Tag Archives: India

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 🙂

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Post 187. I’m back- I think

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I have been putting this moment off for three years.  Just in the past five minutes I have deleted this sentence at least six times.  Questioning and doubting.  I am also very aware of what’s coming if I start this again.

I need to get into my photo albums, diaries and scrappy script to add details of the past seventeen years to it (2000-2017).

I am going to need to be disciplined and creative and my memory is going to have to be shaken to it’s core.

Many of the events of the past seventeen years in Delhi have been painful.   I’m not sure I want to re-visit them or put them down for others to read but I will aim to do this slowly and with wisdom. These years have also been among our happiest.  It’s been quite a roller coaster ride.

So, my last and final excuse is that when it comes to writing,  I am lazy and need some major motivation.  I have recently had some lovely comments about my blog being inspiring and helpful, so I will start again.

Tony and I are leaving Delhi soon to start another community from scratch; for the first time without our kids.

Asha, Zoe and Jordan were 12, 11 and 5 when you last read about them.  It was the year 2000 and we had just moved to Delhi.  They are grown ups now. They are all married and we have two grandchildren.   It has been our greatest happiness to have them all within walking distance of our house in Delhi. I’m not sure I’m ready for this.

We are moving to Nagaland (Far North East India). The internet there can be quite unreliable and I’m not sure how often I will be able to post my posts.  Probably not every day. It may be erratic- so to you ladies who sat down with your cup of coffee and my blog every morning- you may be disappointed 🙂

I am learning (and I’m a slow learner) that if anything needs to be done, I need to do it, otherwise it won’t get done.  Profound, I know.

Thank you for following my story.  I hope I can keep it addictive and interesting and inspiring.  I love knowing who is reading and what you are thinking, so please let this be a two way thing ok?  I need all the encouragement and inspiration I can get 🙂IMG_0292

Post 84. Mussoorie

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I was not prepared for the drive up to Mussoorie.  We wound around hundreds of hairpin bends and steep cliffs with no barriers.  It was high and the road was never-ending.   I was so taken in by the sights, I didn’t even think about how sick I should have been feeling.  It was early evening and we had been driving most of the day.  I hadn’t closed my eyes for a second in case I missed something.  We were exhausted but buzzing.

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When the lights of Mussoorie first came into view, they were far away.  My comment to Tony was, “When we get up there, just leave me there.  I’m not ever coming down again!”  We arrived on the mountain just after sunset.

It was dusk by the time we got up to 7,000 feet.  We took the wrong turn and ended up on the Library Side of Kulri Bazaar.  The bazaar was closed to traffic so we had to turn around and go all the way down and around the mountainside up to Picture Palace.

In many places the roads were just wide enough for one car and the tiny little houses and shops were fascinating.  It was so pretty and quaint.  It reminded me of a street scene from a Charles Dickens story.  There was an old, hundred year old feel to it.

Everything seemed so small.  Even the people looked small.  There were lots of little men carrying heavy things and many of them were sitting on the steps of shops along the road.  I asked Tony, “Who are all these little people?”  His reply was, “They are coolies from Nepal.”  For someone straight out of apartheid South Africa, that sounded weird.  They were a group of people?  Weren’t all Indians “coolies”?  Tony wearily explained that it was the name given to unskilled labourers or porters.   I felt so awful that I had been calling all Indians “coolies” all my life.

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We managed to get up the steep Mullingar Hill, revving all the way, hoping we wouldn’t have to stop for an oncoming car.  We decided to spend two nights at the Barton’s house even though they weren’t there.   Their niece was there to greet and host us.  She asked us what we were going to be doing in Mussoorie.  When we told her we were going to start  a community her response was, “Why would you want to do that?  There are so many churches here.”  That was our first night in Mussoorie.  “Encouraging,” we thought.

The next day was Sunday so Tony got his guitar and the girls and I sat around him in the lounge.  We worshipped, shared a bit and thanked God for getting us there safely.  Asha asked what we were doing and Tony said, “We’re having church.”   That was her first church meeting with no people.

On Monday we got back into the jeep and drove another 1000 feet to the top of the mountain.  We went past four little shops on the right hand side and drove around the final bends of our journey.  Down one very steep driveway later and we arrived at The Firs.  I knew then why it was called that.  We were in the middle of a thick forest of fir trees.  As we stepped out of the jeep, it felt as if we had left the “real” India behind.  It was so quiet and it was cold.  We were met by Canadian landlady, Julia Malik who spoke with an unusual accent and in a very high pitch.  While we were doing the formalities, Ash pulled me down to her level and whispered in my ear, “She sounds just like Mickey Mouse.”  It was hard to keep a straight face because it was true.     Julia was sweet and had been in India for about 40 years.  She was so far into the culture, it was hard to tell where she started and where it ended.  We couldn’t imagine her living anywhere else.

She showed us to our little cottage called “Morning Glory”.  It was fully furnished with one bedroom, one bathroom/toilet, a lounge and a small kitchen. It was musty  and dimly lit but we were just happy to be there.

