Monthly Archives: December 2013

Post 186. Benediction aka Bye for now

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So began the new Millennium; from the mountain heights of celebration to the valley of death.

There is just no knowing what is around the corner.  We live and we die.  We shout for joy and we weep with grief.  We feel invincible, then we feel vulnerable.  Life is good then life seems bad.  One day we are convinced that life is fair, the next day we are convinced it sucks.  We enjoy years of health, then one day we wake up not able to move.

We wobble and shake but somehow we keep standing.  We are devastated and then we laugh again.  We give up hope then we find it.  We are in the dark then we see a familiar light in the distance and we keep walking.  We put our confidence in man and are disappointed.  We build our lives on sand and things collapse around us.  We live for fleeting pleasures and realise how short-lived they are.

In all of the change one thing remains.  God.  The Good One.  The One who never changes.  The One who always knows better.  He is the steel in us.  The rock in us.  The foundation in us.  He is the concrete in us.

We may be stressed out, but we aren’t crushed.  We may not understand what is going on but we don’t despair of life.  We may be accused and attacked but we aren’t alone.  We may even be struck down with sickness or financial problems but they aren’t going to destroy us. (My take on 2 Cor 4:8-9)

The treasure in us is worth more than all this world can give.  We have a home.  A place far from here.  So, we keep hoping.  We keep loving.  We keep living.

Benediction :

May you never stop your dreaming

Love always the goal

May you seek to love the Lord your God

Body, mind and soul

May you take His yoke upon you

As you walk the narrow way

More and more in love with Him

Every single day

May His gladness overtake you

As you follow in His way

May His passion and power

Urge you to stay

Living a life that seems out of control

Energy filled and alive

Soaring like the eagles you will fly

To places you’ve never been

Seeing what others can’t see,

When they look into the sky.

Come with me. Let’s fly

With this prayer for you, I end my blog for now.  I am taking time out to catch up on my sparsely kept journals from the past thirteen  years.  Thank you for reading The Long and Winding Road and encouraging me with your comments.  It may be a few months but in the words of Arnold, “I will be back.”

If you would like to keep in touch: lindia60@gmail.com

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Post 185. Goodbye Amar

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“Tony, Amar is dead.  We found him hanging from a tree in the jungle next to your house.”  We were grief-stricken.

Amar had complained about pain in his stomach for months.  We had sent him to doctors who had done all kinds of tests.  All test results were negative.   The pain never seemed to go away and he was struggling.  He also visited a “lady” quack in the bazaar who did some kind of massage on him.  After a few sessions she told him he wouldn’t get better and he would die soon.  She suggested he ended his life himself.  He told me one day that he didn’t want to live in such pain all his life.

We prayed a lot for him and tried to encourage him that he would be fine.  With all our busy-ness and packing up of our house and our big move, Amar took strain.  He withdrew more and more and no-one saw him much.  A week before, Jason and Ali bumped into him as they were walking along the road.  There was a dark cloud over him.  Ali had a bad feeling about it.   When they felt nothing they said was getting through to him, she fell at his feet.  She begged him to take care of himself and not do anything foolish.

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Bhagat standing, Amar sitting

From Post 138: Amar arrived a few months later.  He was energetic and outgoing.  There wasn’t a bit of shyness in him.  He picked up the guitar like it was a long lost friend. He was playing it in no time.  Him and Bhagat always worshipped like there was no tomorrow.  They learnt English really quickly and were amazing at translating songs into Hindi. 

Having these two young boys and others like them in our lives energized Tony.  He knew that a big part of his calling was to give everything he had to them.  It wasn’t long before they started to look like Tony replicas in the way they passionately played guitar, sang and led worship.  It was his dream come true.   (Please also see Post 102 for more about Amar.)

Amar loved to worship.  We would hear him early in the morning somewhere in the jungle near our house.  The Millennium Festival was a highlight for him.  He was in his element, singing, dancing and acting in the Christmas play.

We drove to Mussoorie, hardly able to speak.  The kids wanted to know what had happened to Amar.  We told him he was dead.  They had so many questions we couldn’t answer.  They loved him so much.

