Saturday, 21 January 2012


Mr. Rushdie has decided not to attend a literary festival in Jaipur.  A group of Muslim organisations (led by an influential seminary) have protested this planned visit to India.  Rushdie has stated that he is not coming because of threats to his life.  The elections are around the corner and so our political parties are keeping mum.

What prompts me to write about Rushdie?

Not because I take much joy in his writing these days.  One a lack of time and access to his books.  Another because after he left India I found his books becoming ever more inflated with himself.

But recently I thought about the man again.

A picture was splashed around the papers.

A protester against Rushdie's planned visit to India was polishing shoes.

That's right.  Polishing shoes.  While wearing a Rushdie mask.

Around him were other eager faces.

What does this tell us about those who protest against Rushdie?

It tells us that they are deeply entrenched in the casteist mentality that still holds so much of our country down.

What if anything is shameful about polishing boots?


Unless you feel that touching leather is defiling.

Unless you feel that people who touch shoes are unclean.

Unless you see certain jobs as shameful and demeaning.

So shameful that you can have a person aping Rushdie to try and shame him somehow.

Its so strange to see people who claim that all are brothers - falling for the old, old casteist stories.  Their actions speak louder than their words.  We see it in many of our churches as well.  We are all brothers - except when it comes time to marry.  Well - then we want someone from 'our community.'

There is something very primeval about our desire to put ourselves up (and others down) by the attributes of skin colour and the many many subtle signals of racialism.  Asha and Enoch asked me this evening why we don't see "Tintin in Congo" in the stores or in libraries.  I had to tell them that many of the images in that comic are pretty crude and racially demeaning.  A friend of mine who is experiencing S. Africa for the first time saw a picture of Asha on facebook.  He made a comment: "coloured :)"   Being from the N.East of India he doesn't fit into the S. Africa categories of Black/White/Coloured.

Our friends who are trying to shame Rushdie - show how shameful their own mentality is.

At least we can see the absurdity of it all by taking a look at the image.  That is - I hope we can see the absurdity of it...

Cry the beloved country.

Monday, 16 January 2012


This year's cake - a violin very much like the one Asha plays
Our princess keeps growing up.  Today she completed 11 spins around our nearest star.

Wasn't it just yesterday that we heard the sweetest sound?  That small muffled cry which announced that Asha Esther Alice Eicher was born.

Its cause to celebrate.  And celebrate we did.

Yesterday afternoon there was a party for Asha's friends.

It was grand to have the house full of excited, chattering girls.

There were 2 boys (Enoch making up 50% of that contingent) but they were largely relegated to the background.

Games were eagerly lapped up by Asha's friends from school, the housing complex and church.

Asha and Enoch gave a mini-concert - to the rapturous applause of young and old. They were a bit shy at first - but really ended up belting out the tunes.

The cake this year was a violin.  Appropriate for our little musician.

The shaping was done by 'Opa' Eicher (my father) - with the icing made by 'Oma' (my mother).  Yours truly baked the cake and did the final icing.

Amidst oohs and aahs and a raucous 'Happy Birthday' song Asha blew out her 11 candles and shared the cake with one and all.

Then we called on Opa to pray and bless Asha and all and sundry.

As usual - he rose to the occasion.

What a blessing to have a Godly granddad.  This prayer being only the latest of so many prayers that he and Oma have prayed over the years for all of us - and Asha in particular.

We tend to be very close to the people whose births we were part of.  Oma and Opa were with us 11 years ago at the Nav Jeevan Hospital in Satbarwa, Jharkhand when Asha was born.  They have been with us each of the last few years on the 16th of January.

The celebrations continued well after our appointed pick up time - as Asha's friends lingered on - unwilling to leave.  Two special friends - Nikita and Jasper - with whom Asha and Enoch have done so much over the years - were with us along with their parents John and Nalini and grandparents too!

What a blessing to have 3 symmetrical generations of 2 families join together!

The fabulous four were very much in their element.  It took quite some doing to pry them apart when Nikita and Jasper had to go home.

And all of this celebration on the day before Asha's real birthday...


We traditionally celebrate birthdays early in the morning.

Today was different.  Asha had a school programme where she was giving the introductory speech - so she had to be in school at 6.30 AM.  Our family celebrations were postponed for the evening.

After Enoch got back from school at 6.15 PM - and Asha woke up from her long afternoon nap we were ready.  Gifts were hunted from where they had been hidden through the room.  And then the unwrapping began.

