Category Archives: The Long and Winding Road

Living life on the way: From a South African childhood to life in India and everything inbetween.

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

 

 

 

 

 

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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.

Amaltas(1)

Post 169. Please be quiet, I’m trying to fly this plane (Part 2)

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Our pilot friend, John Sinclair handed us upgraded tickets at the airport.    He said we could sit with him in business class.  He also had a first class ticket, which one of us could have.  I was too scared to sit by myself so I declined.  I couldn’t fly without holding Tony’s hand, so we all sat together.  I burnt John’s ear off the entire trip with my silly questions.  Every time there was a change in the sound of the engine, I asked him what was happening.  I asked him about the pilots and why I should trust them to get such a huge, heavy piece of machinery into the sky and keep it there.   What if one of them had a heart attack?  What if both did?  He answered patiently.

During some mild turbulence, I stopped talking and started sweating.  I wanted absolute silence.  I needed to listen for anything that would indicate we were going to crash.  John talked to the air steward who asked me to follow him.  He took me into the cockpit and left me with the captain and co-pilot.   They were happy for the company.  I was amazed to see them facing each other and chatting over cups of coffee.  It was still turbulent and I expected them to have their hands on the wheel or at least watching where we were going.   I mean, there were all kinds of things to crash into, right?  I asked them lots of questions and they didn’t laugh.  That was helpful.  My last question was, “So, why aren’t there any parachutes on these planes?”   They looked at each other and decided to tell me the truth.  “Lady, if we fell from this height, no-one would survive.”  He was so relaxed about it.  No sign of panic, just really matter-of-fact.  Then and there, in that little cockpit, I accepted the fact that if the plane crashed, I would die.  Instantly; and a weird way, I felt better.   It suddenly dawned on me that I wasn’t afraid of dying.  That was settled when I was thirteen years old.  I was just very afraid of the “how.”

I had seen too many plane crash movies.  The most recent one was “Survival.”  The plane crashed into snow-covered mountains.  There were a handful of survivors who resorted to eating those who were less fortunate.  The other movie was about a plane crashing into the ocean.  The survivors spent the night in the deep with sharks circling underneath them.  Most of them ended up as shark bait.  I hated that idea.  I didn’t want to eat Tony or be eaten by him and I definitely didn’t want to be eaten by a shark.

Once, on our way to Australia, we did a transit stop in Malaysia.  It was a rough ride.  I got off the plane shaking and crying.  I told Tony that I wasn’t going to get on the next plane.  I wanted him to leave me there and pick me up on the way home.  I wasn’t hysterical or loud about it.  I was just totally prepared to stay all by myself for however long it took.  He patiently explained to me that wasn’t going to happen.  I would need to get on a plane to get home to our kids anyway.  No matter how scared I was, I had to get back on the plane.

As we were flying, I heard God gently but firmly say,” If you give in to this fear,  you will affect your destiny and the destiny of your whole family.”  I fought with fear and turbulence like they were the enemy.  There was no way I wanted to give in to fear.  I knew we were called to nations beyond India.  The only way to get to those places was to fly.  I needed to win the battle.

I had to nail one issue at a time.  I had to get right down to why I was so afraid.  Only then would I be able to board a plane without being convinced that the plane I was on, was the one that was going to crash that year.

It was illogical.  It was base-less and limiting.  It was to do with self-preservation.  It was going to affect my destiny.  i just couldn’t allow that to happen.

Post 155. Territorial spirit

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Pic- Hike to Kedarnath

A few months before our move, the Watkinson family joined us for a hike to the Gangotri Glacier.  We had done the hike to up to Kedarnath with the Ferreiras and Jono and Char in 1996 and now we were going to the source of the great Ganga River.

From my journal:

Tuesday:

Left at 4.30 a.m.  Gorgeous drive to Gangotri.  Huge landslides and incredibly steep gorges.  Drove over a 410-foot bridge.  Awesome and scary.  Nice weather with soft rain most of the way.  Arrived at 2 pm.  The trainees were waiting for us.  Had lunch and all slept for two hours.   Woke up with such a bad headache.  This place is full of the dark side.  Little men sitting in caves and tents doing all kinds of cultic stuff.  Incredibly powerful waterfall and amazing rock formations.

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Wednesday:

Good sleep.  Girls in one dorm, guys in another.  Set off early for Bhojbasa.  Vasanti pulled something in her leg and was in a lot of pain.  She was determined to get there.  Hiked for fourteen kilometres up to 12,385 feet.  The guys took turns to carry Jordan in his carry seat.  When the girls got tired they went on the mules; SO close to the edge at times.  It was so good to get to Bhojwasa.  Heard mice scuttling around all night. 

