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Paul Vadakumpadan, Shillong says,
By Paul Vadakumpadan SDB
360° VIEW
Shillong, Feb. 5. The French revolution called for liberty, equality and fraternity.

The first of these is by now universally recognized as an important value. Even those who do not practise it proudly proclaim it. However, it is different with equality and fraternity. Not everyone is agreed on what exactly they mean. Nor do they all practise it in the same way.

I was impressed with a statement in a recent circular letter of Fr. Thomas Vattathara, the Salesian provincial of Guwahati. Writes Fr. Thomas, ``The drivers, cooks and other support staff in our parishes, institutions and centres are collaborators in our mission. Kindly treat them all well, call them by name and do not just call them as Driver, Cook, etc. and refer to them as Support Staff.``

I could not agree more.  I am a proud believer in the equality and fraternity of all human beings. Calling a person another person`s servant is absurd, atrocious, abysmal, abominable.   Designation is not everything. But it is something. Often it is something more.  I threaten legal action against anyone who uses such words as cow man, pig man, and what have you. Beware!

In this regard, may I offer a few new designations? Those who tend cows and pigs are animal husbandry professionals or farm managers.  The humble cobbler should be replaced by footwear specialist. Cook gives way to culinary expert. Sweeper will henceforth be called sanitation professional. The dhobi also could claim that title.  Door keeper is the entry permissions authority (EPA). Driver is travel executive. Haircutter is tonsorial artist. There is no more to be an assistant, but only associate.

About three decades ago, when I reached Rome to begin my studies in Theology, I was fortunate to learn early enough about an important part of Roman culture. In Rome there are only three groups of people; Indians would immediately say three castes. But the comparison ends here. The Roman system is as different from our despicable caste system as cheese is different from chalk.  The three Roman groups are: Monsignore, Professore and Capo (boss).

Any priest is at least a Monsignore. Any sister is a Madre Superiore. Any well dressed person is a Professore. Everybody else is Capo. Now you understand why Italians are the most successful people in the world. They know how to address people correctly. They have friends all over the world: Arabs and Israelis, Christians and Muslims, Americans and Africans, Indians and Chinese, democrats and dictators, Manmohan Singhs and Narendra Modis. Hats off to Italian ingenuity. Sonia Gandhi will be more popular with the aam admi if she is more Italian, not less.

If someone still does not want to let go that word servant, kindly qualify it as fellow-servant. We are all servants of God. In fact, the Pope calls himself servant of the servants of God.  Please enlighten all those who want to be ministers, either in Government or in Religion, that the word simply means servant. When we realize we are all servants, there will not be anymore a master - servant distinction. When we realize we are all the same in front of God, we will no more have a caste mentality.

``The son of man came not to be served but to serve....`` St. Paul adds, ``...Regard others as more important than yourself.``

Finally, what about us Priests and Brothers?  Someone called us spiritual operators? No, please. Kindly call us spiritual men. We shall try to be that.


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