Rudolf C Heredia’s ‘A Clown for God, a Clown for Others’: Growing up Jesuit : The Tribune India

Prakash Louis

‘The boy’s a joker; he can’t be serious; he is just cloning.’ ‘A Clown for God, A Clown for Others: Recollections of an Indian Jesuit’, an autobiography by Rudolf Heredia, begins with these words and ends with these, “Clowns help us see that all the world’s a stage, we all have our entrances and exits; and in between we play many parts, which add up to the complex story of our lives. Clowns bring with them much-needed healing laughter and relativising humor to the ups and downs of the journey.”

Rudi Heredia, in his indomitable style, has presented to the reader the life and growth, joys and sorrows, ups and downs, being and becoming a clown, a clown for God and for others in his autobiography. His personal narrative highlights the life and visissitudes of a Catholic boy who was born and brought up in Bombay and how he goes on to become a Jesuit and all that is intrinsic to this.

In this book, he reflects on joining the Jesuit religious order and his various engagements as a priest and a social scientist. It brings the best and the worst of his own self and also the ups and downs of life as it unfolds for every human being. The basic points that Rudi wants to highlight are how life unfolds itself both in what is expected and unexpected, what is certain and uncertain, what is planned and unplanned and, above all, what is joyful and painful. Many of these, he looks at in hindsight and makes sense out of them.

The book also comes out with many examples of the commitment to the marginalized in terms of ‘Option for the Poor’, as the Jesuits termed it. It also highlights the rootedness of a Jesuit in the Indian soil, ethos and religion. Having been educated in some of the best institutions of Mumbai and the rigorous Jesuit training have given to Rudi the ability to play with words and language and communicate his views succinctly and in a catchy way. Take, for example, this: ‘Tragedy and pause puncture our hurried, harried and hustled living!’

The book is recommended for light reading, for, being a Jesuit, Rudi has the freedom to critique the Jesuits as well as highlighting some of the great qualities that they live by. One such aspect is that Jesuit institutions try to combine the intellectually excellent and socially relevant. The book also talks of the commitment and detachment that is expected of all Jesuits. At times, it appears that Rudi projects others as being on the wrong side and he being right. Leaving that out, Rudi, in this moving, engaging and insightful memoir, invites the readers to look into one’s own life and make sense of it.

At a time when religions are being used to divide the citizens of the country, the author’s recognition of all religions as contributive of human wellbeing is praiseworthy. He goes on to invite the reader to ponder over this fact that whenever something is given up for collective wellbeing, it is praiseworthy and the reward is great.

He says, “…wherever such good is renounced for the greater good, the common good, it is never lost but comes back a hundredfold.” Be it the Sufis, the sant-kavis or Mother Teresa, all not only spoke of this, but lived this out.

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