We walked into our house and there were distraught people everywhere.  The place was filled with wailing and mourning.  Amar’s body was in one of the rooms covered in a plastic bag.  There was an awful smell in the air.  I took the kids upstairs and the ladies joined us.  We were shaking all over and beside ourselves with grief.

The police had been called in.  Their insensitivity was beyond belief.  Their attitudes added to our sadness.  They had insisted that Amar’s own brother and friends take his body down from the tree.  They borrowed Jason’s camera and refused to return it.  They interrogated the community and added guilt to those who felt they could have been watching him more carefully.  It was just awful.

Champa’s family asked for his body to be buried in Solan.  A cheap casket was organized and put on the roof of our jeep.  Tony, Raman, Jason and others drove there the next day.

When they got back, we had a memorial service for Amar.  It was amazing.   The room was packed out with people from all over Mussoorie.   So many talked about how his joyful personality had blessed them and how he had impacted their lives.

We all knew that while Amar had made a bad decision, he was with Jesus in heaven.  I had a dream about him arriving in heaven and Jesus saying to him, “You are welcome my son, but you have come way earlier than I planned.”  He had his whole life ahead of him but he chose to end it.

As with all death, there are things for those who are left behind to deal with.  We all wondered what would have happened if..  The list was never-ending.  It wasn’t long before we realised the meaninglessness of that trail.

What made it worse was, at his memorial service, one of the doctors who had done tests on him said, “I wish he had waited.  The results came back a day after he died.  He had Irritable Bowel Syndrome.  It was treatable.”

We never got over the death of Amar.  I am welling up as I write about him.  There was such potential, such gifting; so much beauty in one young man.

How many of us give up just before the finishing line?  Just before there is a break through?  How do we know what is just around the corner?  It could be what we have been praying about for a long time.  The thing we are longing for could be just around the bend.

So sad that Amar missed his good news by one day.

Post 184. Good place, wrong address

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The Millennium Festival took it all out of us.  We were exhausted and needed a holiday.  That year, Tony had put a lot of time and energy into our company “Jayanti Exports.”  We had exported all the products made by Jayanti Crafts and were hoping to get some good sales.  He had also worked on Covenant Tours and Travels, co-ordinating many teams of people going all over the place.

Raman and Kiron had taken on the leadership of the community and we were making plans to move to Delhi.  It was hard, breaking the news to our young sons and daughters who had been part of our family for years.  They had grown up with our kids and were like uncles, aunties and brothers and sisters to them.  We had a lot of explaining to do; to our kids as well as to others in the community.  We knew they were in good hands but that didn’t make it any easier.

Asha was twelve and Zoë was ten.  I remember standing in the kitchen with them, talking about our move to Delhi.  They were really upset.  They loved their house and their friends.  They thought we would live there forever.  In many ways, so did we.  Ash was particularly upset.  She didn’t want to leave Mussoorie.

It was during that moment in the kitchen that we talked about Asha’s social life.  She asked how she would be able to talk to boys in a big city.  She was comfortable with Bhagat, Amar and the boys in the community but they were like brothers.  She had never had a conversation with any other boys who were her age or older.  The Kapur boys were always full of fun but they were also like brothers.  She was nervous she wouldn’t be able to make friends again and she really didn’t want to have to.

Leaving Mussoorie was all quite surreal.  We had a meeting to officially hand over to the Kapurs and then we left for Goa.  There was no party or farewell.   We did say goodbye to everyone, but in a way,  it didn’t seem that it was the end.  Everyone thought we were coming back.

We drove to Delhi and looked at a few flats.  There was one in Kalkaji which we liked.  The property agent shared his perspective with us in a low whisper, “Good place, but wrong address.”   We thought he was just being snobby.  We liked the place and we liked the address so we booked it.

After an amazing holiday, we got back to our empty Kalkaji flat and started shopping.  We were starting all over again.  The plan was to make a trip to Mussoorie after a week to get some of our things.  The rest we were going to leave up there.

