The Original Blue Print – Part III

Continuing from The Original Blue Print Part I The Original Blueprint – Part -1 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com) and Part II The Original Blueprint – Part 11 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

Our drive from Santiago to Viña del Mar was beautiful. Stunning would be the apt word to describe its scenic splendor. And en route when we stopped at a vineyard named House of Morande, now just known as House, I got my first experience of visiting a vineyard cum restaurant. I tasted wines. Had a sumptuous Chilean meal.

It was heady. Just off a long flight, the tiredness of the journey hadn’t worn out yet. The first experience of being in a country that sits on a “ring of fire” and is no stranger to earthquakes and temblors! The contrast between the previous day’s and night experience to this serene and spectacular scenery that unfolded before me as we drove down the highway, and finally at House, was what the doctor ordered.

As I strolled through rows of white roses and walked in the shade of the trees and over the green grass, I forgot the anxiety and fear of earthquakes. They didn’t exist in this serenity and peace and calm.

I breathed deep and for the first time saw Chile through eyes that only saw it as it was sans the quakes – beautiful! The food helped to buffer that thought. Delicious cuisine was served and I enjoyed whatever I had ordered. They made it to my specifications without compromising the basic recipe and flavors too much.

I left House in a different frame of mind. One that was willing to stay and face the challenges if only to get to know this beautiful place a little more.

My eyes were pinned to the spectacular landscapes that whizzed past us. At times so splendid that caused a sharp intake of breath. Maybe, I was reacting more strongly appreciative because I had not envisioned so much of scenic splendor. I had allowed my mind to focus on one thing and the fear it brought thus tagging the country as awful, scary, not where I want to visit.

And then my son said, “That’s nothing. You’re going to see something even better. Your first glimpse of Viña del Mar and the majestic Pacific.”

I was quiet. My eyes staring straight ahead as we crested an incline… my jaw dropped at the sight.

The photos I’ve clicked were in a hurry as we were moving fast, and my phone wasn’t a very sophisticated one. They are not doing a mite of justice to the scene that unfolded before me.

My jaw dropped, my eyes opened wide, and all I could say was, “OMGod!”

“The city is a bit further ahead, you’ll glimpse it soon.”

So here I was in the city I would be living in for an unknown period of time, and with the information that Chile sits on a thousand volcanos! Exaggeration? Perhaps.

That’s how I entered a place where I was destined to experience the scariest and most fascinating experiences. Where I would meet some of the most lovely people I’ve had the good fortune to meet. From where I would eventually take off to India in three months only to return three years later. I lived there for four years and have indelible memories. Most of which are among the best ones of my life.

But my world was going to rumble and shake in a few days! Seven days into my ‘discovery’ of Viña del Mar, I had the horrific experience of getting to know the real deal – the TERREMOTO! The big one, a terribly strong quake was waiting to happen. Read about it here: Chile Diary – 5 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

The 2010 Chile earthquake (SpanishTerremoto del 27F[5]) occurred off the coast of central Chile on Saturday, 27 February at 03:34 local time (06:34 UTC), having a magnitude of 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale, with intense shaking lasting for about three minutes.

The fallout of this acquaintance with el gran terremoto was that my condition deteriorated with all the anxiety and tension I carried with me 24×7. My pain increased. I couldn’t walk even the short distances that I could earlier. And worse, I felt I was an added burden on my son at this time because of the increased difficulty in walking, sitting, standing for long or bending. I couldn’t stay in the apartment as it was on the sixth floor and running down six flights of stairs during a strong aftershock or worse another quake was not recommended in my condition. Besides, there were small cracks in my bathroom walls and the door frame of my bedroom door had been damaged and was lopsided, the door wouldn’t close. Just looking at it and the cracks in the wall set my mind racing and conjuring up images of it collapsing with me stuck inside.

So it was a gypsy life for me. I was shifting from place to place. First to a hotel room on the ground floor, then to the Company Guesthouse, then a house in another town. You can read the interesting details in my Chile Diaries.

Long story short, When things quietened down, I asked to return to home country. And soon I was back in India vowing never to return to this country. And since Canada was never on my radar even then that’s how I saw my future. This was 2010. I accepted that I would live alone, safe or unsafe, in this booming, modern city that was growing and developing fast in the NCR – a place not so far from Delhi.

Once again I settled into my former life, but this time I took up a job as a checker for exam papers for ESL exams. Life took shape with routine. My treatment, a new one, was beginning to show results slowly. I thought I had done right in coming back and now the kids would realize why it was better for me to stay put.

For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future. Then you will call upon me and come and pray to me, and I will listen to you. You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart.” -Jeremiah 29: 11-12 (NIV)

And once again, I was wrong! Three years later, I was on a plane to Chile!

My DIL’s brother who lived in Canada was getting married. Their parents lived in the same city I lived in, so the wedding would be held there. She was coming to India. The plan was that they’d kill two birds with one stone. I had to dispose of things that could be sold or then given away. She would help me with the last bit of packing and accompany me back to Chile. It wasn’t the long circuitous route, this time, and with a companion the journey would be more comfortable for me. Which it was.

I lived in Viña for four years. I wouldn’t say I got “used to the EQs”, but I could handle myself better than before. I lived a good life – made friends, learned a smattering of Spanish so I could go out on my own, and I made some lovely memories which I still cherish. At one point, I expected to be here longer or even permanently. My son and DIL were planning to buy a house there. That would mean ‘settling’ in Chile.

But the original plan was already in motion. My DIL’s only brother was settled in Canada. And my son’s only sibling was settled in Canada too! I guess you’ve got the drift of this information.

