Thursday, 31 May 2012

A call

Amidst the golden sun on shivering oak leaves up in Mussoorie we got a call.   A long-distance call from Thane.

It was from one of our nurses at JSK- and she told us that Nalini is no more.  Not that Nalini has ceased to exist, but that her tired body has in the old way of saying it 'given up the ghost.'

Nalini spent over a month at the Jeevan Sahara Kendra.  She came in a hopeless case.  She was losing control over her body from severe neuroligical impairment.  She almost died multiple times while Sheba and the nurses cared for her, while her family camped out at JSK and lovingly looked after her.

Over the month of valiant effort, we knew that it was unlikely that we going to help Nalini walk home.  Her family had been praying for a complete cure. Numerous times we had suggested taking Nalini home, but they pleaded to keep her at JSK.  We did.

As the weeks went by, the family grew stronger in their acceptance of Nalini's situation and finally took her home for palliative care at home.  Our JSK nurses visited every other day and helped out till the end.

Nalini is in a place of peace and rejoicing we know.  In one of her lucid moments she prayed a simple sweet prayer to the lover of our souls - the risen Lord Jesus who knows the pain and torment that so many go through.  Her family surrounded her with love.  Frail simple people, but what a privilege to share the last days of their loved one with.

Nalini's husband is still with us in Thane.  He has HIV too.  We will continue to look after him and his journey through his illness. 

Tuesday, 29 May 2012


There is something totally satisfying about a jigsaw puzzle.  This 750 piece beauty was brought up from Delhi by Stefan and what fun we had putting it togehter.  Out of chaos - order.  Each piece fitting beautifully with the next - slowly building up the picture so that finally we have a picture of Spirit Lake, Washington USA.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Art for the masses

Beauty is tangible.  And makeable.  We experienced this in a lovely family art experience lead by my amazing brother Stefan.
The grandparents and two of their grandaughters at work - note Mum's flower cactuses
After we all sang Anjali's current favourite song (to the tune of Frere Jacques) "In the beginning, in the beginning, God created, God created, The heavens and the earth, The heavens and the earth, Genesis 1.1, Genesis 1.1" we had short pep talk by Stefan on what we were going to do.

We each got a small canvas and an easel of various acrylic colours.  Stefan encouraged us to thing about creation and use the theme of a tree as our departure point.  He encouraged us the explore colours and not be afraid of what it would look like - but rather to allow the brush to experiment and talk with the canvas.

And so we were off.  All of us.  Young and old.  From ages of 3 to 73.  Eichers and guest (Cherring Tenzing!).  Vertical and horizontal (yours truly).  And all along Stefan moving from person to person, encouraging, suggesting, celebrating.  A midwife to beauty.

Some of us worked on a more abstract level.  Allowing colours to speak to us - exploring the different shades that we got when we mixed and matched.

It was great to have Cherring with us for the weekend.  Her bright spirits brought more colour in - and her canvas reflected this - an abstract meeting of different shades.

Others of us were more figurative in our approaches.  Some painted flowers and plants that they could see around them - others looked out of the windows for inspiration - and painted the hills covered with trees.

But over and over Stefan encouraged us to experiment and to move outside of the comfort zones we normally work in - to see what it is like to express ourselves more freely.

Anjali and Ashish dived right in to the picture making.  Having parents that encourage their creativity is such a blessing.

The young-guns from the Delhi branch of the Eichers actually managed to produce 2 pictures each if I am not mistaken.  Shades of Andy Warhols 'the factory'?

Opa showed his application to the job by carefully working on his canvas - as the afternoon turned into evening.

And it wasn't only painting.  There is one member in the family who still has now wielded the brush.  Little Anjali was happily carried by Asha for some time while Neeru worked on her own creative contribution on canvas!

Your 'umble blogger did his bit on the same bed which this post is being typed out.

A new experience to paint on a canvas taped to a plastic kitchen cutting board - and having the paint drip down on me.  But what fun!

We are so grateful to have had a time when we were encouraged to live out the creativity that our great amazing creator-God has endowed us with.

Hats off the Stefan and all the great work his team at Art for Change (esp. the Made to Create folks) are doing!  It was great to taste a bit of it in the beauty of Shanti Kunj!

Its just not funny

Sometimes you have to wonder whether to laugh or to cry.  Or both.

