Tuesday, 27 November 2018

When the bullets flew...

Ten years ago tonight the bullets flew.   Men and women and children were butchered by a group of 10 men who came ashore at Mumbai to kill.   And kill they did.   Simultaneously.  With utter coordination – coached by mobile phone from a command centre in Pakistan.  Meticulously planned to wreak maximum horror.    

The battle raged for 3 days before the guns became silent.  And the odd seagull squawk mingled with the crows cries and the rumbling of colossal maculate city of Mumbai started up again. 
When the blood was wiped off the floor of the cavernous Chhatrapati Shivaji Terminus railway station, when the stains on the plush carpets of the Taj Mahal hotel were removed, when the wreckage of the Jewish Chhabad house was set right the human toll became all too horribly clear.  166  lives snuffed out.  9 butchers took their own lives / were eliminated by security forces.  One was captured alive and later hanged.

We had been working for months to host a special talk with the American author Philip Yancey.  He and his wife Janet were staying with dear friends of ours in Thane who founded and run the Bethany Hospital.   Philip and Janet spent a day with our home-based HIV care programme, meeting people living with HIV in their homes.  The plan was for them to go down to town in the evening and give a talk in a large auditorium about the issues of pain and grief and grace.

Then the bullets started to fly.

We stayed in Thane.  And watched horrified as the tragedy took its horrible course over the next 60 hours.   A number of phone calls and emails started coming in, asking whether Philip and Janet were in the hotels being attacked in south Mumbai.  We were able to quickly assure the inquirers that they were safe.  But so many others were not.  How many guests and staff did not

Philip eventually shared meaningfully at a packed Church in Thane – while the final endgame was being played out in South Mumbai.  We bade him and Janet a very fond farewell a few days later.  Earlier this year we sent out a prayer brief asking for people to pray for rain in our area of Bundelkhand.  We got a reply from Colorado – Janet saying that she and Philip were praying for rain.  It rained – no drought this year.

And so tonight we are 10 years on.   Would it be fair to say that the stain of humanity has only deepened in this decade?  Mass shootings are almost normal now.  I say “Paris” and in your mind a terrible massacre takes place in a rock concert.  I say “Berlin” and the horrible image of a large truck deliberately driven into a Christmas fair is conjured up.  I say “Las Vegas” and the image of a lone shooter up in a hotel room raining down fire on a large country music concert below.  And in between school shootings.  Beheadings on the beach of men in orange jumpers by the terrible IS swordsmen.    And in the meantime lots of ugly fillers.  The odd knife attack here.  A mini-van rammed into people there.  A young man with an automatic weapon unloading his hatred on campers in a Nordic land. Today an estimated 137 women around the world died at the hands of relatives or partners.  The most dangerous place for many women are their own homes.

Have we become comfortably numb?  Does nothing horrify anymore?  Have the lines between gore in imagination and the unimaginable become so blurry?

If we take a long picture perspective on human history, the current barbarism just fits into a long, long pattern of brutality.  The first brothers in history ended their relationship with one dead in a field.  The first recorded human death in the Bible was a murder.   Those whose names History records as ‘great’ often earned their titles over the bodies of many.  Many a throne was won – and maintained – by the sharpness of swords (and later the ever increasing efficiency of gun-powder).  If anything, the post World War 2 world can only said to be blessed with many islands of relative peace.  

It’s been 10 years since the bullets flew in the neon-lit darkness of a Mumbai night.

Tragedy can be a solemn teacher.  Millennia ago a wise man called Moses wrote a song in which he says “teach us to number our days, so that we may achieve a heart of wisdom.”  He had seen much of life in all its rawness, and been transformed from a reckless adventurer (who had blood on his own hands after killing a man as a 40 year old) to ‘the meekest man on earth.’  Knowing the finiteness of these days which we call life can help add meaning to them – and urgency.

I do not live in fear of bullets.  My life has been too silver-spooned for that.  The few bullets that passed my way were the stray shots exchanged by drug-lords that I heard as a student in New Haven, the pop of a rifle by a drunk security man in Kampala, the few shots between underground forces and the Indian army during a stint in Manipur.  The bullets of Mumbai 10 years ago were heard on TV, not by my ears while cowering under a bench.

No, my main problem is just the opposite of tragedy – it is the slow erosion that a subliminal pursuit of leisure brings.  The blunting of that which is true.  The myriad worm holes where time evaporates into while reading BBC news on the mobile for the 35th time in the day.  The silliness of staying up late into the night skipping from one topic to another on social media.  The bane of our age is banality.  A drowning in endless pictures of self.  A sea of narcissism. 

It is such a gift to be alive.  To be able to breathe.  To be able to run and catch a train at a station (which I just did earlier this evening – I am typing this on the top berth of a train, rumbling through the cold darkness route to Delhi).  What a blessing to be loved and to love.   To nibble a bit of eternity.  To have a fresh desire to say to my Lord Jesus: “I want you as my portion. And I want you to be more and more central to who I am.”  

Thinking of the bullets is good, because we need to get that jerk to bring us back to our senses.  To count and see what really matters. To remember the earnestness of my pre-40 self.  And today to honestly look within and see the rubbish that so easily accumulates – and ask the great advocate of our souls to toss out all that so easily entangles.

