Friday, 22 February 2019

Enoch at 16

Dearest Enoch,

I am starting this note to you on 11.04 - on the night before your first paper of your 10th standard board examinations.

You are fast asleep, having reviewed your English language for tomorrow, as well as your English literature which you will do on Monday and a bit of Hindi for your Tuesday test.

I am still awake, looking back on the day and saying a small prayer for you as you step into another rite of passage.

1985 was when I did my 10th boards.  They were quite different - with a written section - and then an oral portion for some tests.  The setting was the Deutsche Schule Bombay (German School Mumbai) where I was capping off 5 years of German-medium schooling.  On the day, I limped into the oral section with crutches and a bandaged ankle from a rock-climbing accident the weekend before.  How my parents allowed me rock-climbing before my boards is a mystery.  But then each generation of parents have their quirks, don't they?

We have already had our own little bit of genteel adventure here in Mussoorie in the run up to your boards.   Mummy and I decided that we would spend our annual leave time with you as you start on this 5 week set of tests, which is why I traveled up with you to Mussoorie, arriving on Monday.   To be here at Shanti Kunj in winter is something new for me - and to have you 'out of boarding' is a special treat.  You know that as parents we have been starved of your presence for the past two years...

You turned 16 the next day, the day that you were to report to school to pick up your hall-ticket for your ICSE exams.   Your dear Oma prayed you a birthday prayer at the crack of dawn.

We left bright and early, but the clouds rolled in, making the beauty of Mussoorie go monochrome.

The now trusty Eicher scooter (Black Beauty 2) brought us to Wynberg Allen well in time.  And then the hail fell.  And with the hail, snow.  Pretty soon all the ground around your school was covered with bridal-sari white.

After an hour you came back and told me that school had been cancelled.  We waited for sometime and then decided to push back as the hail and snow had stopped falling.  As we slowly drove the scooter higher, we found more snow and more slippery roads.  You wisely got off at the bottom of Mullingarh and I continued fishtailing up the hill for far longer than I should have.  Guardian angels watch over the Eicher men don't they?

We finally had to park the scooter outside Doma's restaurant and walk the last 3 kms cutting through snow with sopping wet toes and frozen fingers.  Thank God for the warmth of the Shanti Kunj bukhari!

Studying next to a wood-fired heater has its own joys - even on an unusually cold winter in Landour!  

Your preparation for these exams have been a joy for Mummy and me as we had you with us in Lalitpur for the past 2 months!  

Quick question, Enoch:  where did the years go?  Why is it that we seem light years away from your childhood in Thane?  

And who are you becoming, our wonderful son?  As I look at your examination hall ticket which we successfully got yesterday, I can see a bit of the future.  I see the subjects that you will be tested on over the next few weeks, and I can see that you can fly.  You can step into multiple different directions using the God-given talents that you have.  You are good at math, and your English is excellent.  It's only too bad that the curriculum does not have a subject on English Premier League football! 

Blessed son of ours, 

You have given us so much joy over these 16 years.  When you are in boarding school, and your name comes to mind, I inevitably break out in a grin.  

And over this last year I have noticed some new elements emerging.   A wonderful sporting spirit to start with.  You have always been fascinated  by sport, especially professional games, even  though we did not have a TV in our home.  Becoming a sports commentator was one of your earliest "serious" careers that you expressed  an interest in.  Did Mummy and I pour too much of a bucket of cold water on that idea?

Your current idea of architecture has much merit to it.  As your uncle Stefan told you the other day, applied design is an exciting way that you can do things beautifully and help lots of people too!

I love your calls from earlier last year where you told  us about competing in debate competitions at school, or in the speech contest, and the choir contest.  You talked about how much you enjoyed taking part in these competitions. You told us that you had not won first prize in such a cheerful way.  Instead of sulking, you were so positive about having been a part of the different competitions in the first place.