Two weeks ago our main house of parliament ground to a halt.  Angry members raised their voices. Leaders from across the parties shouting - pushing - demanding that justice be done.  A terrible sense of rage was seen in the august leaders that our 1.2 billion people have elected to represent us and to rule our nation.

What was the issue?  Was it starvation deaths?  Was it the millions of baby girls killed every year before they are born (and at least 50% more baby boys too but that is just run-of-the-mill abortion-on-demand, not sex-selective foeticide), was it the plight of the lakhs of people who are displaced in the name of development, the shoddy state of our hospitals, the thousands of government schools that do not have teachers?  I could go on almost limitlessly - out country faces many grave issues - some local - some horribly efficiently distributed all over this beautiful nation of India.

No, no my friends.  Our august leaders were horrified because of something far deeper.

A cartoon.  In some new textbooks.

We finally have been given school textbooks that actually take the student a bit seriously, that ask the student to reflect on how our country came to be.  And one of the topics is the genesis of our constitution.   It is a matter of great pride that the great Dr. Bhimrao Ambedkar was chosen to lead the constituent assembly that convened to draft our constitution.  We became free as a nation in 1947 - but did not become a self-governing nation with our own code of law until we accepted and ratified the constitution - with the 26th of January 1950 being the date when we became a republic based on our own constitution.

For Dr. Ambedkar this task was a great honour and a sign of the confidence and maturity of the ruling Congress party that they entrusted the oversight of this foundational document to his hands.  It was also its own crown of thorns since the new nation was itching for the new and the pressure on Ambedkar to perform was immense.

How better to illustrate the challenges of birthing the constitution than by using a political cartoon of the time that addresses this issue?  And so the authors of the new textbooks chose an appropriate cartoon by Shankar, the doyen of Indian cartoonists.

The cartoon shows a huge sea of Indian humanity looking on as Ambedkar rides a snail labelled constituion.  He is holding the reigns and wields a whip while Nehru wields a whip behind him.

The content and context are clear over 60 years later.  A picture trully speaks more than a thousand words.  The nation of Nepal will be laughing grimly at this as the lurch from crisis to crises as their constituent assembly for the new constitution has consistently failed to come up with a new constitution for Nepal.

But no!  This cartoon is nothing less than a cold-blooded attack on Dr. Ambedkar and all he stands for!  See Nehru is whipping Ambedkar!  A Brahmin is beating a Dalit!  If young impressionable minds see this - will they not be corrupted?

And so the voices were raised and the Lok Sabha ground to a halt.

The fact that most of the worthy ministers of parliament had not even looked at the text-books was moot.  They are the representatives of the people!  Surely so great a man as Ambedkar cannot be humiliated in this way!

We are at a sad. sad time in our nation.  Our leaders show their true faces over and over again - and still get elected (more on that later).

The 'debate' amounted to unified shouting by all comers - each one trying to show that they were greater devotees of Ambedkar and the demand was that these terrible textbooks be immediately banned.  Shockingly the government MPs and ministers were falling over their heels to do just the same.

Debate you say?  What is that?  Most of our worthies know one thing only - that shouting gets them on TV. Forget nuance.  Forget having anything to say.  Have you read the books?  No - but I know this is an affront to the great Ambedkar.  And why are our children reading cartoons?  They should be studying!  These are young impressionable minds!  We must not let them be polluted by these controversial matters!

As we have said before - we say again: cry the beloved country.

Some say that we get the elected representatives we deserve.  If that is true then we have a lot of repenting to do.  Because with all honesty what we see is not a pretty sight.

Every one.  Every single one  of these worthies has spent crores of rupees to get into their seat;  And where did they get that money?  Not from selling chai at the railway platform!  A shockingly large number of these men have criminal records.  Each party cries itself hoarse about corruption and nepotism - but each one of them carry on the same old same old.

So when you are bereft of anything real to say what do you do?  Tilt at windmills.  Take any issue and make a shout-fest of it.

Being horizontal for the last week has given me plenty of time to read.  Dad gets 3 newspapers.  The Hindu (which is a secular, left-leaning paper from Delhi), The Pioneer (a right leaning Saffron rag from D.Dun) and the Garhwal Post (a cheery tabloid from Dehra Dun).  The latter has a page of photos every day of different local political outfits protesting things.  Each one has a group of angrry people raising their hands and shouting something.  Usually there is someone being burned in effigy.  This is what people feel politics is.  Shouting.  Getting your photo in the paper as an 'activist.'  Multiply this over and over.  Magnify it a few orders of magnitude and you see what we have what we have in our house of Parliament.