There were many pros and cons discussed about settling in Chile. And there was one con that dwarfed all the rest. DISTANCE. This country was so far away from India where our families lived. It would be difficult for either side to visit, add to that the financial considerations of the journey. It was expensive.

The two of them decided to move to Canada. By default, I would be a part of this shift to Canada if at all it happened. Things were still not decided. In the meantime, I wanted to visit my son in Canada and meet my three grandkids, especially the new baby and the second one who I hadn’t seen. My ticket was booked for the summer that was some months away.

Then my son filled in the forms for their move and submitted them. It would take time for all the processes etc., and even then one couldn’t be sure of the outcome, so I was to return to Chile in six months.

When I flew out and landed in Toronto, little did I know that my fate was sealed… the original plan of my life had come full circle decades later. I never got to go back. They were to come here early the next year.

I have many questions in my mind. I often wonder:

-if I had changed my decision on that day and said “yes” to my adoption would it have changed the entire course of my life? Or would my life been ditto with just a change in my nationality, and the addition of foster parents?

-Would I have three college/university degrees? Two Bachelor degrees (one in Education), and a Master’s degree? Considering the high cost of a college/university education abroad, I doubt it.

-Would I have opted for a teaching profession? Most certainly not.

-Would I have become a widow so young? I will never know. It could have been in the original blueprint or it could have been the result of my own choice.

Here’s where the possible scenarios end.

The only thing that made my life so difficult with challenges and obstacles, popping up every now and then, was the tragedy of losing my husband so early.

If I dare to draw parallels with the assumption that I would be widowed early no matter who I married, even if I had come to Canada earlier, there’s one thing I’m certain about… my financial difficulties wouldn’t be as humongous as they were in India. The system here is so good with allowances the government gives for children, free school education etc.

As for family support, I am a hundred percent positive Lily and John would have been there all the way. They had loved me even before I or my parents had been aware of it. They had already envisioned me as a part of their family. Their love and parental support, although that of foster parents, would not have failed me. If anything, it would have grown.

So in truth, though I do not know how my life would have turned out as a “Walker,” I know this, it would have been a better journey. Especially my schooling years. Read about these terribly difficult years here: And I Call Them My Angels in Disguise-Part I – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

I also know whether I got three degrees or not, I would have qualified in some professional field. Who knows, I might have even taken up one of the top three options I had presented to my parents who were horrified and promptly shot them down. So what were those choices?

In chronological order of preference:

  1. Air Hostess
  2. International Tourism – Organizer cum Guide
  3. Theatre Artiste

I don’t think the Walkers would have objected to all of these for the reasons my father did! There was a world of difference at that time between Indian parents and western ones.

However, I do feel if I had to land up here eventually, it would have certainly been much better earlier than it is for me now as a senior citizen. A new place, new experiences are best experienced when one is a bit younger than I am and in better health. Without a social circle life becomes monotonous. Time hangs heavy. Making new connections socially isn’t so easy in a new country. Not working in a place doesn’t help either. One doesn’t meet many people and getting to meet like-minded people is left to chance. That I am an introverted extrovert doesn’t help. The introvert has strong likes and dislikes and the extrovert doesn’t get the better of a clash sometimes.

To sum up, the original blueprint gave me a taste of foreign travel that I wanted to experience as a tourist guide and organizer of trips. And also the first-hand experience of the flipside of international travel, especially long flights with more than two layovers. It also gave me a closer look at an air hostess’s job on long International flights. Different people with different cultures and mindsets, with various needs… all have to be served with patience and a pleasant disposition if not a smile!

It made me realize that I wasn’t cut out for these professions. The third option was third for a reason. I liked drama only as a hobby… something on the side that I could dabble in on and off.

So somewhere, the life map I created by my choices and the original plan for my life gave me, in the right proportions, what I desired as an experience, as an adventure, but not as a mainstay; as a profession or career. And it led me to be a teacher. A profession I never ever WANTED to enter. But it was exactly what I NEEDED.

This was the profession that helped me and my sons. I worked in private schools that were among the best in whichever city we lived in. I had no problems with admission for my sons nor difficulty in paying the fees. In retrospect, I can say that my life went off course from the original plan in many ways, and it brought hardships in its wake until I, without knowing it, veered back to the original blueprint.

What lies ahead I do not know. I pray for guidance and wisdom in making the right choices. But this I know, He keeps me in the palm of his hand. He’ll bring me on course if I veer off.

The Original Blueprint – Part 11

My younger son and his wife were working, from India, for a company in Canada when they got to know the company was hiring more people for vacancies in Canada. So two others, who were also working with them from India, decided to apply for these posts. The company agreed to give them the jobs and that’s how the first step was laid. I was glad for them but still, at the time, I had no inclination to travel here. Not even for a holiday! Life carried on for me the way it was and I was settled in sailing on even keel. I never expected things were going to be stirred up, disturbing the calm. A big, unpleasant surprise was coming up.

My elder son came to me one day, excited. “I’ve been transferred to the Chile office,” he said.

“Wow,” I responded equally excited. Then my brow furrowed in ignorance and the worry that comes with it for a mother. He had pronounced the name the right way, Cheelay, and I hadn’t heard of this country.

“Where’s Cheelay?” I enunciated laying emphasis on each syllable.

“In South America.”

“Oh! That’s not quite like North America, right?”

“No. It’s more Latino. The language is Spanish. It’s a small country. And even smaller if you compare it with ours!”

“How are you going to manage with Spanish?”

We only knew a few words one picked up from songs and movies… words like – gracias, adios, amigo, hasta mañana, muchacho, hacienda, vaya con dios… and such. Now, I wasn’t too thrilled with the foreign posting.

“I don’t have to bother about it at the workplace ma. It’s English at work. And I’ll learn the local language.”

