Monday, 27 June 2011


"The woman with the issue of blood" is one of the people from the Bible who we know well.

We know her well because we often talk about her in our HIV care trainings. This woman's experience uncannily mirrors the terrible sufferings that people with HIV go through (thanks to Dr. Daniel Fountain for pointing this out to us many years ago).

The woman has an incurable disease. She was known to have irregular, constant bleeding for 12 years. Mark records that she had suffered a great deal under the care of many doctors (Mark 5.26). Luke says no was able to heal her (Luke 8.43). Her

Luke (a doctor himself) reports "she had spent all she had on doctors" (Luke 8.43). This was a woman who was poor. Whatever income she had before - it was gone now. She was ruined. How did she keep herself alive - we don't know - but she was destitute - and desparate.

The woman was also alone. Was she married? If she had been - she would have been divorced by her husband a long time ago. Which man in the Jewish society of the day would put up with a woman who kept bleeding - despite doctors visits and prayers?

If she was not married yet... well fat chance of ever getting married. Who will give their son to a woman who has no chance of giving a son back?

Did she have family? We don't know. The ritual law of the day meant that anyone touching a menstruating woman would be unclean. And if the flow of blood did not stop - the woman was considered unclean till it did.

This lady probably had no one touch her for years. Her starvation for the most basic human love language - the simple language of bodily touch - would have been acute.

And to compound things - all of this was 'in the open.' News travels. Tongues wag. 'Why did she not get better?' 'God must be punishing her' 'She has some hidden sin' Having her illness linked with her reproductive organs only heightened the shame and rejection she must have felt.

Yes we know this woman very well.

Because she is still here with us.

Not only one. But many.

Right now we have two ladies with HIV who are suffering from continous bouts of long-term bleeding. We have counselled them and are trying hard to get medical attention.

No one wants to touch them because they are HIV positive.

We sent one of them recently for a workup to a hysterectomy. We will call her Leela. The surgeon at the govt. hospital refused. Leela was given medicines and told to go home. She took the medicines. Leela is still bleeding.

These are thin women. Frail from the daily loss of blood. From the rejection and shame they undergo. Trying to look after their children. Trying to live with hope.

The story is the same for the other. Lets call her Shalini. We have been working through Shalini's case. When she was rejected for surgery at two places we are trying one of the largest govt. hospitals in Mumbai for her.

What did Jesus do?

He let the woman touch Him. He let power go from His robe. But He also brought her back.

So that she could tell her full story. So that others would hear of her sufferings. So that He could tell call her 'daughter'. So that she could be restored to be all that she was meant to be.

He wants us to do the same. Leela and Shalini are just two of his precious daughters who need healing.


I was talking to a man after a gospel meeting yesterday night. We will call him Marcus. I mentioned that we work with people who have HIV/AIDS. Marcus said that one of his best friends died of AIDS.

It was in the early days of the epidemic in Bombay.

His friend was taken to JJ hospital. It was hell. The people with AIDS were put on a balcony with a grill on it - and were basically out in the open according to Marcus.

Marcus said that his friends told him not to go meet his friend. He said no - that HIV does not spread to those who love and care. He went and helped his friend in the hospital. He carried him to the toilet when he was too weak to walk.

His friend developed a big swelling in the lymph node on his neck. Tuberculosis.

Marcus said that he thought that the hospital killed him off. "They purposely give less medicines to them"

One day he came to meet his friend. And his friend was gone. The nurses wouldn't tell him what happened to his friend.

Someone else was in the bed where his friend had been.

Its no wonder that there are deep rooted fears about getting help at a govt. hospital.

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Lego F1

In a universe far, far away from the mundane one we live in - a race is going on.

Not your normal one, mind you. One where the roar of engines bellows and where the cheers of the crowd swirl up with the fumes of petrol and burning rubber...

All at a very small scale of course.

Welcome to another father-son collaboration - our own lego F1

As cars come down the final stretch they are desperately vying for position.

The stands whiz by them as they jockey for every available inch of road trying to best each other.