We soon found out the property guy was right.  The place was good, but within the first week, we started to feel the wrongness of the address and it had nothing to do with snobbery.  Our flat backed onto a very busy traffic circle.  Traffic slowed down in the wee hours of the morning, but there was never a moment of absolute silence.  On the circle were poles.  On the poles were (very) loud speakers, which were used by all kinds of non-musical people who sang whenever they felt like singing.  They would sometimes start at 4 am and finish at 6am.  They droned on and on.  The only way we could get sleep was to put our music on to drown it out.

We shopped non-stop mainly for kitchen goods.  We had no furniture but we had mattresses.  The kids had their own room, which was divided in two.  The girls were on one side and Jordan was on the other.  Tony and I had our room and there was a study near the stairwell.  We were adjusting but happy.

A week later we headed back to Mussoorie.  We stopped over at Yip and Frieda’s place in Dehra Dun for the night.  Early the next morning as we were leaving we got a call from Jason.  His voice was shaking.  “Tony, I have some really bad news.”

Post 183. Christmas and New Year

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At the end of 1999, even in the foothills of the Himalayas, there was talk of computers and planes crashing.  Some said the world was going to end on the 1.1.2000.  We were disappointed. We had just learnt how to recognise the high pitch screech of the when-to-send-the-fax signal.  It was stressful.  If we missed the crescendo, because of the bad connection, we had to dial the number all over again; and again and again.  We had also just started enjoying our desktop computer with its mouse and chubby monitor.  We were ready for the world to end, but we weren’t quite ready for our computer to crash.

It seemed that everyone wanted to give that Christmas and New Year all they had.  The Chairman of the Mussoorie City Board asked us to put on the Christmas/Millennium Parade.  During the discussion phase, one of the wonderfully moustached board members suggested we had a Santa Clause.  Tony gently and humorously replied, “Sir, that would be like having Mickey Mouse at Gandhi Jayanti.” They smiled and got the point.

The board provided an open truck for our band, the sound system, police support and everything else we needed.  We sang and danced from the top of Malenga Hill all the way to Picture Palace and along to Library side picking up crowds of people on the way.  Other communities joined in and many local people told the Christmas story.  When we got to Library Chowk, everyone let go and came out with their favourite dance moves to welcome in the new Millennium; no matter what happened to the rest of the world.

Tony and I weren’t into the commercial side of Christmas.  Our children knew it was a day to celebrate Jesus’ birthday but they also knew we celebrated Him every day.  We had only two Christmas trees that I can remember: The first one was in Goa where Christmas was a BIG deal.  I got a big piece of poster paper, cut out a tree and stuck it on the lounge wall.  The girls loved decorating it with stickers and drawings.  The second one was an umbrella tree; we opened the umbrella, put it in the corner, hung shiny balls from the spokes and put a few presents underneath it.  The kids loved it.  Our presents were simple and inexpensive.  It wasn’t about how much they cost, but how much they were liked.

When we weren’t in Mussoorie for Christmas, we were in the Catholic state of Goa soaking up the sun and enjoying coconuts, fresh fish and pancakes on the beach.  It was so different from wet, snowy, icy cold Mussoorie.  The beach was full of little kids wearing very white Santa Claus masks.   They surrounded our table as we were about to tuck into our long awaited meal.  They sang Jingle Vells and Ve Vish you a Mary Christmaas in English but we couldn’t understand a word they were singing.  It was both scary and entertaining.  On every corner there were huge nativity scenes and massive stars hanging on steeples and poles.  Goan ladies came out in their favourite frilly dresses and knocky shoes and the little kids were dressed up to the nines.   Alcohol seemed plentiful and “The Miraculous Jesus Wine Shop” did slightly more business than usual.

India- Where Rudolf makes NO sense.

India- Where Rudolf makes NO sense.

It was fun being in the festivity of Goa over Christmas and New Year.  Each village made their own “Old Man” to burn on New Year’s Eve.  They were huge Guy Fawkes dolls filled with fireworks which were set alight a minute after midnight.  It was saying goodbye to the old year and all its troubles and hello to the new with all its blessings.  

Bob Marley was in every shack on the beach and dances could break out whenever anyone felt like dancing.  He was definitely bigger than Santa, and for some, Santa was bigger than Jesus.  For us, Jesus was bigger than both.  No offence, Bob.

