Thursday, 30 October 2008

Himalayan Dreams

High in the Himalayan foothills lies Landour - on the outskirts of Mussoorie - and on the border of our minds.

The ever intrepid Philip B drove his mobike last week from Delhi to Mussoorie - and beyond. These are his pictures - but they are very close to our hearts.

The sheer beauty of the forest just takes your breath away.

While the human terrain is that strange admixture of the quaint...

....and the pungent.

The Landour cemetery - both quiet because of the death - whose memorials show where they were laid down - but also because of the sheer stillness of the huge deodars that bring with them the hush of greenery.

What makes Mussoorie the most special, however is our loved ones who are there. Stefan and Neeru - Ashish and baby-to-come just visited Mum and Premi during this week. Phil snapped this shot a couple of days ago while at the top of the hill with them.

Thanks Phil for continuing your journey - and weaving us into it.

Peace be on our biker friend!


She is bleeding. For a month now. The govt. hospital has done nothing about it.

She is alone. Her husband died. Her in-laws have forbidden her from visiting their home.

Her parents died 2 years ago. 3 months apart. From bird-flu. Of all things - bird-flu.

Her sister survives - but married and far away in another state.

She has HIV. So do her 2 children.


She is the face of HIV in India. One of the many hidden faces that are all around us.


A tree frog and a cat-eyed tree snake go for it. Apparently the battle went on for hours with neither getting the upper hand.

Don't we see that so often in our midst. Especially among people who love each other the most - and who have invested themselves in each other so much. Wounds from a loved one hurt far, far deeper than anything from someone on the outside.

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don't they come from your desires that battle within you? James 4.1

But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness. James 3.17-18

Wednesday, 29 October 2008

A prayer by a new friend

After a distressing day with people that I love but who seem intractably at each others throats - I came back to our monthly Positive Friends Support group meeting.

A number of our friends got up and shared things. Some short, some longer.

One thin man who I had not met before also got up and said a few things in Marathi before sitting down.

Later I had the opportunity to talk with him some more. He is not married and lives alone with his mother. He has HIV and is being treated for TB. He was very thin.

When it came time to pray - I had an opportunity to pray for him. And he for me. As he prayed, I could feel the bones of his back sticking out into my hand. It was such an honour to have this man pray for my back and for healing.

Our time on this planet is very short. Lets make the most, the very most of it.

Tuesday, 28 October 2008


Rolf Gomez taught me the magical game when I was 12. Sitting at a desk in the side room at Nana Chowk we battled away on the 64 squares. Where is Rolf today? He has disappeared from our lives.

Far away in the sleepy once-German-capital of Bonn two men are slugging it out with their minds. Vishwanathan Anand - our reigning world chess champion is playing Vladmir Kramnik for the title. Anand was up 6 games to 3 yesterday - needing only a draw in the last 3 matches to tie up the match. One went by him in yesterday's match - Kramnik managed his first win.

I had to think back to 1995. While studying at Yale and sharing an apartment with Prof. David Lumsdaine and Greg Jackson. Anand had come to New York to challenge Gary Kasparov in the PCA world championship (the only one that mattered then - because GK was so far above anyone in the chess world). The match was played in the Twin Towers of the World Trade Centre. The first 8 games were draws. Then Anand broke through. I remember reading the next days New York Times with awe. The lion had awoken in Kasparov and he mauled his way back to contention - winning 3 more matches and taking the championship away with him.

My house-mate, David Lumsdaine, recreated some of the matches on our chess board - following the minds of the masters.

I have think about those New Haven days while Anand does his thing in Bonn. Go Vishi!

Sunday, 26 October 2008

Meds of life

Five years ago, with a lot of fear and trembling, we started our first HIV positive friend on anti-retroviral therapy (ART) drugs. Tarun was a boy of 11 at the time. He repeatedly fell sick. In those days Tarun would be brought by his grandmther to the clinic every 2 weeks with some complaint.

Today Tarun is just about to turn 17 and take his 10th standard exams in March! His CD4 count has risen - showing that his immune system is functioning again. Tarun is able to life life pretty much like most other boys of his age.

The difference (along with prayer) has been the anti-retroviral medications that he has been taking faithfully - every day - over the last 5 years.

We are blessed to be in a country where the government is providing the ART medications free. While there are real challenges in the government set up where these medictions are given - we also see so much impact on the lives of people with HIV like Tarun.

At JSK we are currently monitoring and following up about 100 people who are getting their ART meds from the goverment ART centres. An informal audit last year showed that we had been able to get over 90% of the people eligible for ART into the system and onto the drugs.

Its a challenge for anyone to start on a therapy that has to be taken life-long - but it has and is making the difference between life and death for so many.

