Monday, 28 December 2015

God's Christmas Angel

Sometimes I wish I could just see what's written ahead on my own blog. If only I could have seen ahead to what is my 100th post... Maybe then we could prevent such tragedies from happening? But that's not the way God meant us to lead our lives and so we have to take one day at a time...
The little girl I asked you all to pray for yesterday is no more. She has gone to her Maker. Please continue praying for her parents and her three siblings and their extended family in the United States, as they try to cope with their little girl's loss.



God's Christmas Angel
On Christmas afternoon a little girl fell down and hurt her head,
For forty eight hours she lay on a sterile hospital bed.
Inside her brain, she had bled.

God sent Kenya's best neurosurgeon to remove the clot,
For two days, for her life, everyone fought.
The world over thousands of people went down on their knees,
Beseeching the Almighty to save her life, please.

Her parents maintained a vigil round her bed,
Their hearts growing heavier than even lead.
Her brave siblings were the epitome of calm,
I desperately wished I could offer them a balm.

But God had decided he needed his Angel back,
Maybe in heaven even He felt her lack?
She was just eight, not even the much awaited ten,
But her family knows they will meet in heaven again.

The years will fly by, her siblings will grow,
But in their hearts her parents will always know,
Their bubbly eight year old is beyond all sorrow.
And they will see her in God's promised tomorrow.

I will see the little girl in her mother's beautiful smile,
My son will see her in her brother, as together they run the Mile.
I have known them for just two months, not more,
And yet my own heart is terribly sore.

I wish someone or something could help ease their pain,
Actually, I just wish their baby would come to life again...


Sunday, 27 December 2015

In A Fraction Of A Second...

Life can change, in a fraction of a second.
Your whole world can turn upside down, in a fraction of a second.
You and yours and those who hold you dear are never the same again, in a fraction of a second.
This point was brought home to us last month after our personal harrowing, horrifying experience when the river burst its bank just as we were passing by. One minute we were safely ensconced in our  luxurious car, the next minute we were wading through thigh high rising water, fraught with known and unknown dangers. But we were very thankful to God to have escaped safely with life and limb intact. It did NOT matter that the car had to be written off.
The last two days have again brought home the point of just how precious human life is. I never log on to Face Book until after dinner, when I have finished just about every task for the day. I wish people, see and 'like' a few photos and updates and log off in ten minutes. Even if I have written my blog earlier in the day, I share it directly onto Face Book without actually going there. On 25th December, I was about to go down and join my husband for our evening walk when I suddenly had the inexplicable urge to log onto Face Book right then. I followed my instincts and the first update I saw was from my son's school friend's mother who said her second youngest daughter, just eight years old, had had a bad fall in the house and was in hospital in a critical state. She was asking people to pray for her daughter. She needed surgery for a clot in the brain and was not stable enough to be operated on. I knew then why I had urgently felt the need to check Face Book and I began praying then and there...
They stay two minutes driving distance from our house. My son spent last Saturday there and his friend was to come and spend a day in this coming week with us. His mother and I had planned this when we met during the Christmas concert in school exactly two weeks before this tragic accident. The little girl was sitting in the row right in front of me, swaying happily to the music.
They are American and Christians and she teaches in the children's school. The accident happened late in the afternoon on their big day of celebration. One minute the child was playing happily, the next minute she had fallen and had to be rushed to hospital. Life changes in a fraction of a second...
I took my son to their house the next day to see if we could help in any way at all, besides praying hard and mobilising the KenIndian Mothers group from our school to pray. My son's friend was up a tree in their compound, reading a book, the oldest daughter, a ninth grader was taking care of the youngest sister who is just three years old. The parents, of course, were in hospital with their injured baby who had finally had surgery that morning. By the grace of God, Kenya's top neurosurgeon was in Nairobi and had not left town, as is the norm for long weekends here. The kids were calm and collected. The oldest daughter was the epitome of graciousness when I brought them some dinner later in the evening. It was the least I could do and I did not even expect or want a thank you. They had had a terrible twenty four hours that one would not wish on one's worst enemy, their sibling's life was hanging by a thread and they still exhibited impeccable manners. Their parents must be very proud of these wonderful kids. I certainly was...
We are praying that the brain stem shows some activity. People are praying the world over for God's Grace and that this little second grader survives. May God give her family the strength to face whatever He has planned for them in the coming days. May my son be there for his friend in this hour of their need.
I request you all to pray for them, please. It is the only thing we can all do. Life can change for any of us, in just a fraction of a second...


