Vijaya my friend

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[Part 4 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

11 August 2016. On our way back home from Commercial Street, I noticed that Cavalry Road had been renamed as Kamarajar Road. As we passed, I took a picture of Sivanchetty Garden Road.

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It looked unchanged—ugly and chaotic as I remembered it. I would use this road to walk over to Cavalry Road from beyond Lavanya Talkies (this is the other word for cinema and pronounced ‘taakees’) where I lived from 1974 to 1977. 

Looking back, I did a lot of stuff that my parents had no knowledge about. They did not ask and I did not think to tell them. I came as a 10-year old to buy a snack called Bangalore Bajji, which was available in a little eatery on Cavalry Road.

On Sivanchetty Garden Road, a lady had a little shop, where she sold interesting things like kites through a window (must have been a window) that opened out to the street. I always stopped to chat with her. She was kind and used the endearing term “da” when she spoke to me. 

I have many more memories of my walks through this area. Perhaps the heavenly city will have an old-earth facility where we can play back these things and perhaps even ask questions of the angels who might have had our back. But I digress.

I did not realise that we had turned into Mosque Road because it looked different and I could not see the trees at first. But soon it became recognisable. With recognition comes more nostalgia.

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Beautiful Mosque Road, which used to be peaceful in the shade of those lovely Rain trees, was far too busy now.

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Then we passed Bethesda, the church connected with Clarence High School. The view of the church building from the road was different. In fact, I don’t thnk I even saw much of the building. I cannot thank God enough for the good that came to Bangalore from this quarter.

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We turned left from Mosque Road into Fraser Town. In the picture, the white building is where many in this part of town learned to type. It housed the typewriting institute. 

Till 1979, those who completed the ICSE-board examinations would have a break of six months before they resumed their education in college as Pre-University students. Those six months would be the time to learn other life skills such as typing and shorthand. When I finished school in 1981, the old pressure of having to learn typing was still prevalent. I did not learn shorthand but went to this Institute to learn typing. I can still hear the din from two dozen typists doing their exercises.

Our next stop was at the neighbourhood where I spent the years from 1978 to 1986 —Williams Town Extn sandwiched between Williams Town and Pottery Town, on the other side of the railway line from Fraser Town.

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Even as we approached the area, I noticed many changes, but the familiar things did things to my heart.

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We passed these Ganesha statues ready for the Ganesha-Chaturti festival in September. Hindus celebrate with lots of tasty snacks and poojas after which the statues are immersed into rivers and lakes nearby.

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This was it, a street parallel to the one where I lived. My first impression was that it looked so unkept. While Premi akka and Hannah waited in the taxi, I took a little walk, turning left into the street by the man you see in the photo above.

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The read and white striped wall is the temple. I had to go in because I was looking for someone.

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I saw an old woman inside and asked her where Vijaya was. She looked at me oddly and went to get her daughter.

My old house is on the next street, and that is where I first befriended Vijaya. Every night at about 8:00 pm, she would come with her father and mother and make their bed outside the shutters of a shop opposite our house. Vijaya’s mother, that very old lady who had gone to fetch Vijaya, would sweep the ground and then spread out the mats and sheets, making it as cosy and comfortable as she could. So every night when my parents and I slept in our bedroom, Vijaya and her parents slept just outside. Her father was always completely drunk and was very loud. Vijaya’s mum easily warded off any blows in her direction, shushed him and got him to lie down. Night after night it was the same. Some nights it rained, and it was miserable.

One time when I got the chicken pox and was confined to my room for over a week, my only companion was Vijaya with whom I had long conversations through the window. We seemed to have so much in common somehow. 

Her father died of liver cirrhosis and they were allowed to stay in the temple in exchange for taking care of the place.

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Vijaya walked towards me very slowly, obviously unwell. She looked at me for a while before asking me if I was Selvi. Yup that is who I was. I had grown healthy and strong and she was withered and tired. I said that I was taking a quick walk around and would she come with me. I took her hand; it was clear that she was running a temperature.

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We came to this wall that said Excellent English School. It is a Muslim school that began when I lived on this street. At the time I found the name of the school hilarious. Then we turned left again.

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My house is the third one on the left.