The tragedy is that many do not access the medications because they are afraid of others finding out their HIV status.

So many want the 'miracle cure' - a one-shot course of medication that will take the virus away forever. The suburban railway compartments are full of advertisements that promise a cure from AIDS. Always for a sum - and never a way to track down the charlatans and quacks behind these claims.

Some start on the meds but find it hard to continue because side-effects. Others are in precarious situations and are not able to be regular with their medications. The challenge of maintaining the 95% adherence needed for the drugs to do their thing is immense.

This is one place where we can come along side our friends with HIV. To help encourage men and women with HIV to monitor the disease progression in their lives - and start the ART meds at the right time. To prepare them to be faithful to taking the meds for them to really be effective. To encourage them to keep on taking them if minor side-effects crop up. To guide them to medical advice should major side-effects occur. To be there - as friends and guides, to listen, share and pray - being alongside to make sure the meds are taken - and our friends' immunities are being restored.

We are still a long way from universal access to ART meds - especially in the rural parts of our country = but what a tremendous step forward from where we were 5 years ago.

These meds have brought life to many. May they bring life to many more!

Eicher creche

We have been blessed with 2 kids coming to our house this week. Mrs. Maninder's two little daughter have been spending their mornings with us as she helps to clean at the JSK centre. Sheba is here till 11 in the morning - and then Saroj (who helps us in the home in the mornings) looks after them and our twosome till 1 PM.

On a recent morning Sheba took the 4 down to the park in our building society. It is amazing how beautiful these kids are. So precious and valuable. And to think that they were living next to a garbage heap 2.5 years ago....

Saroj brought something recently that made Asha's heart glad - a mehendi set. She helped put in on Asha's left arm...
much to her delight! We have a pretty mehendi-walli in our midst now!

Holidays in the Eicher household

Diwali hols in Mumbai town mean 3 weeks - that's right - 3 weeks of time off school (fees still need to be paid for that time though, but that's another story).

Asha and Enoch are enjoying their time off with one week already behind them.

Enoch has some serious lego work on hand. Early in the morning, Sheba and I have been reading our Bibles, and then we hear a sound from the kids room. Clink, clink, shuffle - Enoch is up - and has already started on the lego blocks.

Besides his artistic patterns Enoch and I have been working on a project inspired by the recent launching of the Chandrayaan moon-rocket.
I have to admit that having Enoch play with our childhood lego set is a real thrill (thanks Mum and Dad for faithfully preserving the treasure trove) and yours trully has really enjoyed building again after a gap of a quarter century!

The triumphant builders with their creation!

Enoch and the rocket launching site. In the mean-time, Asha has jumped deep into books. She just loves to read and has just finished "Sunshine Country" by Margaret Roy which she really enjoyed.
As a family we are reading Dr. Tom Hale's classic Don't Let the Goats Eat the Loquat Trees. His son Chris Hale told me about an eon ago that the awkward title was insisted on by the publisher. The book is well worth the read - and we as a family are visiting Nepal in the early 70s through its pages.

Two more weeks of Diwali hols are upon us. Church camp next week - Mum and Dad for a few days - the time is already flying!

Conversation with a vegetable vendor

We live in a hidden geography of AIDS.

Sheba talked to the vegetable vendor at corner between our housing complex and the JSK centre.

He brought up a distant relative of his.

How distant - how close a relative we have never found out. Close enough for the vegetable seller to talk to us about him. Distant enough for him not to care.

The man in question is dead.

We looked after him - and his wife and two daughters while they were here. All 4 had HIV.

His wife is dead.

His one daughter is dead.

Another one seems to be still alive. In the village.

They are the disappeared. While they lived in a small shanty here - they were anonymous - unknowns.

He was a TB patient. As was she. We knew them for a season. Make that two.

After some time of misery here - they decided to go back to the village.

We doubted they would come back alive.

They didn't.


Should we have forced them to give up their children for adoption before they left? Should we have tried to put them in a hospice? Why did the family not see the kind of change of heart and mind that we had hoped for?

There are many questions - many more than we will have answers for in the here-and-now at least.

I think back to a time when we first met her - it was at a festival time - similar to the crackers and rockets going off today. The families who are bursting crackers tonight are bursting more than this now almost erased family would have used for food in a month.


All the vegetable vendor has to say about his relatives is that they are dead. And the one little girl with HIV is still alive - but sick. No more. More customers are there - he goes on selling his vegetables from the little hand-cart, at the corner of the junction.

Friday, 24 October 2008

Choosing a President - US-style

It seems an ice-age ago that I wrote with wonder about the US presidential election process - and that was about the primaries way back in February!