Who finally crosses the line and gets the black and white chequered flag?

Thats for our race controlers to decide up in their tower....

And so the games go on.

The glory of lego - the game that you build and play and dream and build again.


in the mean time, Enoch has populated the cars with robot drivers... the game continues...

Thursday, 23 June 2011


We are in our swish new set up at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

But the issues that our friends are dealing with have not evapourated since we moved up in the world.

We are still working with people who are at the margins, at the very edges of themselves.

A woman - we will call her Seema - has been in touch with us for the past few years.

We got to know her when her Aunt - a widow to AIDS. Seema's Aunt was HIV positive hersefl - and we looked after her son whom she lost to HIV and cancer in his leg.

A few months later came the devastating news that Seema herself had HIV - most probably from Manoj - the man she had eloped with.

Its been a long journey with this family.

Manoj lost his parents young and grew up in an almost feral atmosphere. He is a likeable person - but does not seem to be able to care for his children. He is a driver which means he has odd hours . They frequently shift homes. Seema returns periodically to her parents home. At times her parents have looked after their children. For a year her 5 year old son was sent to a hostel. He has been back for the past few months - but Seema and Manoj feel they cannot care for him - and are sending him away again.

For the past month Seema has been bleeding. We think she may have had an abortion - though she denies it when we have probed. Our team have been trying to help Seema get a family planning operation - but the couple have kept postponing.

Our staff went with Seema to the govt. hospital this morning to get an opinion on surgery for Seema. Being HIV positive is a specific cross to carry when you want health care - even where health care is available. They were back before 11 AM.

Seema and her two kids were in our gleaming halls. Her son was rolling on the ground crying. She looked at him with her small eyes.

Then she went in to talk to Sheba. Our nurse was with the children.

Gleaming walls don't touch hearts. The process of walking together with our HIV positive friends continues.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011

Our new home

Moving into a new home is always a joy.

And its always strange too.

You have been waiting for the day. Finally it collapses on you. What was hoped for is now a reality. An unfamiliar one - one that seems dream-like - and yet it slowly dawns on you that this is for real. This is where we are.

Welcome to our new home.

The Jeevan Sahara Community Care Centre is now operational out of the Lok Hospital building.

We are housed in the first floor of this impressive 4 story building - and surrounded by a veritable garden of Eden.

The insides of the building are still quite quiet.

Our main hall is currently silent compared to 3 weeks ago when the Lok Hospital was operating out of this venue.

But we know that it is only a matter of time.

We were blessed to have some of our old patients come on the very first day of our work in the new premises:
And we know that it is only a matter of a short time before we will be able to do justice to this amazing facility that we are now working out of.

Can we take you for a short visit to our new 'digs'?

As you come up the stairs you see the sign that we are here:

It has taken some time, but since the Lok Hospital moved to their operations to the new Bethany Hospital on June 1st, we were able to get moving ourselves - and had our last OPD at the old centre on the 9th of June - and our first one at the new on the 10th!

Mr. E.J. Stephen - who was with us to dedicate the new work - reminded us that when Jacob went to Egypt to meet his long-lost son Joseph he first worshipped the Lord. That's what we want to continue to do in our new place - put God first in all we do - and work hard to be a blessing to others.

As you turn the corner you are greeted at the reception by our smiling nurse Agnes!

The next door on the left opens into our Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre. People who need to know about their HIV status are counselled and tested for the disease - and given the reports with confidentiality, care and hope. It is a blessing to be able to help many in this way - and more so since our reports are govt. recognised and can be used at the govt. hospitals for further HIV care there.

The next room - this time on the right - is the main doctor's consulting room. We know that this room will be on the front-line of care as many who come will receive their first credible counselling for the confusing catastrophe that has befallen them. Though we have no simple buttons to press to make everything magically better - the loving application of truth - and the practical whole-person care that Sheba is able to start in this room is going to continue to change lives and mould destinies. We are grateful for Dr. Marise who comes joins Sheba on Tuesdays and Friday mornings to help out - and we are still praying for other medicos to join who want to serve in the name and love of Jesus.

