But his second book “Community in Mission” is of wider interest. Its subtitle “Mission Consciousness of Christian communities: A Contextual Missiological Study”[38] gives a fair idea of the book. It is the fruit of his doctorate studies.

The book “Community in Mission,” as another Missiological Professor Dr Julian Saldanha, SJ has described, is based on “the study of actual situations in India, together with concrete proposals”[39]. The book reveals his Missiological scholarship.

FR PABLO GIL, SJ has a doctorate in psychology and his scholarship in the field is reflected in his writings. He is a unique Jesuit writer in English for two reasons. First, he is the only Jesuit in Gujarat to write a novel in English. Second, he started writing and publishing books in twilight years. His first book “The World’s Greatest Adventure”[40] appeared in 2009 when he was 83 years old!

He has also authored five other books in English. They are “Is Religious Life Relevant Today?”[41], “You are called to Holiness”[42], “Jesus’ Most Precious Gift, Prayer”[43], “A Short Love Story”[44] and “Meditations – Made Easy and Attractive”[45]. All the six books are published by Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand, Gujarat. The novel “A Short Love Story” is a fascinating love story of a young Jesuit priest Xavier and a zealous Muslim convert Fatima and their movement to create a better world.

In his books Gil combines psychology, spirituality, faith and religion. He has written his books keeping the general public in mind. But obviously, he is biased in favour of Jesus-centred spirituality and Christians. Gil is a missionary in India for past 69 years. On a personal note I am happy to acknowledge him as a spiritual counselor to me for two years as he was the Assistant Novice Master when I joined the Society of Jesus in 1964 

Gil is a captivating writer with a lot of stories, anecdotes, and examples from history and literature to support and illustrate the points he writes about. For instance, his book “Jesus’ Most Precious Gift, Prayer” has 15 chapters which deals with various aspect of prayer and each chapter has examples of people, historical profiles, anecdotes to illustrate his points.

Among the Jesuits in Gujarat FR SHEKAR MANICKAM, SJ is the only one who has published a book of poems in English entitled “On the Wings of Love”[46]. His second book on poems is yet to be published. But his first poetry book already establishes him as a notable poet. His poetic sensibilities find such expressions that you can enjoy and relish them in an atmosphere of silence and prayer.

Apart from the quality of the poems in “On the Wings of Love” two things are specially noteworthy: first, the enlightening Foreword by Prof. Suguna Ramanathan adds beauty and attractiveness to the book and second, the publishers have done a wonderful job in illustrating beautifully each poem with appropriate art works, symbols and photographs. 

I am happy to note here that “On the Wings of Love” has been translated and published in Tamil, the mother tongue of the author and the Gujarati translation is on the way.

FR. J A CORRAL, SJ is a missionary in South Gujarat. He has been working for many years among the Gamit tribals. He has written two books about the Gamit as an insider with personal knowledge and experience. His two books dealing with tribal sources are “Gamit Myths and Stories”[47] and “Adivasi Religion and Culture”[48].

In his books Corral provides a mine of information about Gamit tribals and as such the two books have great documentary value. They are well written to hold the attention of the reader and the interest of people who wish to know about Gamit culture, religion as well as their family and social life.

Finally, I would like to mention here two other Gujarat Jesuit authors, DR. LOUIS BERMEJO, SJ and DR. FRANCIS GONSALVES, SJ. They are serving in national institutions outside Gujarat. Bermejo has written several books of international fame on theology, spirituality, meditation and prayer.

Similarly Gonsalves also has written a number of books on theology, sociology, spirituality and scripture. He also contributes articles to various national periodicals.

Most of their books are published by Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, Anand. Their books have been sold well in India and abroad.

By way of conclusion, I may say that none of these Jesuits of Gujarat are professional writers. But the first two Jesuits of my presentation, Valles and Lewis, started writing in English as part of their profession like the rest. But then after their teaching career in St. Xavier’s College, Ahmedabad, they both launched themselves into full time writing as their profession.

 

A. M. D. G.



[1] Dr. Kirit H. Shukla (Editor), Gujarati Sahityakar Parichaykosh, Gandhinagar: Gujarat Sahitya Academy

[2] Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash

[3] Carlos Valles, SJ, GANDHI: Alternative to Violence, Ahmedabad : Navjivan Publishing House

[4] Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ, Vishwamanavi Fr. Valles, Parab (Gujarati magazine of Gujarati Sahitya Parishad - a literary Association of Gujarati Writers), Ahmedabad, November 2002, pp.27-28

[5] Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ, A Jesuit Author of International Repute, www.vpaulsj.org, A website column,     01-04-2006

[6] Hedwig Lewis, At Home With God, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1991

[7] Hedwig Lewis, Body Language, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2008, 2012 (3rd Edition)

[8] Hedwig Lewis, Sareera Bhasha (Malayalam Translation of Body Language by Robi Augustine), Kottayam: D. C. Books

[9] These publishers are: Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash; Mumbai: St. Pauls and Dindigul: Vaigarai; New Delhi: Sage publications

