Category Archives: Living in Delhi

Post 203. The Basement 2003

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2003: So, we had found a beautiful apartment for our family and a community hang out flat for weekly  meetings but we still needed a place for the whole community.

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Fixing up The Basement

After months of viewing some awful places, we found a big basement in E-14,  Kailash Colony.  It was a mess but we could see the potential. We got in there and fixed it up with fans, lights, toilets, a kitchen and lots of plugs. We painted the wall blue and it was arty and colourful. Josh did some graffiti on it to liven it up. It was then that we started our Friday Night Coffee Bars.

 

CCC (Capital City Church) was full of musicians and creative people.  The Ugandans kept it noisy and lively.   Duke, Mark, Ronnie, Alan and Barbara came with their incredible stories of life in Africa.

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Those who were locked into one genre were stretched.   We were every genre.  An American group taught us Four-Square dancing, someone else taught us couple dances,  all kinds of people took to the stage whenever they wanted to.  Originals flowed and we were amazed at the incredible giftedness of the young people in our lives.

Our power supply was a challenge and we needed a generator.  Someone suggested we have a “Mad Hatters” night to raise some funds.  The hats were crazy! They were too good to keep in the basement so we went into Kailash Colony market to show them off.  We invited people to come back for coffee and quite a few followed us.  Some kept coming week after week. The hats were auctioned and we made over Rs 30,000!  Most of it came from the visitors who had come off the street.  It was an amazing night.

 

Then there were Bingo nights, movie nights, table tennis, darts, carom, UNO, Scrabble and Open Mic nights.  They were all big hits and Friday Night Coffee Bar was the place to be.

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When someone had a birthday they would bring a cake or sweet meats to celebrate themselves.  The worship times were celebratory and many encountered the love of Jesus and His community.  There were those who loved us before they loved Jesus.  They were part of the community and attended everything for years before crossing over.  We never pressurised them or tried to convert them.  We loved them and they loved us, then they loved Jesus.

Peace sign

We learnt the importance of having fun.  Lots of it.  To be unreligious and down-to-earth.  To love unconditionally, all who walked through those doors.  To build a culture of honouring all people from all backgrounds and cultures.  To bless the community through great entertainment and a good, clean environment.  To give strangers a place to rest their weary heads after a long week of intensity in the capital.

Zoe, Sharon and Ash

Zoe, Sharon and Ash

While we were underground, we were very visible.  Hundreds of people walked into “The Basement”.   There was always someone to sit and chat to and of course, always Vinod’s famous coffee* to enjoy.

*Even “coffee snobs” loved Vinod’s steamed milky coffee.  We never let on it was BRU; the cheapest coffee/chicory available.

 

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Post 202. The Threat of War

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In June 2002,  the US embassy put out an advisory for all foreigners to leave India. Pakistan was threatening to drop a nuclear bomb on Delhi.

The thought of leaving our community was horrible.  “Not even an option!”  Tony made some calls to our relatives who advised otherwise.  They felt it would be irresponsible of us to not think about our children.

We made some emergency plans which in retrospect were quite silly ones.  If a bomb was dropped, there was no way on earth we were going to be able to drive our car from Delhi to Mussoorie.  We couldn’t even drive to our local market on a normal day without getting stuck in a traffic jam.  The panicky pictures we painted in our minds and to each other were all horrendous and futile, bordering on comical.

We lay awake wondering:  If we left the country, when would we ever get back?  What would happen to our Delhi community?  How could we abandon our family?  Could we take them all with us?  What about our kids?  They were our priority.  We were torn.

The threat came and went and came and went..  and with it our fear.  Love for the community grew.  Were we going to run away like hirelings? No.  We were shepherds. Our kids were our first sheep and we never wanted to put them in danger.   We were also in love with the “community sheep” who would have been harassed and helpless without a shepherd.

The test was real.  Would we run away at the first sign of trouble?  Would we pack up our things, head for a safe, foreign land and leave behind those who had no option but to stay?

