Essays from The Education of a Bengali Gentleman –
Recognizing Your Angles
Truly, There are Angels! You can seek all your life and never find what has always been there because you did not believe it was right there inside you all the time. When you practice the Miracle of Mindfulness you follow your breath as you breathe in deeply and breathe out gently. Teacher, Thich Nhat Hanh, a Vietnamese monk, instructs you that as you breathe in you can say “I am alive”, and, as you breathe out you can say “I am free.” Mindful breathing helps you create the space you need during your busy day to acknowledge that you are alive, valued and appreciated. Without stopping or interrupting your activities, you simply take three deep breaths, in and out, consciously; breathing in you say “I am alive,”, breathing out you say “I am free.” You can do it as often as you want, when you are by yourself and others; gently, quietly so only you are aware of your respite. As you practice mindful breathing regularly you will find increasing peace and inter-connectedness which give you strength and stamina to enjoy and cherish every minute of your day. Daily practice of twenty minutes of mindful breathing will put you in touch with the God who lives and thrives in you!
Discovering your true self and the God who lives and thrives in you is like being touched by an angel when you least expected it. The experience opens a flood gate of peace and joy! My experiences of being touched by angels are vivid and numerous. Sometimes the recognition and acknowledgement is instantaneous, and, at other times, after some reflection. My last experience was a genuine, unexpected surprise but the recognition and acknowledgement was very powerful. My wife and I were in the Lake Geneva, WI area for Veterans Day Weekend. Now that both our children live away from home, we called it our first “honeymoon” after thirty years. In my family we are cautious about celebrating landmarks because they have at times been followed by great family tragedy. So we were happy but reserved. The high point of our get away was going to be dinner and a Broadway style musical, Scrooge, at The Fireside Theater in Fort Atkinson, WI, Saturday night. Because we were using Marriott points we were staying the weekend in Beloit, WI. I began the day early on Saturday morning with mindful breathing, reading Teacher, writing in my blog, catching up on emails. Around 9:00 am we went for continental breakfast in the guest lounge. We had been talking about minor home remodeling projects for some time, so with an extra cup of coffee, Free Draw on the iPad, we both worked out some sketches and lulled in the heat of the fireplace. Nanda also leafed through the area attraction brochures and we planned a drive through town – Poetry Garden, Beloit Labyrinth, the new and upcoming riverfront with planned condos, casino and marina, The Angel Museum, all conveniently situated in and around River Drive and Pleasant Street.
Beloit’s Angel Museum is listed in the Guinness Book of World Records for having the world’s largest collection of angels. It is host to Oprah’s black angels. Oprah said on her show that she had never seen a black angel. Overnight black angels from all over the world arrived at her door. Joyce Berg, owner of The Angel Museum, contacted Oprah and offered to host her multiplying collection of black angels since she already had an angel museum equipped to handle the job. So we went to visit the museum!
We were met by two gracious hosts, Barbara and Susan, who alternate between the main museum floor and the basement gift shop. According to them even folks in Beloit did not know they had an angel museum in their own backyard. We got talking about the black angels from the the Oprah Winfrey show when I casually told them that there were not only black angels in the churches of India but there also were native impressions of Mary and Christ too. Then we were standing in front of a world map dotted with pins representing the nations of all the museum visitors. I noticed there were no pins for India. I pinned one on the exact spot for Calcutta, India.I told them I was from the city of Mother Teresa, that I had also been blessed by an angel and talked about the picture from the time Mother Teresa visited St. Xavier’s Sahibganj.
I missed the photo opportunity because I was a teacher at Loyola, Jamshedpur and could not take off from school for the historic visit pictured above. But as if by osmosis my life had been touched by Mother Teresa and her angels.
In the front row sitting, third from left, in what looks like sunglasses, is my mother. In the furthest back row where you can notice only peoples’ heads, the nun in the nun’s outfit is Mother Philipa, the mother of all the nuns working then at St. Xavier’s. Next to Mother Philipa, a white headed man, and then next to him is my father, only his head and glasses showing. I am certain I do not have to point out where Mother Teresa is in the picture. And then there is the man who made it possible for my family to immigrate to the United States, Fr. LaGreca with his generous gift of one full year of tuition and board so I could attend Loyola University, Chicago. He is standing first from left, second row. I had taken the GRE exams and sent out applications to universities in the US. Some schools responded positively. They were interested in admitting me. What hung in balance was financing my studies in the US. I remember my mother telling me how she went to Fr. LaGreca and pleaded with him to find a donor who would fund my US degree.
That winter I didn’t come home to Sahibganj to spend Christmas at St. Xavier’s with my parents and the community. My wife and I continued to stay on in our apartment in Jamshedpur even though it was winter recess at Loyola School were I worked. We did not want to miss out on any letters regarding my admission. One day we were surprised to find Fr. Rocky Vaz knocking on our door early in the morning. He said he wanted to deliver the letters in person. One was the acceptance from Loyola University, Chicago. The other, a Christmas greeting card from Fr. LaGreca with the news that he had found a generous donor ready to finance our first year in the US. We sat down and over cups of tea discussed our trip to the US. Angels come in come in all sizes and colors. Some even without wings. Like mine. Recognizing your angels sometimes takes faith and determination and purpose. Next summer with my wife pregnant with our first child we left for Chicago.