By the time the next cricket match with Australia is over, the United-Statesians will have elected their next president.

The mind boggles at much of the hoopla surrounding these elections (when did they start anyway - sometime back in 2005 I think...). The Obama campaign raising $150 million in a month. Mrs. Palin getting $150,000 worth of clothes from her party. The relentless tracking of voter intent / opinion. The total commodification of the candidates (see mints above) - all the way to the selling of memories in the form of memoirs...

And yet.

In our dear country of India - where is there a young political leader - who is not the son, daughter, nephew etc. of someone who has already made it into politics? Navin Jindal maybe the only one that comes to mind - but he is hardly a national figure. Hats off to the Americans for giving fresh blood a shot (and old blood too!).

In our dear country of India - where is there any transparency at all about how political parties are funded (forget parties - most of it anyway goes directly to the leaders themselves). I may quibble with Mr. Obamas managers about why they need $150 million in a month - and whether it might be better spent in other ways - but I am amazed to see them being able to indentify where every dollar comes from - and show that the average donation was $86 (still way more than the monthly salary of most of the people I know around here - but that is another story for another day).

In our dear country of India we may cringe at some of the things that the prospective leaders of the United States chose to debate about - but at least they are talking - and people are listening - and debating and writing - the blog output alone should keep Apple / Microsoft and other sundry computer related business in the black for a long time. Where do we have anything similar here?

I don't think that we will have "Advani mints" vs "Peppermints for Manmohan" soon (though for Lalu Prasad Yadav we never know) and thats fine. But how about real responses and debate on the issues at hand? We are facing multiple crises - but our leadership keeps telling us that everything is under control. There is so much that we can do as a nation - if those who have been placed in power would only be accountable. The United-Statesians are hardly perfect - but at least you sense that the process of choosing their leaders is a genuine one.

Two African Tales

One of the best uses of a Macbook? As a night light to read in bed while lying next to your love!

I finished a slim story by Patricia St.John last night. I Needed a Neighbour tells the story of a little girl who survives starvation and war in East Africa.

A few months ago I saw a 'serious' Hollywood take on child warriors and illegal diamonds in West Africa. Blood Diamond had lots. Both of blood and the diamond in question.

The contrast between the two takes could not be more stark. St.John's book has death a plenty. But there are real tears. Blood Diamond has heaps of bodies - but the heroes walk away unscathed - never have to eat or defecate - and end up saving the world with plenty of melodrama. There is gore aplenty in Blood Diamond - it opens with arms being hacked off by drug crazed militias - but at the end of the film you are numbed - and plenty of the bad guys get knocked off by the gun-savvy and ruthless hero pair.

It seems to even compare the two visions of tragedy - other than this - they are fundamentally different in their basic beliefs and understanding of the horror around us.

St.John's book offers no easy reasons for the horrible decimation that took place during the Haile Mengistu years in Ethiopia and southern Sudan (no names of countries are given - but you can put the pieces together). Rather it follows a small family that becomes smaller, before finding some solace in finding each other again. But most of all - it is grounded in an escatology of hope - one that has Christ binding the wounds in the here and now - as small and insignificant as it may seem at times.

Blood Diamond uses the cynical term "TIA" - this is Africa - to try and give a hard-nosed view of what is reality. The good - if any - is a mystical leap into the dark. At the end of the slog, the simple fisherman is able to testify before important looking UN-types and a convention banning 'blood-diamonds' comes into force. After the fisherman has killed plenty of folks on his way across the landscape - and his Afrikaner foe/friend has outdone him - but conveniently died a romantic heroic death in the dying sun of technicolour.

What value does a single life hold? What do we do about the violence all around us? What do we do about the relentless crushing injustice?

We certainly do not break into a mercenary camp - steal sat phones and uzis and head off to find a huge diamond - and slaughter whoever comes in the way.

A day will come when every act will be brought to justice. When every thought and deed will be weighed before the Great White Throne.

Quayamat ka Din - the Day of Justice is just a heart-beat away for many.

Justice may seem far - given the often dreary history of humankind's brutality.

But the future is no hostage to the past. As horrible as the wheels of history have ground so far.
Looking back all we seem to see is a sea of cruelty.

We know that a day will come when in the light of eternity - all the thousands of years lived so far will be just a breath. A moment. A blink of an eye.

In the new world - our history will be written in a very different way. The simple 'small people' that St.John sketches in her book - will be given the pride of place for their love, care, patience and suffering in the face of intolerable evil. Where will your name be in this new history of the ages?

Strawberry Fields Forever

He went to Mahableshwar. Where his family is from. Where his brother lives.

It was before the festival. He had become a bit better.

He never came back.

When it was time to return to Thane for the kids schooling - they came with their mother.