We unpacked a few necessities and made up the small bed  for the girls.  All we could think of was a good sleep in a comfortable bed.  That wasn’t to be.  Our mattress was a lumpy cotton one, probably as old as the house itself and our pillows were like slabs of rock.  We lay on our backs and looked into the darkness.  No matter how uncomfortable things were, we were safe, together and on a beautiful mountain.  We had driven 2291 kilometers of crazy road from one end of India to the other and our journey had just begun.

Post 46. The Bible and a chillum

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He didn’t think he would ever see her again but within minutes of that prayer, she popped into his room.  She was concerned for his life.  She handed him a small Gideon’s Bible she had been given. “Here, you need this more than I do.”  He tucked it away in his backpack. 

Tony had been in India and South East Asia for over a year. His goal was to travel from New Zealand to Europe, make lots of money from his drug run and go home.  By the time he reached India, his journey had become a spiritual one. 

Buddhism had already been explored.  He had travelled into Darjeeling to join a monastery, but they wouldn’t have him.  Maybe they could see his hedonism was going to take more than a lifetime of meditation to get over. Or, maybe they knew it wasn’t going to be easy to get him to shave off his waist length hair.  There was no place for him to sleep so he spent the night under the stars.  It was freezing cold and all he had with him was a thin shawl. He left early the next morning, disappointed and disillusioned.

In his desperate state, he left  Delhi and set off for Rishikesh, the home of Guru Maharishi Mahesh Yogi.    It was where the Beatles had gone in search of enlightenment.  

He got a bed in an ashram where he met others who were just like him.  Many were freaked out and paranoid; a Frenchman who had been in India far too long, stripped naked and ran into the forest, never to be seen again.  

It was in the ashram that he learnt the ways of Hinduism.  Because he played the guitar, he was asked to play for the “puja.”  He rang bells and meditated on candles and posters of deities.  One day while meditating on a poster of Shiva, a purple light shone out of the throat of the image. Tony wasn’t on any hallucinogenic at the time, so he knew it was a supernatural thing.  It freaked him out but he was excited that something was going on. 

A Burmese guy who knew Sanskrit and had been a follower of Shiva for many years told him what it was.  The throat was one of the chakras (power points) in Hinduism and literally translated it meant “neelkanth” or “purple throat”.  There was a Shiva temple at a place called “Neelkanth”, a day’s walk into the foothills of the Himalayas. Tony set off for the temple the next day.  He felt it was some kind of divine sign or message. He found a place to sleep and eat then went to the temple to do puja.  All the time he was meditating and ringing the bells, he was hoping that one of the gurus or pundits would help him in his search.  

No-one could explain the meaning of what he had seen.  He was disappointed and left Neelkanth very disillusioned.  He made his way through the foothills on the path back to Rishikesh and stopped to take in the view.  The Ganges River was way below, winding its way across the plains of Uttar Pradesh. 

He lit up his chillum and took out the little New Testament he had been given a few weeks before.  He randomly opened the pages and the first word that his eyes saw was the word “idol.”  

With that one small word, came a small gentle voice.  “I don’t live in images made by the hands of men. I don’t live in wood and stone.  I am the Living God.” Where he had been was a place of wood and stone.  He had been worshipping inanimate objects.   

One word was enough.   In his drugged out state that was all he could concentrate on.  That was all he needed.  Right then, Tony knew his lost, wandering soul had been found.

The God of the heart had found His man.

Post 44. An Island Too Small

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Me at 16

Me at 17

Tony at 18

Tony at 18

Tony was passionate about many things.

The beach was just 500 metres from the Johnson’s house and he started surfing from a young age.  Doug was a lifesaver and made sure his boys were strong swimmers. In winter, he skied the highest slopes in New Zealand and did stunts that few dared to do.  His dream was to ski in the Winter Olympics.   Rugby was big for Tony and Ben.  They played for their school as well as for the local rugby club.  Doug had his own import tea company and wanted Tony to work with him.  That worked for a while but as soon as he learnt the ropes, Tony started his own tea business.  Wheeling and dealing was part of his life wherever he went.

His first trip off the little island of 3 million people was to the States, Canada and Mexico.  He was 20.  When he got there he bought cheap cars, used them, sold them and moved on.  One night, driving along the Mexican coast, he was stoned and lost.  He ended up on a dusty, dark road in the middle of nowhere.  He fell asleep and woke up to the sound of a hovering helicopter, spotlights shining in his face and a loud hailer telling him to get out of the car with his hands in the air.  He was searched for drugs and Mexicans.  Strangely enough he didn’t have either on him at the time.  He played the dumb foreigner and was pointed in the right direction.

He worked in restaurants and spent his free time skiing and surfing.  The American drug scene pulled him in and his use of hard drugs increased. He was becoming more dependent.

When he got back to New Zealand he got into farming.  He became the proud owner of his own little marijuana plantation in Piha, on the West Coast.   It was in a creative hippy commune he was living in that he heard stories of India.  One of the couples had travelled all over Asia and had written a book about it.  He started getting his dollars together to travel again.

This time he set off  with his surfboard to India via Indonesia and South East Asia.  He travelled around from beach to beach in search of the perfect break.  Getting from one island to the other was a challenge.  One of the ferries was packed to capacity, with people everywhere.  It smelled of urine and vomit.  The only place he could get any sleep was up on the deck, on his board.

