Tag Archives: short stories

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 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 32. The Amazon

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Belem is between the Toucan and the monkey.

Belem is between the Toucan and the monkey.

I just couldn’t scratch my itchy feet.  I had been at home for 3 years.  I wanted to see the world but didn’t want to travel for travel sake.  There needed to be a mission, something constructive to do at the same time.

Over the months I had made a few enquiries about mission organisations to see where I would fit.  That was when I heard about the Doulos; Operation Mobilisation’s converted ship.  It was the largest floating bookshop in the world.  It was a self contained “town” with schools, hairdresser, dentist, hospital, laundry, bakery, nursery, offices and 250 people from all over the world.

It sounded like a dream come true; to be able to see the world and work at the same time.  I sent in my application knowing it would take a while to hear from them.  Resigning from two jobs, both needing a months notice was a bit risky.  If I resigned and wasn’t accepted on the ship, I would be jobless.  I decided to take the risk.  It paid off and I was off to join the ship in Brazil.

The agent’s response to my resignation was, “What a waste,”  but Wilf and Val were excited.  Dad had been putting money aside in our Post Office accounts and I drew that out.  It was exactly the amount I needed to pay for my ticket from Cape Town to Rio and I had some savings to get me through the first couple of months.

I was beside myself.  I couldn’t wait to get to South America.  The ship would be sailing from Brazil to Puerto Rico, the Bahamas, Barbados, Jamaica, Mexico, Florida and then through the Panama Canal and all the way around and back to Brazil.  It would take two years.

I sat on the carpet in our little passage and found my favourite book*.  I knew it off by heart and every photo had been touched over and over again; for years.  I was going to the source of the Amazon River.

I flew into Rio and straight onto Belem with other new recruits.  There was an open jeep waiting for us and we were driven to the ship on some very rough roads.  It was in that jeep that I met Henriette Hugo; a very beautiful French speaking Huguenot from Cape Town.  We were kindred spirits.

As I walked up the gangplank one of the flirty O.M. boys asked me my name.  When I said “Linda” he said, “Oh that means “beautiful” in Spanish. Muy Linda”.  I was flattered, but not there to flirt, so I smiled and was escorted to my little four berth cabin.

*See:  Books and Jazz

Post 16. Someone is always watching.

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Mowat Park (also known as “The Maternity Ward”) was our local girl’s high school, and that was where I was headed with all my friends.   New Forest Boys High School was where the fathers were.  News reached us that Sue was about to be expelled for ongoing bad behaviour. Val decided it would be a good idea to take Sue out and put us both in another high school outside of our area.  It meant that I would have to leave my friends. I made sure Val knew I wasn’t thrilled.

I was bold, cheeky, small, daring, friendly, bossy and cute and I had all the swear words I needed to keep people in their place. I was 13 and ready to take on the world.

To get to Mitchell Girls High School on the Berea, we got a lift with the Rutherfords who lived at the entrance to the circle, next to Mr Menzies.  Tommy Rutherford was a plumber with a big paunch.  He had three daughters, Janice, Tralee and Karen and a lovely wife, Marcia.  They were all really funny and we practically lived in their house.

When I was much younger, I found a metal wedge in someone’s garden.  It was small and smooth and it had a nice sharp side.  I was sitting on the carpet next to their wooden coffee table and I tapped it with the wedge.  It made an amazing design in the wood and I just couldn’t stop. By the time I was caught, the entire table was covered in my pretty wedge design.  I was the only one who was proud of me.  I had no money so Wilf had to pay.  Wilf didn’t like to pay.

They had a beautiful fish tank in their lounge and one day I was helping Tommy to clean it.  When he left the room I put my hand into the tank and started splashing around. A drop of water went onto the hot fluorescent tube and it made a lovely hissing sound.  There was also a little puff of smoke.  I flicked the surface of the water towards the tube again and again and again.  Seconds later there was an explosion of glass into the fish tank.  Tommy flew in and caught me with my hand still in the tank and panic on my face.  There were a few deaths but I survived.

Soon after that Tommy taught me one of the most beautiful songs I had ever heard.

“Be careful little hands what you do

Be careful little hands what you do

There’s a Father up above

Looking down at you with love

So be careful little hands what you do”

He went on to sing of the feet, eyes, ears and the song went on and on. When he sung it I felt loved by somebody.  For the first time in my life, I was aware that someone was always watching me.

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.

