in india 2006

Yesterday, the first day of the 45th year of my life, proved to be quite an interesting day.  India is many things – frustrating, hot, nasty, conniving, dirty, lying, noisy, tasty, hot, crowded, smelly, and did i mention “HOT”?  One thing it is not, and that is “boring”.  Open your window and see a world that is sometimes stranger than fiction; talk to someone and learn that logic plays no part in some people’s lives; smile at someone and say “hi” to get an almost-lifelong (it seems) “friend”.

I stayed in India for 4 months in 1998, helping a self-supporting pastor, and helping set up the accounting books for an orphange.  Many things i had learned up to then in schools and life were proven wrong by staying here, and i had a terrible time trying to regain my confidence in people again, (and in keeping additional hair from falling out 🙂  Actually, the hair outage stopped after 3 days of seaweed eating in Korea, and the human-confidence factor was restored about 1 day after returning to Japan.

So this time, what will happen?  I made it here on Tuesday, and had some experiences Wednesday, but yesterday was super interesting.  First, my friend came to visit in my hotel room in the morning, bringing some lovely chapati and okra with just one hot pepper in it.  I have a supply of food with me, so spread some peanut butter on the chapati, and ate a few handfuls of raisins, had a sesame-sugar (jiggery) combination brought from Sri Lanka, and topped everything with a Vitamin C tablet.  “Hotel” has a nice ring, and may raise some eyebrows about missionaries living high, but at 200Rs. (4.5dollars), i could live much more cheaply here than staying in a normal apt. in most developed countries.

After dedicating the day to the Lord in prayer, my friend had an appointment, so i walked over to the animator’s office by myself.  He had not accomplished much since the evening before, making me a little disappointed.  I sit with him around 2 hours, watching him work at getting a nice background image for chapter3 of the GC animation.  He melds a greenery pic with the pic of heaven used in the first chapter animation, and the result is marvelous.  His DTP skills show thru, but he’s still working from a low level on his animation skills.  Just having the technical knowledge is not enough either, as one must have some kind of eye for aesthetics,  For example, if you have Jesus flipping quickly like a page just because the text says he was shut in by the bright light about the Father 3 times, everyone will think Jesus is some kind of looney-tune.  Hey, actually the Looney-Tunes’ animation is tops all around – haha.  The scary music must go too…..

I go back to my room and piddle with the computer a bit, and then eat the leftover rice from last nite along with a pomegranate brought by my friend.  Pomegranates are usually very expensive in Japan, and hard to eat, but here they are 10Rs. (around 22cents) and hard to eat, so i dig into one while thinking about how we will be eating these in heaven, as Ellen White saw them on the looooooong silver table there.  With some pumpkin seeds and raisins on my rice, and a bit of olive oil shaken on it too, i have a nice meal, even if long from plucking each pomegranate juicy thing and crunching thru it – yum yum!

My friend is busy again in the afternoon, so after dropping in on the animator once more, and seeing almost no change, i decide to take a walk around my neighborhood.  There is a PC shop nearby, so avoiding the 2 cow guards at the entrance, i make my way up to the 2nd floor where i’m told a 128mb USB drive (called Pen Drive here) is 700Rs., and a 256mb one is 1300Rs.  The price for the 256mb one is the same as for the very cheapest 1gb one i saw in Bangkok!  Sure wish i would have bot one there and brought it over.  Oh well.  Walking in the hot sun on a dusty street when it is probably 36-37 in the shade (97-99F) isn’t quite the nice cultural experience you might imagine.  It is really funny seeing cows wandering about in the city, settled over there like big dogs, standing over there munching on garbage, just standing doing what cows do – poop, etc.  It isn’t until i go back to my hotel room and take off my pants that i see something that only a pyschology professor could love – cow-poop splatter on the back of my pants.  Probably from when that bus went by……

The market looks like something from a bad B-movie, with dirt and trash and junk, and that basically describes the produce for sale!  One vendor goes to the trouble of shooing away a cow who thinks his rotting apples look tasty.  One girl of around 7 grabs my arm with the other hand outstretched in the universal sign for “give me something”.  I make my way onward, thru the mess to the mess on the other side.  There are fewer people in the street, and you can pick your way to step a little more carefully.

