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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
Nehru in Nongpoh
By Fr Paul Vadakumpadan
360° VIEW
Shillong, Nov. 14. Some elderly confreres have told me that Prime Minister Nehru once visited Nongpoh, the little roadside town half way between Shillong and Guwahati.

Talking Point 204


Some elderly confreres have told me that Prime Minister Nehru once visited Nongpoh, the little roadside town half way between Shillong and Guwahati. He even stayed there for a night. Recently I chanced upon a picture on a travel website of a group of boys with Fr. Balavan meeting Nehru. The picture is in the attached file.

Some younger confreres may not have known Fr. Balavan (1922-1989). He was a French Salesian missionary who worked in the Northeast. We indianised his name from Balavoine to Balavan (the one who has come in Khasi, the strong man in Hindi). Those who knew him would say that both meanings were appropriate. Based in Nongpoh he reached out to that part of the region which has now become the diocese of Diphu.

Balavan took the hostel boys to greet the PM. Nehru was delighted to see them.  My sources tell me that he asked Balavan, ``How do you manage?`` Our great missionary told the great Prime Minister, ``The way to the heart is through the stomach.``

In other words, see about basic human needs first and then the rest. It makes no sense to speak of discipline and hard work to children who are malnourished. No wonder Jesus taught us to pray, ``Give us this day our daily bread``. To the apostles who wanted to send away people so that they could look for food, Jesus said, ``Give them something to eat yourselves.``

Don Bosco understood this truth well. Our constitutions art 32 says, ``As educators we work together with our young people... According to circumstances we share our food with them...`` Don Bosco`s oratory was a home. What is home without food? Good Fr. Sylvanus Sngi went one step further and said, ``We always gather around food, because while culture divides, economy unites.``  Food is no doubt an important part of economy.

Food also means shelter, medicine, care, concern. This is the first element of the loving kindness of Don Bosco. This is how the missionary translates divine love into human love. He then leads his people from the human back to the divine.

We make the kingdom of God come alive today by translating divine love into human love. Loving kindness, gentleness, compassion, sharing, forgiveness, tenderness, all essential elements of Don Bosco`s system of education are also essential elements in witnessing to the Good News today.

Fr. Paul Vadakumpadan SDB
Chief Editor, Mission Today
Sacred Heart College
Shillong 793008, India


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