Forget reasoned debate.  Forget anything of substance.  Noise sells.  Anger gets the flashbulbs and puts you in the paper - or the local cable channel news.

Plus one more thing: we have a severe shortage of heroes.  And I mean severe.

The founding Fathers have all been dropped by the wayside.  Gandhi?  Forget it.   Who cares for him?  Nehru - a few do, but very few.  Other members of the Gandhi family?  Well past their sell-by date.

Only two figures today have stickability.  One is regional - the great Maratha warrior king Shivaji has become a repository for all hopes and aspirations for all folks Marathi.  But outside Maharashtra Shivaji's sun does not shine so brightly.  The other - and this is something that is only a decade old - is Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.  Today his star shines brighter than any other leader.  

Every party, even those who were anathema to him, claim him as their own.  His image looms large wherever you go.  His deification is almost complete.  Look at the pictures being brandished by the activists protesting the cartoon. These photoshopped images have a holy halo radiating behind him.  His greatness - with all the twists and turns that his life took - has been overtaking by his installation as the great untouchable untouchable.   The one against whom no word of criticism can be said since that would mean a castist attack on all those who are oppressed.

How very sad that we have to inflate the images of the past to hide the shrunken nature of our leaders today.  How pitiful that instead of a nation of thoughtful book-readers as Ambedkar had hoped we would progress too, we are a people glued to the idiot tube, willfully closing our eyes to the rotteness around us, shouting down those who we disagree with, celebrating violence and the rule of the mob.

The latest brouhaha started with a cartoon.  But sadly its no laughing matter.

Two millenia ago, a then new religious grouping was being actively hounded out as being 'atheists' since they did not worship the image of Caesar - the absolute ruler of the day.  You would think that their literature would be full of messages urging civil disobedience and open rebellion.  Surprisingly the two main leaders wrote to the followers eerily similar messages: "I want everywhere men to lift up hands in prayer for all in authority."  They were asking the oppressed to pray for the oppressors.  How much more should we be praying for our democratically elected members of parliament.  How sad that so little of my prayer life is really geared towards those who rule us.  And how much they need to be prayed for.  One terrible day they will stand - great and small - before the Master of the universe and will have to give account for what they did with the authority they were given.

And that's not going to be funny either.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Still not vertical

Its now been 5 days since I have been able to walk.

Two days on the top of the hill - a miraculous cessation of pain that allowed me to walk down - and now another 3 days in bed since then.

I hoped to be on my feet by now.  We were planning as a family to go back to Thane this afternoon.

But all has had to change since I can barely get up to brush my teeth and use the toilet without having to limp back and nurse my spasming back.

So this morning - after some heart-searching and prayer we decided to cancel our tickets and rebook for next Friday night to Delhi (waiting list of course) and book flight tickets to Mumbai a week from today (well beyond our budget - but we are trusting).

Its been a melancholy time for me to be horizontal like this and not to have bounced back cheerily as I had hoped.  Its been hard for Sheba to have me bed-ridden.  The whole family has of course rallied around with tons of affection and care - but it never is easy to be an invalid.

And here I am frustrated after only 5 days - and that in the lap of luxury and beauty.

I was rereading the story of the man at the gate of the temple in Jerusalem that the apostles Peter and John met.  Crippled from birth.  Brought by others every day to beg.  Lying next to a gate that was called 'beautiful' but displaying his brokeness in order to try and elicit some pity by those on their way to worship.  Lying their outside the temple but never able to go in because he was not physically whole as Jewish ceremonial law demanded.  Taken home - wherever home was - at the end of the day by the same people who had brought him.  Did they take a cut from his earnings for their pains?

But it all changed when this man met Jesus in the lives of his followers Peter and John.  They did not give him the coins that he was hoping for - instead they took him by the hand and led him into the temple itself.  He was changed from a beggar to a worshipper - from a man who advertised his ugliness in order to gain coins - to a man who broadcast the power of God to change him.

I expect that I will walk again.  We have and are praying for this healing.