Walking down the street is not the nicest of things to do, as every other male calls out “You’re from?!” in a demanding tone.  I still have enough energy and belief in people to smile at everyone.  Isn’t that what Jesus would do?  But would he really take the time to talk with each one, knowing that their brains were working feverishly to figure out a way to get at his money, not being interested in a true conversation?  At least their methods are mostly legal – thank God!

My hotel offers a nice respite from the majority of the filth, if not the heat or noise.  My trusty digital thermometer displays 35.9 sitting on my bed.  It’s hard to take a nap at 96F, so to cool down, you take a shower right?  Only if you like to get boiled from what comes out of the water tank on the roof.  Well, it does feel nice to stand directly under the fan, letting the evaporation process save you the trouble of using a towel.  It makes me sneeze.

After working a bit on my first ever Sudoku, finally figuring out how the thing is supposed to work, my friend comes, and we go to see the artist who is drawing “stills” for the animation of the 1858 Great Controversy.  He’s a nice Muslim man, and it is amazing to see how fast he draws and the beautiful work he can do.  He’s concerned over drawing Satan’s forehead, showing it receding.  He read Isaiah 53 last nite, as he saw that in the Great Controversy we gave him.  He reads it again to us, explaining that it has nothing to do with Satan.  It is marvelous to see him get the Gospel of Jesus Christ as he does this 🙂  We tell him to look in the GC book itself, and explain that Isaiah 53 explains The Plan of Salvation, the title of chapter 3.  He seems satisfied, and we go thru the various drawings we want for the animation.  He doesn’t want to draw the nakedness of Adam and Eve, and i don’t want him to either.  It takes a while tho thru my translator to get him to understand that they should be covered in light, so maybe he could just draw the hands, face, and feet in the proper position, and then the torso could be painted showing just light.  He smiles and sketches out a beautiful human form in seconds.  Wow!  That’s talent.  I understand he worked in Saudi Arabia for some time also.  His office is incredibly cramped, making me wish that spoiled workers in other countries could see the conditions some people are in, doing as good or better work than they do perhaps!!

A truck is trying to go down an impossibly narrow street on our way on the motorbike to the main “moneyed” hotel here.  We have an appointment to meet the Division Evangelism Director here.  His plans have changed, so we have around 2 hours to while away.  There is an old cafeteria from the British era it looks like, with maybe 20ft high ceilings, large columns, marble or polished granite floors etc.  We wash our hands first like everyone does, because we eat with our hands like everyone does.  My fingertips have started to turn yellow from the masala.  The masala dosai is a very thin pancake-looking wheat product that has a bit of potato-vegetable curry in it.  It comes spread out, its 3 corners sticking far out over the edges of the perhaps 12inch dish.  It looks like a meal-full, but if you squished it all together, it would probably barely fill up one hand.

The waiter stands practically over us, asking of course “You’re from?” etc.  I answer nicely, but wishing he wasn’t doing that.  The usual Indian way tho is not to give a care about how the other person would like to be treated, only about how you want to be treated by them.  Even my Indian friends say this, and other Japanese who have been to this country many times point this out too.  It gets really old after awhile.  We eat our dosais and i pay 40Rs. (almost 90cents) including a 4Rs. tip.  Finishing a spicy meal without something like yoghurt or sweets to bring life back to my tongue, and to tell my body not to expect anything more, is not what my system thrives on, but am forced to bear with it this evening.

We walk around town a bit, going to a PC shop run by some Christian man my friend has dealt with before.  His 128mb USB drive is the same price as everyone else’s, but his 256mb one is much cheaper, so hope to buy one for my friend some day.  We dodge motorcycles, tri-shaws (tuk-tuks), cars, and the worst – bicycles – on our way to a night market where mostly imported electronics, toys, and home-builder type things are sold.  Bicyclists don’t have any lights, and don’t care much if they run over you or not.  The incredible cacaphony of wheezing, blasting, blaring, musical, grating horns on all the other vehicles makes one tired just to keep ones’ ears open.