Friday, 18 December 2015

A Double Helping Of Divine Blessing

This morning I got an update on my Times Of India news app. Yes I have downloaded that particular app because I need to know exactly what is happening in MY country and of, course, about the important events taking place around the world. This morning's news brief said that a second miracle performed by Mother Teresa, who passed away in 1997, has been recognized by the Pope and soon sainthood will be conferred on her. India was her adopted country and she lived, served and breathed her last there.
Saints and sainthood are not new for India and Indians. The Hindu religion is absolutely filled with them and it is their devotees of that period who have elevated them to this status, after witnessing many miracles first hand. We have even happily embraced saints of other religions, having understood the basic fact that good people cannot be discriminated against on the basis of religion! The long lines of people, many of them Hindus, outside famous dargahs and churches are a mute testimony to this fact. Whatever and whoever helps you to understand life and its vagrancies and helps you live it to the fullest, teaches you to cope with its heart breaks and tragedies and helps you remain down to earth even at the pinnacle of success, is the one who is a representative of God or a saint for most people.
I, too, visited the holy city of Shirdi last July, where the shrine of a famous siant is located. It is a few hours drive from my home town Pune and every time I meet some one new from India and mention where I am from, the almost standard reply is " Oh yes, we have passed through your city on our way to Shirdi!" Since I had begun visiting the temple of that saint that we have here in Nairobi, I was determined to visit Shirdi in the last holidays and even more determined to drive there myself!
My husband was in Nairobi and he laid down the condition that even if I drove myself, I had to hire a driver to accompany me, in case something went wrong along the way. I agreed ONLY because I cannot change a flat tyre to save my life, an error I am determined to rectify when my children start learning how to drive. I have told them they must learn to change a tyre first, before getting anywhere near the wheel! My older sister in law agreed to accompany me and everything was set for our holy trip.
Since I teach at my academy during the two months that I am at home, I had a class the evening before we were supposed to leave. My car was parked right outside our gate, as I had taken it to top up the fuel tank for the next day's journey. (I say 'my' because it was a gift from my husband to me when we moved back to India from Tanzania and my children call it my 'third' child and I just need an excuse to get into it and take off!) I stepped out of the gate and as I looked up at the heavy black monsoon clouds that laced the sky, the first few fat drops were just beginning to fall. My classrooms are a four minute walking distance from my house but I did not want to risk getting wet as I was travelling the next day.To be honest, getting wet never affects me and I usually prefer to walk to class, as it helps me make the transition between home and work, but, like I said, any excuse to drive! So I slid into the car as I had my key in my hand bag and, well, took off!
As I came onto the main road where my class room is located, I spotted my Yoga teacher. She was just hopping onto her scooter, after buying something from the corner shop. I waved to her and went and parked a bit ahead of my classroom. Since we had not met since I came back to India, and we share a deep friendship and a reciprocal teacher student relationship too, she had followed me and she stopped her scooter to talk to me. Understand that if I had walked to class as I had originally planned, instead of jumping into the car at the last minute, we would have missed each other by a couple of minutes as she would have left by the time I rounded the corner on foot. Miracle no 1.
We share a deep connection on all matters spiritual too and she is responsible to a great extent for my spiritual development through the yoga class I have attended for years and so I excitedly told her about the trip I was taking the next day. She asked me if we had a 'pass' to enter the sanctum sanctorum as the next day was a Sunday and it would be even more crowded than usual. I replied in the negative and said we were leaving really early and were mentally prepared to stand in the queue for as long as it took to reach inside.