I nodded in agreement. It was similar to a posting anywhere inside India, apart from the spoken language at home (for us it was English) one had to learn a smattering of the local lingo to carry on with daily life. I recalled how we, as kids, living in Cochin (now known as Kochi) knew a bit of Malayalam. My mother knew Malayalam and Tamil because she was born and brought up in the south, in a city called Madras (now known as Chennai) and she had studied in a boarding school in Bangalore (now known as Bengaluru). She picked up some Marathi and “Bombaiya” Hindi when we were in Bombay (Mumbai) and Punjabi and Hindi when we moved North. I learned Hindi and Punjabi in Delhi and Punjab. And later, in Rajasthan, I picked up a bit of Marwari to get along with the maids and vegetable shopping. So this wouldn’t be any different apart from the vast distance.

I had no intention or desire to go to Chile either. Apart from the vast distance one had to travel… hours and hours in the plane and hours at airports on stopovers, if one took a cheaper option that took you on a circuitous route… I was in no mood to learn another language to get by.

But the original blueprint of my life was already set into motion. In fact, now when I look back, I see how the events in my life were taking me according to the plan.

My elder son was engaged at the time of this transfer and we preponed the wedding date as he wouldn’t be able to get back so soon for the wedding which was scheduled four months later. His fiancée worked in the same company as him. He left in August 2009 after they got married. Now both my sons had left. However, this time I had my daughter-in-law staying with me.

If I thought my son would come back in a year’s time because his wife was here, once again, I was reminded that life doesn’t always go even keel, for long, it has more twists and turns and adventure. Within months of his working there a vacancy for a job, ideally suited to his wife’s work profile, came up at Chile. She applied, online interviews were conducted. She bagged the post.

She left to join her husband and her new job in Chile.

My son was worried about me living alone. Apart from the security concerns, he was also worried about my physical limitations due to osteoarthritis and some troublesome discs that restricted movements and could also lay me down, bedridden.

About six months later, I was in Chile too! A place I knew vaguely existed at the back of my mind. A country about which I had zero curiosity and didn’t Google to learn more about it.

The company booked my ticket too, so I could join my family in Vina. The route was a circuitous one – Delhi-Mumbai-Johannesburg SA – Sao Paulo Brazil – Santiago, Chile – a longer route because it was cheaper! I bore my aching back, lumber disc and cervical disc acting up, and my knees hurting so much, whenever I had to walk, as in through the security check or down the aisle to my seat, or to use the facilities. I was in pain and on wobbly legs. But thankfully, I had wheelchair assistance and didn’t have to walk through those huge airports; five in all. That doesn’t mean I had no problems. The biggest one was when I had to visit the washroom. I would be stuck in my wheelchair without an assistant. The assistant would park me in the waiting area, put my bags near the wheelchair and disappear. There was no way I could walk to the facilities. which were no where near the waiting area. And even if it were near, I couldn’t leave my bags unattended. Dragging my luggage along would have created a medical emergency. It was torturous mentally and physically. Mentally, because I was so worried there would be an incident. Thankfully, that didn’t happen but there were close calls… I would get saved by a couple of minutes!

The layovers, in chronological order – at Mumbai [about 3 hrs. layover]. At Johannesburg [about 4 1/2 -5 hrs. layover]. At Sao Paulo, Brazil [between 2-3 hrs. I think]. Now came the last flight – Sao Paulo to Santiago! It was just the last flight not the last leg of my journey.

From Santiago would begin a road trip to Vina Del Mar. If there was no heavy traffic, we’d be lucky and reach Vina in 1 1/2 hrs. But thoughtfully, my son had booked rooms at a hotel so I could rest. The last segment of my journey would be completed the next day.

After he and his wife had settled me into my room, my son sat me down in the armchair and said that he had to tell me something. When people do this I get the jitters. “Now what?” my mind screamed.

“Ma, we have a lot of quakes and tremors here. So, if you feel your bed rocking don’t panic.”

“Don’t panic! Tremors and quakes are normal everyday routine here! An earthquake happens and I don’t panic? I’m not that brave! I’ve experienced a few in India. And they are scary” I said already feeling quite scared and unsafe.

“Well yes, earthquakes happen in India off and on, not often and not all are very strong. What you might have experienced were like 3.somsthing or 4.something…” I interrupted, “And all were scary as hell! The whole building felt it would collapse.”

“That’s India ma,” he said patiently. “Here the buildings are built to withstand stronger quakes. Even 9.7!”

“How strong are we talking about,” I said with a sense of foreboding.

“Well, over here, a temblor, which is a tremor, would be something that’s less than 5.something. Anything above would be a terremoto, which is an earthquake.”

“You mean, what I experienced in India and almost died of fear were just tremors?! Things they aren’t scared of here? They have quakes that go beyond 7 on the Richter scale? And all of this is an often recurring nightmare and I’m not allowed to panic?”

“Yes.”

“So what exactly are you telling me when you say I shouldn’t panic?”

“I mean don’t run out of your room. Stay here. I’ll come to you if any such thing happens. You might feel slight tremors more than once or twice. No one bothers about these.”

“O Lord! What have I got into? Where have I come?”

“I can understand your anxiety and fear but Ma, honestly, don’t be scared. It is unsettling for someone who isn’t used to it but given some time you will get accustomed to it. The buildings won’t collapse they way they do in India. These can withstand strong quakes.”

Now that I was in the middle of a soup, there was nothing I could do but put on a brave front, while my heart palpitated, my mind conjured up images of fallen buildings and me under a rubble. So I assured him that I would not get out of the room and run down the corridors screaming. But I wasn’t sure if I would keep my word.