Another friend we meet in the market has a cell phone shop.  He tells us he has gone shopping in Dubai, Iran, Malaysia, and Singapore.  I ask about Japan, and he says the visa is too hard to get.  He quotes an excellent price on exchanging USD, only 1/2Rs. off the official rate.  I ask about JPY, and he quotes a rate about 1Rs. off, plus he requires a photo copy of my passport if i wish to do that one.  His rates on both are around 1Rs. better than the exchanger near my hotel, and about 5 Rs. or over 10% better than the airport’s Thomas Cook shop’s!!!

My friend counts the huge wad of 100s (2.2usd) for me, and i notice one thing in India hasn’t changed in 8 years – many of the bills have staple holes in the left side.  They STAPLE them in bundles of 100 notes.  Like, wonder why they fall apart so soon?  What a disfunctional way to take care of a minor problem. 

We wander back to the hotel where our appointment time has gotten closer.  Here in this city the “coolest” shops with all the customers and mirrors and flash and pan are the fruit juice shops.  Really quite nice to see, but haven’t felt a need to try them yet.  We do spend a few minutes in a imported-food shop, and i buy some almonds and super-lovely soy milk with saffron and pistachios in it.  Have you ever drunk velvet?  This is too lovely.  There is one of the paradoxes of this place.  99% of the time while walking along the streets you are in danger of being run over, assaulted with excretion and garbage smells, and if in the daytime, in danger of serious heatstroke or dehydration, yet once in a while you see the most exquisite flowers for sale, or smell the most enchanting perfume-laden breeze wafting from some shop or temple – sensory-overload!!!

The hotel graciously lets us wait in their lounge for the Evangelism Director.  After waiting for around 20 minutes the director walks in, a couple of minutes early.  We pray, and i show him the English 1858 GC book, then the Japanese, Tamil, etc.  After about 2 minutes he cuts to the quick, and asks what we would like him to do.  I tell him that i’m trying to get this book into the various languages, and would appreciate it if he knew anyone willing to translate into Telegu, and if he would be interested in promoting/distributing it.  He replies MUCH more affirmatively than anyone else EVER has – turning to the Tamil Conference President who is with him, and telling him that he would like to order 10,000 of them for the members in his conference.  He says he also would like 10,000 of the Telegu ones when they get done, and supplies the name of a translator he trusts.  I show the 4 minute animation of the first chapter, and he is quite excited actually, saying that he would like me to come up to the Division headquarters in Hosur and show it and give a talk to the people there some Friday evening, and that i should go to the English church in this city and they would help with a projector so i could show it there.  Then he says he would like to get 10,000 English ones printed too.


It is all over in 20 minutes, as he has to catch a bus, but the quick appreciation of the value of this inspired book by God’s servant – Ellen White – and the desire to see many church members get an opportunity to read this most important of her books – it is a GREAT heart-lifter to me.  Church leaders are usually the most reserved, the most “take no risk” type of people i’ve ever met, taking everything to committee meeting after committee meeting until it has been hashed to death.  Or they are of the opinion that they have the theological degrees, and who am i anyway?  I’ve even been asked point-blank once if i’d gotten seminary training (implying that you can’t possibly know the deeper things of God if you haven’t).  So this reaction was like a blast of fresh, air-conditioned air, giving a light step on my way back to my hotel, and with a song in my heart of praises and honor to God.

Checking the TV channels, reading the Bible, and taking a lukewarm shower rounded out this amazing day.  Would it be too much to ask God to have every day this year of my life like this??!!

May Jesus, who gave his life of infinite worth to save ours of zero worth, receive all the glory and praise and honor, and may he look at us and be satisfied at his soul’s travail when we stand on the sea of glass,

NOTE: Post written April 28, 2006

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