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When we lived there, it was painted white and looked much nicer. It sits on a little 30 ft x 30 ft plot that was sold to us by my 4th-Standard teacher Mrs Katary. We loved our years here. Many of my life’s milestones were experienced in the years we lived here. Great is His faithfulness.

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Vijaya sweetly modelled for me in front of my house. That window behind her is the one we used for our long chats. The house had been called Yesu Illam, meaning the Abode of Jesus.

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Opposite the house and to the left, is the Marvadi shop still. The men there were watching us curiously. I turned to them and told them that I used to live in that house before. Then I told them that I knew their family actually. I told them that I remembered that the family had many children and the two little ones at the time were Rakesh and Kamlesh, who would be running around. The man who is standing in the photo said, “Madam, I am Kamlesh”. We all burst out laughing. 

I remember going over to this shop to buy paper covers made of colourful wrapping paper—so convenient for gifts. They in turn remembered my mother’s kindness to them. These boys would remember my parents, who lived here for about a decade after I married and left.

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My walk was turning out to be like a square. On our last turn before we got to the taxi, we passed this chapel. When we first settled here in December 1977, this building was a little Reading room, where the public could go to read the daily papers. The next thing I knew was that it was a Roman Catholic shrine of sorts. Initially, I don’t think the temple behind it, where Vijaya lives, or this shrine had any legal status. Young people from both sides competed to hold religious celebrations one after the other, getting louder and louder every year. It was especially hard at exam time. A generation later, both facilities probably have gained repectable status, and along with the mosque on the next street, everyone coexists peacefully. I think.

In those days, in my house, my friends and I held what we called “Saturday School” for children in the area. About 50-odd children attended regularly, and we taught them good habits like not littering the street and lessons from the Bible and heaps of songs. I wonder what became of them and if what they learned then has impacted them in their lives.

It was time to let Vijaya go. “God bless you, my friend, I can only leave you in the good hands of God. He knows best what needs to be done.”

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On our way home we saw more Ganeshas.

Ramaraj and his family

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[Part 6 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

In the morning of 12 August 2016, my friend Ramaraj came with his young son Rithvik to take me to their home.

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His wife Ramya had made an elaborate breakfast, which I thoroughly enjoyed.

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After the meal we played Pass the Pigs, a silly dice game with two plastic pigs.

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This family had set the whole day apart for me to take me wherever I needed to go, and I am indebted to them for their many acts of kindness over the course of the day. Our first stop would be the house of my childhood from about June 1974 to December 1977.

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On the way, I could not resist this shot of a guava seller.

We had lived close to Ulsoor lake in an area called Shree Kodhandaram Layout. The lake was where it used to be but had an ugly fence around it. In my day we had a bench on the pavement to sit and enjoy an unhindered view of the water. This was how it was for the rest of the place. The main landmarks from 40 years ago were the same but the peripheral things had changed big time.

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This is the front view of my home. The building had six apartments, three on the right, which are not visible in this photo, that were used by our landlords and three on the left that were rented out. Of these three rentals, we lived in the first floor and the well-known Leong family lived below us. I think the house above us was empty, for much of the time we lived there, for I cannot seem to remember who lived there.

I have many memories of these years, some bad, but mostly very pleasant. In my mind’s eye, I can still see the elderly Chinese grandpa and his dog Tintin. I enjoyed hours of fun with the Leong girls, Sophie, Shirley, and Sharon. And also with their boy cousin Iyeen.

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In those days , the room with the curved window shade did not exist. That part of the house was our back balcony and had a water tank. I spent many hours seated on the water tank, watching the world go by. From my perch up there, I observed the construction of several houses, notably the white-coloured one that can be seen to the left of the photo. If I am not afraid to use a trowel and mortar today, it must have been from those endless fascinating hours of watching walls come up.

The window below the airconditioner, belonged to what was then my parents’ bedroom. One evening when my parents were out, drowsy with Periactin, an antihistamine for my eczema, I was asleep in that bedroom and could not be roused. After knocking and shouting for a long time, it was Iyeen who climbed the guava tree that grew on that side of the house, and called me through the open window. I woke up quite confused to see him through the window. Today there is no trace of that tree nor of the pomegranate tree that grew next to it.

