Monthly Archives: April 2017

Post 198. Santaram

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Santaram was Bhimla’s husband.  Bhimla, the drama queen,  had helped us with cooking and cleaning in Dhobi Ghat, Mussoorie. There were many dramatic scenarios of fainting and hyperventilation in our lounge. She was quite hefty and I was always relieved when Tony was around to catch her when she fell. She always timed it well so she didn’t ever get hurt.  Tony learnt to not get hurt.  Her antics inevitably ended with her one eye peeping out to make sure we were ALL there and watching.  Our kids weren’t always able to control their giggles.

Santaram had lost all his domestic jobs and his confidence.  Bhimla had enough and kicked him out of the house. He had become a drunkard and spent a lot of his time on the roads of Mussoorie. We really liked him and were sad to hear how bad his life had become. One day Raman found him in a drunken stupor and asked us if we could help. We decided to take him on as a cook and housekeeper in Delhi, knowing we were taking a risk. We also knew that getting him out of his situation in Mussoorie would be good for him.

When he arrived, we spelt it out. Absolute honesty, NO drinking on our property and if he arrived at work drunk even once, there would be no warnings, he would be on the bus back to Mussoorie that same day. He knew us and he knew we were serious.  He knew it was the last chance to make something of his life; for himself and his family.  He also knew we loved him.

He did incredibly well. He stopped drinking and became part of the CNC family. Within months his life was transformed. He was so happy, he didn’t ever want to go back to Mussoorie.  Queen Bhimla was fine with that. She was just happy he was alive and thriving.

We all went on a 21 day fast and Santaram joined us.   The community met together to pray each night and he made soup for everyone in the evenings. He didn’t miss a meeting. Towards the end of the 21 days, he shared his testimony about how Jesus had saved him and changed his life.

On the last night, before the meeting, we got a call from Josh telling us that Santaram had some kind of fit in the market.   Tony, Arun and Josh took him to hospital where they suspected TB. Further investigations showed that he had a tape worm infestation, which had affected his brain. He was declared “brain dead”. He was on life support for 2 days but there were no signs of improvement. We put him in an ambulance to get him to his family in Mussoorie, but he died on the way. We were devastated.  His sons came to Delhi to collect the few things he had.  They expressed how grateful they were to the CNC community for being family to him.

We were so grateful for his life.   We were also grateful and amazed that he had died a spiritually healthy, happy man.  Transformed by grace and unconditional love.

Then, along came Lata….

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Post 197. The Perfect Spot

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The big, red-carpeted banquet hall seemed to have shrunk. CNC was growing and we started to look for a new place to meet. Our family also needed a new place to live. We had already stepped up our budget to move from Mussoorie to Kalkaji and now looking around, we realised that we were going to have to step up our budget a whole lot more to get what we needed; both for CNC and ourselves.

Our stay in Kalkaji hadn’t ended that well. We caught our landlord stealing our electricity.  A very common practice, we discovered. The mass of webbed electrical wires attached to power lines was proof of that.  We were still learning about India’s “shame culture” and because we didn’t want to shame him, we pretended we thought his electrician had made a “terrible mistake.” He nodded in agreement when Tony suggested he deduct some of our rent to cover that mishap.

We finally found the perfect place for our family;   N-7, Kailash Colony.  We literally gasped when we saw the flat.  The kitchen had cupboards, there was a vine with pink flowers covering the front of it and it was on a corner plot which made it very light. Tony claimed the corner room for his study before we even knew it was ours.  I had never seen him so desperate to have a place 🙂 We instantly loved the landlords, Mr and Mrs Sondhi.  We could tell by their polite, happy servants that they were kind people.  It was more than we could afford but we were prepared to take the risk. The lease was signed and we moved in.   Every day we were amazed at the beauty of the place God had blessed us with. (Tony cried when he played his guitar and worshipped on that first morning in his beautiful new study.)

We also found a flat in E-127, GK 1, which we used as a church house.  Fideles, Bianca and their two girls Felicia and Angel, and Sharon John and Cheryl (a young girl from South Africa) lived there and hosted many a rowdy, happy house meeting. We would open all the windows and worship our hearts out. Surprisingly, there were no complaints from the neighbours.

It was the first of many moves CNC- Delhi would make.  The first of many..

196. Jordan and the Donut

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Chaos aside, Kalkaji wasn’t all bad.  We had lots of good laughs there.

During the Holi Festival, the boys all gathered below our flat and shouted for Jordan to go down.  It was our first experience of the colourful festival and we had chosen to be observers rather than to participate.  The boys were unrelenting and we eventually told him he could go.  As he walked onto the road, they emptied a bucket of colourful water over his head.  He was so shocked and upset, he quickly ran upstairs to recover. He then stood on the balcony for hours with his water gun, shooting at everyone who walked past.