Sure enough, the tremors came rolling in. My bed was rattled more than twice. Twice I jumped out of bed. Twice I ran to the door and held it half open. And the third time, I ran down the corridor to their room and knocked on the door. They were sound asleep and didn’t hear the frantic knocks nor feel the building shaking or trembling. Thankfully, I had remembered to take the key card of my room with me. I crept back to my room shaken and scared to death. I didn’t come here to die, I thought miserably. If I don’t die in a building collapse, I’ll die of fright!

Thank god for tiredness. I fell asleep against my will and woke up to the kids knocking on my door. It was time to go down for breakfast.

I had survived the night, the temblors, and I was feeling very hungry. I would tell them about how I disregarded their advice and how I ran down the corridor and knocked on their door real loud, later on. When they’d eaten and would be in a better frame of mind with a great brekkie tucked in, I’d be safe from some admonishing and reminding that I could injure myself too just by running helter-skelter.

We had till noon to check out so they took me out for some retail therapy. That always works. I forgot the tremors until one came up while we were in the mall. Being in a huge building that’s shaking and seeing the escalator sway, even though not too much, triggered the fear again. And trust me, it’s hard to control the panic and keep oneself standing quietly and wait for the tremor to subside. I watched people go about their business calmly. I wondered if I’d ever be able to build that sort of insouciance towards tremors.

You can read more about all the interesting and funny things that happened, in detail, here: Chile Diary – 1

If you haven’t read Part -1 here’s the link: The Original Blueprint – Part -1 – It’s In The Tale (wordpress.com)

The third and final part of The Original Blueprint will follow soon.

The Original Blueprint – Part -1

Canada had never been on my list-of-places-to-visit! Though, I did advice a lot of youngsters, including my son, to move to Canada. But I never ever felt inclined to visit here, and living here was not even a possible thought.

Yet, here I am!

Destiny? God’s plan for my life? I guess it’s both. It’s the result of the original blueprint for my life. One that I altered in some places, and the others altered without my consent at some juncture.

I often wonder about my sojourns to two countries that never figured in my travel-hungry dreams and desires. Surprisingly, apart from Canada, USA also didn’t make it to my list! While my friends in college went on about the States I dreamed about countries in Europe. I didn’t realize my Europe dream and, of course, never went to the States. But I came close to it when I ‘lived’ in Chile! A place that wasn’t even on the periphery of my travel thoughts. Though, I must add here, I loved it. The city I lived in and the memories of my stay there are embedded in my heart.

But as I’ve learned, God’s plan for my life will go according to plan despite the detours I make from the path. I will, eventually, do, go, function according to the original plan – sooner or later.

Take my journey at this point in life – I’m in Canada! If I had not rejected an offer to travel to Ireland when I was nine years old; if my mother had not put her foot down (which encouraged me) on the offer of two wonderful Irish missionaries to adopt me, I would have been here decades ago!

The story that convinces me that it is God’s original plan starts in the latter half of the year 1963, in New Delhi.

My parents were members of an evangelical church. The congregation called themselves the ‘Brethren’. The church was in Connaught Place and was called Gospel Hall. It wasn’t a conventional church building. It was in a commercial area and was one of the shops/offices that had been rented for worship.

In those days, Christian missionaries abounded all over India, and we had a fair share of them in Delhi, and in our Gospel Hall as well. Among the ones at Gospel Hall was an Irish couple – John and Lily Walker. They had two sons, Johnston and Earnest.

My parents and the Walkers took to each other and they became friendly outside the fellowship-worshippers church circle. We’d have them over for lunch sometimes and they’d invite us over for a meal sometimes. I enjoyed the company of this missionary family, which I confess was not normal because, even at that young age, I didn’t care much for the many others whom my father had befriended when we were posted in Kerala, South India. They’d come over often and have lunch and tea with us. I recall a picnic or two. One at a beach and one on a house boat! I was younger then but I had a mind of my own. I liked and disliked my parents’ company according to my own judgments for what they were worth!

There were the Phoenixes, the Bones, the Taylors, the McGregors, to name a few.

But the Walkers were different. I played with their younger son, Earnest, who was a year and half older than me, I think. Johnston, the elder one was nice too. He would talk to me and joined his brother and I briefly sometimes.

Lily and John were jovial and easy-going and not the typical uptight Christian missionaries who judged everything we said or did and found it inappropriate according to their thinking. I usually made myself scarce when any of those kinds visited us. They didn’t understand our sense of humor, our cultural dos and don’ts, and they thought they had the God-given right to admonish me!

Well, I was the youngest kid in the family then, a bit spoiled by Daddy, and I couldn’t take that. So rather than ‘talk back’ I avoided them.

Anyway, to come back to the main part of the story. Lily and John had taken to me too. We, of course, were unaware of the extent to which they had fallen in love with me. They had already decided (before even consulting with my parents) that they wanted to adopt me! That was the reason why they began to spend more time with us. Even at Sunday School or at church, Lily would talk to me, sometimes sit beside me at church, and generally, give me a lot of attention. I loved it because it was free of judgement, criticism, and full of love, caring, and acceptance of my little personality as it was.

None of them, including the boys, ever tried to change or mold my natural self to suit them. I was accepted as I was. I was loved as I was.

We were brought up in an Indo-western environment with the western more pronounced than the Indian. Our etiquette, behavior, and environment at home was more western. So there wasn’t much that was different for me in their home, and I guess they didn’t find much to change in my behavior.

Well, finally their term in India was drawing to its end and they had to make their intention known to my parents. And they did. I was totally in the dark about how my fate was being decided between them.

While all this was going on, a severe case of jaundice laid me down. It was pretty bad because my parents hadn’t realized that it was more than an “ache in the side of my tummy” as I continued playing with the pain. No one noticed that the whites of my eyes had turned yellow until one day, Mummy did. The doctor was worried and hoped that it wasn’t worse than what he had diagnosed.