Post 12. Books and Jazz

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Val - dad's favourite model. Wilf Lowe - Tru- Life Studios

Val – Dad’s favourite model.
Wilf Lowe.  Tru- Life Studios

There was always something to do at home.  I would spend hours sitting on the fluffy carpet in front of the bookcase in the passage.  Books were to be treated like people; gently and with respect.  We weren’t allowed to touch the ones on the top shelf but there were two shelves just for us.  Enid Blyton and Beatrix Potter took up a lot of the space.  Then there were the Bobbsy Twins and all the Annuals of our favourite magazines; Lucy Attrill, Topper, Beano, Dandy, Thunderbirds and of course Black Beauty, Rupert and Paddington were all there.   I read them all numerous times.   There was a picture book about a little boy on the Amazon River that I read over and over again.  I was fascinated and dreamt of going there one day.  Reading was my favourite thing to do.  Val would catch me reading under the blankets late into the night.  The torch told on me.

The passage was also for practising gymnastics. It was perfect for headstands against the wall, backbends, splits and forward walks; just too small for cartwheels.   I loved that passage and hated it too.  Dave loved to hide and jump out at me from the rooms.  I was a nervous wreck.

There was one bathroom with a tub and washbasin and a separate room for the toilet.  It was tiny.  We all tried to get in there before dad and his newspaper did.  They were immovable until the paper was finished.

The bookshelf on the back veranda was piled high with, “World of Knowledge” and “Look and Learn” magazines.  They would arrive in the post every month and there was a fight to see who could read them first.

When we got too old for family concerts, dad would play dictionary scramble with us.  We each had our own Little Oxford Dictionary. He would say a word and we raced to see who could find it first.  I loved words and spelling was my forte. My favourite word was the longest one in the dictionary and we learnt how to spell and say it: floccinaucinihilipilification.  I loved that it meant “meaninglessness”.

Then there was our wooden “Flick” board.  It was square and there was a pocket on each corner.  We each got a red “goon” and we had to flick the black and beige discs into the pockets.  There were a few rules and they were usually broken; especially the one about having to stay in your seat.  We got at those discs in whatever position we could.

Getting ready for an evening at home.

Getting ready for an evening at home.

When we were bored we would open the fridge door and stare into it and if dad wasn’t around we drank out of the milk bottle.  Val hid the tins of condensed milk on the top shelf of the highest cupboard.  She should have known that nothing was hidden from us.  We got the tiniest nail from dad’s workshop and banged the tiniest hole into the side of the lid.  Whenever she wasn’t around, we each took the tiniest sip and put it back on the shelf.

At night we would go to sleep listening to the Jazz greats crooning away. Big Bands were our lullabies.  Dad’s jazz collection covered one of the walls in the lounge and that was his favourite place in the evenings.  We would sit and listen to the drama about Porgy and Bess or anything else dad thought might interest us.

TV was banned from our house until we all grew up and left home.  Family concerts, dress ups, singing, dancing were much more fun than sitting around watching other people doing it.

Post 11. Fatty Allan

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One of our favourite comic characters.

One of our favourite comic characters.

The Schwegmann family consisted of 7 children; 5 girls and 2 boys.  They were the Pentecostal family in the circle. They were the ones who kept us all feeling guilty for any bad thing we thought or did.  Movies, parties, jeans, make-up, jewellery and anything else the Lowe’s loved, was “sinful”, but they did join in our escapades when it was convenient.  Their mother, Dawn, ruled the house and kept everyone on track. Gary Snr was a South African boxer and a non-church-goer.  He was like one of the kids.  Dawn preached to him from the moment his eyes opened to the time he went to sleep.  He just wasn’t interested.  He was a lot like us and we liked him.

Gary Jnr was the first boy I kissed and “spin the bottle” was the game that made it happen.  A bottle was put in the middle of the circle of boys and girls.  Someone spun it and if it pointed to you and you were of the opposite sex, you had to go into the cupboard and kiss them.  Most kids flew out of the cupboard wiping their mouths in horror and disgust.  Others were quite happy to keep kissing even when the game had stopped.

There were many sleepovers at their house.  I loved their big bedroom with 5 beds lined up next to each other, one for each girl, from oldest to youngest.

The Allan family lived near the entrance to the circle.  There was Old Mr and Mrs Allan, Gregory Allan, his sister and his mom, who we called “Fatty Allan”.  We felt the reasons were obvious.  One afternoon, Gregory came huffing across the park with an envelope in his hand.  5 minutes later, Val was marching across the park to his house.  Fatty Allan was fuming mad and inconsolable.  Someone had cut up a Little Lotta Comic and written some pretty ugly stuff about her and Fatty Allan being related.  We were all called in and interrogated and Val was convinced that her kids had NOTHING to do with such an awful incident. Every child in the circle was blamed and every one of us was innocent.  Susan Lowe and Glenda Schwegmann owned up months later when they thought it was too late to get disciplined for it.  They were wrong.  Val and Dawn made sure they felt very sorry.

We got to the Schwegmann kids and then they got to us. It took years of preaching and telling us how sinful we were, but when we finally came round, the Lowe family was changed forever.