Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Mum at 81

81 years ago.  Leipzig, a big grimy city in Saxony.  A girl was born.  The storm clouds of war were on the horizon.  

81 years ago joy came to the home of Willy and his Black-forest-born wife Roesli.  They named their first and only child Christa Roesli Fischer.

81 years later we celebrated God's goodness on 11.11.18 with two of her grand children - Asha and Enoch.  Asha almost 18 mirroring her Oma's completed 81.

What a journey it has been.

Mum on her 81st birthday with her confirmation picture - when she was 13 in Leipzig with her parents at the Kreuzkirche - a Free Methodist Church in the then Marxist East Germany - where her father Willy Fischer was a lay preacher 
And the journey continues.

She has walked down some paths which were watered with tears, but in this golden part of her life there is also much beauty shining through.

The home that Mum and Dad built is nestled in the Landour hillside...  but also exists the hearts of their many sons and daughters scattered around the globe.

The meals today at Shanti Kunj glow with light, and sparks of which were shared around countless tables where Mum rustled together what best she could.  With love making up for the simplicity of the fare.

A true child of the outdoors, Mum gets deep joy from the myriad greens that make up Mussoorie.  Her youth-group outings in the Erzgebirge may be far in the past, but her current Spaziergange on the foothills of the Himalaya are an extension of her long walk of delight.

One of the key's to Mum's youthfulness that shines through her 81 year old self is a deep delight in the small beauties that are around us.   A song sung with gusto, a musical piece played by a student will bring Mum to her feet in applause and genuine appreciation for both the tune she heard as well as the effort that went into it.   Walk along the hillside with Mum and you will find her thrilled by the petite mosses which the monsoon clothes the hillside with - tiny forests at the foot of the gnarly Himalayan oaks.  Look! There are some of her mushrooms growing which she will occasionally harvest if she is sure about them.  And then there are Mum's beloved Dahliyas.

This year has been a particularly good one for Mum.  Her 'eye-brow' walk is festooned with these beauties.  And so is the pushta around Shanti Kunj.  There must be dozens and dozens of flower images in her mobile phone.  She shares her joy widely, and we have received some splendid Dalhiya photos via whatsapp here in very unHimalayan Lalitpur.  And then there are the sunsets too...

Mum with Sheba on the 'Eye-brow' path
It's been two years and a bit since Dad was translated to glory.  And Mum continues to live out the good story.

Every day she digs deep into that splendid book, and will spend a generous slice of time with our faithful Vickey discussing a passage of Scripture.  She songs of worship to her beloved Jesus and her fervent prayers have given life to many.  There are still those who come to be listened too, to be quiet, and to be prayed for.   Inwardly, we are being renewed day by day...

Occasionally someone will ask us: "What about your Mum?  Is she alone?"

I usually smile at the thought.  She misses Dad.  Of course.  But the old life of Bombay days and the open house that she held all the years of her marriage with Dad continue.   At any given time there are a long list of invited guests at Shanti Kunj - both old friends as well as new folks who are experiencing the charms of getting to know this remarkable lady for the first time.  And this is further flavoured with the odd dash of those who just show up unheralded, but always welcomed by Mum's great heart of love.

So we plunge on into this great vast mystery of life - the here-and-now collection of days - and the one eternal of which this one is just the faintest vapour in the light of the every-widening arrow of time.  All who know her will agree: Mum's done a pretty good job of using her days.

We have much to learn and are privileged to have received her love.  Nine-square is an amazing age to be - and that too with so much vim and vigour!

Our next gen Eichers are amazingly blessed to have an Oma like this.  We all dearly thank the Lord for His goodness and mercies in Mum's life.  81 years of fullness.

Enoch and Asha with their beloved Oma at Shanti Kunj on 11.11.18

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Calling all stations! Calling all stations!

Cssshhhhsssshhss sshcrtxhxshsdsff  cshsshdsffhshshs

Attention, attention!

Smxsusuerseres chrsshressshsshshshsshsssshhshdfs


It has been almost a year since the last blog post on this ye olde blogge.   

My very first post said that 'let my words be few' - but this is hardly what I had in mind.

If I can cut through the static, I would like to 'umbly start putting up the thoughts on Chai Chats again...

So hopefully tonight a small post will be put up for olde times sake.

Stay tuned!

Tuesday, 2 January 2018

Deutschland Diaries: A moveable feast

We have been moving around Germany for the last 2 weeks, and have been feasting.  Really feasting.

