Saturday, 21 February 2015

Enoch at 12

For us living in Maharashtra, the great warrior king Shivaji's B-day rolls around each year with a special gift for Enoch - a school holiday on his own B-day which he shares with the pride of the state on the 19th of February.

Looking at Enoch's school schedule this year in his new school, we did not see the familiar Shivaji Jayanti day off.  Since we are not the state board anymore, we thought that for the first time in his school life Enoch would be in class instead of enjoying his birthday holiday.

Lo and behold - last week we get a circular telling us that Feb 19th is a holiday.  Jubilation among the younger Eicher members.

And so we began the celebrations.   The traditional early morning getting up and praying and giving gifts (with Yohan with us for his first sibling birthday).  Then for lunch, Sharon Joseph from church took out all three for a birthday treat at a pizza place - as her 19th birthday is a day after Enoch's.  And then for dinner we rounded off the day with Enoch spurring us to a barbeque chicken and mashed potato meal - a first for the Thane Eichers.  Enoch helped in making the potato dish and the chicken was cooked in our new oven...

How time just rushes by!  Just the other day it seems, Enoch was crawling around, and we were imagining what it would be like for him to walk around the corner and give us a cup of tea.  Today we have a young man who is the same age that Jesus was when our Lord decided to spend some extra time in the temple of Jerusalem, talking with the priests and learned men of the day.

Who is this man-child that we have in our midst?

"Where is the cake?"  Yohan asked after we finished our evening meal.

Well, we had baked 3 cakes to form into 'the B-day cake' for the next evening - but there was time for a quick bit of icing work on one of them and viola:

Something happened to it - it just did not rise properly.  We are still working out the ins and outs of the new oven...

But the chocolate one came up trumps.

In the mean time - we had our b-day song for our dear Enoch.

Sheba and I have the privilege of working in the building that Enoch was born.  Every morning we have our staff prayers at 9 AM in what used to be the main operating theatre of Lok Hospital.

On Feb 19th 2003 at 2.30 PM Enoch was delivered into the world.

We had wanted a normal delivery, but he ended up in a breach position and since Asha was also a C-section child, Enoch was born in the operating theatre instead of in the birth room of the hospital.

It was my privilege to be with Sheba during both of our first 2 kids births - and over the years to be with them almost every day of their lives.

With Yohan joining our family we now have the very unfamiliar situation of a son for whom the decade plus one years of his lives are a veiled mystery to us.  Who is Yohan, what has he experienced in his life so far?  For Enoch we know.  We are only at the very most preliminary stages of discovering about Yohan's years before he became part of our family exactly 4 weeks ago today!  And perhaps we never will find out - but we know our loving Lord and Father knows this precious boy's experiences - and our prayers is that the hurts and sorrows Yohan has gone through already will be healed at the right time, and with God's help guiding us in the day-to-day joys and challenges of being a family.

Since we thought Enoch would not have a holiday on his actual birthday this year, we planned our first boys' sleepover.  Two weeks ago Enoch made invitations and gave them to his school friends and building friends.  As of 3 days before the date we had 5 boys who Enoch said would come.

On the day, we had Mark join us all the way from Dahisar - and Joshua who lives in our building also come up - but since he had an exam at 9 AM today, he had to leave at 9 PM sharp.

What we lacked in numbers, we made up with fun.   The oven (thanks Mum) was pressed into service again to produce a string of pizzas and Enoch's early B-day gift from his Oma and Opa of a game of Risk was brought out to the delight of four pre-teen boys and one 45-year-old adolescent.

Bible time and Yohan's 9 o'clock meds saw our youngest off to sleep - and then the rest of us gathered around for a late-night film.

It was a happy lot that dropped off to sleep - all except a Dad who had to finish off the cake for this year.

With Enoch being an avid follower of the English Premier League football this year - the cake this year followed a football theme again like last year's edition.  Simplicity was the name of the game and so we had a football with Enoch's favourite team (and current EPL table-toppers) Chelsea FC emblazoned in the centre.

Today dawned with promise.  Day 3 of Enoch's B-day celebrations!

It isn't often that we start our day with pizza - but the 2 that were not wolfed down last night were waiting for the morn!

At 10 AM we were joined by Asha's friend Divya and our dear dear Jim and Leena Varghese with their wonderful triple-joy-boys of Nehemiah, Elias and Daniel.

So the cake cutting bit was very much in order!

Jim and family live in far-away Ambernath - and we miss not having them as our neighbours, but they graciously drove out to be with us for the day - and what a joy to have them with us.

Besides the joy of celebrating with Enoch - our friends were eager for their three to meet our three!

After we sang our B-day song, Enoch showed his lung capacity with the ever growing number of candles...

And since we wanted to get on with our little hike that we planned for the day we stowed the cake in a plastic bin and bundled ourselves into our vehicles for the short drive to the gate of the Sanjay Gandhi National Park.

Once inside the gate we were transported to another kingdom.

