Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The last few days.

We have been home barely a month.The first few days were spent appreciating the joy of being home,my room which has a lot of space and overlooks the oppositte hills.I sleep with stars and the lights from the hills for company.
Jonathan was with us for a few days over from Oddanchattram.
When I was doing my postgraduation,Jonathan was the youngest kid in the campus,I remember him as a chubby little kid running around the campus ,a darling of everyone around.Dr Latha and Dr Paul used to take us for impromptu weekend retreats to the Panchalur hills and we used to love it there.
With Jonathan we could make two main trips.
We went into the Dzongu hills,boated across the Mantam lake,which is a naturally formed reservoir as a result of a huge chunk of the oppositte hill falling into the river.At it's virgin state when I visited it it looked ferocious,now it looks tame but it continues to wash away the bridges built over it ,making commuting difficult for the faint-hearted.
Once we crossed the Mantam Lake we were driven to a homestay in the village of Tingbong,which I had heard of, but never seen.It was a modest four room place but the hosts seem to be well acquainted with having guests.We were well looked after with overdose of non-veg meals three times a day.
Once we had lunched we made our way on a hiking trail to conquer the landslide.It was around a four hours walk up the hill which could have been shorter but for Annie and I, as we crawled on our fours ,bitten by the leaches through sheer drops and beautiful jungle flora and birds much of which was lost on the two of as we tried to get one limb on front of the other.
Our guide ,the host, went ahead clearing the path and leading us gently.
The view from the top was beautiful.Not only was there the joy of conquering a landmark we often look at from our side of the hill with a story behind it,it also gave us a pretty view of the valley below,the ravine, the river and a direct view of Mangan where we could see our house.We took a lot of snaps there.
Descending down was easier but I found myself flat on my back short of hitting my head much to Jonathan's dscpmfort.He seems to be an excellent walker.
Our brother took us through this beautiful village with lovely wooden cottages and progressive farming where the farmers had widely used various methods to keep the weeds at bay.There was vegetable farming and aesthetic gardens,impressive to say the least in a place where anything in the name of commerce was hard to come by.
We reached the homestay by around six in the evening bathed in mud,blood and sweat.We had to take turns using the shower.After a delicious dinner of fish and rice we called it a day.
The next morning we took a shared taxi to Lingdong water falls where the youngsters took some time appreciating the immense water body falling from a great height and delicious to drink and took photographs after which we started our hike towards the hots-spring.
We crossed a footbridge over the river to the otherside.Annie and I both have agorophobia so it was quite nerve-wracking especially when the bridge starts moving but it is anyday better then the footbridge in Ashford where you have cars speeding below you and you start wondering what would happen to you if you survived the bridge giving way under your feet.
We climbed the hill for a bit and followed a beautiful footpath till we reached a dead-end ,a sheer drop on the rock and saw a stone cutter working on that rock from below.They were literally cutting out a road.
They were kind enough to put up the arm of the rock-cutter on the rock for us to walk on and then slowly descend onto the mud below and walk our way to the other half of the road to the hot-spring. For all of us ,it was a first.
Our walk to the hotspring was smooth after that.Jonathan and Agya Pemzang took a dip in the hotspring whereas Annie and I were happy to dip our feet in the cold running water of the stream.
Once done, we walked towards Passingdang even as we waited for Roshan daju to pick us up.Enroute we came across 'Rambo's' house where we were offerd tea and cold juice but we refused.
One would wonder how he would have got the name.During his hey days he apparently got into the wrong side of the law so was brought to the local police thana where he is supposed to have single-handedly thrown helter-skelter five policemen.
In a small town like Mangan,the name is stuck and so we get to hear the story still.
We walked on from there ,a beautiful walk along the road,barked at by the dogs,stared at by the kids,farmers at work,enjoying nature and spots of civilisation to the other side of the Mantam Lake where Roshan daju picked us up and drove us home.
Tired to the bones we reached home for home-cooked meal and made plans for the next day.
Jonathan made some sandwhiches for the next day before we called it a day.
I woke up at three thirty the next morning to make some Aloo puri and we left for the border towns of Lachung and Yumthang early next morning with Rivaj from the Elim church in a small car.The drive up the hill was smooth enough with a short stop at Chungthang where we fuelled ourselves with some food and tea.We crossed the town of Lachung,once much scenic but now highly commercialised and made it five kilometers beyond it playing hide and seek with clouds,rain and the sun which Jonathan had prayed for.
The dodgy roads beyond that point would not allow the car to proceed.The big taxis going through had seats for one or two and I could not risk not taking the youngsters with me so I was happy to see a truck ,on it's way to Yumthang to load sand, winding it's way slowly through the patch.We asked for a lift.They only had space at the back and inspite of the slight drizzle we climbed onto the back much to the delight of the youngsters ,our altitude sickness gone for a sixer.
While the youngsters stood holding onto anything they could find I sat on the cold floor,happy to find somewhere to rest inspite of the mud on the floor.The drive was a pleasant one with a young kid,a chain smoker, who kept the conversation flowing.He was educated in the public school in my hometown and then had been in SUM in Kalimpong,a christian school belonging to a senior of mine after which he had done two years of commerce and then had quit.Now he was collecting sand from Yumthang for the foundation of his house being built in Lachung.He had a wide range of questions for me,ranging from my family tree to the world cup match .At the end of the journey I think he concluded I was one of them so waved away any form of payment.
Yumthong valley was bidding farewell to the spring so there were faint patches of primulas on the floor,the river was flowing staidly and the mountains loomed bare.By God's grace the mist cleared so we could see the paraphenalia although I have seen it better many more times.
Johny and Annie took photographs and we took time to just to catch our breath and enjoy the creation.
By mid-day the mists started coming on ,we did not have a vehicle in hand ,so we hitchhiked on a vehicle with a bengali family much to their dismay and our relief.Rivaz met us where we had left him and drove us down the hill to Mangan.
Monda,my cousin had offered to make momos for us .So after a short respite at home we were off to my uncle's for dinner after which bhai and Urmilla drove us back home.
Early next morning Drs Paul and Lata's precious little boy left Mangan for his onward journey whereas rest of us got into our holiday routine of washing,cleaning, baking,reading,teaching,and most importantly just soaking in the richness of being home with parents.