At every home, we are have been blessed with the very best of what the homes have to offer.  The words 'spoiled rotten' come to mind - and some of us seem to have the kgs to show for it too!

Would you like to join us on the moveable feast we are on?  Here is a sampling of what we Eichers have been wolfing down on our Deutschland Reise.

We started our gastronomic journey in Baden Wuertenberg... and were treated on second full day in Germany to Spaetzle (noodles from the Black Forest) with meat and soup.

This particular feast was eaten at the home of Oma's cousin Otto and was lovingly prepared by his wonderful wife Rose.

That evening we had a sumptuous spread of cold cuts at Otto's son Michael's home.  Enid Blyton's stories have come to life for us.  While not every evening featured the lavish spread below - we have most evenings had cheezes, cold cuts and various forms of multi-grained breads baked in the same way that generations of Germans have chewed on (very different from our Indian 'double rotis').

Spaetzle appeared a number of times on our plates.  A real treat as we wended our way through the Black Forest and other parts of Baden Wuertenberg...

Breakfast in Germany?

Probably because we are guests we have been feasting in the morning as well.

Each day has started with the Lalitpur Eichers digging in to what for us would be a full meal...  Here is a sample from Shamshad and Inge's table in a small village along the Neckar river...

The spread above is a huge difference from the normal Eicher breakfast in Lalitpur, which is a cup of tea and a marie biscuit....  In addition to all the delicacies, we have also had liberal lashings of love as well.

You can't argue with a breakfast that has fresh Black Forest pretzels and fruit yoghurt!

And between meals, Germans drink coffee.   And for them coffee is not just a hot black liquid to drink... they seem to eat lots of sweet things with it.  As least we did, as we had timed our visit very well to be part of the Christmas festivities. 

Here is a picture of the coffee table at the home of Manfred and Gerda in Mosbach.

Stollen (not 'stolen') the lovely German Christmas cake anyone?  Or perhaps some lebkuchen?

It's Luther year this year.  500 years since the 95 theses.  But also 500 years of reformation in every area.   On the walls of one of the homes we visited was this picture of Martin Luther at the table of his dear friend Phillip Melanchton.  Food, family, fellowship and 'Fuerbitte' (prayer).  Four things we received lots of during out time in Germany.  500 years later the fellowship around the table continues...

Christmas Dinner?  In Germany Christmas is celebrated as "Heiliger Abend" on the 24th of December.

And at the feast we didn't have goose... we had something very, very different.  Raclette at the table of Christian and Irene Walter in Velburg, Bavaria.   Cheese melted on small metal shovels, with a bewildering number of options to put on top - and then added to boiled potatoes (Gemany's staple food).  Heavenly.  We had never had such a meal and will remember this Christmas feast surrounded by amazing people and celebrating the amazing grace of God. 

And then the next mid-morning a lazy Christmas day brunch was enjoyed at the senior Winklers home.  Dr. Winkler spoiled us with a full German breakfast at 11 AM - and what seemed a full lunch linked in.

As we continued our journey, the gastronomic adventures also ran apace.

After 10 days in the south of Germany it was time to head East.   We drove on the amazing Germany Autobahns (a sheer joy - esp. when your speedometer rests comfortably at 130 kmph).

We drove from Bavaria to Saxony, with our first stop being Plauen - where my Grandfather is from - we were treated to 'Klose' - grated potato balls 

 In Reichenbach it was Klose and raklettes.

Then further in the Erzgebirge in Geyer we were served green "Klose" with red cabbage and goose,

 And so the Eichers have been haing fine dining all around ... with more still to come as we write from Berlin and then still have to head over to Leipzig before rounding off our journey in Frankfurt.

But besides the delicious food - it was the company that really counted.  Every table was a new adventure in getting to know family and friends, and sharing the joy of  being together over sumptuous fare!

And tonight, we were alone - the 5 Eichers - for the first time in this trip.

And so what did we make here in the Capital of Germany, in the Deutsche Kueche of our cousin (thrice removed) Ina Winkler?

Why, Hindusthani Khana of course!

Monday, 18 December 2017

Deutschland Diaries: the big hop, skip and jump to das Land meiner Mutter

We have switched worlds.

One day we were in our own familiar zone of the strange that seems ordinary to us.  Like a mobile vegetable market barely 300 meters from the most prestigious medical college and hospital in India:

Veggies being sold at Gautamnagar (near AIIMS)

And barely 24 hours later, we are in the land of the Germans - wending our way along the Neckar river and seeing quaint, lego-like villages, each with their own ancient church, its august spire pointing to the skies...

