Sunday, 19 April 2015

Leaving on a jet plane

This blog is getting its start while driving past the salt pans outside Mulund.  The sun is beating down and evaporating sea water lying is shallow areas that have been cleared from the mangrove swamps a century ago when this intertidal 'land' had no value.   Today it is almost worth its weight in gold.   The only thing stopping it from being gobbled up by the insatiable hunger that the Mumbai real-estate, policitician (and underworld) nexus have for buildable land is the environmental regulation that says that these wetlands need to be kept from further development.  But the papers are rumbling with rumours that this too will pass...

Why am I passing by this stretch on the eastern express highway (one that Enoch and Asha ply every day in the 45 min - 1hr 15 min school trip - and then back again at the end of the day) on a Sunday morning?   Well, it's because I am in a taxi on the way to the airport - to get the only flight that gets me into Varanasi by early evening.  So I had to duck out of our Sunday worship service at 11 to start the journey that should end this evening with me at a small town in Mirzapur district of eastern Uttar Pradesh whose quaint name is Hindi for tortoise!

In between my trusty flight should stop in our national capital before winging it over to the holy city of Varanasi - and then I assume I will be driven by jeep to Tortoise-town!
Why am I going here today?  Well, that is a good question.  My links with this place and the mission hospital that has been running (and at times limping along) for over a century are fairly deep.  This is where Drs. Santhosh and Saira Mathew were working when I was at Nav Jivan Hospital in Palamu district of Bihar (now Jharkhand of course).   On one of the visits that I made there, Dr. Santhosh challenged a young male nurse called Bal Bahadur to start up community health and development work - something that grew and grew and was greatly benefitted by my brother Stefan's 2 years of service there.

One of the more vivid memories I have is of jumping off a running train at Mirzapur station.   I had taken the night train from Daltonganj along with my dear friend Dr. Tan-zu Jen.  Jen was then a medical student and was doing a rotation with me at Nav Jivan and we suddenly woke up with a start to find out that we were already at Mirzapur station.  We have to get off I shouted as we grabbed our things and headed for the door.  Then the train started moving.  We had left the platform and were snaking through the switch tracks onto what must have been the main line.  "Jump" I told Jen - and I did.  I landed with a bang on the side, with Jen following me right afterwards.  Of course people were shouting at us - and the train snaked off into the distance while we sheepishly gathered our belongings and walked back to the platform to well deserved abuses by those around us.  Only then did I realise that Jen had jumped without his glasses.

The foolishness of youth.   Please do not attempt this at home - or away from home.   Guardian angels were certainly out in full force - and stupidity which could have ended my life and that of Jen - or at least seriously maimed us - did not result in its logical outcomes.  A few bruises is what I remember on me - and I think a torn backpack.  The very name of "Mirzapur station" brings all those memories rushing back...

But today I am off to this place for a different reason.  A few months ago I agreed to help out with an evaluation of the wide-ranging transformational work that has taken place over the past decade out of the hospital.  The next 2.5 days are going to be chock-a-block with learning and immersion into what God has done - with the aim of celebrating the current and looking forward to the future.  Your prayers are much cherished as I step forward with my 2 colleagues from other organisations into this exciting experience.

Needless to say - things a home have not been quiet in the least.

The amazing blending churn of our lives continues to mix and shake us up - with all the emotions and joys and some of the sorrows and frustrations melded in as well.

I leave behind Sheba who is taking on far more than her fair share of this life we are living together.  
We had an amazing day yesterday.  In the morning Mum and Dad were with us.   Sheba took Mum to Bethany to follow up on some tests from the day before - and we realise that all of our health is in the Lord's hands - Mum needs to start on some heart medications and we will be investigating her more when they come back...

When they come back?   Well, just in case you do not know - Mum and Dad are on a small 'holiday' in Mussoorie! They arrived late last night and will be spending the next week in peace and quiet (strong plea to all hillside folks who love Dad and Mum so much - kindly call if you are even thinking of coming to Shanti Kunj - and Mum's decision on the phone will be final).   This morning they were sitting on the terrace in their long-johns (under their other clothes of course) enjoying the absolute pin drop silence and praising God as the sun came up over the beauty of the Himalaya.  Talking to Mum on the phone was just to hear her voice dripping with joy.  Thanks to all who helped make this possible.   Dad and Mum are due back on the 27th evening and then the next challenges of chemo will be faced - but for now a week of quiet beauty and restoration is in store for them.

We saw them off yesterday at 1 PM - right where I am at this very moment - at Mumbai's Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport (domestic terminus).  I am currently using the free wifi to pop this off to you and then I get into Indigo flight 176 for a hop to Delhi and a skip to Varanasi and then the jeep jump to the Tortoise-town.

And so I am leaving on a jet-plane to find out what can be done using the simplest of inputs in rural communities of a notorious place (this is where Phoolan Devi was murdered as a sitting Member of Parliament).

And to those I leave behind?  Well, Sheba is not well with a bronchitis and a long-standing bad tooth (both of our mouths can give the Kanheri caves a run for the money when it comes to cavities and deep holes).  And then the on-going stretching of caring for Yohan without me there.  And then the two sick people admitted at JSK.  One plus is that Asha and Enoch's holidays have begun so Sheba is spared the mad morning rush to get them on the 6.55 AM school bus is not a factor.  Amazingly, with all that is going on, Sheba suggested that we make it a family trip to the airport yesterday - so all 7 of us piled into our Papaya to see off Mum and Dad on their flight to Dehra Dun - and then the 5 of us went to see an IMAX film about Antartica at the Nehru Science Centre and took in the 4.30 Nehru Planetarium show too!  And to top it off, Sheba cooked us a chicken biryani when we arrived back hot and tired from the day in town.  This woman that I am married to has a heart brimming with love - and is pushing through multiple challenges with the strength of the Lord.  Sheba's love in action is costly giving love.  Only eternity will tell...

If I had my wish I would not be heading off to UP at this time, but commitments made need to be fulfilled - and so I am going to send this off right now and board the flight and zoom into the hot post-noon sky to the other side of our amazing nation.  Wonders never cease!


  1. Andi, Praying much for your dad. Haven't been able to post a msg due to some browser issues. But I have been reading silently and saying a prayer. May God strengthen and heal dad and mum. Love and prayers for Sheba as she juggles so much. May God hold and keep you all in his tender care.

  2. Thank you for the updates Andi. Glad to read them. I was off FB for Lent but it's good to get caught up on the Eicher news. Your family is in our family's thoughts.