by BISMumbai Correspondent

Mumbai Salesians' Cleric Joyston Machado, pursuing TY Bachelors in Theology at the Jnanadeepa Vidyapeeth Pune, has been stranded in Mumbai for over 02 months, thanks to the COVID-19 lockdown. Unable to move from Mumbai [14,947 of Maharashtra’s 24,427 cases with 556 reported deaths], Machado is one of the many students in lockdown mode, in a Catch-22 situation, since Pune is also classified as a ‘red’ zone [with nearly 3,000 cases & 164 reported deaths]. With the hopeful easing of travel possibility and further lockdown restrictions lifted, Machado who has been helping with the DBDS Relief Outreach in the Mumbai Slums, spoke to BISMumbai about his experience, doings, feelings, and learnings during the COVID-19 lockdown. Excerpts from the edited interview:

What has been your experience?

The experience of the lockdown itself has been satisfying to a large extent, since I was able to be part of the COVID-19 relief outreach in various slum pockets of Mumbai, thanks to the DBDS Mumbai. Happiness, elation, satisfaction and gratitude to be part of a crew of dedicated, hardworking team of outreach members with a first-hand jhalak of reaching out in these troublesome times. At times, also painful, because despite the good we accomplished reaching out to so many, there are yet a large number of others who have not benefited. The collaboration of the police and the other local officials at all times, with a few instances of complaining privileged, was an eye-opener.

What were the expressions and reactions of the people you reached out to?

A deep sense of appreciation, thanks and bountiful bliss. I noticed the needy, their faces full of anxiety, tension and worry turn to smiles, with tears welling up in their eyes. I realised then, that to get something you never have, always brings immense joy. This was an eye-opener for me on so many levels. The people who received also shared what they received with the other unfortunate. I experienced care and concern, sharing and generosity to give out the little they received. I am touched and delighted to have witnessed this in reality.

Back in Pune, you also do some outreach on a daily basis. Any significant similarities/differences?

Yes, I work with the daily oratory out of our DBYC Koregaon Road Campus. It is an outreach to a specific group of youngsters from one particular basti, and who are in a way connected to DBYC because of their parents, having known and seen brothers, fathers and interacted with them. It is about teaching, playing, value sessions, outings, and the like. In Pune it was 01 person who followed up, executed the plan and worked with the youngsters single handedly. This however, was way different. This outreach broadened my horizon in 03 big ways: I realised the distinction between the haves and the have-nots; the enormous numbers of people, of different age groups, we reached out to; the ability to work in and as a team - contributing ideas, understanding structures for permissions and plans for reachout, Something new and thought provoking.

Your expectations for the future?

I really hope that as Salesians, there is a shift from a fixed institutional mentality to a broader flexible people's life reality as a core focus. I for one, would like to see a gradual shift from a mere routine way of working, to a rhythm of understanding the actual ground realities, the lived socio economic situation, and addressing the problems in the particular context.

Please share your most significant learnings, personal, as a Salesian and as a to be Priest?

Thanks to the COVID-19, I realise that we are all as Christians, chosen to take the risk, fulfil the responsibility to serve and be the voice of the voiceless. As a Salesian, it has been reaffirmed that education of the head, heart and hands, working together with others as a team, doing simple things in an extraordinary way is the only way. This outreach has helped to fix my gaze daily on God and on Christ crucified for grace. This COVID-19 experience is a lens, as a priest, of going to the street, convincing me to allow God first to make a difference in my life before I go out to make a difference in the lives of others.