And how do we get from point A - aam aadmi ka India to point B - Bessigheim und die Umgebenung?

Well, for one with a huge amount of grace and an amazing set of blessings showered upon us.

Over the last year we have been dreaming of a Germany trip with Mum.  This winter was the window of opportunity as the kids have finished their 9th and 11th standard in school.  Enoch and Asha's next winter will be the prelude to their external exams for 10th and 12th respectively.   And Mum turned 80 this year.

It has always been a desire for us to meet our German relatives.

We had a small surprise Birthday party for her with Stefan, Neeru, Ashish, Anjali and Anita on our way out to the airport.

Oma had a cake with 8 candles on it.  One for every decade of her event-filled life.

And so with a huff and a puff she blew out all the candles...  only to see them sputter to life again.  As a good trooper she blew them all out again... and of course most of them relit to the joy of all the lil' and big 'uns in the room.

What a life this amazing lady has led - and how proud we are that she is our mother and Oma to many!
We had been planning this trip since March this year, but there were many a slip between cup and lip and several times it seems highly unlikely that we would be able to get on a jet plane and fly away.

Money was one of them.  But God provided.  As He always does - and as far as Eicher experience has been - almost always in the 11th hour.  Visa problems loomed large. And so on and so forth.  Even when we took the big, big breath and bought our flight tickets (temporary advance provided by a near and dear one) it still seemed to be science fiction.

But sci-fi was turned into science-faction as we found ourselves walking down the aisles of Indira Gandhi International airport, heading for the Gulf Air flight to wing us to Bahrain and then over to Frankfurt.

A surreal side-note was to see the victorious Australian hockey team lounging in the airport waiting to be taken back to Oz, I suppose.

They were wearing Oz uniforms but were totally ignored by everyone.  Journeymen folks who had just won a major international tune-up tournament in Odisha - but Enoch and I could not think of a single name of a current player.

If they were the Aussie cricket team, however, the scene would be totally different with fan after fan breaking in an asking for selfies to be taken...  How fickle dame fame can be.

Our goal, however was to take to the sky, and that we did, winging our way out of Delhi at 9.30 PM and over to the Gulf.  Four hours later we taxied into Bahrain and after just over 2 hours in the Kingdom of Bahrain we flew out at 1.30 AM local time toward Frankfurt.

And so landed in the land of my Mother.  27 years after I had last visited.  And a first for the rest of the Eicher clan who were accompanying Oma on this special treat.

Thanks to Barry H. and family, we had train tickets in hand and went over to the Fernbahnhof at the Frankfurt airport.   Barry wisely suggested that I take a bit of time to acclimatitize to German roads and rules and the actual car which the saints at Good Books for All in Mosbach made available for us to use for our Deutschlandreise.

And so from the bowels of the airport we were whisked with the ICE to Mannheim.

Our initial ride was uneventful and we were sitting in our connecting train for Mosbach when I asked Enoch to check out what time our train arrived at Mosbach station.  He came back to say that Mosbach was not on the list of stations.  I asked another passenger if this was the S1 train and was told no - so in a small panic we rushed off the train and our 6 big pieces of luggage... and the train then left.
the sun rises above Mannheim railway station.

On the platform was an official with the German railway.  We told us that we had been on the right train after all - that the rear portion - where we were sitting - leaving for another destinaiton some where in the trip, and the front portion moving on to Mosbach and other points south east.  He then told us that he had also been on that train and had also become confused.  Later, sitting on the next train, we were pleasantly surprised when this officer came by to examine our tickets.

The train took its winding way along the Neckar river, deeper and deeper into the German countryside.  Oohs and aahs liberally provided by yours truly.

 And finally at 11 AM we were in Mosbach.

The journey of a 1000 miles, which had begun with a single step of finally heading out from Lalitpur on the 10th of December, and which had been already fueled with prayer and love, was now starting a new phase.

We were blessed with a VW Sharan - a beautiful 6 gear diesel machine which is a joy to drive.  I was given some good driving experience and tips on German driving laws and etiquette by the patient and joyful Andreas Schaefer... and then the Eichers were off by road to Hessigheim.

And that, dear friends, is will be where we carry on with our next episode.  Please stay tuned!

Sunday, 5 November 2017

Eine kleine Deutschlandreise

I grew up travelling.

We were a wandering family.  Moved home some 12 times in my first 6 years.   It seemed like we were in perpetual motion.  I have vague memories of being with my Mum on a plane when I was 4.  I got lost in a German railway station, I remember seeing Mount Ararat and the Caspian sea from the back of an OM truck, considered moving through airports with 10 huge suitcases as absolutely normal, insisted on Burger King over the golden arches as we drove across the US in a hand-me-down car in 1977 because BK gave kids small toys.