Thursdays and Sundays are the two days when the maximum number of devotees throng to this temple from all parts of India. A really busy day could see anywhere between seventy thousand to eighty thousand people in ONE day! My teacher said her husband's cousin was a Shirdi native and could organize VIP passes if told in advance but even he had warned her to avoid asking him for a Thursday/Sunday pass! She said she would call him all the same and she did, standing right there, outside my classroom. He said he would get back to her. I said goodbye and walked into my classroom to start my class. She promised to message me when she heard back from him.
Half an hour later the message on my phone said two passes for the main noon 'Aarti' (the part where the Gods are venerated at a fixed time every day) were waiting for us in the temple office, despite the short notice and for such a super busy day! Getting passes meant not only bypassing huge queues but  getting passes for the Aarti meant that we would get to spend a substantial amount of time in the main temple hall, as a Darshan (blessing/worship) pass would have allowed us just to file past the saint's statue. Miracle no 2.
5:00 am: a cool, rainy, Sunday morning. The driver reported for duty very punctually, was appalled to know he was on stand by and was being paid to NOT drive, but I gave him no choice and soon we had picked up my sister in law from her house and had hit the highway. A few short hours and a coffee and shopping break later, we were in the busy temple town of Shirdi, teaming with people, vehicles and animals. As cell phones and cameras are not allowed in the temple, we left everything with the driver in car park. That's also the reason I do not have a single picture of our trip for this post!
A short queue later we were at the pass counter and our names were checked off the list. My teacher's brother in law had really done the needful! I paid for the passes and soon had the coveted pieces of paper tucked safely inside my purse. We entered the huge temple complex and were told to go towards a particular entrance since we had passes. We could see never ending queues forming on the other side, despite the fact that it was so early in the day. That's where we would have been, had it not been for my 'accidental' meeting the previous evening!
We showed our passes to the policemen guarding that particular entrance and were allowed to enter and join a queue. (Police protection has been granted as this, being one of the most popular and richest temples in India, is under constant threat of a terrorist attack...) Yes, even with the passes there was a huge crowd of similar pass holders!
Our line inched forward, up and then down a flight of stairs, through a corridor, a packet each of 'Prasad' (blessed food) was thrust into our hands and then finally we were in neat lines that crawled forward towards the statue of the saint. I realized why the collective noun says 'a crush of people'! People from all walks of life had merged to worship together. The rich, the poor, the disillusioned, the disheartened and the blessed ones who came to offer thanks with loads of gold! We took a quick Darshan (worship and blessing), said quick prayers and then I realized that everyone was being ushered forward, towards the exit, so how and where were we supposed to wait for the noon Aarti? I showed our passes to an usher and was told we should go back quickly and join the Aarti queue and come in again as it was scheduled to start soon! Our passes were torn in half already but he just told us to explain to the person checking the passes. An 'error' had been made by people who do this job day in and day out! They had 'accidentally' misread our passes...
So we rushed out, joined a much shorter line, as very few people were privileged enough to have been granted Aarti passes and soon we were back inside the main hall! We enjoyed the divine aarti blissfully for the next twenty minutes and worshipped to our heart's content and also got two more packets of Prasad! People plan for days, travel miles, stand in queues all day and get a quick glimpse of the saint's statue before they are asked to move on. My sister in law and I, in a span of a couple of hours, had managed to entered the sacred space not once but twice! Miracle no 3!
What a lovely double helping of divine blessing! And it tastes so much sweeter when you go with no expectations at all and are just willing to accept what God chooses to dole out to you on a particular day. But then, that's true of everything in life, isn't it?

From My Desk: Tales Out Of School

                                               My Alma Mater, St.Helena's School, Pune. As we went back and forth on the Core ...