He stayed with his brother. Then she returned to look after him.

He died last week.

Another quiet AIDS death. No hoopla. Far away. Near the strawberry fields of Mahableshwar.

A silent death.

And so now we have 2 more with HIV in the family. His wife - who has returned - and one of the children.

Outside their small rented room the cars and autorickshaws whiz by. Small boys are now bursting crackers as another festive season starts.

Two children are without a father. Their mother does not have a husband anymore.

HIV continues to be a silent catastrophe - taking its people quietly - with minimum of fuss.

The disappeared.

Thursday, 23 October 2008

Lest we forget

This off the BBC website: An Indian Christian villager at a relief camp in the eastern state of Orissa after her house was torched and her son burned alive by Hindu hardliners.

I the past few weeks since the 'situation' in Orissa has 'calmed down' we have been treated to a steady stream of reports that seek to down-play and 'explain' what went on and is going on in Orissa.

'Ancient animosity' - 'reactions against mass conversions' - 'scheduled tribes vs. scheduled castes' - all sorts of reasons given to make things seem absolutely normal as can be.

Take a look at this woman's face.

It is a shame that our dear country harbours so much hatred. To think of what our freedom fighters fought for - and to look at the shameful way our law-givers and law-enforcement agencies have consistently blamed the victims while the perpetrators continue to roam freely.

Fact is that we are reaping the grim consequence of hundreds and hundreds of incidents that are going on all the time - and which are swept under the carpet. A commission here by a retired judge - another inquiry there - but no one ever conclusively punished - no restitution - no reconciliation in sight.

Big drugs for a small woman

Some of our gentle readers may recall a post in May about multidrug resistant TB.

Tomorrow marks a new phase in the life of the courageous Mrs. Candy.

A widow. A destitute. A professional beggar. A lady with HIV. A person who has TB gnawing away inside her and still is sputum positive after the full course of supervised TB treatment.

We have often wondered what is the point of helping out at all.

Our wonderings are cut short by the smile that splits the face of this dear woman. Very much made in the image of God, this brave lady continues to live. Its a hidden life that most gloss over - one of squalor and sickness. She is back to collecting and sorting garbage on days when she is able to be out and about a bit.

The full impact of her life and love for God will only be known in the history books of eternity.

In the meantime, a small but unexpected miracle seems to be taking place.

Faced with the ruinous cost of 'second line TB treatment' (which the govt. is supposed to give, but really doesn't have the funds to give and so only gives a portion of), we just continued her on the regular TB treatment.

She has survived till now.

Then early this week we talked to folks from Medicines Sans Frontiers about another case. Sheba just casually asked them if they would be willing to help out with Mrs. Candy's medication. She was expecting a cold no - or indifference at best.

Instead they said that they would be very willing to see what they can do.

What we could hardly believe would happen - seems to be unfolding before our very eyes. Oh we of little faith...

Mrs. Candy, her sister, and our JSK staff member Giri go over to the MSF clinic tomorrow.

We are hoping that this medication will be strong enough and quick enough to knock out the TB bacteria in Mrs. Candy (and also protect others from getting what she has) before the TB knocks out Mrs. Candy.

These are small steps for a brave woman - and very big drugs for a small woman to take.


A small sigh of relief for the YAA Fest 08

Tonight was to be our make or break meeting.

After a good 4 months of searching for venues in the central Mumbai area - where our dear friends seemed to visit every school and college possible - it all looked like a dead-end.

We were getting ready to tell our friends who have been faithfully coming to help us organise the Youth Against AIDS Fest on Dec. 6th: "Thanks for the hard work - but we won't be having a Fest this year after all."

A series of places were lined up - and based on verbal 'OKs' we had even started a limited amount of publicity - and then they folded - each one of them.

The latest was just 5 days ago.

It seemed impossible. We prayed. Your will be done.

On Tuesday morning a call was made.

On Wednesday two of our staff paid a visit to do an initial recce and meeting.

Today we met with the Conference Superintendent. All decks are cleared. The Free Methodist Church has agreed to host the YAA Fest 08 in their Andheri Church premises. Our staff just got back from Andheri with the permission letter in hand.

We are totally thrilled. The organising meeting - the one which was to be our 'last meeting' will start in 1.5 hours. We have lots to plan for - Say YAA to Truth! is underway at last!

Wednesday, 22 October 2008

Walking dead

The lady came today to meet Sheba at the clinic.

She was 21. She has been a widow for almost a year now. She came with her mother in law.

This lady is HIV positive. Her husband died of AIDS.

This lady married a decade ago.

You do the math at how young this lady was when she got married.

We sent a rocket to the moon today.

We still live in an age of darkness.