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This is a very precious photo indeed. I know the banister and these gates so intimately. In this case, unlike the rest of the house, even the colour is very similar to what it used to be.

A somewhat-elderly man came out to ask  me what I wanted. I told him that I used to live here 40 years ago and asked if he had known the Kodhandarams. He said that he was Kodhandaram, who used own all the neighbourhood. I peered at him and realised that he was the young man I had seen when I lived there. That he had owned the whole area was a bit exaggerated. It was true that the family had owned much land in those parts, but even by the time we resided there, much of it had been sold. The name Sudhir comes to mind, but I could be wrong about the name. However, I knew his sisters, Chithra, Durga, and Nithya. I asked after them and was told that Durga was in Australia.

Time passes by slowly when you are watching it, but turn away for a bit and it’s gone.

Ramaraj then drove us to Brigade Road. On the way, we passed one familiar-but-yet-so-changed road after another. M.G. Road was a shock to me. Where was that old grandeur? And as for Brigade Road the old charm was missing.

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This photo shows Rithvik and Ramaraj looking at a little water-feature item. It took us a while to figure out what the mechanism was. We then had lunch in a so-so place before going to Richmond Road to see Baldwins, about which I have written in Meeting a Baldwin-Girls girl.

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Poor Rithvik had waited and waited for me to come out of the school and had fallen asleep out of sheer boredom. He is such a sweet and well-behaved boy.

As I had an important meeting with my Clarence-School classmates that evening, we headed for home.

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On the way, we made one small stop at a clothes shop. I made a purchase, but my credit card did not go through, Ramaraj paid and would not let me pay him back.

I do not have any way of returning the kindness I have received this day. But I must pray faithfully for this family that they may be blessed with the most important things in life.

We Cannot Be Silent

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For the last three years, my husband Philip Dhinakar has been commuting to work by train. This has enabled him to read, something he has always loved doing.  Here is his review of a book that he especially thinks people should pick up and read.

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One of the books I enjoyed reading this year is “We Cannot Be Silent” by Dr. R. Al Mohler. This book is about the sexual revolution that is happening today in America. Dr. Mohler clearly explains how they got there and how Christians should respond to the current situation.
Nearly six chapters are dedicated to tracing the history of the ongoing sexual revolution. Dr. Mohler does not mince words. He shows that that opposition to the Christian understanding of sex and marriage did not start with the arrival of same-sex marriage, but rather the seeds for this were sown by heterosexuals who did a very good job of weakening the structure of marriage in the last century and by Christians who accepted that without protest.
He shows how quickly this revolution has taken place. He compares the U.S. presidential election in 2004 and 2012. In the 2004 U.S. presidential election, no fewer than eleven states held a referendum to ban gay marriage and not even one failed. In 2012 it was the reverse—not even one effort to define marriage as the exclusive union of a man and a woman succeeded.
He also shows that this moral revolution was the result of an organized strategy by a very small group of devoted activists. It was an eye opener to me. The very thought of how those people did that sends a shiver down my spine.
In the last chapter, he deals with 30 hard questions. That chapter alone is worth the price of the book. You may not agree with all his answers but the way he carefully answers the questions shows his pastoral heart.
Readers like me—living in a different corner of the world that is New Zealand—may not be familiar with the judicial system and the constitution of the United States. However that should not stop one from reading this book. The revolution which swept the United States has slowly spread across all Western nations and it is going to hit Christians in these nations as hard as it has hit Christians in the U.S. and we should know how to respond.

Lord, can You please heal Nabeel Qureshi?

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I cannot pray with a deep burden for everyone who is dying. I also know that in this fallen world, we will all die sooner or later. I know that while God can heal with a miracle, He does not normally do so. But I would like to publicly join his many friends and readers in prayer for Nabeel’s healing.

Why?

My answer may seem a little long-winded, but do stay with me.

Eleven years ago, Nabeel, a medical doctor, converted from Islam to become a follower of Jesus. He made this change after much debate, discussion, and study. Eventually, he went on to become a well-known speaker, also engaging in friendly debates with Muslim scholars. If you like you can read what he has to say about his conversion here.