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Rus and Glyn Eales moved into a small place behind ours.  We were so close they were able to throw us a toilet roll when we needed one.  We loved having them as neighbours. During Holi, Rus would gather all the CNC young people on his terrace and they would spend the day throwing  water bombs at passersby.  He also made friends with some Kites (huge vulture type birds) who would swoop down to take pieces of meat from his hand.

The little boys in the little park in front of our flat loved Jordan.  He would go down and play cricket with Bunty, Kaalu and Mintu.  Their sisters and girl cousins Rinku, Pinku and Minku were more conservative.  Ash and Zo tried to make friends and they would occasionally visit their flats, but it wasn’t easy.  The little boys didn’t seem to notice that Jordan was a firang.  It wasn’t long before he was asking if I could make him a little donut for his head so he could look like the other Sikh boys.

He tried to speak Hindi with them but their desire to show off their English skills always won.  Something that always got us giggling was their inability to use their “J’s” and “Z’s” in the correct place.  As a result, Zoe and Jordan had to once again, settle on being called “Joey and Zordan.”

Jordan’s favourite question to ask kids, in his strongest Indian accent was, “Fhaart is your name?”  He was shocked when one boy answered, “My name is Fhaart.”  He never got over that one.

Post 195. The caged lion

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The previously spoken of study in Kalkaji had no windows and it was dark.  Tony was like a caged lion.

His study in Mussoorie had been light and bright and just a few steps away from a beautiful forest. He would spend hours walking through it singing, praying and spending time with God.  There was fresh air,  space and peace.

Now, early every morning, down on the hot, sweaty plains,  Delhi shouted, “This is what I have, now show me what you’ve got!”

The loud speakers from the nearby temple blared out all hours of the night and early hours of the morning so we didn’t get much sleep.

When we walked to our car we had to fight off street dogs.  We also had to step over the plastic-bag-food-bombs people had thrown over their balconies for the dogs.

Tony was convinced everyone was attacking him.  He got angry and frustrated within minutes of driving in our very congested, narrow market road.  Parking anywhere was an issue.  There were also days while driving that I felt everyone was trying to kill me. We didn’t just have to look left and right, we also had to look up and down.  We could never tell which direction something was going to come from.  Biggest went first.  We learnt quickly that lane driving was insane driving.  If you stayed in your lane you just wouldn’t survive, let alone get anywhere.

Traffic lights were a new phenomenon for us.  It seemed they were new to Delhi drivers too.  Red meant go, yellow meant go and green meant go.  People would be honking no matter what colour the light was.

Delhi was Tony’s battle field.

He took it upon himself to put straight everyone who broke a road rule.

One day someone cut in front of us.  Tony chased him down, got in front of him and stopped.  An argument ensued and Tony got back into our car.  As we drove off in a cloud of frustration and heat, I commented half jokingly,

“Well done Tone.  1 down, 1 billion to go.”

PS.  It took Tony five years to love Delhi.  It happened in Spring while he was driving towards Sri Fort.  The road was lined with Amalta Trees (Or Golden Shower Trees) and he saw the beauty of the city for the first time.  He still struggled, but the heaviness of living in Delhi lifted that day, and he was more than grateful.

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Post 194. The Danger of Isolation

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One night I had a dream which I felt was significant for CNC. It went like this:

Elephant and the tiger

A sweet young Ugandan guy  Mark, from our community, was leading about 20 of us along a narrow path, through some thick bush.  We stopped for a while to watch two baby elephants playing.   As we started walking again, I spotted a huge tiger crouching in the bush, ready to pounce on the baby elephants.  Mark tried to chase it with a stick, but it didn’t flinch.  We knew we had to pass it to get where we were going.

Jordan was small (in my dream and actually 🙂 and was lagging behind, getting distracted by the scenery.  Mark shouted, “Pull together so we look like a big elephant!” We all pulled in toward each other.  Jordan got scared with all the panic and started pulling away instead of pulling towards us.   I was shouting at him to come to us but he was crying and couldn’t move.

As we huddled together,  the tiger crawled into the bush and towards the back to where Jordan was.  I noticed a tigress crouching on our right. They both had their eyes on Jordan.  I kept shouting at him.  They got closer to Jordan, but Asha managed to drag him in; just in time.

The tigers backed off and disappeared into the bush.   We kept together, shuffling slowly along the path, surprised at how much we did actually look like a big elephant.