Both mother-in-law and daughter have the same common basic thought - what hope is there now that this young woman is a widow.

Take me to the moon

Broadcast No. 25 - by Dan Baltzer - see

We were walking down the street near where we lived 4 years ago. Asha was 2 and was being carried on my shoulders. It was evening and we could see the moon.

"I want to go to the moon" she said.

India made her first big step there today.

The Chandrayaan 1 rocket left for a date with our loving satellite and plans to drop a probe onto the very surface of our lunar neighbour.

The glory of it all got me thinking back to when I would read old Popular Science mags from the 60s that were accumulated at the Alliance Library at Akola. Space travel was so totally optimistic - and hinted at worlds unknown.

Today we see our great nation sending an indigenously crafted vehicle off into space.

At the same time, the reaction of the man in the street varies. From pride in technological achievement and a feeling that we have arrived in the world - to a question of what the whole point of the exercise is when vegetable prices are so high.

We straddle this huge continent of a country - where on a single day the lives of over a billion people is lived out in so many ways. A bomb went off in Imphal - 17 people dead - but will probably be buried in page 6 of tomorrow's paper. Our cricket team had a historic test win over Australia. A young political leader in search of a mass movement was arrested yesterday - and has brought Mumbai to a stand-still. And in the middle of all of this millions upon millions continue their day to day lives.

Hats off to the scientists. Its not a question of whether we should be building rockets or not. We clearly should. Our 60 plus years of independence have shown that poverty is not going to dissappear because we have not had plans to eradicate it. The rot on that front is a lot deeper. But it would be a crying shame if our nation were only to ruminate on the failures of the past (and present). We have too much energy, too many minds, too many opportunites - and too vast a sea of humanity to be linked into any single strand of development.

Let not only a thousand flowers bloom - but a million. Oh that we could see excellence in all areas of our lived experience, instead of the few streams that glisten (its no coincidence that our beloved ex-president Dr. Abdul Kalam was a rocket scientist).

Art for example. Below are some works in progress by Daniel Baltzer - one fo my brother's colleagues and friends. Would that we would see a thousand - no a million canvasses.

The list goes on and on.

The moon is a picture of a target of excellence. To get there we need lots of folks working together.

I want to go to the moon. And I want my whole country - 1 billion plus - warts, beauty spots and all - to come with me.

Tuesday, 21 October 2008

Life in a time of Bandh

Our junior rabble-rouser was arrested today. And the city shut down. All 20 million folks in greater Mumbai. No autos and taxis on the streets. Skeletal bus services. All shops shuttered.

This is the fear that we live in these days. Our rowdies have total control What protection can the government give to the shop owner who wants to sell his wares? If his shutters are open, a couple of motor-cycle riding youths will show up, shout filthy abuses at time and throw stones. We saw it when last year when junior Hitler-wannabe was threatened with arrest. This morning was the real deal.

But HIV does not stop and wait for political ripples – big or small.

This afternoon a child was born A special precious child.

The parents are both HIV positive. 1.5 years ago they lost a child just before the delivery date. They were devastated. We counselled, prayed and wept with them.

Over the course of this pregnancy we have prayed with Mr. and Mrs. Shristhi. The due date was Oct. 18th. The baby was born this afternoon in the middle of the ‘bandh’.

Alas – life seems very cruel at times. The child has not cried. They are in the hospital as we speak. Will he be put on a ventilator? Who will listen to the prayers of this family tonight?

Daniel is with them now. He has been with them all day. Our prayers are with this dear family as the darkness of the night falls on our town.


p.s. 9 .10 P.M.
We just got a call from the father. The baby is fine and with his mother in the hospital. The father has gone home to get some cloths for it and start it on feed as they do not want to transmit HIV to the child through the mothers milk.

The night has fallen - but it has fallen on answered prayers - Baby Shrishti has come into this world - borne on prayers...

Mrs. Maninder’s home coming

Its been two years since Mrs. Maninder left her filthy hovel beside the garbage dump. She took the journey with her new born daughter and a 2 year old with a cleft palate.

In the mean time reconstructive surgery took place on her elder daughter. A lot of love later they have returned to Thane.

Now Mrs. Maninder is home – to a new home that members of a local church have prepared for her. As she is transitions into a new life and a new neighbourhood she is taking her first steps of helping herself and looking after her family.

She walks to work with her 2 kids. Mrs. Maninder is currently working ½ day helping to clean at the JSK centre. She then drops them off at our house where Asha and Enoch are on holiday. We have become a defacto mini-creche. At the end of the diwali holidays we are hoping that a local church day-care will take the elder daughter in. Our prayer is that God will open up doors for the younger girl too.

The next steps?