And you did manage to get into the soccer team at school (I still am puzzled why at your school they call it "soccer", when 99 percent of our countrymen - and women - use the worldwide standard name of "football").   Well, you told me that this evening.  Practice, practice and more practice with your friends.  Plus you ran in half-marathons.  I get tired just thinking of you and the other boarding boys getting up early for your cross-county runs every single day during the running season.  Amazing! 

When you were small, you and your sister were so competitive in board games that many of our games ended in tears.  Today those childish ways have evaporated.  Our series of 'Settlers of Catan' with Mummy over the last 2 months have shown that loud and clear: Mr. Enoch is able to some of the rough with the smooth.  That's a building block for maturity.

And when will you stop growing physically dear Enoch? 

At Shanti Kunj on your 16th birthday, next to a painting of Opa that Stefan uncle did.
Already people are asking me if you are taller than me.  Till now each time we measure I seem to be just that little bit taller, but its only a matter of time before you become the tallest Eicher in India (for some time at least (remember you have a lively cousin who will turn 14 at the end of June!).

Are there still areas of your life that need shaping, refining, moulding?  Of course.  As your father, I can see a number of places in you where God needs to do His amazing work of inner transformation and re-structuring.   As a son who has personally received much love from my parents, how much I also need to be constantly reshaped and remoulded.  Please keep us in your prayers.  As much as Mummy and I are praying for you that you will live up to your name with means 'dedicated,' we would also like you to pray to Jesus on our behalf.  I need to practice what I preach, I need to continually be cleansed from within.  You have seen how angry I have been over this past year, your Daddy wants to give all of this back to King Jesus and live the joyous life He wants from me.

And so dear son Enoch, here's to an amazing year that stretches out before you.  Grab each day and live it to the fullest.  Spend time listening each day to Jesus speaking to you.  Talk to God and make conscious decisions that express God's character in your life.  That's what dedicated means.  To be set apart for a special task.  To be set apart to be used by the Master in whatever way He wants too.

Your Mummy and Daddy are so very thankful to God for you.  We know that you will be providing life-long joy to us and to many others.

The board examinations that are now just a few hours away.  They are just one small (but of course important) step forward for you.  And you have shown that you are super capable in various different ways.  

Our prayers will be with you as you write the papers, and the prayers of the many others who love you too.... God is so good.  And one proof, is that He has made us (also a sign that God has humour).  and is making everything beautiful in His time.  

Thanks for the joy that you are to all of us,  Enoch.  We really pray this year will be a golden one for you, where you are full of joy and share this joy with so many others.

Lots of love,

Your  Daddy and Mummy

Sunday, 3 February 2019

Landour in Winter

Landour in winter. 7000 feet up in the Himalaya. Recipe for coldness to reign.

But so very often it is 'warmer' in Landour than in Delhi.

The reason is that Delhi winters are smoggy foggy afairs.  When you have cars of this magnitude you are not surprised that days go by without brother sun or sister moon being seen.

The above picture is at 11 AM - hardly rush-hour by any stretch, and yet enough vehicles to finance a small Gulf state's annual oil selling targets.

And then you add Delhi's cold concrete cake of houses where you would be lucky if any sun hit the street level, you know that you are in for a cold, miserable set of months if you live in our dear capital of a city.

But we still have to make the case that Mussoorie can be warmer in winter.  And make it pretty convincingly, since it seems a large number of folks pack up and head down to the plains when December ticks around...

The key to winter in Mussoorie is where you are on the hill... and how many clouds come in. 

If your home is in the shadow of the mountain - on the northern side, or on the top of the ridge, well then you are in for a very cold time.

And then there is the question of clouds.  If there are clouds, you know its going to be cold.  And then if you have clouds which have moisture, and they decide to hit Mussoorie, then you have a winter wonderland.  Like what happened at Landour two weeks ago (picture from Mum's window at Shanti Kunj):

It doesn't snow often in Mussoorie.  Maybe 2 or 3 times a year max.  But when it does, it makes up for the lost time.