Every healing, every single one is a miracle.  Whether God uses my cytokines or whether there is some mysterious rearranging of the tissue is moot to me.  I am in awe of a God who cares and who touches me.

Though my old nature sometimes wishes things would go quicker.  According to my timetable.

But what I hope to take with me when I walk is a small gift that my pain has given me.  The reminder of my own mortality.  The reminder for me to do justice and love mercy and walk humbly with my Lord.  To remember Him not only when I am in pain - but in the 99% of the time when I am not - and feel that I am the master of my universe.

The upside of horizontality - lots of great uncle-niece bonding time with my newest niece Anita (4 months old)!

Friday, 25 May 2012


 Last year we had barely been in Mussoorie for a few days when my back gave out and I was horizontal for most of the time.  We managed to get our long-hoped for overnight camping in on the last possible day.

History repeats itself.

They say the first time its a tragedy, the second time its a farce.  I don't know which.

But I do know that I am horizontal as I type this - with cramping back muscles that have been my bane for a number of years now.  I am safely back in Shanti Kunj, but after spending 2 days in bed and our departure planned in 48 hours from now, I don't know whether I shall be able to go back to Thane when planned.

But first a bit to bring us up to speed.

Things were going swimmingly.  The highlight of our time in Mussoorie - the long-planned 3 day and 2 night camping trip that Oma and Opa had so lovingly and thoroughly (but of course!) prepared for was well underway.

We had taken the short hike up to Flag Hill.  The tents were pitched.  The firewood was gathered.  We had already had a picnic lunch and now were settling down to our evening meal and campfire.

Everything was perfect.

The crisp cool air whistled through the blue pines and oaks had been washed with the golden setting sun.  A short drizzle had abated and the stars were now peeking through the trees.  We were togged up in our woolens as the bite of the evening air brought us closer to the fire.

Marshmallows were out and being held over the coals.  I reached back for more wood from our pile and felt something give way in my back.

That old sickening feeling was back.  I tried to cover it up.  Quietly lying down.  But like a bad toothache it did not go away.

I had a miserable night.  What should have been a heaven of delight was one long night of pain in our tent.

The next day was spent horizontally.  Out went our plans to go on day hikes to nearby hills.  My view looked out and the beautiful trees from the door of the tent.

In the afternoon I tried to walk - but just couldn't - so I crawled like a dog for 20 meters into the shade and had this view to comfort me.

Amid the dissappointment I was showered with love from all.  Prayers were said.  Food was brought.  I was royally treated as a patient out in the jungle.

And I had books along too.  To take my mind off the pain I went back to the beginning of time and listened in wonder as the great Lion Aslan sang the world into being (The Magician's Nephew)  and I travelled with Digory and Jill under the earth to free the enchanted Prince Rillian and see the joy of the earth-men as they floated down into the wonders of Bism (The Silver Chair). And then there was the evergreen The Wind in the Willows.  I hurt myself laughing as I read through that book under the blue sky.

The next evening came.  It was going to be our last on the hilltop - and the question of how I was going to go down the next day was huge.  I had barely managed to crawl to and fro from the tent.  And that too in pain.

Many prayers went on through the night.  We talked about caling an ambulance and getting a stretcher team up the hill if necessary.

I slept pretty well in the night and in the morning was able to walk a bit.  I lay in the shade waiting as the others gallantly broke up camp.  My job was to entertain our newest Eicher - little Amira who had her camping debut 7 years before her cousin Enoch.

And then amazingly I was able to walk down the hill.  A real miracle.

A taxi took me back to the top of the hill and then I gingerly walked down to Shanti Kunj - grateful for a home and a refuge.

And so the last two days have slipped by with me horizontal.  More books read.  More sleep.  The beauty of Shanti Kunj all around me.  Love in large measure.

Its still hard to be horizontal though.  To have my private pain and not to know whether I will be able to go down the mountain with Sheba and Asha and Enoch on Sunday to catch our Monday train for Mumbai.

And so I pray and try to be thankful in all things.

While next to me Ashish and Enoch's lovingly crafted lego creation of a pizzaria sits on the table.

And as I type these words Asha is asleep after coming back from the Spring Concerts at Woodstock School (with all the other family members other than Dad).  Sheba is reading a book in bed while Enoch is with me watching the Indian Premier League cricket match on the other part of this computer.

Life is not always exactly like we want it.  But what a blessing to be cared for so lovingly here in Mussoorie.