The result was that the Walkers postponed their return and extended their stay by three months. It took over two months for me to get better, but I was very weak and I had to be under medical supervision for a month more.

My father had put in his papers for an early retirement and wanted to go back to his hometown and get started on building our house. But as I couldn’t travel then, he asked for an extension on our accommodation for another month. So we were in Delhi while he went on ahead to get work started on the house.

Now, the Walkers who were apprised of the developments on our side, came home before Daddy left. As I lay in bed, I could hear them talk, but not clearly enough to get the whole conversation. I gathered bits and pieces and knew that it was something about me. I heard my name mentioned a lot. I heard the word travel. I heard the words “extend our stay.” I tried to put two and two together but couldn’t understand what was the big deal if I couldn’t travel. I presumed they were going to leave me back here with the Walkers and my mother and brother would go with my father to Punjab. I would be staying with these people and join them later when I could travel.

However, I soon learned who was planning to ‘extend’ their stay and why. It all came down to one person’s decision – Mine!

I heard footsteps coming towards my room and I perked up a bit. John and Lily came in and Lily sat on the bed and held my hand. They asked how I was and made some small conversation. Then they asked me if I liked their sons. Did I like their home and was I comfortable whenever I spent the day there. My answer was a big YES and a broad smile to all of these questions. Then came the last one.

“Would you like to come live with us?”

“Okay,” I quipped happily thinking I was right about what I had picked up from their conversation earlier. Then I added, “How long will I stay? The doctor said it could be longer than a month before I can travel.”

They realized I was not on the same page as them. And that my parents hadn’t broached the subject with me.

Gently, both of them told me how much they loved me and how Lily had fallen in love with me from the first day she saw me. How she wanted a daughter and she saw that daughter in me. How her sons also accepted me as a sister if I agreed to be a part of their family.

It was a bomb exploding in my head. I was just a little nine year old going on ten, by then! This was in the beginning of 1965. And I wasn’t strong enough mentally and physically and emotionally to deal with such a big question about the future of my life.

They realized it immediately after they had said what they had to say. To their credit, they very softly and lovingly told me I didn’t have to make my decision immediately. They could wait. But if I could give them some hope, even a 50-50 one about their chances of becoming my foster parents, they could extend their stay by even six months, if need be.

I loved my family. I couldn’t imagine loving someone else as my parents no matter how nice they were or how much I loved them too. No one could replace my Mummy and Daddy! Not even the very nice and loving Lily and John Walker.

“Will you take me with you to Ireland?”

‘Of course. You’ll be my daughter. Wouldn’t you like that?”

“Yes. But when will I see my parents?”

“You can write to them, talk to them over the phone. And you can come back to see them whenever you want. And they can come to see you too. We won’t keep you away from your family in India.”

“Have you spoken to my mummy and daddy? What did they say? Did my Daddy say yes? Did my Mummy say yes?”

The questions came pouring out. I still remember the dread I felt and the slight tremor of excitement at what this meant for me. I was scared to leave all that was familiar and that I loved behind and go with people I barely knew beyond a social relationship. Nevertheless, there was a bit of adventure and excitement at the thought of going on a long journey to another country and living a new life. One I could only imagine from movies and stories I had heard.

The thought that was troubling me was that if both of my parents had agreed to this, I would have to go. I thought I’d have no right to refuse if my parents had agreed. I wouldn’t see them for years maybe and neither my sisters and brother. It made my heart sink. And I was scared too. So far away from my parents whom I trusted and relied on. I had no notion of how I’d be able to bear that. Somewhere, was a flicker of hope that one of them had refused. Somewhere at the back of my mind, subconsciously, I was keeping that as my escape hatch.

I was waiting for their answer. My heart was pounding.

Lily looked at John.

“Your father said he had no objections if we let you keep in touch and allowed you to visit. But he said it all depended on your answer and not his. We could adopt you only if you agreed.” My heart leapt with joy. Daddy had given me the final decision. I wasn’t so scared now.

“And what did Mummy say?”

“She doesn’t want you to come with us. She flatly refused to let us adopt you.”

This made it easier for me to make my decision. Her flat refusal took the burden off me. Deciding to take such a big step, one that I couldn’t fully comprehend. To me it was just like an adventure. Like the ones I’d imagine and dream to come true. This gave me the escape route I was looking for and I made up my mind.

“No. I can’t go with you forever. I can come for a holiday but I want my Mummy and Daddy. My sisters and brother.”

“But your parents will still be your parents. Your sisters and brother will still be your siblings. Think about it. You’ll have bigger opportunities if you come with us. take your time to decide. Though not too long. We cannot extend our stay only to find you won’t be coming back with us. We have to get your travel arrangements done too.”

“Ok. Then please don’t extend your stay. I don’t think I can stay away from my family like this.”

They looked so sad. I felt bad and wondered if I should say yes. My mind was for it. But my heart wasn’t in it at all.

“I’m sure.” I said. “I can’t leave my family.”

Long story short. The Walkers left. Mummy and Lily kept in touch for two or three years via snail mail. We learned that they had migrated to Canada a year or so after they returned to Ireland. And that’s where the Canada connection comes in, in this story. If I had agreed to make them my foster parents, I would have been in Canada decades ago!

So, in the original blueprint, I was destined to come here. I never thought about it. I never hoped for it. It wasn’t an inviting place to even include in my dream list of holidays. But that was then.

This is a beautiful country. And one worth visiting and settling in, if that’s what you want.

