India Diary 1

Hello All,

Finally got to send this first diary note about a week behind but eventually made it. It is not quite as easy, either full, power cuts or general problems with the computers, have to shop around little.

Took off from Heathrow Sunday 6th Feb about an hour late, leaving at 22.30, flew by Oman Airways straight to Muskat, Oman, knew the airport well as I lived there for 2 years 1998-2000. Changed aircraft then flew onto Mumbai arriving at 2.30 pm. was cleared by immigration, customs and collected my baggage within an hour so very good. Temperature on arriving was a very pleasant 32 degrees, it felt good to be back. The flight journey was very uneventful, did not engage with too many people in conversation, everyone seemed to be sleepy including me. But I did have a tinge of excitement to be heading back to a land I am really fond of, a land full of contrasts, diversity, intrigue, confusion and wealth.

On arrival at Mumbai I had no particular plans, just being led by the Lord really, the only thing I had in my mind was to make contact with people I knew in Mumbai, head to Victoria central railway station and on to Goa which I intend to be my base for the next three months. My friend in Mumbai was unfortunately not well with the flu, and much as it would have been good to see her (husband in Goa) the last thing I wanted having just arrived, was to be hit with a flu bug, so we agreed to meet up on my way back, but it was good to talk with her and share the faith.

Whilst still at the airport I discovered that I could now book a train and seat from the airport which I duly did, it cost me 363 rupees about £5, distance of 583 kms. This was the lowest fare, without A/c and to travel with the locals, which is just fine, this was a concessionary rate as I told them I was over 60 so they duly obliged, God Bless them. The train chosen was leaving the station at 7am which allowed me the time to spend the whole night on the train station so I could see firsthand what it was like and what the various people, travellers and homeless, did on the station. Having booked my ticket I felt very happy so set about getting myself to the station. Took a taxi which I believed to be a government vehicle and paid 900 rupees (£12) journey of about 35 kms, found out in fact I paid £5 too much, this was a sharp reminder to me that in India you have to negotiate better. Anyway I am now on my way.

The highway from the airport to the station had improved since I was here 16 months previous and a lot of signs of infrastructure going on with more skyscraper buildings, but the driving had not improved and I am sure we decreased the population by half a dozen and increased the heart rate of many in the hours journey to the station that it took. The taxi driver was not amused if anyone got in his way, he seemed to drive like the crow flies, traffic lights and zebra crossing although present were certainly not intended for him or at least that’s what he thought, he just kept going. On arrival at the station I would normally have given a tip but due to being ripped at the airport for his taxi, not forgetting my own increased heart rate, I saved my money.

On arrival at the station the first task was to book my baggage into the left luggage, so bought padlocks (35p each) and secured all the zips and fasteners. The left luggage cost from 6pm until 6am the following morning was 15p. The Indians love their forms (old Colonial British days I guess) so filled out the forms and had my passport checked against the form and that was it, although in one way it was a nuisance, but felt reasonably comfortable that at least my belongings were secure. It was now gone 7pm and I felt hungry so it was time to look around for a place to eat. No hygienic restaurants are available at the station, well not hygienic to me that is, so I settled for purchasing a bottle of water and some cashew nuts, and left the station to search outside. It was suffocating on the station, it was absolutely packed, with little space to move, mmmm I thought to myself, the night on the station could be challenging and amusing, must be my masochistic tendency, as I was really looking forward to the experience.

By this time I had already dispensed with my western clothing and was dressed in shorts, open shirt and flip flops, I felt great, dirty and grimy yes with the dust of my travel, but was so high in spirits. My bible was under my arm so India stand by. You can imagine what the Indians must have thought seeing this man of whiteness, I got many inquisitive looks and smiles, many were interested in the large book I was carrying and I was delighted to share the word of the Lord with them.

Found a clean restaurant outside and just had bread and salad, too early in the journey to start being adventurous with unknown eating houses. Returned to the station at 10ish in the evening to settle down for the night of intrigue, was not tired at this time and felt that sleep would not come easy tonight but that was not really of a concern to me. There seemed to be more people on the station when I got back than when I left, must be at least a couple of thousand. The Mumbai station is quite large as you can imagine, it has millions of passengers that travel daily on the Indian railways, it makes it so difficult to keep the platforms clean ha ha and it certainly showed. There were now many groups of people sitting and sleeping on the floor, some looked as though they had no homes and were using the station as their abode, but others were of course travellers, whole families of them. And then it struck me that most of these people were far from destitute but simple families enjoying the experience of travel. They brought their belongings and virtually set up home for the night on the floor and made themselves comfortable, pillows were brought out and people simply rested their heads, they had picnics throughout the night, children were running around and having fun, it was truly a wonderful sight. Their space on the floor wherever they were became their territory for that moment in time, and others seemed to respect that.