I am horizontal.  At least for the near future.  But I believe that I am down but not out!


Saturday night. 11.15 pm.  I woke up Enoch - who had dutifully gone to sleep at 9 pm - and he, his uncle Stefan and I walked out into the cold Mussoorie night looking for a TV to watch the beautiful game.

Eh? What's that I hear you mutter.  Going out at odd hours of the night in pursuit of footy?

Call it a rite of passage. Call it a gentle madness.  Call it what you will, but when a big match is on - especially one of World Cup or Euro stature - there is a restlessness in the bones, an itching to somehow get to a set and soak in the sheer thrill of seeing 22 superb athletes throw themselves at each other and propel a simple round ball into the back of the opposing net.

On Saturday night - it usually is an ungodly hour as the economics of TV in the West have the magic 8 PM slot 5.5 hours behind us...  Anyway, on Saturday night it was the final of the Champion's league - played out in Munchen,

I normally would not do the nocturnal hunt for a club match - but this promised to be a fire-cracker of a match. And it was promise fulfilled.  Paisa wasool all the way.

Of all places, our nocturnal hunt took us to the lounge of the Rokeby hotel.  Once a mission guest house - under new management it has morphed into a beautiful boutique hotel - capturing the historic nature of the house (once a bungalow of the legendary Pahari Wilson) with all the charm of a superbly run hotel.  I spotted the bald head of one of my classmates on the porch - our Chaotic class of 87 held its 25th reunion at various venues across the hillside - and since Rokeby is being run by the elder brother of one of my classmates - they had congregated there for a nightcap and conversation.  Expecting them to stay on for the football we joined them.  However, when the witching hour came, everyone headed back home - and we were left- the three of us Eichers - with the large flat-screen TV and the stirring strains of a man singing something in Italian (Spanish?) and joined in the middle of the field by a punker playing an electric violin and surrounded by a bevvy of lasses waving Chelsea FC and Bayern Munich flags.

So far so goofy.  As you can see from the shot above, the Alliance Arena in Muenchen was awash with red (for the home team Bayern) with significant swatches of blue too (Chelsea's supporters).  The whistle blew and the game began.

What. A. Game.

To us to whom football is largely a matter of hopeful long shots down the field, it was jaw dropping to see the precision with which the ball moved over and over between the men in red.  Wave after wave of attacks went forward into the Chelsea half.  Impossible sequences of the ball probing forward, being passed with needle-like precision, probing ever onward.  Shock and awe.  The blues seemed almost spectators - time and time booting the ball away from danger - giving away a flow of corner kicks as the red machine ground out its awesome advance.

Disclosure time here.  Yours truly was 'supporting' the Bavarians, young Enoch rooted for Chelsea - and uncle Stefan did not reveal his loyalties.  Having the lions share of the German national team playing in red (Lamm, Steinshweiger, Neuer, Gomez, Baoteng, Mueller) pushed my sentiments red-wards.

Amazingly Chelsea held on. Time and time again Bayern came to the threshold but just did not convert.  Shot after shot went wide, or high, or was saved by the athleticism of Petr Chec.  The half time score was 0-0 and it was only a matter of time before Ribery or Robben would find an entry.

Their counterpart - the talismanic Didier Drogba was alone in front for Chelsea - with hardly a sniff at the Bayern goal.  Too often we saw him back - helping out on defensive duties as the reds continued to pass and press at will.

Time was slipping on and the final was into the last 10 minutes of normal time when the break-through finally happened.  Thomas Mueller managed to head through Petr Chec and the contest looked over.  Muenchen were about to add a fifth star to their uniforms as the reigning European club champions.  The goal scorer was taken off soon after and replaced with a solid defender as the reds started to wind down the clock and start their celebrations.

But is was not to be.

In 1994 I had watched amazed from the stands of a stadium in New Jersey as Roberto Baggio managed to score a last-gasp goal and save Italy from exiting to the imperious Super Eagles of Nigeria - and then seal a win in overtime.

Something similar was in store this night in Muenchen.

The old war horse - Didier Drogba did what great players do.  He rose to the occasion. In the 88th minute. Somehow Chelsea won a corner kick - and they made it count - in a sea of red players Drogba managed to get his head and the ball and rifle it into the back of the Bayern goal.