In contrast, Asha and Enoch have been relatively stationary.  Yes they are in boarding so we do burn the Laltipur-Delhi-Dehradun-Mussoorie line not infrequently.  Yes they have traveled over to Vizag every winter to be with Amma and Appa.  Yes we did a North East tour to Manipur and Meghalaya 3 sun-spins ago....

But we have not left the country yet as a family.  Asha and Enoch have not yet sniffed the air of other lands.  Sheba's foreign-jaunt was stepping out of India into exotic Birganj, just over the Bihar/Nepal border.  So this generation of Eichers has really not travelled outside of our beloved India.

That's about to change.

Last week we got this in the mail:  our visas for Germany!

The week before we bought flight tickets - in good Eicher tradition the cheapest ones available to Frankfurt - at the time of booking it was via Bahrain (instead of in the past via Amman, via Kuwait and other cut-rate carriers).

Here is the deal:

We very much want to see Germany along with our beloved Mum / Oma.

She turns the ripe young age of 80 this week (11.11.17).   This is the time for us to meet our relatives.  I was last in Deutschland in 1990 and the time before was 1984 so there has been some water flowing under the bridge since I last met my kinsmen (and women).

Mum is an only child - and her half her generation has died.  She very much wants to meet her cousins who are still alive, since most of them are in poor health and have limited mobility.

For our kids, this is the right time as Enoch is finishing his 9th standard at the end of November and Asha her 11th.   They then have 2.5 months holiday before they gear up for their 10th and 12th standards.  Both of them thus have a school year with an external exam looming in March of 2019, so (being the good Indian parents we are) travelling next winter-hols is not in question!  Study study study!

Plus we have some lovely friends who we have always wanted to meet in their Heimatsland.

Add to this an itch to see Germany, and that too in the Luther year, and we have a pretty perfect recipe for a month cram-packed with the normal Eicher insanity of trying to do everything, all at once, and on the proverbial shoe-string.

And here is the itenary (D.v. of course):

We fly out of New Delhi on the 11th of December 2017 on Gulf Air via Bahrain to Frankfurt.  From Frankfurt we take the train to Mosbach and there pick up a vehicle with OM Germany is very, very kindly putting at our disposal.

And then the open German roads...  our Deutschland-bummel looks like this!  Almost like a Schwartzwald-pretzel.  You can see that I am already ramping up the German-words-that-you-can-stick-together-and-make-new-words-with!

We return, by flying out of Frankfurt on the 10th of Jan 2018 via Bahrain and back to Bharat.

We will be staying with wonderful families and friends en route - with Hessigheim, Stuttgart, Schwann (near Pforzheim), Wurzburg, Velburg, Schneeberg, Chemnitz, Berlin, Leipzig, Gera and finally Frankfurt being the places where 5 weary Eicher heads will lay themselves to sleep on soft German pillows.

Germans being Germans you have to plan well in advance.  Mum was at it since the beginning of this year - and in March we made ironed out a time-table.  Then Mum sent emails to each family that we were hoping to stay with (all wrote back super positive of course) and then wrote to others who we are going to meet on 'day trips.'

Our side of the deal was getting our Schengen visas (all biometrically tabulated) via tons of paper-work.  But last week they were granted and it looks like its a green signal to plow ahead!

So we have a vintage Eicher journey on our hands.  Lots of lovely people to meet.  Driving through the country-side in borrowed vehicles. And even the odd speaking engagement.  Currently we are slotted for a church in Stuttgart as well as a Jan 5th 2018 time with Mum's childhood church - the Free Methodist Church in Leipzig.  A good amount of unknowns mixed in of course.

And then there is the excitement of seeing things - the museums galore (from the Mercedes one in Stuttgart to the whole raft of museums in Berlin), going to Wittenberg and Herrenhut to learn about Luther and the Moravians, the possibility of skiing (we are there in winter after all).

But most of all, the joy of being with old friends and the discovery of our relatives.   Mum wants to be with her cousins before they pass on.  We want to know the family while she is still with us.  And we have the old "India hands" like the Meisters (my teachers from the German School in Bombay), the Alis (from OM days), the Harnisches (Woodstock vintage) and especially the rollicking Winklers (senior and juniors) whom we are spending Christmas with.

Also auf fahrt!