One night as we lay in the dark, peace descended on us.  We decided we would only go if the Indian Government demanded it ( and even then, we wondered how we could camouflage ourselves without looking too much like Peter Sellers in The Party 🙂

The kids each got a new backpack with a few emergency items, which they kept on their beds.  Within a couple of days, the snacks had been eaten during midnight feasts and the bags were used for storing things.

“They” say, “Most of what we fear never happens.”  I have found this to be very true.   Fear can be paralysingly real.  It has the power to control.  It has the power to stop us dead in our tracks.  It disturbs our peace and limits our ability to experience freedom and love.  It affects our destiny.

We decided, after much turmoil and stress, to grab fear by the throat and hold it against the wall.  When we looked it in the eye, we were surprised at it’s timidity.

It’s fear.

PS.

See more of my posts on fear.  Yes, I’ve had issues 🙂

Post 168 and Post 169

 

 

 

 

 

Post 201. Floccinaucinihilipilification

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Floccinaucinihilipilification:

Why Rajkumari?

I had seen thousands of homeless, desperate women dressed in smelly rags

So often in a worse state than Looli

Is it because they all had their hands out and Looli didn’t?

They demanded everything and anything as if it was their right

But Looli demanded and expected nothing

Her only demand was to be left alone and to have peace

Is that what made me go after her?

There was a nothing-ness about her

We could gain nothing from her and she wanted nothing from us.

It was there that the two arrows met

She found love and so did we

All selfishness left

We lived only to see her safe and at peace

Away from danger and evil people.

Suddenly our lives and entertainment seemed shallow and unimportant

Nothing was more important than to see improvement in her

Signs of hope, a new smile, to hear a clear word from her

Sad, stiff mouth.

O God! How many more like Looli?

I want to know but I don’t want to know

I want to see but I don’t want to see

At all! At all!

To see would demand total unselfishness

A total surrender of our whole family.

If we want to see justice done

It would mean spending our lives on behalf of the poor

So, don’t show us everyone Lord,

Just show us OUR Loolis.

The ones you want US to love

The ones you will work it out for.

And thanks for loving me in my state of nothingness,

Just as you love Princess Looli.

PS.

The loveliest, longest word in the dictionary was taught to me by my dad when I was 8:  I mastered it when I was 9.  More than the challenge of the word itself, I was fascinated that such a long word could mean nothing…

Flocci-nauci-nihili-pili-fication: Definition:  The action or habit of estimating something as worthless.  A state of nothingness.

 

Post 200. Loving Looli

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Looli and Lata

The year 2002.

After an amazing holiday in Goa, we arrived back to Sarangan’s New Year’s Eve party in G.K. 2,  Delhi.

Towards the end of the evening a few of us were on the balcony overlooking the park. Creeping around in the shadows was a young woman who was very disturbed.   Lata and I went down to talk to her but she “ran” away.  She had a bad limp and it seemed she was paralysed on one side. She kept looking back as we kept calling her. When Lata spoke to her in Hindi and mentioned “Prabhu Yeshu” she came towards us with a big smile. We took her up to the party and the smile stayed on her face as she gobbled down lots of food.  Her name was Looli.

She talked with a slur but we could understand what she was saying. She had lived alone in the park for five years. The residents believed she was insane and violent so they left her alone. It seemed she was happy for them to believe that.  She told us how her family had beaten her and that she was too scared to go home.  It seemed they didn’t understand why she wouldn’t co-operate and being un-educated,  started to beat her to get her to obey them. She embarrassed them. They beat and broke her feet so she couldn’t run away.  She was also burnt with “beedies” (small brown local cigarettes) and cut with knives.

She was filthy dirty and smelled of 5 years of grime and Delhi dust. Her hair was full of lice. Her teeth were yellow and there were bloodstains on her grubby kurta. She was homeless and was more than happy to come home with us.

Lata got her into our washroom and gave her a good scrubbing. We could hear them laughing and chatting the whole time.   With her permission I shaved off her lovely curls so we could get to the bottom of the lice-infestation. She looked so pretty when her teeth were clean and shiny.