You just had to rub your eyes and ask yourself... did I just see that?  But the evidence was there - the ball in the back of the Bayern net.  Drogba sprinting off for his victory dive.  Mobbed by his fellow players. Nail-biting time as the whistle blows for over time.

Then again another heart-stopper.  Drogba gets a yellow card and the referee points to the spot.  Bayern's battle-scarred Dutch international Arjen Robben steps up to shoot - but Petr Chec checks the shot.  More heart in mouth time as the early morning starts to creep in and we 3 musketeers remain glued to the events unfolding in Muenchen.

After 120 minutes of playing their hearts out both teams limp to their part of the field for the penalty shoot-out.  Again Bayern go one up with the first shot of Chelsea stopped by their goal keeper Manfred Neuer.

When the third Bayern player came to kick I thought it was over for Chelsea.  The player taking the kick was the Bayern goal-keeper Neuer himself.  His shot was true.  One goal keeper scoring against another.  I did not think that Chelsea could come back from a goal down at that point.

But they did.

The last two shots on goal by Bayern were stopped by the ice-cold Petr Chec who dived the right direction each of the 5 shots on goal.

And Chelsea's final man was Didier Drogba.  His placid game face on, Drogba shot the sweetest of goals - wrong siding Neuer and winning the European Champions League final.

Lesson learned: never, ever, ever, ever, ever give up.


As we stumbled back in the darkness to Shanti Kunj, with the blessed cold of a 3.30 am in Mussoorie biting into us, we marvelled at the game, turning over the phases and savouring the epic.  The beauty of the passing, the depth of the emotions, the unlikeliest of outcomes - the beautiful game.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Mussoorie is full of beautiful things.  Wherever you cast your eye you are in for a treat.  Look out over the hills and you see range after range of forests - framed by the deodars and horse-chestunuts and oaks in the foreground.  Look down and you see tiny flowers.  Look around and you are washed in the evening gold of the setting sun against the unnaturally blue sky above...

As awe-inspiring as all of the natural wonders are - the real beauty for us lies in the people.  

Each year we make our pilgrimage up the hill to be with Oma and Opa - and the wonderful family of Stefan and Neeru and the kids.  For our Asha and Enoch that means cousins!  Lots of them!

the day begins round the breakfast table - sun shining in and new plans hatched!

Enoch and Ashish are as thick as thieves - baseball, cricket attax cards, lego, running races - they do them all!

All in their Sunday best on their way to church!
 This year we have the added joy of an added member to the general hilarity of it all!   As you can see from the picture above - we not only have our dear Enoch and Asha, Ashish and Anjali - we have someone who is being carried by Neeru Auntie!

 Introducing Anita!  What a joy this little bundle is - her big eyes follow everything with such wonder!

Asha and Enoch have really enjoyed being with Ashish and Anjali - they have all bonded superbly this year!
the tire-swing that Opa put in the front yard is a big hit for (almost) all the cousins!

At the end of the day - its time to read the Bible and pray - and then sweet dreams until the next glorious morning dawns here in Shanti Kunj!

We never want this experience to stop.  Hooray for cousins!

Saturday, 19 May 2012

An early morning walk

GLORY be to God for dappled things—
  For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
    For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
  Landscape plotted and pieced—fold, fallow, and plough;        5
    And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
  Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
    With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:        10
                  Praise him.

- Gerard Manley Hopkins

This morning when Sheba and I went for a prayer walk around the 'chukkar' at the top of the hill we saw ample evidence of this.  Drinking in the beautiful colours of God's creation, breathing in the cool air, exulting in His goodness to us over the years.  What can you do but praise when you see the wonders of His hands at work - in the tiniest of flowers and the mightiest of cedars?
the towers of human ingenuity are humbled by the living miracle of a tree...

The song-writer, many millenia ago wrote "what is man that you are mindful of him?"

As we walked praying we lived in multiple spaces at once... amazed and delighted by the play of colour of the new day, remembering the past with joy and some sorrow, being refreshed and renewed by the joy of being together and celebrating in the presence of our holy God...

My beauty - as the sun comes up
There is something very vital about getting up early and seeing a new day.  Especially up in the mountains.  The impossibly blue sky and the piercing brightness of the yellow wash of the new-day sun remind us piercingly of the newness of each day, the blank slate on which our lives are being written in the present.