I enjoy listening to him speak because he loves Muslims so much. It is not hard for him to do so, because many in his family are still Muslims and he loves them dearly. Moreover, his respect for his father and the way he was raised is obvious when he mentions these subjects. I find that combination of love, yearning, scholarship, and purposefulness very compelling.

I believe that the only way to God is through Jesus the Son as revealed in the Bible. Muslims would object to at least three points in my previous sentence (in bold). From a very early age, all Muslims are taught about Jesus and Christians (and Jews and the Bible and the authenticity of extant manuscripts and several other things) in a certain way that makes it difficult for them to listen with an open mind. [Oh and by the way, Christians find it hard to listen with an open mind too. Try it sometime. It requires a certain training to be able to do so, especially for those who have strong opinions, as do some of us. Muslims are no different in this regard.]

While I can usually share Jesus with my non-Muslim friends, I come up against a wall when I try to share Him with my Muslim friends. Listening to Nabeel is a great encouragement. Not that it’s magic or anything like that. The last  time (and only time) I suggested Nabeel to a Muslim friend, and a dear one at that, he politely told me that he would much rather listen to me than listen to a recorded speech of someone else. That did throw the ball squarely back into my court. But atleast I could still use Nabeel as a resource. Nabeel helps me to stand in the shoes of my friends and see God, the world and Jesus as they do. This is of tremendous value, and extremely rare.

Rare? Yes it is rare. To have scholarship of Islamic traditions, the Quran, as well as the Bible is rare enough. But even more unusual it is to have this scholarship combined with a genuine affection and love of the Muslim people and a comfort level with their culture. Nabeel comes from that culture. He is heart broken about those in his family who do not understand him and his God.

I have not met many Western Christians who are comfortable with Muslim culture. The terror attacks all over the globe in the name of Islam is not helping the situation either. And as the saying goes, that a little knowledge is dangerous, knowledge about the Jihad texts has only added to an unhealthy level of fear and discomfort in the minds of some.

When I went to my home city of Bangalore recently, I made it a point to go to OPH Road and have a plate of Biriyani at the old Taj Restaurant. Looking out through the window of the old eatery, the scene of the mosque and Muslim shops brought back nostalgic memories.

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I remember the decade I lived in Williams Town punctuated with reqularity by the prayer calls from the mosque on the next street. I remember the happy days spent in the home of my beautiful friend Najmussahar, her naughty little brother Makkhoo (Maqsood), their lovely mum and their dad, who was kindness itself, and the older brother whose name I have forgotten. I remember young and pretty jeans-under-her-burka friend Fazeela, to name a few with whom I have lost touch. Someone like me needs someone like Nabeel as a resource, not merely an intellectual with academic knowledge.

That is why I pray that God in His kindness might spare Nabeel for a few more years. Whatever may happen, healing or not, in life or in death, I pray that Dr. Nabeel Qureshi would be mightily used of God for the furtherance of the Kingdom of God.

Meeting a Baldwin-Girls girl

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[Part 7 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

12 August 2016. Radhika and I planned to meet in the school at 3:00 p.m. The whole day was planned around this. I reached the school gate at 2:40 p.m.

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I decided to wait for Radhika outside the old school office, where I met a little Baldwinian and our conversation went something like this:

Nahomi: Which class are you in?
Little Baldwinian: Fifth standard
Nahomi: Are you waiting for someone to pick you up?
Little Baldwinian: Yes
Nahomi (with the air of one about to reveal a rare secret): Forty years ago, I would sit here and wait just like you.
<Silence >
Nahomi: A lot has changed. This area in front used to be a garden.
Little Baldwinian: I know. My friend told me. Her mother used to wait too.

That put me in my place somewhat. I was one among thousands who had passed through this school. For many, their time here represented a glorious chapter of their lives.

I studied in Baldwin Girls from 1974 to 1978, from Standard IV to Standard VII. It was a time when I had very little control over my life. Not all of it was bad. But then not all of it was good. I did not even know that I had rights and that I could object when my rights were being impinged upon. I am referring to the subtle and not-so-subtle discrimination that some of us experienced in school life, not being given equal opportunities to participate in extra curricular activities and being despised by my Hindi teachers. I am sure my Hindi was absolutely despicable, but I was only a child with no other way of learning the language except from said teachers. Then, there was the year I was a member of the Library Squad; slogging it out under the tyrannical Librarian of the Senior Library, I could easily have ended up hating libraries and books for the rest of my life. In those days, how I longingly remembered the gentle soft-spoken Librarian of the Junior Library.