The last gift was the largest.

Layer after layer was unwrapped.

Until finally a small plastic key chain was found.  With a small key on it.

A small key - for a big new bike!

The bike was parked outside our front door.

Asha was thrilled to bits.

Miracle upon miracle.  We had somehow managed to keep the whole thing as a secret (very hard in a family who loves to tell 'good news' to each other).

Dad and Mum had purchased the bike last week - and we had kept it at JSK till this evening when I brought it over after Enoch came home from school.

Asha was just beside herself with joy.

Its wonderful to see how radiant she and Enoch are.

We start into Asha's 12 year with so much hope - exactly what her name means!  She is a real blessing to us - and so many others.  Asha was a real balm to her Oma during these past few weeks when Oma was not feeling well.  Her songs and high spirits have lifted ours time and time again.  We recognise the total grace of God in all of this.

Did the celebrations end here?  They could well have - but we had one final fling.  A family outing to Pizza Hut with the elder Eichers treating us all!

a journey of a 1000 steps... starts by getting into the lift!

This outing had also almost miraculously been kept as a surprise for Asha and Enoch - and they were thrilled to know that we were about set out for pizza.

Enoch showed signs of future prowess in materials science by seeing how far the hot cheese woud stretch.  He achieved impressive results as can be seen on the right!

More than the food - of course - was the joy of all being together.  Tomorrow afternoon Mum and Dad (our beloved Oma and Opa) head up north to spend some days with Stefan and Neeru and their lovely and growing family - and then head up to Mussoorie (which seems to be under a foot of snow).

We will of course miss them much - but are so grateful for these days that they have poured themselves into us.  Tonight was a way of putting a capstone on a wonderful 3.5 weeks that Mum and Dad have spent with us!

We love celebrating birthdays - and in our family it hardly gets bigger than this!  In our family prayers we just had to say a big 'Thank You God' for all your goodness - esp. in being able to care for Asha!

smile - we use colgate toothpaste!   Andi, Sheba, Asha and Enoch Eicher

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Words from the past

I heard her voice. Through her son.

She has been dead for many years now. But she spoke.

Her son, my father, was reading. Reading words from a folder of typed pages that are the memoirs of my grandmother Alice Cravath Eicher.

What a life she lived. Her father was a self-taught engineer working for a railroad company in upstate New York. He was a Bible believer who took his little family to find a group of fellow-believers wherever he was posted. Alice and her sister Marion trudged along through a series of struggling little churches - often in someone's home - or in a rented store-front - while her 'normal friends' went to fine well-defined sanctuaries on Sunday mornings. A hundred years later Alice's grand-son does the same... The little fellowships that young Alice was part of became what is now called the Christian and Missionary Alliance. They wanted to live out the love of Christ - and they wanted everyone to know. Everyone. Their neighbours across the street - and across the seas.

I marvel at this fact - that through hearing Dad read out-loud - the life of my grandmother comes to life. What a blessing to have her words. To listen in and live out her student life and courtship with Elmore Eicher. To taste her excitement when as missionary candidates they were told by the mission that they were assigned to India. To hear her tell about her Indian-born husband's exhilaration when he returned back to his beloved India. The first scent of India wafted up on board the ship - long before she could make out any visual sense of the city of Bombay which was where they were to embark.

Alice writes about her tear-soaked pillow when it was clear that she still had not learned Marathi well enough to go on tour with her husband Elmore (my grandfather). As a young newly arrived wife she had the prospect of lonely days ahead of her - but managed to persuade the mission to let her at least learn the language at a girls hostel - closer to where her husband was.

The words take me to a time well before today. To a remarkable young woman stepping out with faith. I am amazed at how elegantly my grandmother has edited the story of her life. You sense a contentment - and a quiet joy that pervades Alice's story. There are tough times - some that she highlights - others that only merit a sentence - but go deeper.

She makes a short mention that she had to have an operation before she left the US. It was to remove an ovarian cyst. No children for this young missionary couple. None, that was, until my father was adopted by them.

We have not come that far yet. Dad was reading for us last night. Tonight Enoch had an early night and we did not want to read without him. Dad has already in the reading been teary. And why not. He has in his hands a legacy of love. We are so blessed to have had ones like Alice who have gone ahead of us. Their lives have burned their love into my father - who has done the same into us. Now it is our turn to do so for the next generation.