But…

I had to go on a circuitous route, before I finally came here. I’ve lost so much in the detours I’ve made. Apart from the material things, I lost peace of mind, a sense of belonging, the company of age-old friends. It isn’t easy to adjust to new environs when you’re older. It isn’t easy to make new friends. It isn’t easy to leave the familiarity of social, cultural, and traditional aspects of one’s life. That being said… This senior isn’t doing too bad all things considered. Not quite there, yet, but getting there!

So how did Canada, the eventual destination, come about?

More about that in the next part.

To Be Continued….

And I Call Them My Angels in Disguise-Part I

Questions I hear from kids these day:

“The Bible has a lot of angels appearing to people in the ‘Biblical’ times. Where are those angels?”

“They haven’t appeared to anyone for ages. Doesn’t God need to send us messages too?”

“Why doesn’t he send us warnings or reassurance through angels anymore?”

I hear the echo of my own queries, that were somewhat similar to these, when I was going through Sunday School and even, as a teenager, during our youth Bible studies. Now, it makes me smile because I realize I’ve been telling people about how God has sent me angels in times when I was lost and helpless, and at a time when I was in dire danger. And none of them had wings!

What makes it hard to believe that angels exist is our ‘fiction fed’ imagination. We grow up seeing angels portrayed with big wings, wearing long flowing white robes, and they have an aura of light around their heads! They are celestial beings and not ordinary like us humans sans wings. So they couldn’t be real. Right? Not necessarily! Nowhere, other than the artist’s illustration of angels, do we read about such an appearance (physical) of the angels who appeared to people in the Bible. In fact, we read about how Jacob wrestled with an angel who is referred to as the “man.”

And we read about Lot inviting two angels to his home for a meal. To him they looked like just two men!

GENESIS 32:2228 (NIV)

JACOB WRESTLES WITH GOD

22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

27 The man asked him, “What is your name?

“Jacob,” he answered.

28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

In the account of Lot entertaining ‘strangers’ in his house, not knowing they were ‘angels’, again we find that they appeared as normal human beings.

GENESIS 19:1-3, 12:17 (NIV)

LOT ENTERTAINS TWO ANGELS

The two angels arrived at Sodom in the evening, and Lot was sitting in the gateway of the city. When he saw them, he got up to meet them and bowed down with his face to the ground. “My lords,” he said, “please turn aside to your servant’s house. You can wash your feet and spend the night and then go on your way early in the morning.”

“No,” they answered, “we will spend the night in the square.”

But he insisted so strongly that they did go with him and entered his house. He prepared a meal for them, baking bread without yeast, and they ate…..

12 The two men said to Lot, “Do you have anyone else here—sons-in-law, sons or daughters, or anyone else in the city who belongs to you? Get them out of here, 13 because we are going to destroy this place. The outcry to the Lord against its people is so great that he has sent us to destroy it.”

14 So Lot went out and spoke to his sons-in-law, who were pledged to marry his daughters. He said, “Hurry and get out of this place, because the Lord is about to destroy the city!” But his sons-in-law thought he was joking.

15 With the coming of dawn, the angels urged Lot, saying, “Hurry! Take your wife and your two daughters who are here, or you will be swept away when the city is punished.”

16 When he hesitated, the men grasped his hand and the hands of his wife and of his two daughters and led them safely out of the city, for the Lord was merciful to them. 17 As soon as they had brought them out, one of them said, “Flee for your lives! Don’t look back, and don’t stop anywhere in the plain! Flee to the mountains or you will be swept away!”

So we see that, in the Bible, the angels appeared as ordinary men. Well, I’m not contesting the fact that they weren’t human beings, I believe, as it is written in the Bible, that God created angels to do His bidding. What I also believe is that He does use people, as angels, to come to our aid. When this happens it’s obvious that these people have been God-led. Whether through promptings of the spirit in their heart, their soul or any other way.

I have two stories to share though I have been helped by human god-sent angels more than twice. But I am sharing the stories of these angels because nothing could be more convincing than their appearance when I least expected it. Neither could I have even imagined them coming to help. They were my God-led people who were my angels. That’s how I discovered that God uses people as angels too!

My angel, in the first story that I share here was a bus driver whom I didn’t know beyond recognizing his face because he was the bus driver, almost daily, when I traveled to school. It wasn’t a school bus but a public transport that carried me half-way to school. I’d get off at a place called Mullanpur. Here, I’d wait to catch another bus to Halwara, an Air Force base, where there was an English Medium school!

So, here’s the first one. It happened on my way back from school. I was sixteen and in the 11th grade. Often, on my way back in the afternoon, unlike on my way to school in the early morning, I’d have to wait for my bus ride back home. Most buses, at that time would be overcrowded and wouldn’t stop at Mullanpur. Or if there was a passenger or two, it would stop a few seconds, not really coming to a complete STOP, to allow any passenger to hop off. Or I’d get pushed aside by some burly fellow as I tried to push my way up the steps and the bus, already full and stuffed would move on.

The other thing that made it difficult for me to get buses back home was my Bus Pass! It was for a particular transport company and I couldn’t use my pass for any other transport company bus. I’d have to pay for a ticket, and I never carried money with me most days.

While the bus I took in the morning, at 5.45 a.m., would have the same driver, a tall Sikh, almost everyday, on the way back I’d get his bus on rare occasions. Somehow, even though I didn’t know who he was, or even his name, I felt safe when he was at the wheel.

Well, it was providence that on that particular day, when I had already missed three buses and it was getting late, up came his bus to the bus stop and I got in with a big sigh of relief. It was nearing winter and the days were getting shorter, so in that rural area, at that hour, there weren’t many women or girls on the bus. Mainly men. And as usual, the women folk would usually be ones who would get off at Sidhwanbet or Sidhwan Khurd which was midway to our town. And most of the men would have got off too by then.