Sitting outside the old office near the front gate, the scene that had looked familiar suddenly changed. Like an anthill that had been disturbed, all of a sudden, 100s of yellow buses started to leave the school, full of children. It was a sight to behold.

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Although no fault of the school, school life in BGHS for me also included bus commutes to and from school. These buses were not the benign yellow school buses you see today. I am talking about overcrowded public buses, where child and school bag disappeared into the bowels of a bus filled with adults displaying many of the traits of our fallen race. Each bus journey was a struggle to breathe and live. I had to change buses in Shivajinagar too.

Although my father did not know the half of it, and although I was by and large a happy child, he sensed my unhappiness in the school and took me out of this prestigious school. The rest of my school days were spent in a smaller school, that I could bike to, where I regained my self confidence and grew, even excelling in public speaking. I felt vindicated when Mrs Gadhadhar an English teacher in Baldwins was on the panel of judges for the annual Elocution and Public Speaking competition in my next school. I tied for first prize that year and Mrs Gadhadhar approached me to congratulate me. “I have seen you somewhere; were you in Baldwins by any chance?” Her very next question was, “But why did you not participate in Elocution competitions in Baldwins?” I had no answer to that question, and I suspect she did not expect me to know the answer anyway. She was one of Baldwin’s most-loved teachers, and I’m sorry that I left school before I could be taught by her.

So do I hate Baldwins? By no means. Some teachers like Mrs Samuel, Miss Fritchley, Mrs Hunter, Mr Kirkwood, and Mr Mitchell gave me as much as some others took away. I have even written a separate post about lovely Miss Fritchley.

Moreover, school is not defined by the teachers alone. The children with whom I spent those years are a part of my past. Thanks to Facebook, some of us are connected today. Although we have all moved to various parts of the world and although our lives may not have much in common, everyone of us can recollect many a pleasant memory shared in the confines of BGHS.

One such friend is Radhika Shyam, who I remember as a kind and sweet girl who always had a welcome smile for everyone. She was someone who couldn’t care less whether her friends were wealthy or poor or what strata of society they hailed from. She loved to talk. She loved to tell stories and did so very well. One time, our school took us to see a Hindi film called Rani aur Lalpari that starred Asha Parekh. It was a wretchedly sad film, but had it not been for Radhika telling me the story before the film began, I might have spent a horrified two hours without understanding. This would have been much worse than the heart-wrenchingly sad two hours that I spent with understanding.

Radhika loves Baldwin Girls dearly and continues to serve her Alma mater by being on the school board and so on. Naturally, one of her favourite teachers is Mrs Gadhadhar the English teacher, and it is no wonder that Radhika went on to become a writer. Bangloreans have all probably read her work for she has more than 400 articles in Deccan Herald to her credit. She is also a poet. She has even written poems for children in a book called “Once Upon A Funny Time.” 11_yt_review_g6021t_351303g

After Radhika arrived, we greeted each other and it felt as if the intervening years melted away and it was the mid 1970s again. We even seemed to look like we did all those years ago.

We walked around the school. Many things were new and changed around some very old and familiar buildings. For instance, our old Standards V to VII were all Standard II now. I was dismayed to hear that they had up to Section K now. 11 sections! Surely it would be nigh impossible to hold the old-time school assemblies and House assemblies, where so much of our character building must have happened. But the city of Bangalore has grown and people must still want to admit their children in the wellknown schools. It must be a very complex problem for school managements today.

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When we were in school, somehow Radhika and I had spent PT (Physical Training) periods together. We even spent Sports days together, sitting on the stone tiers watching the various sporting events taking place in the field. This, in spite of the fact that we belonged to different houses, she to Fisher and I to Benthein.