The next door on, also on the right, is the current home-based care room:

We are blessed to have 3 mini-teams of two people each who are looking after about 150 active HIV cases in Thane city. Our home-based care managers go out every day and meet families who are living with HIV.

Coordinating this work is our dear Peter Chettiar - and we are thrilled that Daniel Kautikkar is with us on his final bit of his MSW and is just about to rejoined us.

Next in to corridor is the place where these keys are being typed:

It is a privilege to be working in this new environment - and I trust that this office will be a place where a lot of blessing will flow from. One of the many small evidences of grace was to find out that this room (previously used as an ultrasound room) had a computer cable snaking all the way to the reception - so that I was able to get onto the internet as soon as we were able to have our old number transferred here!

The final two rooms are testimony to the main reason we have shifted our work to the Lok Hospital building. They are our current in-patient care rooms.

Our desire is to be running at 10 bedded inpatient facility for people with HIV who need hospitalisation. We are not running an ashram for people with HIV to stay indefinitely - we want people to live at home - and to restore relationships and live productive and fulfilled lives in the places where their families are. But we know that for many - when they fall ill - they need a place for healing and restoration. That's what we believe we will be able to provide here at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care Centre.

Its a small beginning - and as we write the place seems large and empty - but we know that we will soon be humming.

Our plan is to renovate what has been used as the main operating theatre into wards where 10 beds can be accomodated. These rennovations will take some time - so we will be currently offering 4 beds in our 2 in-patient care rooms.

Other renovations planned are dividing the previous X-ray room into two - so that we can house a minor Operating Theatre and a small x-ray machine. In addition, we plan to have the 'stilt' area opened up so that we can hold trainings and HIV positive friends support group meetings there.

Home sweet home!

Its still strange in some ways - but we are growing into the new place - it is growing on us - and we are growing up and beyond where we have been!

Monday, 20 June 2011

moving in, moving up!

Take a rainy day. Take lots and lots of boxes. Take various heavy things like refridgerators and hospital beds and gas cylinders. And more boxes.

Now move them across from one place to the other - with ominous clouds over head. Clouds that start to show what they are made of as the afternoon wears on.

We did it.

We actually shifted all the stuff from our old Jeevan Sahara Kendra Centre to the amazing new digs we have at the Lok Hospital building.

It wasn't easy.

But is was fun.

Everyone pitched in.

Heavy stuff was loaded. Then unloaded. Then moved. Then moved again.

A patient trolley in our new JSK home was put to good use.

Many a back and other assorted muscles were sore the next day.

The shift saw our last 8 years of work boxed up.

And brought over.

A good amount of clearing up of the old Lok Hospital materials also took place.

And then our things were resorted and placed in their new homes.

Some of us had more fun doing this than others!

But at the end of the day - we had moved everything over to the new Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care Centre.

We were exhausted and happy and after a prayer of thanks dug into hot samosas and chai to finish off a memorable exercise.

Though the rain did come down - we had managed to put all the boxes in the truck for its first journey - and so were able to move everything over without any damage.

Though the next few days saw lots and lots of unpacking - we managed to do achieve our main goal - getting the clinic shifted in an afternoon - and being open for business on the next morning.

And so they came - our first patients being cared for at our new OPD in the Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care centre.

Moving in, and moving up!

Thanks for your prayers and best wishes - and thanks for the muscles provided by the JSK staffa and volunteers - and visiting med students (Ben, Erin and Prerana)!

Thursday, 9 June 2011

Moving day

Yesterday we stripped my office. Bundled up all those dusty files. Carted out the desk and computer. Into a tempo and over to the Lok Hospital building.

This morning most of it remains in boxes. Shabby cardboard in the echoing halls of the new Jeevan Sahara Kendra.

Moving day is finally here.

This morning the clinic gets the treatment. Sheba will see patients till 1 PM. In the meantime everything else gets packed. And sent over to Lok. By this evening we want to be unpacked and ready for tomorrow.