The broad sweep of history will continue to swirl around us.  The names of the dead are worth repeating by those still alive.  The vast future of eternity is just a few more years around the corner.   As we inch closer to our Jubilee year, Sheba and I realise that statistically we now have less than 10,000 days in the bank.  Sobering stuff – but also much, much to rejoice in.  Joy helps us to live a life which is very much in the here and now – and at the same time also very far-sighted into the vast depths of the future too.   We bungle a lot, but are grateful for the amazing grace we receive on this pilgrimage.

Bye-bye bitter bullets – shot in Mumbai 10 years ago.   It’s painful to think back on those few days of conflict, and on other maleficent days – swamps of life-less-well lived – not as dramatic as bullet-whizzers but perhaps more deleterious.  Numbering our days and gaining a heart of wisdom can also help us say “Hello” to the here-and-now-doors opening to the length and breath of life – hereafter!

Wednesday, 14 November 2018

Mum at 81

81 years ago.  Leipzig, a big grimy city in Saxony.  A girl was born.  The storm clouds of war were on the horizon.  

81 years ago joy came to the home of Willy and his Black-forest-born wife Roesli.  They named their first and only child Christa Roesli Fischer.

81 years later we celebrated God's goodness on 11.11.18 with two of her grand children - Asha and Enoch.  Asha almost 18 mirroring her Oma's completed 81.

What a journey it has been.

Mum on her 81st birthday with her confirmation picture - when she was 13 in Leipzig with her parents at the Kreuzkirche - a Free Methodist Church in the then Marxist East Germany - where her father Willy Fischer was a lay preacher 
And the journey continues.

She has walked down some paths which were watered with tears, but in this golden part of her life there is also much beauty shining through.

The home that Mum and Dad built is nestled in the Landour hillside...  but also exists the hearts of their many sons and daughters scattered around the globe.

The meals today at Shanti Kunj glow with light, and sparks of which were shared around countless tables where Mum rustled together what best she could.  With love making up for the simplicity of the fare.

A true child of the outdoors, Mum gets deep joy from the myriad greens that make up Mussoorie.  Her youth-group outings in the Erzgebirge may be far in the past, but her current Spaziergange on the foothills of the Himalaya are an extension of her long walk of delight.

One of the key's to Mum's youthfulness that shines through her 81 year old self is a deep delight in the small beauties that are around us.   A song sung with gusto, a musical piece played by a student will bring Mum to her feet in applause and genuine appreciation for both the tune she heard as well as the effort that went into it.   Walk along the hillside with Mum and you will find her thrilled by the petite mosses which the monsoon clothes the hillside with - tiny forests at the foot of the gnarly Himalayan oaks.  Look! There are some of her mushrooms growing which she will occasionally harvest if she is sure about them.  And then there are Mum's beloved Dahliyas.

This year has been a particularly good one for Mum.  Her 'eye-brow' walk is festooned with these beauties.  And so is the pushta around Shanti Kunj.  There must be dozens and dozens of flower images in her mobile phone.  She shares her joy widely, and we have received some splendid Dalhiya photos via whatsapp here in very unHimalayan Lalitpur.  And then there are the sunsets too...

Mum with Sheba on the 'Eye-brow' path
It's been two years and a bit since Dad was translated to glory.  And Mum continues to live out the good story.

Every day she digs deep into that splendid book, and will spend a generous slice of time with our faithful Vickey discussing a passage of Scripture.  She songs of worship to her beloved Jesus and her fervent prayers have given life to many.  There are still those who come to be listened too, to be quiet, and to be prayed for.   Inwardly, we are being renewed day by day...

Occasionally someone will ask us: "What about your Mum?  Is she alone?"

I usually smile at the thought.  She misses Dad.  Of course.  But the old life of Bombay days and the open house that she held all the years of her marriage with Dad continue.   At any given time there are a long list of invited guests at Shanti Kunj - both old friends as well as new folks who are experiencing the charms of getting to know this remarkable lady for the first time.  And this is further flavoured with the odd dash of those who just show up unheralded, but always welcomed by Mum's great heart of love.

So we plunge on into this great vast mystery of life - the here-and-now collection of days - and the one eternal of which this one is just the faintest vapour in the light of the every-widening arrow of time.  All who know her will agree: Mum's done a pretty good job of using her days.

We have much to learn and are privileged to have received her love.  Nine-square is an amazing age to be - and that too with so much vim and vigour!

Our next gen Eichers are amazingly blessed to have an Oma like this.  We all dearly thank the Lord for His goodness and mercies in Mum's life.  81 years of fullness.

Enoch and Asha with their beloved Oma at Shanti Kunj on 11.11.18

Tuesday, 13 November 2018

Calling all stations! Calling all stations!

Cssshhhhsssshhss sshcrtxhxshsdsff  cshsshdsffhshshs

Attention, attention!

Smxsusuerseres chrsshressshsshshshsshsssshhshdfs


It has been almost a year since the last blog post on this ye olde blogge.   

My very first post said that 'let my words be few' - but this is hardly what I had in mind.

If I can cut through the static, I would like to 'umbly start putting up the thoughts on Chai Chats again...

So hopefully tonight a small post will be put up for olde times sake.

Stay tuned!