GB and the Lutheran Campus Ministry at Syracuse University

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My dad, in response to a recent appeal from the Lutheran Campus Ministry for donations:

When I arrived in New York from India in 1961, with absolutely no prior arrangement for my stay in Syracuse and with low financial resources, to my surprise, I was received at the airport by Rev Paul Bosch, the Lutheran Campus Minister, then residing at 100 Berkelly Drive in Syracuse. [This is one of many clear instances of God’s providential care in my life. Unknown to me, my father, a senior Lutheran Pastor at the time in India, without any idea about the Campus Minisry, had written a letter.] Pastor Paul took me to his home to stay with him that night, and took me to the University the next morning.

Since I was already a qualified librarian and had gone to the USA to augment my qualification, I was confident I could get a part-time job that would enable me to pursue my studies. I was not aware then that my student visa would not permit me to take up a regular job in the States. I do not want to waste your time narrating my adventure, more incredible to me than a fairy tale; I completed my Master’s degree in Library Science in the shortest time possible without being a burden to anyone there.

But the two initial helps I had from the Lutheran Campus Ministry served me like the five loaves and two fishes blessed by the Lord. They were: my stay in his kind home over night and a loan of $450 that Pastor Paul arranged for me, which I promptly paid back.

As soon as I graduated from the Syracuse University, the Brooklyn Public Library in New York offered me a position in the Library for a year and a half, which enabled me to pay back this loan as well as other loans I had raised in India for my travel expenditure etc.

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For the last 28 years, I have lived as a pensioner, while serving until five years ago as a preacher of the gospel of Christ in South India . I now live with the family of my daughter in Auckland, New Zealand. I am sending 50 NZD as a token gift in memory of the good old days and the excellent Lutheran Campus Ministry at Syracuse University. May the Lord bless your ministry now and in the days to come.

Gnana Bhaktamitran [G.W.Baktarmitran as per your records]

Filing away my lines—Hosanna in Excelsis

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Come we children gratefully
Who are earth’s riches spurning.
Lift our hearts in praise to Thee
That are with Thy zeal burning.

Gloria, hosanna in excelsis!

Angel choirs sing aloud
And mirror our own longing
Heaven’s hosts their faces bowed
Are in the chorus joining.

[Of course I had in mind the very popular Christmas carol ‘Ding dong merrily on high,’]
-n-

1993

[Disclaimmer: I am not proud of most of the “poetry” that I have penned in my lifetime. I am no poet, but most of these poems were written at times when prose could not have provided the necessary expression and release. My poems are as important to me as singing may to be to someone who is not endowed with a singing voice—it justifyably fulfils a need. Thus, although not primarily meant for the consumption of the wider audience, it has a place in my blog, which, as I have mentioned before, also functions as a platform for my own retrieval and use.]

Filing away my lines—Faith and the word

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(Analysing a Christian’s mind when doubt enters it, a doubt that for the moment seems shattering but which with the help of the word, the Lord soon makes plain)

My faith is weak, I stumble
when the way gets tough beneath my feet.
My life is His, His work my life,
built on a foundation of faith and substance.

Peace
and calm, a
period of lush
pastures, green beside
the mirrored streams

Suddenly like a bird of prey,
wings sweeping space, the wind scorching,
steals the peace, the water still no more, no more
cool, the grass—almost withers, the very
substance of my foundation
shook, trembled the structure above, about
to fall in a shambles. The shield of the
soldier dented, my eyes closed momentarily—blinded.

Suddenly the blur of doubt clears and I see
pure still water, glistening, not a
mirage, on the plain beneath, a refuge
against every wind of doctrine.
Here the still water of the
word revives me, the sharp
blades of dewed grass.
Substance of the hoped for,
evidence of the unseen, faith
replenished.

I for a moment, a stumbling
soldier, now steadied to strive
with shield and sword.
His work—my life, I go.

-n-

6 March 1985

[Disclaimmer: I am not proud of most of the “poetry” that I have penned in my lifetime. I am no poet, but most of these poems were written at times when prose could not have provided the necessary expression and release. My poems are as important to me as singing may to be to someone who is not endowed with a singing voice—it justifyably fulfils a need. Thus, although not primarily meant for the consumption of the wider audience, it has a place in my blog, which, as I have mentioned before, also functions as a platform for my own retrieval and use.]

Baggage from the past

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“Hey Arun,” I stopped my nephew who was making his way back to his room with a healthy snack of strawberries, “do you remember the piece of bedding luggage families would carry when travelling by train?” Blank look. “The bedding thing that had pockets for pillows on the sides and . . .” Blank look.

Suddenly it occurred to me that it was a thing of the past, something that had been phased out of our lives.

But what was it called again? I interrupted my dad’s shower, knocking on the bathroom door, and yelling, “Daddy, what was that bedding thing we used to take on the train?”

“Oh-ho, that was . . .”, he paused for a moment to think before saying “holdall.” Of course it was the holdall.

It was a common sight in the crowded stations, during my childhood years. Every family had one, and the holdall literally held all—pillows and bedsheets for the whole family and much else besides.