On this fateful day, the bus emptied out completely. There were only three people in the bus… the driver, the conductor, a young Sikh, and I. I settled in my seat, grateful for the open space, peace, and quiet. But that peace didn’t last even ten minutes!

Suddenly, I felt the bus slowing down and a low but commanding voice saying in Punjabi, “Kudiye, ithe aaja, samne.” (trans. Girl, come here, in front.). I looked up to see the driver pinning me with his eyes in the rearview mirror up front.

I was sitting midway, a little more to the back. All the seats were unoccupied. I couldn’t understand why he was calling me to come in front and stared at him. I was a bit nervous. Yet, because for some reason I had felt safe in his bus right from the start, I wasn’t scared. Just nonplussed.

His eyes took on a more commanding look and the tone in his voice was urgent as he repeated what he had said earlier. And then, he turned to look out the front and shouted to me, “Chheti kar! Ithe aaja samne.” (Trans: “Hurry up! Come here to the front.”).

I jumped up totally alarmed by the urgency and something else I heard and saw in his voice and eyes. I got up and walked down the aisle about two seats forward but before I could get in and sit, he commanded me to get on the first seat directly behind him. I did as I was told. By now I was a bit scared.

Then he directed me to cover my head with my dupatta. The dupatta is a chiffon/georgette/fine cotton stole worn across the shoulders with a salwar-kameez (Punjabi dress). I didn’t bother to think about it or protest. I quickly did as he said. By now the bus was coming to a halt. He barked at the conductor who was sitting right next to him on the seat to the left window, “Darwaza band karo te kholi na jado tak main na dasan.” (“Lock the front door, and don’t open it unless I tell you.”). Next, he growled at me in a low voice to slouch in the seat so I wouldn’t be too visible. Now I was scared. What on earth was happening?

The bus slowed down to a crawl but never stopped. Through the front screen he gestured to some passengers at the bus stop to get in from the back door. That’s when I felt a bit uncomfortable. A group of 4-5 young Sikh men, rowdy and in ‘high spirits’, boarded and thankfully settled in and spread out on the last seat behind. This seat spans the width of the bus and they settled in and continued where they had stopped…drinking! Yes, they were in High Spirits literally and figuratively too!

I peeked at the driver, in fear. He had his eyes glued to the mirror moving them for fractions of seconds to watch the road.

And then the most frightening thing happened.

One of the men noticed that someone was sitting in the front seat. He shouted gleefully, “Oye! kuddi hai.” (trans: “Oye! There’s a girl.”)

My blood ran cold. The driver’s face and eyes took on a ready-for-battle look. He hissed at the conductor to get up and stand in the aisle in the middle of the bus. The young guy looked scared. The men behind were older and bigger than he was and they were tipsy too. The driver spoke again, threateningly this time. The young conductor jumped up and made his way down the aisle and not too soon either.

“Hillo na! khada rah!” instructed the driver. (trans: Don’t move. Keep standing.)

While action was being taken in front, activity and attention behind had also got charged.

“Dekhi, kaun hai!” (trans: Take a look. Who is it?) said one.

“Oye, rehnde, bujurg hai,” (trans: Oye, let it go, she’s an oldie) said another.

“Ja ke vekh, ja cheti ja!” (trans: Go and see. Hurry up) piped another.

One of the young men got up. By then the conductor was already in the middle. Scared, but by now more scared of the driver and what would happen to him if he cowered. The driver was a commanding figure.

Before the tipsy man could take even two steps, the driver roared, “Piche ja!” (Get back!)

The youngster wasn’t in the mood to go back but not so sure he wanted to go ahead either. The driver’s eyes had pinned him to the spot.

“Mada ja vekhan tan de,” (Let me have a peek at least) he countered. Then he looked at the conductor blocking his path.

As a warning, the driver said, “Khada rah. aan na de.” (trans: Keep standing. Don’t let him pass.) The conductor nodded his head and took a firmer position and straightened himself. His fear seemed to have gone now that he realized why he was told to block the way.

The driver knew it was a matter of prestige now for the tipsy men. And they definitely outnumbered these two men. However brave they were they wouldn’t be able to tackle these men. And, getting them angry would not augur well for me.

So he did a wise thing.

He had already slowed down the bus. The road was free of traffic, not many vehicles plied this way at this time in the evening.

Keeping his eyes fiercely on them he said, “Eh sadde Masterji di poti hai. Eh sadde pind di thi hai. Tussi ja ke bai jao piche. Koi zaroorat nahin hai aage aan di.” (trans: She is our School Teacher’s granddaughter. She is a daughter of our village. Go and sit down behind. There is no need for you to come in front.)

The authority and warning worked. And now, he had made it a matter of honor. I was not only the Senior teacher’s granddaughter, I was also a daughter of their village. And they understood this. It meant he would defend me no matter what.

One of the group, called for the young fellow to come back. He was reluctant to go back, his pride was offended. But the others also joined in calling him back and telling him it was not right. I was their daughter. Well, thankfully, there were some in that group who knew where to draw the line. And thankfully, my familiar ‘safe’ bus driver was in that bus that day.

It didn’t end here. The driver told the conductor to sit on the seat near the front door. This way he was to my left across the aisle. I was seated on the seat to the right of him across the aisle and directly behind the driver.

Then he spoke to me. He told me to keep my stuff – books etc., ready. He would stop the bus for me to get off closer to my home. I usually got off at the Bus Depot which was also the main bus stop. There were no scheduled stops between our house and the main stop. He explained that it wasn’t safe for me to walk alone back home. These men could follow me. I nodded my head. I was so scared I was trembling.

Then he instructed the conductor to open the door as soon as he slowed down.

