Category Archives: Growing up in India

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..

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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.

 

Post 193. “I do.”

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People just kept coming.  Madhur Milan was soon too small for us and the owner wanted to increase the rent.  We started to look for another place to meet.

During our time in that red-carpeted banquet hall, we had many picnics, baptisms, meetings, parties and lots of food. We also had our first cross-cultural,  “controversial” wedding.
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Ajit and Aphi were from Nepal and Meghalaya.  Both families insisted that the wedding should not take place. Ajit and Aphi disagreed.

Aphi came from a matrilineal society in which the youngest daughter of the family inherits all ancestral property. Husbands move into their wife’s home and the children take on their mother’s surname. If a couple can’t have a daughter,  they adopt one in order to pass their rights to property to her. The birth of a girl is celebrated while the birth of a son is simply accepted. Aphi’s parents were concerned that she would lose her name to a man. They informed her that if she decided to do so, they would write her out of their will.

Ajit was from a Brahmin Hindu family and his parents were not happy with his choice of wife or “religion.”  Neither family agreed to attend the wedding.

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Part of CNC’s multi-cultural choir: Debbie Sanate (Shillong)  Zoe and Asha (British/South African Kiwis)    Zia (Bangladesh) Mark, Ronnie and Mark (Uganda) and Joshua John (Woodstock School via Kerala and Bihar)

It was an exciting event for CNC.  Many of our community witnessed a Christian wedding for the first time.   Ajit’s dad graciously appeared to bless his son and actually really enjoyed the occasion.   A few of Aphi’s relatives also attended and seemed happy with the proceedings.  Aphi felt it right that she take on Ajit’s name.

Having grown up in South Africa in the years of apartheid, I was kind of hoping I would never have to deal with it again. Unrealistic, I know.  This beautiful wedding was our initiation into the pride and prejudice of parts of Indian society.   Little did we know that there were many more to battles to come.  Young couples would fight for their love and their lives.  They would do everything they could to get the blessing of their parents.  When they knew they would never get it, they would make a call to do what was right for them.  That was a very hard call.

(A comment: It was amazing to see that all the parents finally came round after the deed was done.  They often became the biggest blessers of the couples. Especially when their grandchildren arrived 🙂

PS. Any comments from these couples? 🙂

Post 192. Cooling Down

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Delhi’s infamous summer hit us from behind.  We had experienced it on our short visits over the years, but we had never lived in it.  The billies from the hills weren’t prepared for their first summer with temperatures above 45 degrees C.

Our Gypsy’s air-conditioning had given up the ghost during Tony’s accident (see Post 156) and the black garbage bag covering the right rear window didn’t  even try to keep the heat out.   Driving around Delhi was unpleasant to say the least.

It wasn’t in our budget to get air-conditioners in the flat but we were able to install a desert-cooler in the living room.  It was made up of a steel frame, a water trough and straw padding.  When we first turned it on our house smelled like a horse’s stable, but it did the job.  When the smell got too bad, we put a few drops of essential oil into the water and that was sucked up into the straw.

Summer power cuts were common.  With everyone using their air-conditioners, Delhi’s power source took strain.  When the power went off,  everything went off.  No lights, no fans and no desert-cooler.  Fortunately we had done a strategic swap with Raman and Kiron:  our electric blanket for their inverter.   This re-chargeable battery was able to run two ceiling fans and a tube light in the lounge for about three hours.

During night power cuts,  we would wake up drenched with sweat not knowing how long the fans had been off.   One by one we would drag our mattresses into the lounge.  The kids would soak their sheets in water and we would lie spread eagled under the two droning fans.  There would be lots of giggling and silly nonsense before we finally drifted off to sleep again.

We casually mentioned our vehicle and air-conditioning situation to God. “God, we can do this, but don’t expect us to be too productive.”

When Dudley Daniel heard of our predicament, he very kindly helped us to purchase a/c s for the whole house.  We were so grateful.

Soon after that, someone unknown to us, sent us money to purchase a brand new Toyota Qualis.  Again, we were amazed and incredibly grateful.

For Jordan’s birthday we gave him a gift we could all use.  We put it on our back balcony and it was perfect for those hot, sweaty summer nights.

Necessity is the mother of invention.

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Post 191. United Nations

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We shopped for two days non-stop then moved in to our little flat.  Everything was nice and new and it didn’t take long for us to settle into our noisy neighbourhood.

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Ash and Zo with their friend and teacher Georgie Muggleton (Kalkaji)

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Louise Bulley- always there to help.

Ash, Zoe and Jordan were still homeschooling.   It was nice to have them at home to witness first hand how a community grew. From the day we moved in, people came and went.  We especially loved it when our friends from Mussoorie popped in.   Our new Delhi friends were all so generous and hospitable and we never lacked company.

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Our first visitors in our first flat in Delhi: James and Willi Barton with Sharon John and Lovily Vito

 

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Arad, Praveen, Lal and Lily

Joshua John and his sister, Sharon joined us and they started to bring their student friends. We had an influx of young girls from Lady Shri Ram College (LSR) across the road and they added a lively and happy dynamic to our older group of friends.  Arun and Madhavi Handa and the original home group (See Post 180) didn’t miss a community meeting and regularly brought new people who wanted to know more about Jesus.  We started to hear some incredible stories and also learnt more about Delhi’s middle to upper class issues. It was an education.

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It didn’t take long for the Kenyans and Ugandans to arrive.. (Ronny)

On the 26 January (Indian Republic Day) a picnic was arranged and we just had to arrive.  There were 50 people from all backgrounds and ages and food enough for the Indian Army (well almost).  We had snacks and starters, mains and drinks and our first experience of the rabdi and jalebi combo.  It was so different from our very simple, tight budget picnics in Mussoorie.  The Delhi Wallas were generous in every way and they went out of their way to bless us and everyone who came to CNC-Delhi.

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Our first marriage retreat..

Right from the start we wanted CNC to be a multi-cultural, multi-generational community.  We welcomed people from every tribe, nation and tongue.  Soon it was looking like a little United Nations with the major difference being that we were united. Oh and happy. Very happy.

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Just to say that Atul on the right and Lily (in the lilac sweater) got married a few weeks ago.  This photo is from 2000.. 17 years later 🙂