Post 182. All moving on

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By the end of that year, our friends in Delhi were asking for regular community meetings.  Once a month wasn’t enough.  They were coming out of The Family and needed input and fellowship.  We looked at the team in Mussoorie and everyone seemed to have been called everywhere other than Delhi.

James and Willi left for Goa.  That was an amazing story.  For all those years at Woodstock they had opened their home to students; those who were doing well and those who were in detention for misbehaviour.  Many had moved on and become successful in business.  One young man, from another faith, decided it was pay back time.  He bought a house in Goa and told them they could live in it for as long as they wanted to.  It was theirs.  They moved in and got involved in hospitality, children’s ministry and marriage courses.  What a way to retire.

Jason and Ali and their two little girls, Michaela and Tarryn, were feeling they needed to move to Dublin to start a new community there.  That was a difficult surprise for all of us.  They were so tightly knit with everyone we wondered how we were going to be able to let them go.

Puran and Rebecca couldn’t stop talking about Nepal.  They were eager but also ready to wait for the perfect timing of that move.

Chandra and Champa had moved to Champa’s village in Solan and were doing really well.  All of Champa’s family had joined them as well as others from the surrounding villages.

Raman and Kiron had grown like bamboo shoots.  When they first moved to Mussoorie their Hindi was very rusty.  Raman would panic when he was asked to translate a simple prayer.  When Tony started asking him to prepare messages he got really nervous.  If he was scheduled to speak on a Sunday morning he would wake up with diahorrea and call Tony with, “Tony please can I be released from speaking today?  I just can’t do it.”  Tony’s reply would be, “Raman, you can do it and it’s going to be great.”  He would do it and it was great.  We saw him going from a very nervous speaker to a fiery, confident one.  His translation skills were exceptional and he was able to teach well.  They loved the CNC folk and the love was reciprocated.

I had been feeling for while that we were the ones who should move to Delhi.  After one of our trips, I felt sad that our friends were like sheep without a shepherd.  Tony wasn’t sure. He was struggling with the thought of leaving his jungle behind.  He would disappear into it for hours.  He knew that was not going to be possible in Delhi.  Delhi was everything he didn’t like.  There were no mountains or ocean and it drove him crazy to be there just for a few days.

Tony thought Jason and Ali would move to Delhi.  He had no idea it would be us.  It took him by surprise when God said, “Stop looking around, it’s you.”  That was the clincher.  After all, who are we to argue with God?  He always knows best.  We may not understand it all but we do need to believe that He is always good and He knows what is good for us.

So with that in mind, we stopped looking around and started making plans to move to “The City of Jinns,” the second largest city in the world, where eighteen million people were eagerly waiting for our arrival.  We wished.

Post 181. Val moves on

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Val was never one to sit still.  She was happiest when she was doing nice things for people.  She was a member of the Montclair Methodist Woman’s Auxiliary and visited a senior citizen’s home once a week.  She practised her hairdressing and toenail cutting skills on them.  It was the highlight of her week.  She was a good friend who listened and laughed easily.

A year after dad died, Val joined the Senior Citizen’s BINGO and Bridge club.  It helped her to get over Wilf’s death and filled in the loneliness gap.  It was at this club that she met Albert.  He had recently lost his wife to illness.  They hit it off and within a few months, we got the news that they were planning to get married.

I couldn’t imagine having another dad and it was weird that my mother was going to have another husband.  It was always Wilf and Val.  Now it was going to be Al and Val.

Tony and I weren’t able to make the wedding.  Rig and Sue had “checked him out” and found him to be a nice guy who really loved our mom.  They said she looked really happy too.  He was a carpenter and had converted his garage into a carpentry shop.  He owned a small house up the road in an area called Montclair.

When Mom called to tell me she had to sell 28 Rolleston Place*, I cried.  I loved that house and that neighbourhood.  I wanted my grandkids to sleep in my old room with me.  I wanted to show them how to go down into the drainpipes and under the road.*  I wanted them to play rounders in the park with my friend’s grandchildren.  I felt SO sentimental about it.  It was ridiculous.  I wanted to keep it in our family forever.  That place was full of memories.  OUR memories.  Some other family was going to move in.  For them it would just be an empty new house.