[10] www.carlosvalles.com & www.joygift.tripod.com

[11] www.vpaulsj.org & www.biblegujarat.org

[12] Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ, Mumbai: Pauline Publications and Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash

[13] Fr. Vincent Pereppadan, SJ, Thelineerkkannadi: Snehathil Oru Moolyavicharam (Malayalam Translation of How to Make LIFE Worth Living by Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ), Kochi: Yatra Publications, 2010

[14] Msgr. George Velliparambil, Premam, Yuvatvam, Kutumbam (Malayalam Translation of Love, Youth & Family by Fr. Varghese Paul, SJ), Ernakulam: St. Pauls, Broadway, 2012

[15] Dr. Ishanand Vempeny, Krishna and Christ, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1988 (translated into Malayalam)

[16] Dr. Ishanand Vempeny, Inspiration in Non-Biblical Scriptures, Bangalore: TPI, 1974

[17] Christian Sanyasam: What, Why and Wither?, New Delhi : Media House, 2005, translated version of Games We Religious Play by Dr. Ishanand Vempeny, New Delhi: Media House, 1997

[18] Jose Maniparambil (Translator), Matha Parivarthanam, (A translation of Krishna and Christ by Dr. Ishanand Vempeny), Aloor: Biblia Publications, 1999

[19] Dr. Ishanand Vempeny, Conversion: National Debate or Dialogue, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1999

[20] Dr. Joseph Mattam, SJ, The Religious Life Within a Christian Vision of Reality, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, (1994, revised edition 2007)

[21] Dr. Joseph Mattam, SJ, The Land of Trinity : Modern Christian Approaches to Hinduism, Bangalore: TPI, 1975

[22] Dr. Joseph Mattam, SJ, Celebration of Life, Rediscovering the Sacraments, New Delhi; ISPCK, 2012

[23] Dr. Joseph Mattam, SJ, (Editor), Mission and Conversion – a Reappraisal, Mumbai: St. Paul’s, 1996

[24] Dr. Joseph Mattam, SJ, Mission Trends Today, Historical and Theological Perspectives, Mumbai: St. Paul’s, 1997

[25] Dr. Joseph Mattam, SJ and P. Arochiadoss, SJ, Hindutva – an Indian Christian Response, Bangalore: Dharmaram Publications, 2002

[26] Dr. Lancy Lobo, Malaria in the Social Context : A Study in Western India, New Delhi: Routledge, 2010

[27] Dr. Lancy Lobo, Globalization, Hindu Nationalism and Christians in India, Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2002

[28] Dr. Lancy Lobo, Poor in Urban India, Study of Slums in a Western Indian City, Jaipur: Rawat Publications, 2001

[29] Dr. Lancy Lobo and Shashikant Kumar (Editors), Land, Acquisition, Displacement and Resettlement in Gujarat 1947-2004, New Delhi: Sage Publications, 2009

[30] Dr. Lancy Lobo and Jayesh Shah (Editors), Economy and Society in Globalizing Gujarat, Delhi: Shanti Prakashan, 2012

[31] Dr. Lancy Lobo and Jayesh Shah, Forest and Tribal’s Livelihood: Their Changing Characters

[32] Dr. James Cyril Dabhi, Leadership in Educational Organizations, New Delhi: Indian Social Institute, 2010

[33] Dr. James Cyril Dabhi, Development versus People : Gujarat Model of Land Acquisition and People’s Voices, Ahmedabad: Behavioural Science Centre and Action Aid (Joint Publishers), 2012

[34] P. D. Mathew, Know Your Rights-I, Vadodara: Nyaya Darshan, 2007

[35] P. D. Mathew, Know Your Rights-II, Vadodara: Nyaya Darshan, 2007

[36] P. D. Mathew, SJ, Freedom of Religion and a Debate on Religious Conversion, New Delhi: Jain Book Agency, 2002

[37] Dr. Joseph Valiamangalam, SJ, The Mission Methods of Fr. Joaquin Villalonga, SJ, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 1989

[38] Dr. Joseph Valiamangalam, SJ, Community in Mission, Mission Consciousness of Christian communities A Contextual Missiological Study, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2008

[39] Dr. Julian Saldanha, SJ’s comments are given on the back cover of the book, Community in Mission

[40] Pablo Gil, SJ, The World’s Greatest Adventure, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2009

[41] Pablo Gil, SJ, Is Religious Life Relevant Today?, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2009

[42] Pablo Gil, SJ, You are called to Holiness, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2010

[43] Pablo Gil, SJ, Jesus’ Most Precious Gift, Prayer, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2011

[44] Pablo Gil, SJ, A Short Love Story, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2011

[45] Pablo Gil, SJ, Meditations – Made Easy and Attractive, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2012

[46] Shekhar Manickam, SJ, On the Wings of Love, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2008

[47] J A Corral, SJ, Gamit Myths and Stories, Mandal, Tapi: J. A. Corral, Catholic Church, 2001

[48] J A Corral, SJ, Adivasi Religion and Culture, Anand: Gujarat Sahitya Prakash, 2007 

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