At 9 AM tomorrow we will start operating out of the Lok Hospital building. As always we will start with prayer and a time of reflection from the Bible.

Then our teams will visit people with HIV in their homes, and our clinical staff will meet patients at the new premises. If they come that is. It will take some time for our people to reorient to the new JSK. I think we will have empty corridors for some days.

At the same time we will be doing renovations to accomodate a 10 bedded ward. We are still looking for medical and nursing staff to augment our team.

On Saturday we will have our first session of the Training in HIV Care for Church members in our new set-up. There will have to be many arrangements and changes - but we are determined to move forward.

Our feet are touching the waters of the river Jordan. Now to see the waters part... and move forward into the promise.

Moving day.

Tuesday, 7 June 2011


Bilal (name changed) is 7.

Yesterday he found out that he is HIV positive.

His mother Indu collects garbage to eke out a living. She lives in a shanty. Her husband died of AIDS. She has HIV too.

Indu had asked us to put her children into an orphanage. We tried to help her to keep her children with herself. She went ahead and found places for two of her kids.

One of which was Bilal.

Last week our JSK staff met Indu and reported that Bilal was back from the orphanage and that he was having difficulty seeing.

We asked them to bring Indu and Bilal to the centre for a checkup. It was clear that something was very wrong with Bilal's eyes - he had what look like cataracts.

We set up an appointment for an opthalmologist. And asked about his HIV test. It seems he had never had one. After counselling his mother and him, we took Bilal's blood sample and tested it at our centre.

The next day he was to return for his appointment and his result.

We were shocked (why?) to find that he was HIV positive.

They didn't come the next day.

In the night the first torrential rains of the pre-monsoon arrived, wreaking havoc on their shack. The next morning, Indu climbed up on the roof to try and put a plastic sheet. She fell down and injured her leg on a nail.

Bilal asked our staff - "mera report mein kya nikala?" - how did my report turn up?

Our staff told him that he would find out when he got to the centre.

Yesterday he came. I saw him sitting outside the door as his mother was inside - getting the news about her son. A small boy. A very small boy. Sitting on a white plastic chair.

Later in the day the opthalmologist told us that he has a corneal infection and suggested getting a specialist referral. We sent him over immediately.

The corneal specialist offered a small ray of hope. He would start treatment with drugs immediately - and see if it improves. If not - then a corneal transplant is the only hope of saving Bilal's sight.

Now we see through a glass, darkly, but then face to face...

Monday, 6 June 2011


Besides the majestic Deodars (Cedrus deodarus) and the stately gnarled oak (Quercus leucotricophora) that coat the verdant hill of Mussoorie - we also see another grand landscape unfold - but at a much smaller scale - that of flowers.

You look down - and almost everywhere you can frame beauty.

With summer come so many blooms. Around homes and out in the wild.

And where there are blooms - we have stately visitors who come in search of sweet nectar - and who take pollen from blossom to blossom.

Flowers and herbs are the towering giants of these small-scale landscapes. Each level almost vying with each other to be more beautiful.

How blind we can be to so much that gladdens the heart around us.

Friday, 3 June 2011

995 pieces

You start with 1000 pieces. All looking more or less the same – a wild hodge podge of splogy colour. A bewildering mess.

(note the author's foot in the corner)

Then the sorting begins. Turn them all over. Start putting the ones with edges on one side. Put the brightly-coloured red ones in another corner. Separate the browns and tans – from the whites – and the other darker shades. Nevermind about the fine nuances - that can be done later. Broad strokes.

Once the first sorting is over – the fun begins. The first pieces are brought together. Soon some start fitting. A line – one of the borders of the puzzle appears. Some of the reds fit together to form the riders. Another line. A corner melds the two together.

(you can click on the pictures for larger views)

What is it about jigsaw puzzles that feeds a small but real primal urge (in this 'umble fellow at least) ?

I think that part of it is the need to fit. The joy of knowing that this piece was made for this part – and the small and repeated thrill of seeing something fit together. A piece is held - you scan the others for possible fits. You try it out - no. Not here. Turn round. Still no. Move on. Ah - there it goes.