I am looking forward to hearing more about Alice.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012


Sheba is walking through the darkness, past the street-lit corner and over to the Jeevan Sahara Kendra Community Care Centre. She is doing a night call. We live about 4 mins walk from our main place of service.

Its 9.30 PM. The kids are in bed. My Dad is doing the dishes. Mum is winding down for the day after having made supper for us. Our parents have been here for the past 3 weeks now - and Mum is just now coming out of a long period of exhaustion.

We have 2 patients admitted at JSK tonight.

A man - who we will call Talex - was admitted yesterday evening. He is painfully thin and was on a drip for most of today. His young wife is by his side - hoping that he will pull through. Sheba is not sure - but we treated and prayed. This evening he was conscious and grateful.

And then there is Tripti. Tripti has been with us for 3 weeks so far. She is a young widow. About 23 years old. Her mother is only 42. Tripti lost her husband - and has lost her mind. She spends most of her waking hours crying out loudly. She has lost most of her movement on her left side. Her brain is affected by an opportunistic infection - probably TB. It looks like Tripti's HIV has directly affected her brain as well. The halls of our centre echo with her cries. It chills to the bone.

Tripti is on various strong anti-psychotics. Nothing seems to affect her. Her eyes are open and she speaks - but then keeps losing it. Through all of this Tripti's mother nurses her. She rubs her feet. Holds Tripti's hands from clutching and pulling her own hair.

They have no other option. The family will be hounded out of the neighbourhood if they try and go home. The govt. hospital discharged her. No private hospital will take her. And we cannot turn her out either.

Tripti seemed to be improving - her cries were less frequent a few days ago - she seemed alert and able to communicate. But now She seems to be deteriorating again.

Sheba has gone to see how our nurse - Sunita - is doing. And to check up on Talex and Tripti.

This evening another family called up. They had taken their daughter to a hospice but were refused admission. Could they come to JSK. We told them to come tomorrow.

One of our long-term home-based care patients died at 5 this evening.

Mrs. Candy has been with us for years. We knew she was dying for months. Her heart condition was just not improving. We had admitted her to a govt. hospital for urgent cardiac care 2 days ago. They discharged her today.

Mrs. Candy was a widow. Her late teen daughter was abandoned by the man she had eloped with. Mrs. Candy looked after her daughter's daughter when she could.

She won't do that anymore.

Today was Mrs. Candy's home-going.

Our JSK home-based care team swung into action. One staff member went to a far off suburb where Mrs. Candy's young son is studying at a hostel. Another two went to the home. A local church volunteer (who is positive herself) was already with Mrs. Candy. We contacted the fellowship where Mrs. Candy was worshipping for the past few years. They have ordered the coffin and are arranging for a morning funeral. The local doctor refused to make a death certificate - claiming that he had not been treating her (probably wanting to be slipped a Rs. 500 note).

There are tears. But there is also the knowlege that Mrs. Candy is finally free. Really, totally, completely free from so many horrors that she saw and experienced in her life.

She had often stood up in Positive Friends support group meetings and spoken about how grateful she was. For life. That her son was studying. She wanted him to become a pastor. Once she said: "I know that with Jesus I am getting better. And even if I die, I will live with Him forever."

Eternity started for Mrs. Candy at 5 PM this afternoon.

And so the night continues to spin. Sheba seeing the patients at JSK and ministering to them as we come to 10 PM. Our home-based care team in a tiny shack in Kalwa, helping out with Mrs. Candy's children. The great noisy bright city grinding away all around us. Unknown people across our city, nation, world lifting up their hands in prayer for us.

Thursday, 5 January 2012


When did you come to India he asked.

We were travelling by car to Kalyan. He is an insurance professional attached to a bank (his branch manager - a dear friend of mine was driving).

"His father was born here" said my manager friend - giving one part of the story.

"Actually my grandfather was born in Bombay" I replied. "Our family came here 107 years ago."

And then I realised that we have tripped into 2012.

"Make that 108 years ago" I said "my great-grandfather landed in Bombay in January 1904."


And so the new year is well and truly upon us. God is very good. We are plunged into life and are swirling around as we have been for the last few months. Since my work and home computers remain infected with the undetectable google-crashing virus - I have sneaked this post off from my father's comp.

More later. Much more. We have a lot to tell. Blessings from the Eichers to all our dear friends as we see 2012 blossom in front of us.