Mrs. Maninder hopes to support herself through tailoring. We are hoping she will gradually be able to take a larger share of the family finances on her own. In the mean-time, however, the church is helping directly with food care, house rent and some top-up cash for household needs. All of this out of the desire to be true to James 1.27 – to look after widows and orphans in their distress.

We are being stretched as a fellowship as we take this step – and have a long way to go too.

Beyond financial help, we have to help nurture Mrs. Maninder, and help her as she mothers and brings up her daughters.

The most precious thing to give is time. The hardest thing for any of us is to get out of our house and go and meet others.

The road ahead is not easy – but at the same time so full of opportunities for God to change our hard, lethargic and usually ungrateful hearts…

Bed ridden

Ps. 119.18 It was good for me to be afflicted, so that I might learn your decrees.

The last 3 days have seen a return of an old companion of mine – deep pain down my back. It is frustrating to be immobilised again – and especially to see Sheba having to do so much work on my behalf.

It is also hard because there is so much that needs to be done at JSK – and each day is precious.

I am however, reminded of a piece of wisdom that Stanley Nelson shared a few months ago. Talking about the importance of work – and of rest – he pointed out that if we do not take our rest on time – God will give it to us all at once – and we will be experiencing it on the hospital bed instead of the easy chair. How true.

Modern Miracles

I have been reading about Jesus’ life and ministry. Amazing stuff. Wherever he went – people were healed, released, told the good news of the Kingdom.

But even then his disciples asked him to ‘increase their faith’.

On Saturday I was in town at a meeting. Sheba was due to come home when a person came saying that someone was very sick and could she come. She made arrangements for someone to look after Asha and Enoch and went to this home.

At the room Sheba found a man in his mid 30s who asked her to end his life. He and his wife were HIV positive. He had suffered a partial paralysis. His fingers and toes looked gangrenous.
He was in terrible pain.

It was a totally hopeless situation.

Just that morning Sheba had been reading about how Jesus had come down from the mountain and found his disciples unable to cast out a demon. “Wicked and perverse generation” he called them for their unbelief. Sheba had been thinking how horrible it was that we do not believe. Its not just a sad part of the human condition, but something really wrong. Something that we have to plead with God to change us in.

Now here was the situation that demanded faith.

Sheba told the man that she would certainly not give him medicine to die. She told him that she did not have any miracle medicine either to change all his suffering instantly. But she did tell him about Jesus – who loved him and who cared for him. She prayed for the man and asked him to pray directly to Jesus.

“Give me a photo so I can pray to him” said the man.

“Jesus said that we should not worship any image” replied Sheba “but in your mind you can think of the brightest light possible, because we know that Jesus is the true light and he is the light of lights. You can also remember his nail-pierced hands which he stretched out for you and me.”

Our staff went the next day – on their own off day – to pray for him.

On Monday in the daily staff review Sheba heard the amazing news that the man’s pain had totally gone since the prayer – and that he was even able to start moving his leg again a bit.

Modern miracles. We must, we absolutely must have faith. Life is too short not to.

Conversion conversation

Does the name Anand Mahadevan mean anything to you? He is an editor for a prominent Business Magazine.

A rather clumsy literal translation of his name is “Joy Great-God.”

That pretty much sums up a lot about who he is at this point. Read his story here.

Saturday, 18 October 2008

Asha's finger

A little infection on your right index finger - can either go away - or just progressively get worse.

In Asha's case it was the latter.

And that too during her last week of her term exams.

We were hoping and praying that the finger would heal on its own. But it didn't. And as the colour turned yellow with pus we knew we had to drain it.

Off to Dr. Stephen. He took a look and tried to persuade Asha to have the minor operation done that morning. Asha preferred to put it off to the evening. So after she came home from her test Wed., we trooped over to Lok Hospital for the procedure.

Asha screamed when the 2 pain killing injections were given at the base of her finger. But was brave during the actual cutting. And cut Stephen did. As a surgeon the idea is to cut out all that should not be there.

It left Asha with a very very painful finger. That night was a difficult one as it really hurt our little girl.

But Asha is a brave one too. She has cheerfully finished her last two days of the exams (using her ring-finger and thumb to write) and is on the mend. The wound was dressed this morning by Sheba and Marise at JSK and shows signs of progress.

How often there are things in our own lives that we know are rotten - and causing real harm. But when it comes to cutting them out - we do the minimum possible. We don't want Asha to lose her finger - so though it hurts us to see so much cut - we know it has to be. It hurts, but it is for her good - and her finger is healing. How much more in our inner us do we need such surgeries to be done...

Two house-warmings in a day

Our church had two house warmings today.

