Category Archives: Living Life

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..

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 190. Begin again

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22 January 2000:

We had just had an amazing and much needed holiday in Goa.   Over the years we had driven for four to five days to get to the beach, but this time we went by train which took about 36 hours.  It was long but we survived.   Jordan was good at making us laugh in tense situations so we had our share of free entertainment.

When we arrived in Delhi we realised how different life was going to be.  The road trip from Delhi to Mussoorie  usually took about 9 hours.  We would get off the train or plane in Delhi and sleep over in a cheap hotel or with our friends, Andries and Brenda.  We would then get onto another train to Dehra Dun and then into a taxi all the way up the very windy mountain to Mussoorie. Sometimes we would arrive late at night and have to walk along the narrow path to our house with sleeping children and luggage.  There was always someone to help us, but it was quite a feat to arrive home sane.

This time we stayed with the Lindeques because we didn’t have furniture in our flat.  Andries, Brenda and their children Sarah and Simon were already an important part of our new community.  It was a Saturday.  Arun Handa and Raman had secured a school classroom for us to use for our first meeting.   All I could think of was, “What will we do with the DESKS?”   We were grateful but all felt there was something better.  At 5pm on Saturday evening,  Tony, Raman, Andries and Arun booked the Madhur Milan Banquet Hall!  It was across the street from Lady Shri Ram Girls’ College where Sharon John was studying. The guys came back very excited. Brenda asked if it had red carpets and it did.  A few weeks earlier she had a dream about a place with red carpets.

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The next day was Sunday and we were wondering, like Asha had been,  if anyone would come. We had nothing to worry about.  Word got out and friends were brought.  It was an amazing  first meeting.  There were about  40 people, including children.   People stayed well after 1 pm to chat.

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It was an interesting mixture of people and we knew that once again we were going to be part of another Community of Nations.  Enthusiasm and expectations ran high.  Mid-week house meetings were set up and there we were… At the very beginning of a beautiful new community.

No-one was more surprised than Asha.

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