You can hardly believe that you are still in India when the snow comes down silently and blanket everything.  Oak trees, pathways, houses, monkeys (well they go somewhere during the snow at least).

You almost expect to have one of the Pevensies wander by, or maybe haveTumnus the fawn call you to his cave for a cup of tea and a tale of the sorry state Narnia is under - always winter and never Christmas....

Yes gentle reader.  When it snows in Mussoorie, it is rather cold.  And then you have also the electricity lines going down and so no power for 2-3 days, and when it comes back it is rather intermittent.   Those who have the luxury of being able to stay indoors use their little electric heaters, or if they have, use iron bukharis heated by wood that was stored away many a moon previously.

But thankfully, this is India and not the Artic Circle.   We have a fine friend called the sun - and he shows up pretty soon.  A day - maybe two - max three.  Then our dear friend Ravi shows up and does his magic.

The monochrome world takes on the hues of green again.

And pretty soon the pristine whiteness which covered the landscape with powdered sugar, is reduced to some slushy bits that linger on for some weeks on the shadow side of the hill.    The snow-tourists have of course rushed up from Dehra Dun and points south (including those chattering away in Delhi who want to throw snow balls).  Usually by the time the tourists are here the sun has melted away the snow.

We weren't able to speak much with Mum over the previous 10 days.  We knew it was snowing in Landour because of the steady stream of pictures Mum sent over whatsapp (of which a few have been shown and the odd email giving updates.  Phones and mobile connections between Landour and Lalitpur are spotty at best - and in the time of our mini-blizzard in Mussoorie are operationally nil. 

So yesterday when I was in Delhi, and I read in the paper that more snow is expected next week, I really did not know what to expect.   Especially as Delhi lived up to its reputation of a dismal cold grey city in winter (the bright orange of the Kinu oranges on sale by the roadside being almost the only splashes of colour).  Asha was due in boarding school to start her final board examinations for her 12th class on Wednesday.  Would we be stamping our feet in the snow?

We need not have worried.  As the rusty (and not very trusty) Ambassador taxi trundled up the winding roads to Landour, Asha and I were greeted with this sunburst of a welcome at 8 AM on a sunny winter morning. 

When we arrived at Sisters Bazaar, we stepped out into the crispness and exhilaration of the eternal snows wearing a lovely new layer of whiteness. The twin peaks of the magnificent 'Bandarpunch' stood out in their glory, welcoming us back to Landour arrayed in early morning white.

As we walk down to Shanti Kunj there is narry a drib or drab of snow to be seen (on this sunny-side of the hill of course).  Instead, our eyes are fed with plenty of green, with the sun illuminating the world as if it were just born.

The breakfast table is already basically laid - with food for the body and spirit laid out and waiting for us to finish our hugs and get down to working on our vittles.

Ahem, did I mention something about this sun?   As this morning wore on, we were blessed with the radiant orb giving us a good dose of vitamin D.

Net result of all this solar brilliance?  So much joy to the soul to see so much beauty all around.  And though we were not walking around in shorts, it certainly was very unwintry.

After the haze of Delhi, to see the unreally cerulean blue of the Mussoorie sky just takes your breath away.  You feel close to space.  The air is thinner and the sky a darker share of blue than we see in the plains.

So there we have it.  A few days after everything was white, it almost looks like summer in the hills.

We are of course still bundled up in layers.  This is Mussoorie, and we are still in winter.  But Landour in the cold season clearly has its charms.

After dropping off Asha at her sparkling new dormitory at Wynberg Allen School - it was time to savour the remains of the day. The golden wash of sun from the East is always a treat.

And what a better way to end a Landour winter day than a still clear Himalayan snow vista - with our dear Mum very much in the foreground.

Winter in Landour can certainly be more than gloomy chill.  Thanks to the sun (and being on the sunny side of ye olde Pahar) it can be a joy.   I wish I didn't have to go back down to Lalitpur tomorrow night!