He cleverly slowed down at a place where there were shops along the road and it was usually a busy place with the shopkeepers sitting out and drinking tea and chatting outside their shops near closing time in the evening. He slowed the bus to the minimum he could without stopping or making it difficult for me to get off. And he chose a place between the railway crossing gate and the shops. This way the men behind wouldn’t have a clue. Buses often had to stop if the railway crossing gate was closed for a passing train. The main depot/stop was on the other side of the railway track.

He signaled when I had to get up from my seat and move fast down the three-four steps and jump down. The moment I landed on the ground safely and was clear of the door, he sped up and drove away.

I still remember how he emphasized his last warning: “Cheti, cheti duad ja gar nu.” (trans: Run fast back to your home.)

When I turned into the gate of the Christian Compound, I slowed down and breathed deep. I was breathless. I looked back cautiously to see if anyone had followed me. I peeked around the thick gate post, but there was no one following.

That Sikh gentleman bus driver, a familiar face but a stranger and that young conductor, were my angels that day.

Back home I wondered how he knew Grandpa and that I was his granddaughter. I wondered how he knew where I lived.

Grandpa said that since he had been a senior teacher in the Govt. School and then later had taught in a Christian Mission school, and he had retired as an Inspector of Mission Schools, there would be quite a few who would know him.

“But how did he know I am your granddaughter?”

“Well, I don’t know. Maybe, it’s because you don’t look like the locals? Besides, many know that my sons joined the Navy and moved out from here. And you don’t know Hindi or Punjabi very well. You speak Hindi with an accent and some grammatical errors,” he laughed.

“How did he know where I live?”

“That’s a strange thing. Have you ever stopped the bus at the Church gate?

“No”.

Well, then, that’s a mystery. He must have surmised that since you weren’t a Sikh, and perhaps he didn’t see you as Hindu, so that leaves Christian, yes?”

“I could be Muslim, you know?”

“No, no Muslim girl would be allowed to travel alone so far to study in an English medium school!”

True. This was in 1971 and in a small town.

Well, I call that Sikh gentleman Bus Driver my Angel for that day.

To understand why I call them angels and what possible fate I faced that day and why I consider the bus driver and the conductor my helpers put there on that day by God, you’ll have to read this news report from 2012. It was horrendous news and I remember while I read it, the memory of this day, years earlier, came back with its jitters. I imagined how things could have got out of hand. I became evermore grateful that there were two people there that day, so many years ago, to keep me safe. God uses people as angels.

Here’s a link to the news about what happened to a young girl and her friend in a moving bus. Warning: it’s horrendous and makes your stomach churn and gives you goose bumps. https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/what-is-nirbhaya-case/articleshow/72868430.cms

THE SECOND STORY, PART 2, OF AND I CALL THEM MY ANGELS WILL FOLLOW IN THE NEXT POST.

An Old Journal and a Prayer

You must be wondering what an old journal has to do with a prayer or vice versa: What does a prayer have to do with an old journal? Memories. Yes, that’s the answer. I picked up one of mine and as I flipped through the pages of notes, passages, and some long ponderings scribbled in a chicken scrawl, I came across an entry that read: Faith – My Prayer for August 2015.

As I read it, I realized that it was a prayer I needed for myself right now, right here in April 2021! With all that’s been going on, around the world, my routines and organized, daily normal life has taken one change after another and thrown me out of gear. If that were all, perhaps, I would have managed better, but that isn’t all, is it?

Along with the changes come fear, anxiety, and social distancing, which isolate you. The lockdowns lock you in. And because you are at a certain age, you are in greater danger of contracting the deadly virus. Glad for the warning, but now I have one more thing to contend with that’s ‘scary’ as well. There are many seniors the world over who might relate to this situation.

But that’s just half the story!

All’s not down in the dumps.

I am ever so grateful that I live in a city that’s been safer than many others. I am thankful that our family, here and in other places, have come through a year of these troubling times safe and in good health. Praise the Lord! But while I am on my knees in utter gratefulness for the Lord’s goodness and mercy and grace upon us, I cannot ignore that changes in my daily life have impacted me. I do have emotional issues. I am affected emotionally, mentally, and physically.

And here’s the thing: It doesn’t mean because I am weighed down that my faith is weakened. Or that I do not trust that God is with me. If anything, both have grown stronger. And that is why this prayer is what I need to speak out today. During these days, I have been feeling the way I felt when I wrote this prayer six years ago. If it brought me comfort and peace then, it brings me comfort and peace now too. I needed this booster dose of, ‘this too shall pass,’ as we walk with the SHEPHERD through virus-ridden paths and an unknown future.

So here it is. I share it in the hope that it will help someone reading it here.

The entry in my journal in a chicken scrawl! Sometimes I wonder why I write so untidily when my thoughts are racing! Guess, I’m trying to keep up.

My Prayer for the Year 2021

Help me, Lord, to stay still just where I am, at a time when I do not know which way to turn, what to do, nor what my destiny is.

I trust, O, Lord the hand that works the looms of my destiny. But often, Father, I rush to set things right, put things straight, doing MY part as you want me to but stepping over the line and doing YOUR part too. Strengthen me in my faith Lord and grant me wisdom to know that the wiser way is to wait upon you with steadfast faith.

Help me with my patience levels which, at times, run low and that I may be passive and wait. There is a purpose in all things that occur and a season for each thing; a seed to be planted; the time to sprout, and a season to bear fruit.

Help me to wait for your timing Lord.

For as I have seen in my life, time will prove that my prayers were heard. Time will prove that you want the best for me. Time will prove that prayer is powerful. Time will prove that prayer moves mountains. And when I least expect it – the mountain will move! Amen.