By the time he arrived in India, Tony was already on a heavy drug diet and he knew he had just landed in drug “paradise.”

Post 15. Weed

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Our parties were good clean fun until our older siblings started experimenting with alcohol and weed. They thought it was cool to share their new found pleasure with us.

Sue was caught smoking and denied it all.    I was devastated when I slept the night over with some of her friends and I saw her smoking inside her sleeping bag.  Her and her friends showed me how to shoplift in Grey Street, Durban (then called Coolie/Indian Town).  We would come home with lots of beautiful “Coolie Bangles” up our jersey sleeves in the middle of summer. The SCA (Student Christian Association) had regular visits from Sue, mockingly dancing through their meetings.  When she was 13 she dated Gordon Igesund (South African Soccer Coach) which displeased dad no end. When Mr Menzies moved out (we had made the poor man’s life really miserable), the Igesunds moved in. Gordon and Sue were banned from seeing each other.  All hell broke loose on her when dad found out she was at the same party as Gordon. He walked into the party while she was dancing and pulled her out by her arm and escorted her all the way to the car.  That was one of her big embarrassing moments. Resentment began to build up towards dad.  Just before she was expelled from Mowat Park Girls High School, she was pulled out and  put into Mitchell Girls High.

Dave smoked pot with our African gardener Amos and anyone else who would smoke with him. Dad called him an “uncouth youth,” and was constantly lecturing and disciplining him.  Every now and again dad would laugh at something naughty that Dave said. It would be undone when Dave went into hysterical laughter at the table and sprayed  food on dad. Farting was one of Dave’s favourite activities and he chose the moment just after grace to express himself.

We teased poor Peter endlessly about being adopted, but mum had photos to prove to him that he wasn’t.  Going to the beach was a nightmare for me.  I would watch Peter like a hawk and at the end of the day, his arms were black and blue from all my squeezing.   I was his protector and he wasn’t allowed anywhere near the sea.  When he was about 3, I heard that peanut butter was good for toddlers so I forced tablespoons of peanut butter into his mouth.  He would gag and throw up but I would just shovel more in.

He was also very accident prone.  In his fifth year of life he fell out of the car on the way home from the Drive-IN.  I was in the back of the car with him and didn’t notice that he had pulled the handle.  He dropped out and onto the road.  I went hysterical and Val had to slap my face to bring me round.  He was fine;  just a few cuts and scrapes and he loved the fuss and the big bandage around his head.  He also fell onto the BBQ with all the meat.  His hands were burnt in a grid design.

When he was 9 he would take on anybody the bigger boys dared him to take on.  He would wrestle and punch and fight until he was pulled off.  He was also dared to down a bottle of Old Brown Sherry which he did.  He was VERY sick.

Flopsy, Mopsy, Cotton-Tail and Peter were taking strain.

Post 14. Fire

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Our cousins Beverly, Karen, Raymond and Margaret Cale lived in Westville.  We thought they were rich and we loved visiting them in their big house in Renown Road.  Their pool was the big attraction before we got ours.  It was another world for us.  Uncle Wally was a drummer and he gigged with Wilf in his Dixieland band.  There was a free flow of alcohol in their house and their parties were slightly wilder than ours.  When the adults were happier than usual we would go into the bedrooms to play.

Their granny, Mrs Buckley had funny big, square teeth that clicked and moved when she spoke.  She always had a cigarette in her hand and she smelt funny.  Val had to regularly tell us to “Stop staring!  It’s rude”.  Well rude or not when Val wasn’t around, Mrs Buckley had us all right there in her face.

There was a big fire in the field next door to their house and I was terrified.  I had heard from the Schwegmanns that the world was going to end in fire and that I would be going to hell when I died.  I thought that was it.   It was huge and it was hot.  I went hysterical and when I realised that I couldn’t save myself, my family or the world, I sat in their pool and cried.

I wouldn’t even light a match in case I started the end of world.  From our front veranda where my grandfather Papa stayed, we could see the oil refinery on the Bluff.  The flame that burned all day and all night was a constant source of anxiety for me.  I would sit on Papa’s bed and look at it out of the window. He told me over and over again that it could never reach our house, but I never believed him.  It was over 15 kilometres away but I would sit at that window and watch and wait for it to consume the world.

Fear wasn’t a stranger to me.  I feared Dave jumping out at me in the passage, and I feared that Peter would die.  I feared the Zulus and the white men that may drive past me and pull me into their car.  I feared fire, hell and the end of the world. I was also scared of dying and I was reminded of that possibility every night when we said our prayers.

“Now I lay me down to sleep,

I pray the Lord my soul to keep,

If I should die before I wake,

I pray the Lord my soul to take,

God bless Mommy,

God bless Daddy,

God bless everyone I love AAAAAAmmmmmmmennnn.”

Dave started to add “and God bless the Zulu boys” which made us all giggle. Soon after that, our family prayers stopped.  Dad felt we were being sacrilegious.  Nothing was sacred with David the clown there.