I for one don't want to go back to Thane.  At least not yet.

The very thought of going 'down the hill' in a week or so hangs like a small distant black cloud.

In the mean-time however, we are blessed to be here.  To drink in the deep cool mountain air.  To be able to pray and praise.  To play endless rounds of badminton and 'baseball' with the kids.

To bask in the love of Oma and Opa - and be refreshed for the next steps forward.

"Glory be to God for dappled things..."

Friday, 18 May 2012

Swinging Grannie

How about this for a grannie!  Opa has put up a swing in the front of Shanti Kunj using our old climbing rope (very strong slung over a branch of an oak tree).  Oma had to have a go! Off she goes!

Post cards from you know where

welcome flowers by Mum - oil painting by Stefan from his college days
the dining table downstairs - Mum's catcuses are blooming gloriously

the famous hat-stand - whenever you need a hat - any hat - you can be sure to find your choice on this tree! 
a pointilist self-portrait of Stefan - based on a photo I took of him in college
- and the reflection of the  windows looking out over the hills

reading materials of various sorts - and a carrom board itching to be played with...

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Tickets to Paradise

We are 18 minutes into a day we have been waiting for all year.  The 16th of May has finally come - and we leave later today for the hills.  For Mussoorie.  For Shanti Kunj.  For what is at very least a small taste of what the Paradise of Eternity has to include.

A quick dekko through my files found these 4 gems from our time at Shanti Kunj in 2008!  We expect to see more of the same this year too!

The view out the living room window at Shanti Kunj.  Everything in perfect silence.  Other than the coffee bubbling in the perculator of course and Mum making happy bustling sounds in the kitchen (assisted by a grand-kid or two or three).

 A view of the sky from the Terrace of Shanti Kunj.  A place of wonderful meals - and jaw dropping sights - like when a Lammergeier flies below us with his huge wingspan...

Looking out from the Dining room - with the friendly toaster ready to eject the next batch of hot toast - only to have the buttered slices rapidly disappear down ravenous throats.

Mum's love for beauty in small spaces and large.  The whole house is crammed with love - and with artifacts which show the love that Mum and Dad have for each other, for us rarely-visiting-Thane-Eichers, and for each person who walks through the door at Shanti Kunj.

At 2.30 PM we leave by taxi from Thane - and are whisked to Mumbai domestic airport for our 5.45 PM flight.  Then a 2 hour flight to New Delhi on Spice (thank you Lord that we did not buy striking Kingfisher or Air India).  Upon arrival (hopefully on time) we then have 3 hours to get to the New Delhi Station and into the AC special which drops us off at Dehra Dun at 5.30 AM.   A quick taxi ride up the hill (complete we expect with at least 1 vomit stop for the kids) and then by 7.30 we should be in the crisp coolness of oak covered leaves, walking down with our freshly hugged Oma and Opa - pinching ourselves to see if this is a dream or reality at last.

On the schedule - meeting a select group of my Woodstock School classmates - we are celebrating 25 years since we graduated on June 25th 1987...  Then camping next week with Stefan, Neeru, Ashish, Anjali and Amira... And lots of reading, sleeping, talking, recording Oma and Opa's stories, sleeping, eating, praying, talking more, puzzles, talking, reading, eating... you get the drift.

Before all of this kicks off - a few hours at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.  Sheba will see patients till 1 PM.  I will bang away at letters and things like that - till we realise that we just cannot do any more work - and we will leave it all behind and head for the hills.  Adios Amigos!

The Fantastic Four

Nine years ago the final member of the Fantastic Four was born.

We celebrated her birthday on Sunday.

What a world of a difference from that dark night in May, when we got onto an State Transport bus and went over to Borivali - to see the newborn Jasper - and try and help out with Nalini who had experienced a very difficult delivery in the small private nursing home Jasper was born in.

On Sunday it was time to think back with wonder over the years that have flown by.  To thank God for the miracle of our four kids - Asha and Enoch from the Eichers - and Nikita and Jasper from the Gabriels.  The 4 have literally grown up together - and we marvel and the beauty of their friendship!

The current game of choice is that old capitalist favourite of course!

To prove that they are indeed growing - the inevitable 'standing-on-our-toes-to-show-that-I-am-taller-than-the-others' takes place.  The end result is that we see pretty much just how tall every one is becoming as they bloom into the early tweens!