And then to the next little challenge. And the next.

As soon as a piece ‘fits’ it seems to lose its own identity. The awkwardness and solitude – it is now part of an image – it doesn’t just cling to other pieces as some kind of vagrant child – rather it forms a seamless whole…

And all along there is a drive - to complete - to make that elusive 'big picture'. The details are slow in coming. You have to be called 2-3 times for meals. In the morning your hands feel itchy, ready to get at the puzzle again. Time blurs.

At the end there were 995 pieces that fit together. Of the 1000 that were said to be there on the box - the last 5 have been lost somewhere in the making and remaking of this picture.

Life - at least in the current edition - is like that. For all its fearful symetry, there are still some some jagged edges. But we press on...

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Postcards from Paradise

Welcome to the place where you always wanted to be. A whole year of yearning finally bears fruit in our annual pilgrimmage up to Shanti Kunj in Mussoorie.

This year the 5 cousins really had a blast. And so did we along with them!

Enoch, Ashish, Asha, Joanna and Anjali

After a wonderful 2 days in Herbertpur with Dr. Cherring and the gang, we drove up to Mussoorie. There is something magical for me as we drive up from Dehra Dun, with each turn it gets cooler, you start to see the familiar sights - and sadly also see unfamiliar hoardings and hotels that continue to infest the place. But most of all your lungs fill with the beautiful scented air of Mussoorie!

Enoch had already had a great day of playing cricket in Herbertpur so he dozed off on the way up...

And once we are in that amazing place called Shanti Kunj - what is there not to do?

You can sleep in late and then read high quality books - like the lovingly curated Tintin collection that Mum and Dad keep for children of all ages (I reread Red Rackham's treasure this time).

You can play all variety of games out side in the newly paved badminton / basketball / baseball court!

Since one of our youngsters managed to break the cricket bat - we migrated to a new sport - good ole fashion baseball - we seem to have some equipment dating back from our childhood visits to Kodaikanal and this was brought out to the delight of the current generation of young Eichers.

For the first two days of our time in Mussoorie - while Stefan, Neeru, Ashish and Anjali were with us - we had a riot of games in front of Shanti Kunj. Given the small field - home-runs were the order of the day with much scurrying between bases.

Alas on the eve of the second day I felt my back 'go' during a game of basketball - and then I was supine for 3 days in some agony - but that is another story as Aslan would say - we are focussing here on the joys of our kids in Mussoorie wonderland.

The kids games were cheered on by their loving Opa (who was also recovering from a small accident involving a cycle rickshaw turning over on him - but that is also a different story).

And when you are hungry... there is always time for a late afternoon tea complete with Oma's super-tasty cheese cake (which she slaved to get ready for us - preparing for our visit like a field-marshal).

And when the rowdy games outside are too much, then there are always more things to do indoors at Shanti Kunj.

Oma makes sure that there are various boxes of toys around.

Should the plethora of toys tire you - well, then there are always helpful cousins who are happy to read to you!

As much as the insides of Shanti Kunj are warm and cosy - we all have to agree that the real glory of Mussoorie is the outdoors. The amazing stillness with the wind just rustling through the oak and deodar trees. The solemn langurs that you come across every now and then - majestically moving through the mist. The goodness of earth and the cobalt blue sky above. The nip in the air as the even comes on - and the lights start to appear in the blue hills beyond and below.

We did not do as much hiking as we would have wanted to (given my being invalided for most of the time). But we did get to go out on some walks at least.

The first one was the traditional 'Chukkar' around the top of the hill at Landour.

Enoch is at an age where he *loves* being in front of the pack.

Some of the hikers were given special lifts up the hill.

By the time we came to Lal Tibba, the sun was just golden.

As were our girls!

And what better way to end off a mini-hike, than plopping down at Char Dukhan for some hot potato pakoras (from our dear old friend Anil) - with a chaser of onion pakoras to follow!

Its a wonderful life.