Tuesday, 31 October 2017

Reformation Day

Exactly half a millenia ago, to this date, a young monk went public and nailed 95 questions demanding an answer on the door of the main church in Wittenberg, Germany.

500 years have gone by and the ripples of that act continue to move through the tides of time.  So much of what we take for granted today stemmed from that tipping point of an act.

It was a specific and provocative call to reform.  A call which was specifically aimed at a practice of selling 'indulgences' - get out of jail free cards from purgatory - where the real money was being pocketed by less than holy ones in the church.

But Luther's lightning rod was not social injustice: it was a deep and growing conviction that God reveals Himself to ordinary people through the His written word in the Bible.

Biblically-driven, revelation-doused Luther ended up alienating himself out of the church he sought to reform.

Of the many areas that I am personally indebted to Herr L - the biggest is this: his translation of the Bible into the language of the people.   Though the English language Bible has arguably had the largest reach - Luther's pithy German version brought the scriptures into the hands of ordinary people - rich and poor, doctors of the law and simple servants.  Gutenbergs moveable metallic press got the word to the world.  English translations showed up later - and the Word continues to spread into language after language, often being the first book printed in newly minted scripts that help oral languages become written ones.  The ripples of vernacular presses and people exchanging ideas when they have books in their own languages continue to move outwards.

Whether we like it or not - much of culture and history today is shaped by the Bible - both by folks who have sought to live it out and also by others who have pushed back knowingly or otherwise against what is revealed in this book. 

A young monk set the ball rolling (again) 500 years ago today.

As a family Sheba and I woke up today and read the Word on our own.  As we ended the day we read it together.   And in between many of our actions and attitudes have been shaped by its living power.  Yesterday I met with a room-full of men and women from all over our area who are shaping their lives and those of others through its living power.  Simple people, losers to many, ones who know the salt of tears first-hand.  But worthy followers in Central Bharat of the risen Lord, in each one's hand a Bible, far-off fruits of the acts set in motion by a brilliant young German from humble stock.

We thank the Lord for the re-formation - and ask for a deeper work of spiritual formation and overflow in each one of our lives.

Here's looking at you Martin sir!

Friday, 6 October 2017

Words for a mother, from a daughter

Being far away from the funeral of your parent may be one of the hardest crosses to bear.   My mother tells me just how much she wished she had been with her father in his last days - and at his funeral.  But she was not able to.

When Dad died last year, Stefan and Premi sent messages which we read at the funeral.   When Amma died last week - Daisy was able to send us this message from the heart.   

The picture below was taken in June this year when our families we gathered together for a special time with Amma and Appa at their home just outside Vishakapatnam.

Daisy wrote this message which we received on 29.10.17 and was read out by Peter at Amma's funeral: 

Today, as I was teaching Microbiology to my class, I was talking to my students about seeing the unseen and shared the loss of my mother with them along with this verse:

Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory, while we do not look at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen. For the things which are seen are temporary, but the things which are not seen are eternal.” 2 Corinthians 4: 16-18

The news of Mummy’s death has left us in deep shock. The moment I heard Peter say, “Mummy has gone to be with the Lord”; I heard the Lord’s assurance: “Do not weep; she is not dead, but sleeping.” Luke 8:52

If I were to describe this beautiful woman who served God’s calling to bring me into this world, it is simply this: she was blessed with Martha’s hands and Mary’s heart.

She was a God-fearing wife and mother who not only gave us physical birth but raised each of us her children to grow in God’s word, grace and wisdom. Whenever I had answered a question in my Sunday school class, my teacher would ask how did you know that? And my usual response, I learned this from my mother.

She was used by God to sow the seeds of His living word into our lives and today as she rests from her labor; her work is producing plenty of fruit wherever God has planted us in the building of His Kingdom.

Mummy was a diligent worker both at home and outside. She worked hard for more than 30 years to provide a good education for all of us. Her skillful hands have drawn knitted, embroidered, sewn, tatted, crocheted, tended plants and did everything a set of hands can do. She used to cook for an army and I never once heard her complain.

She has been a gracious hostess to have endeared her home and hospitality to both Christians and Non-Christians. She embodied all of the attributes of a perfect mom. I had the privilege of chatting with her almost every other day for past several months. We discussed every topic under the sun.

This caring, thoughtful, hardworking, compassionate, and loving lady embodies the proverbial woman in the Bible. Along with all of my siblings and church family, I celebrate Mummy’s promotion to glory.

We named our son Shofar which means trumpet, based on this blessed promise: “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed— in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.” (1 Corinthians 15:51-52)

Daisy Savarirajan,