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Hike to Gangotri

Thursday:

Found all kinds of things in our shoes in the morning.  The mice had fun while we were sleeping.  Left early for Gaumukh.  It was a challenging nine kilometre hike but not difficult. We went up to 13,000 feet.  Did a lot of boulder climbing.  Vasanti said it was too humiliating to get on the mule,  so hobbled almost the entire way.  When she finally gave in, she was healed instantly!  SO funny.  Amazing to be at the source of the Ganga.  The glacier is HUGE.  Saw massive blocks of ice breaking off and floating down the river.

We all stood on a big rock and prayed and prophesied over India for an hour.  Good time.  Really felt God’s presence. 

It was a long walk back to Bhojbasa.   I walked most of the way with Esther.  Talked about how spiritually easy it had all been. 

That night I had a really oppressive dream.  It may have been a vision because I wasn’t able to get to sleep.  I dreamt that I was thinking how easy it had been.  Suddenly, Shiva’s face appeared.  His mouth was huge and he was laughing right in my face.  He said, “It was easy because I’m not afraid of you; twelve people praying on a rock.  This has been my territory for decades. What do you think you can do?”  The laughter was loud and intimidating.  I was struggling to breathe but didn’t want to wake anyone up.

I woke up feeling really discouraged and oppressed.  I told Tony about the dream on the hike back to Gangotri.  I felt my throat closing up and I started gasping for air.  Everyone prayed for me and I was fine.  I knew it wasn’t true.  I knew our prayers had made an impact.  I knew Jesus was more powerful and that He had been there not just for decades, but from the beginning of time.

After a night in Gangotri we drove back to Mussoorie.  It was going well until we hit very thick winter mist.  It was so scary.  We could barely see the road in front of us.  Just before we got home, Tony and I saw two huge black holes in the mist.  If we had been too distracted by them, we would have been over the cliff.  When we got to our house, we were all shaken up but so happy.

A cup of tea later and we were all in bed.  As my granddad used to say, “A nice cuppa tea and I won’t need no rockin’ tonight.

Post 129. Goodbye my lovely dad

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I was shaken but the steel in me refused to bend.   I knew then why I had been so strengthened by God.  I was going to need all the strength I could find.  A few phone calls to South Africa, confirmed dad’s critical condition.  Tony booked Jordan and I on the first flight out of Delhi.   I packed my bags and we did the eight-hour drive to the airport.  My stomach was in turmoil the whole way.  There was no way to keep in touch with Tony or my family in South Africa once I left the house.  I kept wondering if dad was still alive.

I said goodbye to Tony and prayed there would be someone to help me with Jordan on the way.  I wasn’t sure how I would manage with my suitcase, bag, nappy bag and Jordan.  What if I needed the loo?  I got to the check-in and a man travelling from Delhi to Durban started talking to me.   He was a “typical” South African man.  He smoked, talked about rugby and the meat he couldn’t wait to eat.  He had no idea he had been chosen by God  to be my very own angel.  When I needed to change Jordan he looked after my bags, he kept me a place in the queue and held Jordan when I checked in.  When I got on the plane, there he was in the seat right next to me.  I told him about my dad and he was concerned when I cried on and off throughout the flight.  Fortunately Jordan travelled amazingly well.

When we touched down, I was shaking.  My “angel” helped me off the plane and walked with me into the arrival area.  I could see my family waiting for me.  They all looked pale.  The first thing I asked was, “How’s dad?”  He was still alive but it wouldn’t be for long.  I handed Jordan to my mom and my legs collapsed under me.  I shook for about five minutes.

Everyone made a fuss of Jordan.  He was just over three months old and a real cutie.  We went to Rolleston Place to freshen up and then headed for Entabeni Hospital.  Dad looked awful.  He was black and blue.  It was a shock to see him hooked up to pipes and breathing apparatus.  He was weak but so happy to see me.  The nurses felt he was still alive because he knew I was coming.   I was told to keep him calm. When he held Jordan, his heart rate went up and we had to take him away.

We had a quiet conversation. In a very weak voice he expressed his last minute doubts about going to heaven.   I assured him that his simple prayer of surrender to Jesus that many years ago had secured his place in heaven.  Jesus had taken away his sin and in that instant, he had been born-again.  He was a new creation.  The old had gone and the new had come.

