Saturday, May 22, 2010
Two Weeks in India
I have wanted to put words to my experience.....pictures I think are better suited. What a beautiful people. What a deeply humbling and heartrending two weeks.
This little girl was a bit self-conscious. She was very wary of the pale person with the camera. And rightly so I suppose.
At the Bay of Bengal I met this girl with an infectious smile. She was quick to volunteer for a picture though her siblings were a bit more suspicious.
The younger brother of the girl at the Bay of Bengal. I especially like his American flag patch on his jean jacket. He wore it proudly but wore nothing else. His shyness I suspect was not modesty though. Naked and half-naked children were everywhere. With the heat index approaching 115 everyday I think they had the right idea. Jean jackets notwithstanding.
This young man wore his very best and suffered a bit for his trouble. Even in the shade of a porch the heat was suffocating. His sweating didn't in anyway dampen his song though and what an incredible voice he had. I didn't understand his Taligu language but his passion and his faith were evident.
These kids lived at an orphanage. They were timid and slow to smile. When contorting my face into ridiculously silly gestures failed to illicit smiles and probably served only to reinforce my alienness, I got them to pose with my sunglasses. This brought the smiles by the bucketfuls. Though the consensus was that I looked like Jesus I spent considerable time trying to convince them they were created in God's image and that Jesus was Arab and probably favored them more than me. I hope my interpreter conveyed those sentiments better than I felt I did.
The shelves in the orphanage were empty. There was not a single toy. They had nothing save for the kindness of believers and each other. These girls took to spinning and twirling and their laughter was the most amazing sound! There are 35 million orphans in India, 18 million of whom are homeless. After putting 20 some faces to a small percentage of those statistics I can only say that it leaves one shaken and sick.
This was taken in the village of Vata Pradhi (?spelling?). I cannot find this village on a map. I was told I was the first American to ever visit them. By the looks on their faces I'd have to agree. They, like so many others I met, were shy and standoffish. So I decided to frown desparatly in an attempt to make them smile. It worked! And oh what smiles they had!!
This woman defied description for me. She had this fierce look of independence in her eyes that was tempered with a deep compassion. Her story must be incredible. She tenderly corralled the children on to a porch where they sat covered in flies and lice, their clothing with stitches on stitches and safety pins doing what zippers and buttons once did.
This was my favorite picture that I took. Something about her dingy, tattered dress and her intense beauty personified all of India for me.
Love this shot. The henna vine wrapping around her arm, her silver bracelets and pink dress. And again, though you'll have to trust me on this one, what a smile.
This precious woman was the first believer in Vata Pradhi, 20 years ago. She flagged us down as we were leaving to offer us cookies and tea and to give the pastor her offering; A rooster, a bag of field peas, and some rice. It was a little hard not to get choked up by the exchange.
The aforementioned rooster with a most extraordinary man. His servant's heart and generous smile were indefatigable. Again, everything about him defied description. Certain people's story must be told in their own words to avoid sounding contrived or inauthentic. I suspect this gentleman would fall into that category of autobiographers.
My last day in Tuni I went to a traditional, albeit small, Indian wedding. The service proper started at 4 a.m after a night of dancing and singing. For the first time in two weeks I was not the only one lost in the language. The ceremony was entirely in Sanskrit. The bride and groom had to be continually prompted through sign language to fulfill their ritual obligations. What struck me the most were the elements of foot washing and the use of veils. It seemed to me in a culture where so many hopes, dreams and societal standings are tied to marriage that the gospel could be contextualized in a powerful way drawing reference to the mystery of the church as the bride and her bridegroom Jesus. A reoccurring thought I had and one I'd like to study.
There are other pictures of course. Ones not taken, ones not shared. Of the abject poverty and grotesque suffering. I suppose they should be shown, but not right now. Right now I wanted to introduce you to India at her best. Through the beauty of her people. In her innocence and lack of modern sophistication. What i want you to know about India, what I want you to learn from her, what I learned from her is this. In the villages anyway, the people I met were truly thankful and had no sense of entitlement. They were not spoiled, in any sense of the word. And maybe that's why I feel I owe them both an obligation and an apology. First to protect them from being westernized and secondly, I hope I left nothing of myself there. Nothing but the love of God. And if I did, I am truly sorry.