We kept her with us for a few days and she was such a pleasure. She was a bit mentally challenged but definitely not stupid. She was bright and loved music. She had learnt the lines, “We will, We will rock you!” from one of the houses around the park and she would slurringly sing it when she was bathing or when we gave her a guitar to “play.”  We gave her little jobs to do and found that she was a perfectionist. Sweeping was her favourite thing and she would automatically clear the table after meals. It was fascinating to watch her.  Lata developed a good relationship with her and they talked for hours at night about her life and Prabhu Yeshu.  Her HIV and TB tests were all clear.

We knew we couldn’t keep her with us forever.  We tried to put her in a place of safety but she only lasted a few days. She was too hard to handle.  When we found out where her family lived, Arun and Tony went to see them.   They told them to treat her well and give her work to do to keep her busy.  They also threatened to tell the police if the abuse continued.  They got the message. It was hard to leave her there, but it was our only option.  All we could do was check up on her every now and again and pray that she would be ok.

Her nickname was “Looli” (Handicapped).   Her birth name was Rajkumari (Princess).

Amazing how much humans can mess humans up.

PS.

Last year (2016) I was driving around G.K. 2 and who should I see on the opposite side of the road, but Looli! I recognised her by her limp and flapping arms. I called to her and I was surprised she knew who I was. I crossed the road and we hugged. She looked so good. She had put on some weight and her clothes were clean. She told me she was with her family and that she was fine.  I had often wondered.

Post 199. Losing Lata

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Lata was a small, friendly, charismatic young lady in her mid twenties. She was full of energy and talked a lot. She talked a lot about her life of hardship. It was very hard.

She was born in Bombay, never knew her father and had a hardworking mother who gave her to a family member who brought her to Delhi to work.  She went from one domestic job to the other and learnt near- perfect English from the foreign families she worked for. She arrived on a Sunday morning at Madhur Milan and made friends quickly.  Her life had been traumatic from childhood but she had found life and hope in Jesus.

When Santaram died, she offered to help us. We took her on, excited that she was a believer. Lata was amazing to have around and did everything so well and so fast. In the evenings she would sit in the girl’s room doing their hair and they would do hers. She became part of our family.

After about 18 months something started to change.  Lata was getting intense and manipulative. We noticed she had started to complain and her peace had gone. We heard from our security guard that she had started visiting a guru lady who “wasn’t good”.

We left for Australia to attend a conference feeling slightly concerned about leaving the kids with her. Louise Bulley was also staying with them so we thought it would be fine.

We had been away for a few days when we got the phone call that Lata had “lost it”. She had started having demonic manifestations in the kitchen and was laughing loudly and mocking the kids right in their faces. They said she would leave food cooking on the gas and fall on the floor, writhing and throwing pots around. They were so scared. When Josh and Andries came to help, Lata ran up onto the roof, screaming and shouting and wouldn’t be pacified.   When she finally calmed down, Andries and Brenda took her to their house to see how they could help her.  The next day she jumped off their first floor balcony breaking a leg in the jump.

After some tests at Vimhans Mental Hospital, she was diagnosed as being bi-polar and a manic-depressant. We knew there were also some unhelpful spiritual things happening in her life and that wasn’t a good combination.   The police got involved and insisted that Lata sign an affidavit clearing the Lindeques of the insinuation that they caused her to jump off their balcony. It was quite a task. She was manipulative and pretended not to know what we were talking about. It took quite a while for her to sign, but she did.

We arranged for her family from Bombay to take her home. We encouraged her to keep taking her medicine and told her she could come back when she was better.

Within a week her family called to say she was refusing to take her medication and that she was back in Delhi. We saw her a few weeks later and could see that something just wasn’t right. She had lost touch with reality. She blamed us for everything and wasn’t grateful for the help, medical treatment or anything else that had been done for her. It was difficult.   We loved her so much.

That was the last time we saw Lata but our landlord saw her a week later, sitting cross-legged on the pavement with her hands in the air, singing and shouting at the top of her voice.

Lata, the little lady with the big compassionate heart, had helped so much with our Looli. Now it seemed that she, like Looli,  was also lost.

PS.  I have never stopped praying for Lata.  I sometimes find myself looking out for her on the streets of Delhi;  hoping that one day we will find her.

Next post: “Loving Looli” : With a photo of Lata and Looli 🙂

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….

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..