One was to welcome Mrs. Maninder to Thane. She has been staying for 2 years in a wonderful home run by Oasis India Trust where she and her two daughters (now 4 and 2) were loved and cared for. During this time her older daugther Bina had a surgery done on her cleft palate - and Mrs. Maninder found peace in following Jesus too.

Now it was time for her to come back - and that she did today. Our church members have rented a room for her. Put the deposit down. Got things together for her. Bought utensils and buckets and filled the shelf with food and tea and sugar. Put up a fan, made curtains. Waited for her and then when she came, took her to her new home and prayed for her.

We are so glad for God's people and their great love for others. I must admit that we had some times of really wondering what would happen for Mrs. Maninder - but the church folk have come through - and really want to continue to bless this dear woman.


Same day. A number of the same people. A very different world.

We are in the sleek new flat of a family from church. New means sharp-shiny new. A dedication service is in progress. Bro Stanley is sharing from the Bible about how God blesses Abraham - and how Abraham in turn is a blessing to all the nations - especially through the Lord Jesus.

A few hours earlier - we were praying in a slum. Now we are on the 14th floor of luxury. The same people. The same God.

Its hard not to be bowled over by the outside appearances. But the rub of the matter is this. Everything we experience is a blessing. The sun. The air we breathe. The sweet sleep at night. The waking up in our own bed (and not in a hospital or prison). The fact we wake up at all. Stanley pointed out that all these blessings are from God - because of His nature - namely to be gracious to us all. What a leveller that is.

To whom much is given - much is expected says the good book. Each one of us has the challenge of knowing what to do with our lives - and with our wallets. We may have much or little - but the key is our generosity - and whether we are trully and madly loving Jesus at the core of who we are.

Its much easier for me to feel comfortable with the poor. But who am I to call the shots? Jesus certainly didn't spend all his time with the poor - in fact his choice of friends included the politicians and film stars of his day. The key is Jesus' unswerving devotion to Father God. His last hours of prayer in the garden are a summary of his whole life: "Not my will, but yours be done."

One day every knee shall confess you are Lord, one day every knee shall bow....

Kids day out!

One of the many wonderful things about growing up in OM were the AICs (All India Conferences). To the uninitiated: a time when all the OM folks in India would get together for refreshment and renewal. For us kids: masti-unlimited!

We saw some of this during the recent EMFI conference. Asha and Enoch had not only a ball - they had balls of every shape and size - and added to the mix a daily cousin time with either Ashish or Joanna!

Here is some of the action as it happened:After being picked up from the station by Neeru and Ashish, we had lunch with Sarah, Victor and Joanna. Momos! (not seen in this picture of two hungry cousins).

Neeru left Ashish with us, who bravely journeyed out with us to Gurgaon and beyond. The bus we were in could have easily been used to grill tandoori chicken... All the kids were totally game though - no complaints at all!

Once we got to the conference site - friends galore! New and old - all ages and sizes!

Ashish had gone back with Stefan the first night, but made a reappearance on the third day. In this shot he decided that he needed to head off from the group.
And join his doting Dad!

In this picture 3 worlds come together (l to r) Vanessa Varkey from Church in Mumbai - Angel Tirkey who was a baby with Asha in Tumbagarah - Jharkhand, and Grace Matthew who lives in Borivali where her father runs a Hospital with our Asha!

And then the inevitable saying good-bye. The only hard part of it all. When will we not have to deal with the pain of parting?

what is the solution? ... not to fade away, no, no, to live each day by day, yeah....
(from the Cloth of Many Colours - by the Flying Carpets)

Thinking history - talking life

Dr. Chris Steyn. S. African - naturalised Dutchman - citizen of the world - citizen of the Kingdom.

What a blessing to hear wisdom speak.

Chris was a key speaker at the EMFI national conference we attended early this month.

He started his series of sessions with a personal account of how he had just discovered that his anscetors in S. Africa were involved with slave transport and slave trading.

And that the slaves were from India.

He shared how much this had anguished him - esp. as he found out just before coming to India to speak at the conference - an engagement I found out later that Chris had made 2 years ago.

And then, without a big fanfare, he humbly asked forgiveness for the sins of his ancestors. No ifs and buts - a straight-forward anguished request for forgiveness. He kneeled down in front of the 300 odd delegates and prayed to God. And then asked someone to pray for him. Dr. Sam David ably did that.

We were then blessed to hear Chris share the heart of what it means to be a health care worker who places Christ first and foremost.

At the end of the time, Chris had another surprise for us. We had been debating ethical challenges in medicine - and had on the previous day talked about the issue of a mother finding out that her child is anencephalous (i.e. has been formed in the womb without a head). CMC Vellore it seems has thought through the issue and has agreed that abortions can be carried on on such children as they are deemed to be unviable (I may be mixing up the exact wordings - but that is the basic thrust of the matter).