Nikita, Jasper, Enoch and Asha - all getting bigger and BIGGER every time we meet!

Whoever invented the 'Birthday Cake' was clearly onto something good.  Our four dug into this pretty chocolate gateau with much delight.

And then there was the serious business of eating Nalini's amazing chicken curry, and prawn curry. 

We had taken our little Papaya (the Nano car) for its first spin (our friend Shibin driving since it has been 2 decades since I drove shift) - and after the meal wondered if it had enough power to drive back three very stuffed adults - and two well fed kids!

The long and short of just another one of the all-too-short meet-ups with the Gabriels is that we once again understand the amazing joy of friendship.   What a thrill it is to be with people who are so precious to us.  And how glad we are that our kids are laying a foundation of what we hope and pray will be a life-time of joy together as the Fantastic Four!

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Nano Day

The Eichers have a new family member today.

No, it isn't a flesh-n-blood child - though we are always open to what God wants for us.

Rather its a new steed - a bright orange Nano car.

Its so new that we haven't christened her yet.

We just picked it up from the showroom - and had a dear friend of ours - Devraj drive it home.  I have not driven for over 20 years - and so need to do some serious practice (though my license is still valid!).

Before taking it home we did have a spin behind our old home in Happy Valley. It was a joy to take this little baby and have her move around smoothly.  I will need some more practice to be sure - esp. when going up hills and parking - but the first impressions are that this car is perfect for Thane.  Its tiny (on the outside - not too bad inside) - it turns on a 1 rupee coin (and we all know how small those are getting these days) - it has a fuel efficiency of at least 20 kms to the litre (they say 25 but we all know that real life is different from ads).

Above all, its a miracle car for us as a family - the result of lots of significant gifts from different friends which have been pooled together to get over the hump and have a 'four-wheeler.'

Four years ago I wrote about the Nano.  The car has not turned the world upside down as some thought it might.  Political problems and higher prices meant that it has gone well past the Rs. 100,000/- price tag it was aimed at.  But it remains a marvelous piece of 'frugal engineering' (The Economist has some ideas about that here) and we think that it really is value for money.

Welcome orange friend!

Picture perfect

The past looks us in the face through photos.

And we look at the faces of the past too.  Look and scan the fresh looks.  Peer into eyes and expressions frozen and transported into the present.

We try to read forward the histories that each person will be living through.

And compare ourselves.  With our past selves.  With our parents as we cross the ages that they were when the photos were taken.

The East is red...

The view outside our kitchen window - 30 mins ago on a hot lazy Saturday in May.

Note the two kids looking down from the 3rd floor window grill in the building opposite us.

Beauty can be found in urban spaces too (though it takes more filtering out of the ugliness of our great sad cities).

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

3 little men

Asha and Enoch are part of a cloud of 9 cousins spread over the Eicher and Rajan families.  Males are seriously under-represented - with the newest addition - our dear Amira - being another wonderful girl!

But our 3 little men are there - filling a 1/3 quota of sorts - and blossoming just as well as the lovely little ladies!

Here are a few milestones from oldest to youngest:

Enoch's standard 3 class at Vasant Vihar School - there are 10 other such classes in his standard - and over 7000 students in the school!   Enoch is in the top row 7th from left.  This is the first photo I have ever scanned!

 Enoch finished class 3 and now is about to enter 4th standard in June.  His teacher was very happy with him - and told me that 'you don't have to worry at all.'   The good thing is that we have not been doing so.  The only cryptic thing on his report card was the statement - 'should read more books to expand his vocabulary.'  This is most probably a computer generated random statement - since it also appeared on Asha's report card.  I would wager that Asha and Enoch read more books than the next 3 readers in their class put together.  The two are virtually insatiable bookworms (currently devouring Enid Bliytons).

Up in Delhi town we have this latest step forward in life by cousin Ashish (who we are gearing up to see in Mussoorie in 10 days and counting down!).

The statement he made to Stefan was 'Look Daddy!"  At the ripe young age of 43, how I wish my teeth were falling out because there were others coming in behind them!

Meanwhile across the oceans - on the other side of the globe young Shofar is growing too!

How is this for a smile!  I think I don't need a light in this room if this picture is on my monitor!

Congrats 3 little men - for the great joys to us that you are.  We hope you will all get to meet one day!  Till then - keep growing.