He also talked about his dreams and morphine hallucinations.  He could see himself in a huge warehouse full of wood, then on a stage surrounded by musicians and people and then in a bookshop.  On the shelf was a book about his life and his family, written by me.  He asked me if I could do that since he hadn’t got around to it.  I didn’t make any promises.   I realised that all the things he was thinking about were the things that he loved; wood, books and music.  Those were his passions.

I was with him when he took his last breath.  I had never seen a person going from being alive to being dead.  Gone.  Just like that.  In one second, my lovely dad was gone.  There was such sadness but as we were leaving the hospital, someone said, “It must be so bright in heaven.  I hope dads got his sunglasses.”  We laughed until we cried and then we cried until we laughed.

Going through his cupboards was hard.  He had no worldly wealth to speak of.  He had lived a simple, contented life.  He left the house to mum and his entire jazz collection was sold to the Natal University Music Department.  They got the best end of the deal.  It was awful watching it go. I got his old typewriter and his tartan bomber jacket, which he got in his early 20’s. I also got his diaries.  The earliest one was from first grade.

When I was going through his things, I was amazed at how sentimental he had been.  There were boxes of photographs and reel-to-reel movies of holidays, births, weddings, relatives, babies, cousins and every family get together.  There were neatly stacked piles of all the cards we had ever made for him and every letter we had written to him.  He hadn’t left us with any “inheritance” to speak of, but such wonderful memories.  It sat well with me.  That was the kind of inheritance I wanted to leave my kids.

Post 122. Little blue tent

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My favourite place to sleep

I had just turned thirty-four.  It was 1994.  Ash was about to turn eight and Zoë was going to be six.  I was happy they were going to be old enough to help with the baby.  Three mothers are better than one.  We were all so excited.

Life continued at a rapid pace and before we knew it, it was time for our three week Goa holiday.  It was too expensive for us all to fly, so we started planning our long road trip.  Tony took the jeep to the carpenter in the bazaar and showed him our ingenious design.  We wanted to turn it into a bed so we could stay anywhere along the coast and not have to spend money on accommodation.  The ply-wood bed was put on stilts so there was plenty of room for our luggage underneath.  The bed was at the height of the driver and passenger seats.  There was a section on a hinge, which could flap over and rest on the dashboard.  At night the whole jeep would become one big bed; big enough for one man, two small girls and an almost seven month pregnant lady.  Or so we thought.

We packed the car and the girls were happy on their big bed.  There wasn’t much height for them to sit up, so they spent most of the time lying on their backs or tummies.   It wasn’t long before their elbows started getting red and raw but they were happy with their books, toys and plenty of water and snacks.

It all went well until our third day on the road.  We were crossing a narrow bridge.  A jeep came from the opposite direction and onto our side.  Tony swerved and slammed on brakes to avoid him.  The girls were lying on their tummies with their faces right near our heads.  They flew towards the dashboard and I screamed out the name of Jesus so loud it freaked Tony out.  I put my arm out to stop them in their flight and Tony somehow managed to get the car under control.  When we pulled over we were all crying.  We looked for blood but there wasn’t any.  Disappointing after such an ordeal but we were grateful to be alive.

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Our favourite place to be

We went to Palolem, our favourite beach.  Tony talked Gaitonde, a resort manager, into allowing us to set up our tent on his property.  He said he would charge Rs 50 a day. We agreed.  We found a spot under a lamppost.  There were two coconut palms for our hammock and a tap right nearby.  The showers and toilets were a few metres away and there was a children’s park in the middle of the resort.  The beach wasn’t even 500 metres away.  It was so perfect.

We spent the whole day setting up, getting rations and hanging up big bed sheets for some privacy.  Tony got some fresh fish and fried it on our little gas burner.  We were all so happy.  The girls were excited about sleeping in our tent.

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Our little blue tent

It was a five-man tent and there was just enough room for all of us including my tummy. Tony felt the need to be our security person.  He did a good job of locking us in so that nothing could enter or escape.  Including air.  It was tight and the ground was bumpy but we all somehow managed to find a comfortable position.  We lay there talking and laughing about storms and wind and what would happen if the weather changed.

We talked until we were exhausted.  It was hard for me to breathe in such a tight air-less space but I did my best to concentrate on other things.  Just as we were about to drift into much needed sleep, Tony decided to fill up the tent with his pent up gas.  We all started flapping which made things worse.  We couldn’t breathe and we couldn’t get out of the tent.  Our eyes were burning and we didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.  We hit Tony with our pillows and told him he would be sleeping on the beach if he even thought about doing that again.

As soon as the sun came up, I crawled out of the tent on my hands and knees. I took a deep breath of fresh Goan air.   It was so different from the air in our small blue tent.