You needed some skill to pack a holdall. (It tickles me to write this as I feel like an all-knowing sage.) You roll out the empty duckback-canvas holdall on the floor. Two-dimensionally, it is slightly narrower than a single bed with large pockets at its head and foot. These pockets could fit a couple of pillows each. But before you put the pillows in, you would spread out all your bedsheets and blankets flat along the entire length of the holdall, from inside the head pocket to the inside of the foot pocket. Then you put the family’s pillows into the pockets on either side. At this stage, as a child I remember trying it out like a bed. Of course after a while, my head and neck hurt because, for one, two pillows were too high for comfort, and two, as the head and foot pockets often had other pockets on them which were also filled up with stuff, these hurt my head too.   But I can still smell the canvas in my memory, associated with the exciting prospect of travelling by train.

Rolling up the packed holdall needed skill and strength. It was moderately easy to fold the lumpy head flap in and the lumpy foot flap in, packed as they were with pillows and whatnot. The last fold of the holdall was a tricky roll manoeuvre, where you needed to roll the two lumps into each other. You would then require a combination of adult knees and child bodies to keep the holdall from unrolling, while you quickly used the leather or canvas belts, which now materialised from under the holdall, to fasten the roll together. You then sat on the holdall a few times to shape it. The holdall had a leather or canvas handle, attached to the belts, to carry the holdall efficiently.

Typically families would pack their toilette bag in the holdall. Train travel in those days could be awfully long. I remember travelling to Madras from Calcutta every year, and the journey each way was nearly three days. Three delightful days, I tell you, meeting all kinds of interesting people and watching the scenes change as the train made its way across the face of that great country. I usually ended up with tiny particles of coal in my eye from the steam engines, but it was no big deal. How people ate their meals on the train could make for another post, so too could the description of the berths—all very exciting, save for the appearance of the ubiquitous cockroach.

I was saying that train journeys were long, often involving more than one night on the train. The toilette bag with the toothbrushes and toothpaste was needed around the time you were putting away the bed things, which is why it was often placed in the holdall and put away on the top berth till it was needed again at night.

If I may add my pet peeve here, it is about the return journeys. The holdall had in one of its flaps all our dirty linen from the last couple of days. For some reason I thought it was a nasty idea. Maybe I was emotionally out of balance, because I was already missing my grandmother, uncles and aunts, and cousins. Maybe the thought of holidays being over was too much. But I do not remember being annoyed for long. The thought of the new school year always filled me with joy and anticipation— new books that needed to be covered with crisp brown paper; I usually got a new pair of shiny black school shoes too.

Links:

Even as I was writing this post I found another article entitled Holding on to Rare Sighting of Holdall by R.V.Rajan published in the Indian Express on 16th July 2014. Although I am loathe to admit it, it is a better article than my post and worth reading.

The Internet is devoid of good pictures of holdalls. The only one I found was this Clasf ad: A brand new holdall (bisterband) to carry bedding while in India.

Filing away my lines—Listen to this

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The speaker took his seat again;
The congregation sat enthralled.
Ofcourse, they felt alive, refreshed,
Ready to go to cannibal land,
If so the Lord called,
Or so they thought.
And when they stood to pray, I watched—
Their hands were raised, emotions reigned.
Perhaps some dreamed of martydom
In far-off wild and heathen lands
And at the gates—their diadem

Over dinner that very night,
They heard a radio voice appeal.
No oration this but simple words
Of scripture—sharp and clear and real.
If they’d had ears, they would have heard,
The Lord was actually calling them.
Not to distant lands, but to obedience.
Will these be the ones on that awful day
Who’ll stand before the throne and say,
“Lord, Lord, did we not work for Thee?”
And He must say, “Depart from Me.”

-n- June 1985

[Disclaimmer: I am not proud of most of the “poetry” that I have penned in my lifetime. I am no poet, but most of these poems were written at times when prose could not have provided the necessary expression and release. My poems are as important to me as singing may to be to someone who is not endowed with a singing voice—it justifyably fulfils a need. Thus, although not primarily meant for the consumption of the wider audience, it has a place in my blog, which, as I have mentioned before, also functions as a platform for my own retrieval and use.]

Filing away my lines—Reminder

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Penned when living in New Delhi

A bird sat at my window sill
“Sweet Sweet” he seemed to say,
“Sweet is my life since the Father cares
“And feeds me everyday.”

The wise old bird, his head held high
Tweeted shrill and clear,
“When I stumble and fall, the Father knows,
“I’m precious, loved and dear.”

You remind me bird, to you my thanks,
Of the Father’s loving ways–
Of more value am I than you,
Can I forget His grace?

The bird, his purpose over now,
As ‘Thank You Lord . . .” I prayed,
His ‘Amen’ was a joyous tweet
As he took off and flew away.

-n- 15 October 1988

[Disclaimmer: I am not proud of most of the “poetry” that I have penned in my lifetime. I am no poet, but most of these poems were written at times when prose could not have provided the necessary expression and release of emotion. My poems are as important to me as singing may to be to someone who is not endowed with a singing voice—it justifyably fulfils a need. Thus, although not primarily meant for the consumption of the wider audience, it has a place in my blog, which as I have mentioned before also functions as a platform for my own retrieval and use.]