Chris talked about a nephew of his called Arnoldus. He said that this nephew had been born and had died shortly after birth. Arnoldus was anencephalic. His mother - Chris's sister - was a trained nurse and knew of her son's condition. Against the advice of many in the medical fraternity, she had carried the child to term. She gave birth to her son - they gave him the name Arnoldus - she cared for him till he died. The family buried the body. They grieved and mourned.

But here it comes: Chris said that he is looking forward to meeting his nephew at the resurrection. Whole. Made in the new image that will last forever. He knows his sister did the right thing - and that Arnoldus appreciated his mother who did all she could for him. For them "medical termination of pregnancy" was firmly and lovingly rejected.

"You do not solve a tragedy - by willfully committing another one."

All of this - and so much else was told with such humility and grace. We got a glimpse of what a Christ-centered practice can be like.

Sleep well sweet prince...

Friday, 17 October 2008


Life has been pretty blender-fast in the last 3 weeks - hence a relative silence from our part.

To recap:

Gurgaon trip - Oct 1-5 - WOW!
A super time as a family with 300 odd doctors and medical students (and spouses - like Andi is). What a challenge - we are so blessed to be living in a time with some of the most wonderful folk around.

Bhusaval trip - Oct 9-12 - Whew!
Andi and 5 others from JSK went to do a 4 day training in HIV care for churches in this small railway town 8 hours by train from here. A very stimulating and challenging experience.

Week in Thane unfurling and uncurling. Meow?
Sorting through our experiences - dealing with other work that has piled up - preparing for Mrs. Maninders integration - dealing with staff issues - Asha's term exams - church meetings - preparing for the YAA festival and the Philip Yancey meeting in Nov - doing stuff at home - Asha's finger minor operation - life and love continue at an amazing pace...

We are dealing with multiple issues at different levels - and yet all of these worlds and experiences are filtered through us.

The next few posts will try and make some heads or tails out of what is going on. Thanks for your patience!

Wednesday, 15 October 2008

Cutting chai views of the world

Two very different but quite remarkable blogs:

John Forbes adventures continue - its more than fiction - to see how the Lord blesses a man used by Him... click: here - or log onto -

Robert Stephens - a young architect working in Mumbai and points East just recovered from Dengue fever - gives an on-going view of his love for and discovery of India through his blog... click: here - or log onto:

Monday, 6 October 2008

A whirlwind tour...

How many ways is it possible to travel by?

We went up to national conference of the Evangelical Medical Fellowship of India in Gurgaon 10 days ago (seems like a lifetime, an eon ago now...). Started off with an autorickshaw (2 actually) from Thane to Borivali Rlwy station. Then a train to Delhi. Then being picked up the next morning in a car by our lovely sister Neeru along with Stefan and her rambunctious son Ashish. Later in the afternoon, another auto to New Delhi railway station. Then a longish walk and an long hot bake in a bus while we waited for others...
Ashish was there with us for the journey - to get some valuable 'cousin time' with Asha and Enoch. It was a joy to have the little lad along - what a charmer!

After we were sauteed and baked enough to be garnished with coriander leaves and lemon and served as Tandoori Chicken, the bus finally juddered off through urban Delhi and out towards the conference site - Grace Bible College. It proved not to be in Gurgaon as we had thought, but way out in the Harayana countryside. Way out! A bumpy 3 hours later we pulled into the amazingly green campus of the Bible College as the sun was setting...

A wonderful 3 days were spent there - and then it was time to retrace our steps.

This time we saw the countryside from the inside of an air-conditioned vehicle.

With lots of rural machinery to ogle at for us city slickers.
And also the obligatory tire-puncture. Dr. Rajkumar - with whom we had the privilege of taking this trip - regaled us with some jaw-dropping stories of how he had found God faithful in his practice of being a surgeon in a very competitive corporate environment - the perfect sum-up of a conference at which Christ was the centre of all we were thinking about.

With the spare tire (the 'stepney' to be precise) safely screwed on in place of the errant punctured one we wheeled into Delhi and a few more precious minutes with our loved ones (including once again a lovely visit by Stefan, Neeru and Ashish) and then it was a taxi to the airport - and a jet plane to Mumbai!
The flight took 2 hours + another 45 min of flying around in the sky over Mumbai waiting to land. Finally we did at 11.15 PM and then into an autorickshaw to the Mulund Checknaka - and another one home to Happy Valley Homes in Thane.

We are so grateful for the many different ways we can travel - esp. for the magnificent help with the plane tickets from our parent trust. Asha's terminal exams were held the next day... what adventures we have as a family...