A place where green reigns (ok make that brown as the monsoon ended a good 6 months ago now).  But a place where trees and plants grow and concrete is seen only in the odd boundary marker or at a distance.  Looking down at Thane as we climbed higher and higher up the hill, we again marvelled at the steady sprouting of more and more high-rises.

On one side we heard the rumble of the city below us, a clearly audible growl which we actually live in all the time - and though we do not acknowledge it much is the constant ambient music of our days.  And from the hillside the sounds that came were... a russle of leaves, the occassional twitter of a feathered friend, but mostly blessed quiet. 

When we first started coming to this lovely walk, we would have to push and shove the kids up (and do a fair amount of carrying).  Today, they were off in the distance in front of the 'big folks.'  Our calls were for them to wait up and not fall off the sides.

The forest fire tower was an obvious place that demanded a climb up.  And before you could say Jack Robinson (or whatever our desi version is... Praful Billamoria?  Mafaruz Nizammuddin? Mario Masceranas?) the lads were off to the top (with the lasses joining in of course too).

How is it that fearlessness seems to be the norm for boys under the age of 13 - and hestitant caution the name of the game for men who have seen 2 score years and more of life - and have emerged basically unscathed from the pulls and tugs of life?

My respect for the latitude of my parents' allowing me to do various outdoor things in my boyhood keeps climbing up.

And so we were up on top with a view looking down.

Now how about recruiting a lovely crew like this to man the forest watch towers!

And looking down, we could see the mothers deep in conversation.

One of the best things of a hike - even a small one - is that it allows us to talk.  To hear and listen to each other.  To share in each others' lives and we walk and stop and look.

What a joy for me to dig deep into conversation with Jim about his life and times and family - and to be able to share with him the joys and challenges we have as we suddenly grew from 4 to 5 on the 24th of January.

One of the joys of Jim and Leena is the incredibly positive way they go about things - and so as we men brought up the rear guard - with Jim carrying a brave Daniel who walked almost all the way to the top - our conversation spread far and wide as we gained in altitude...

And then, before we knew it, we were at the ridge.  It gets pretty warm when you come to mid-day in mid-Feb, so it was a blessing to sit under a tree and take a rest.  The folks who practice a seasonal agriculture in the national park had done their burning in preparation for the next monsoonal rains - and so the area was pretty much black with soot.

Onwards - along the ridge to our favourite place.

The boys had outfitted themselves with sticks by now.

Sticks are essential for hiking.

You can use them to stabilise yourself as you walk up or down a mountain trail.

You can use them as swords and other weapons as you fight imaginary foes (or each other).

You can push and prick and whack and do all the jolly things that a boy likes to do when he has a fine stick in his hand.

Needless to say - with 6 boys on hand - many a stick was used.

The top of the ridge have a number of huts which the farmers use when they sow their crops in the rains.  The kids found the temporary homes to be a good place to explore.   And the shade was welcome too - as most of the huts had a small porch and were in the shade of a mango tree.

But we still had some ground to cover.

Over the years, we have made a certain place on the hill our own. 

And to get their, we leave the fields at the top of the saddle behind, walking back up to the ridge.

We then follow the path as it straddles the top - and enters the jungle again.

The trees are not very large on top - mainly scrub bushes - but there is a magical place where the path opens up to a small clearing under a tamarind tree.

It is on the side of the hill that does not face Thane, so we do not hear the steady rumble of the town.  And the sight ahead of us is one of rolling hills and forest as far as the eye can see.

I often feel like I have entered Narnia at this point.  What with the grime of 1.8 million folks just a few hundred metres away from us - and to have this amazing beauty of creation all around us.

Having reached our special spot, we break out the blankets and spread them out in the shade.

Our young guns are sent out to gather fire-wood and kindling - and with a few rocks brought back, we have a beauty of a fire going - just right to cook up some lunch with!

Its the first time that we have brought up hot-dogs - but I think we have a weiner - oops a winner - on our hands.  The inspiration for todays lunch is Enoch - who dearly loves sausages (we only get chicken types here) and so since this was a birthday outing we put two and two together and celebrated with hot franks on a hot day.

What can you do to beat the joy of eating a picnic out in the jungle?

Some of our happiest memories as kids were the summer outings in Kodaikanal - day hikes to Leving Stream, over nighters to some shola forest, camping at Berijam lake or along one of the trout streams.  Food cooked outdoors and eaten in fresh air or under stars tastes just so very much better.  And that too when you are eating it with people you love... magical.  Better than Enid Blyton books.  Needless to say our hungry hordes gobbled down the stash we had hauled up.

And soon it was time to head back down the hill.

Jim's family and ours were swearing that we have to do this regularly - and our thoughts moved up to the mesmerizing thought of spending some of the summer in Mussoorie (though the sheer steepness of it all was enough to give Jim the shivers already).  Let's see what the summer brings.

So we found ourselves back in our home-sweet-home by mid-afternoon, thoroughly happy and dusty and ready for a bath.

Here's to our birthday boy.  As we finish our third day of celebration - we thank God for the opportunity to rejoice together - and we thank God for a wonderful son called Enoch!

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