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“Two four six eight / Whom do we appreciate / Ya -ay . . . , the cheer leaders must have shouted, and Radhika and I would have loyally yelled out “Fisher” and “Benthein” respectively with great gusto before continuing most comfortably with our conversation. To be fair, I don’t remember this happening exactly, but I’m pretty sure this was the way it happened; I can almost picture it. We had to sit on those same tiers and take a selfie.

We made our way around the school, reminiscing and chatting about various things, till we were back at the front gate. This was a precious meeting and well worth the effort to make it happen. I wish Radhika great success in the years ahead and true and lasting happiness.

Flashback to the Kir’ba-Priscy-Alex days

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[Part 5 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

11 August 2016. After returning home and having a cup of Premi Akka’s tea, Hannah booked an Ola for me, so I could go and visit Kir’ba and family, Priscy and family, and Rachel in nearby Cooke Town. Cooke Town was not like the quiet spacious suburb I remembered it to be; it  was noisy and busy. But I digress; this post is about some very special friends from the past.

Their brother Alex is abroad with his family, and their parents have both passed on. I remember taking little Alex to Clarence in 1980/81, his first year in the school and my last. He would be seated behind me as I rode my bike from Williams Town to school, past Tannery Road and the Dhoddi. I would be worried that his feet would end up in the back wheel; every two minutes I would ask him if he was putting his feet in the wheel. Immediately he would spread out his legs and the resultant white flash of his impeccably Blanco’ed keds would give me confidence to continue . . . for two more minutes.

Although I did not get to meet Alex, I met the three sisters. Rachel had been just a todder when I last saw her. Kir’ba and Priscy, I knew well as my Sunday School kids in the late 70s and early 80s.  They were also neighbours. At one stage, I spent every free moment in their home, which  was different from my own,  a difference that for some reason I found refreshing.

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I do not think I should even attempt to explain how blessed and beautiful the meeting was, as they shared their testimonies and recounted the Lord’s leading in their lives. How the Lord has been faithful!

To all Sunday School teachers out there, especially the very young ones, do not underestimate the value of what you do. I was blessed with the opportunity to meet my wards after 30 years, but even if you do not have that opportunity, you can be sure that the word of God is powerful and will do its work. Yours but to teach it faithfully.  In turn, today Prisy is involved in ministry among children. This meeting alone makes having come to Bangalore well worth the while.

Pleased with the airports

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[Part 9 of Series Two days in Bangalore]

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13 August 2016. I was impressed with the domestic airports in Chennai and Bangalore generally. The passengers were disciplined and polite, quite unlike those in our flight from KL to Chennai, for some reason.

But this post is about my breakfast in Bangalore airport, the morning I was flying back to Chennai. I had enough time to scout around for the best-value tiffin place. Having purchased a copy of ‘India Today’ for Rs 50, I had only Rs 160 in cash left. After waiting my turn in a long queue, I ordered a plate of vada (4 nos) and coffee. I was short by about Rs 10, but before I could change my order, the man at the till said “Never mind ma’am” and gave me a token.

For someone leaving Bangalore very disappointed with the traffic congestion and haphazard growth, this gesture was a pleasant surprise indeed! It was good to know that somethings were nice about today’s Bangalore. 

The coffee was also excellent.

When I posted this on Facebook, a number of people responded, urging me to look more kindly at the changed Bangalore.

Friend 1: Like our lovely airport, a lot of the city’s infrastructure has improved. I think because you live in a sparsely populated country the difference hits you. But if you think about it, I bet you didn’t see a single bus so overloaded and tilted, that it seemingly moves on two linear wheels – the way we travelled to college . . .

Friend 2: While I crib about the garbage on the road , the other day I had to walk to some place and the weather was just gorgeous – the Gulmohar trees , greenery – it’s still pretty green – was just lovely ! . . . Places like MG road and Brigade road are terrible. 100 ft road in Indranagar is the new MG Road]

Friend 3: New places like Yelahanka, Sevanagar, and HRBR are the posh areas now.

I consider Bangalore as my city and I’ll always love it. This visit to Bangalore was mostly for going around and looking at places and people from my childhood. Places had changed so much. MG Road and Brigade road had been gloriously different in the 70s, and I cannot help remembering what those roads used to look like. The traffic is atrocious. All this makes me sad, and yet I am amazed that the city functions at all with this vast population.