Raja Basani (Reddy)

 
One of the first persons in India to embrace the spirituality of unity and to spread it in his country. (17 June 1999)

In 1960 Raja Basani was impressed by the lifestyle of his next-door neighbours in the city of Rome. Those neighbours were focolarini, the first focolare of the Italian capital. Reddy – as everyone called him – immediately felt at home among them as he began to discover a new way of living Christianity that was based on living the Gospel and adapted to a medical student like him.

Reddy had arrived in Italy from the southeastern state of Andra Pradesh, India through the help of some missionaries who had brought Christianity to his lands. Many young people from India had begun to ‘flee’ to the West in order to become rich, but Reddy promised that he would return as a medical missionary once he had completed his studies.

Fascinated by the concrete love of the focolarini, he desired to go to Fontem, Africa, where many focolarini were working as medical doctors for the nearly extinct Bangwa tribe. “I began to feel an overwhelming fascination for that experience of service,” he would later recount. However, through his contact with the focolarini, Reddy began to realize that his path was different than theirs. He would follow the tradition of his fathers and marry Gertrude, a young woman who had been chosen for him by his parents. He would return to India and serve his own people there.

When he arrived in Suryapet where he had been born, he began to work at a local hospital in 1975. The work was quite intense, as he confided to Chiara Lubich in a letter: “I’d like to be like the grain of wheat that is buried, so that it can bear much fruit.”

And this is exactly what happened. In 1980 a focolare was opened in Bombay and in the following year the first Indian Mariapolis was held. Reddy’s contribution was substantial, sharing some of his experiences on living the Word at work, at home and in the parish. It was quite a novelty for those listening to hear an Indian, a professional a man from the village talking like that, and many were deeply touched. Many became interested in the Movement and followed his example.

He gave of himself in many ways to the first focolarini who went to India. Being an Indian, he knew how to help them fit into the culture of his people. “During a period of great tension between Hindus and Muslims,” one of them recalls, “during one gathering, I felt like I was going to faint from exhaustion. I managed to make it to my room and went to bed. Shortly afterwards, Reddy arrived. He sat by my bedside and remained there in silence. It was like having a father or brother nearby.”

On June 17, 1999 he died when he was hit by an automobile.

His wife and children found a way to keep his memory alive. On a piece of land that belonged to the family, they opened an orphanage that bears his name. Thus Reddy who put aside his dreams of a brilliant career and of being a missionary to the world, will continue to be remembered in the place where he chose to remain and practice the Gospel.

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