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 32:22–28 (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 man. 26 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
1 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. 2 “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.”
3 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?
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.