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BUT, it wasn’t my decision to make; it was mom’s.  It was her life.  She had to move on and make it a good one.  Besides, I only visited once every couple of years.  It was also very unlikely that my grandkids would ever be there with me.  Even if they were, by the time they were the right age to climb into drainpipes, I would be sixty something and probably not in any condition to go underground with them.  I had to give it up.

Val got married to Al and moved into his place.  We met him once, about four months into their marriage.  Val was overly protective of his weak heart and our kids had to tiptoe through the house, but he was a lovely man.  I hadn’t seen my mom so happy in years.  Her and dad had become used to each other.  She had lost her sparkle.  Al put it back into her eyes.  It was all very sweet.  She had someone to take care of and Al was as happy as Larry.

A few months later, we got a call to tell us Al had been hospitalised.  His condition was critical.  They were having a barbeque in their garden and Al lit a mosquito coil.  He suddenly had a coughing fit and breathed the smoke into his lungs.  He contracted a form of Hepatitis, which poisoned his system.  Al died two months later.

Val was devastated.  I felt awful I couldn’t be with her in her grief.  She stayed in Al’s house for a few months then moved into a small granny cottage in Pietermaritzburg.  Peter and Char and their daughters, Kendall and Kelsey, lived just up the road.

Their marriage was short but it was happy; they were happier than they had been in years.  They were determined to not let this one get old and stale.  They were going to do things differently.  They were going to keep the romance alive, have fun together, not take each other for granted, speak kind words and make sure they never went to bed angry.

For eleven months, that is just what they did.

PS reader :  I would so love you to read some of my childhood stories.  They will help you to understand my ridiculous emotional attachment to our house and our neighbourhood.   You will have a good laugh too. Go to Archives in the right column: February/March 2013

Post 180. Hillbillies in the city

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We started to love Delhi more and more and we were meeting some lovely people.

Our monthly home group meetings were always interesting.  Worship was the first thing on the agenda and then we talked about anything and everything.  They loved reading from the Bible and there was always someone with a God-story to tell.  There was no such thing as a quick meeting.  Food was plentiful and there was much socialising until early hours of the morning.

Something we learnt early in our Delhi experience was, “Don’t go crazy on the snacks.”  They weren’t the snacks we were used to in Mussoorie.  We had Marie biscuits, namkeen and oily pakodas from the bazaar.  These Delhi snacks were heavy; Tandoori  fish, chicken, paneer or vegetables served with all kinds of delicious, spicy sauces.  The mains were served any time between eleven and midnight. We were hillbillies from Mussoorie.  We didn’t eat such things in our house and we went to bed way before nine.  It was hard for us to stay up so late and when we had over-indulged on the luxurious snacks, there was no space for anything else.  Oh yes, there was.  There was always space for hot jelebies and rubri.

During some of our non-home-group social events, some of the men would disappear to smoke some bhang/weed and come back looking slightly vague.  We were also told that partner swapping was quite common at Delhi parties and also quite common for Delhi men to have mistresses.  It was hard for me to imagine why a woman would be happy to be someone’s mistress.  It was all quite a culture shock.

I wasn’t used to talking about brands, labels, Bollywood or politics.  I could do religion but I had no idea who Jimmy Choo was.  It was surprising to me how passionate people could get about Amir, Salman and Karisma.  I knew nothing of that kind of religion.

There was an emptiness about it all.  Some of the couples really weren’t doing well.  Their kids were struggling.  There was confusion about what they believed.  It seemed there were no healthy values to live by.  We talked about bribery, ethics, abortion, fidelity, raising healthy children, husband wife relationships, wine and everything else under the sun.

One thing we all agreed on was that we loved Jesus and we loved to worship Him.  Tony would get his guitar out and everyone would sing on the top of their lungs.  People would cry, repent and pray out with all their hearts.

A few of them were very keen on their “spirits.”  As soon as the formal part of the meeting was over:

The liquor cabinet opened,

And the drinks were poured,

A loud “Hallelujah” and

“Three cheers for the Lord!”

That was the beginning of a new community in Delhi.