It remained noisy all night but really interesting, looking a little deeper, many of the families were having such fun, but of course there were the obvious homeless and street people, but all seemed to mix together with each other. Did manage to find a place to put my head, it was a stone curved seat and it was very dirty but there was no one on it, so like the others I set out my territory and made home for the night, thinking how lucky I was that I had found such a place. The first thing I did, was use a bottle of water and clothes and cleaned the space, when done I thought to myself, that’s just great. So by midnight I was settled stretched out on this stone bench for sleep. Then I found out why my chosen place was empty and not being used by anyone even though thousands were around, as I lay there resting I heard an occasional plop and found out that I was under the roof beams which was home to many pigeons and I was covered with their mess and had to spend the next hour cleaning myself and clothes, what an idiot I am, looked around in embarrassment but no one seem to notice so saved my blushes. Ended up sharing a stone bench elsewhere in the middle of the crowds with what appeared to be an homeless lady from the streets who snored above the noise of the trains in the station and who woke many times screaming as though possessed, but I said a prayer or two, smiled at her and dosed in and out of sleep for the rest of the night. The night on the station lived up to all expectations, such a wonderful experience, in a way it gave me greater understanding of the resilience of the ordinary people of India.

My train left on time at 7am, heading towards Goa, Margao, a twelve hour journey. Shared the journey, and the bible with some Germans travelling to Panjim, they got off several stops before me, but most of the journey was spent looking out of the window at the countryside and in and out of sleep. Arrived in Margao at 8.30pm and went straight to my friends flat (Mathew & Tina Peris, sons Khailib, Daniel, Joshua and their cousin Jonathon), where I was staying with him and his family. They had a nice meal prepared for me, my first curry again in India, it was fine as I knew it would be, well prepared and cooked. Got to my bed at just after midnight and never woke until 2.30pm, it was now Weds, had been a long journey considering I left at 2pm on Sunday.

First problem encountered was on Thursday, although the family were so gracious to look after me without complaint they had difficulties, they only had two bedrooms, there were 7 of us and there was a breakdown in water supply, so no water. Things got very difficult over the next few days, almost being spiritually attacked for the Christian discussions and work we were going to do with establishing a 24/7 prayer room, Alpha and others Christian matters. Matthew was convinced we were being spiritually attacked and we spent many hours in prayer. By the Friday it was not pleasant, so I felt obliged to move to a hotel, the family understand and so I moved. At the hotel I contacted friends and had time to pray as to my next move. When I came to India before, I stayed in a very nice Villa which was indeed offered again, but I did not feel that the Lord was calling me to move there so decided to wait some time even though I had not really budgeted for the hotel. Stayed in the Raaj hotel in Margoa for several nights then by invitation moved to North Goa a place called Mapsa where a low cost hotel was arranged for me by a friend of mine (£5 a night).

Have re-established contact with many of my old friends, who are now searching for a place for me to stay longer term. The Lord is saying to me to be patient, so now I just roam with my bible under arm, pray with people I have met and stop and talk to people of our Lord Jesus.

I will end this first diary note by telling you very simply, what I feel I am being called to do in India:

  • Simply to stand shoulder to shoulder with Indian Christians, in sharing faith together and to understand and share, just some of the difficulties and challenges they face as Indian Christians.
  • To pray in unity together, with people of all denominations including the RC Church and to participate in their house groups and bible study activities where possible.
  • To spread The Word of the Gospels to as many people as possible.
  • To continue with using the Alpha course as a tool to ‘The meaning of Life’ for new Christians.
  • To explore the possibilities of establishing a 24/7 prayer room on a long term basis, with a possible basic Christian library.

Comments

  1. marilyn percy says:

    Sounds very colourful, and despite the problems you seem in high spirits, will pray for you Jim. Marilyn

  2. Gennie Stone says:

    Hello Jim,
    Thank you for including me in your newsletter list.
    It sound as though you are rolling with the challenges – well done.
    Lovely to hear that you are making contact with so many people and bring wise words and the gospels to those who need it. Keep smiling Jim, and enjoy the next few months.
    see you when you come back. Gennie

  3. Mike Barnsley says:

    Jim,
    Thanks for sharing your experiences and thoughts so far – a great read! Exciting and challenging.
    Keep in touch.
    You are in our thoughts and prayers.
    Mike

  4. Sian Chapron says:

    Hey Jim- you’re a star!! 🙂
    Looking forward to seeing you and hearing all about it when you’re home.
    Blessings, Sian

  5. Go Jim, glad you’re there and settling in. Keep us updated, stay safe and spread the word, my friend!