Sunday, June 3, 2018

Homeward bound....

It has been a not so easy fortnight to tell you the truth.I have felt homesick to the core as I have moved from place to place ,just rolling along with Annie.She seems so grown up suddenly with a mind of her own and the next she is just a small child....my little neice looka after me more than I her.I have missed the stability of home and parents.Yesterday was another packed day.Church was the Lutherian church St Mary's on the hill side in Lovett lane,traditional Lutherian I found the tradition quite charming.The reading was from psalm 81 which was powerfully sung ,almost like anglican in the way it conducted the service.
The preaching was on a mixture of various biblical passages with a lot of referance to Torah and the Talmud,a little confusing for me.Met a young kid from Ranchi who had been attending the church for over a year.As we talked she took my card for whatever reason.
Annie had wanted to buy a backpack , which everyone and their brother seem to be carrying,a swedish make,apparently it's weight distribution was better along the spine??We found one for her in H and M in Oxford street much to my relief.
Shoreditch and Bricklane was another place we visited.The sheer crowd ,the variety of stalls,was overwhelming for my senses.We tried some korean buns filled with meat,oversized momos which my heice who is much more literate than me in culinary matters says is called 'Bao'.We also picked up some pancakes from netherlands with maple syrup.
As we scoured the street art I remembered visiting the place with my sister-in law some four years ago when I was in Basildon.I realise I had done most of the tourist places in London with her then.
We'd promised Anu we'd be back before six thirty which we duly did.She had booked a table for us at Jamie's by the quay.So we walked the river-bank to the Italian place.I had carbonara for the mains while the rest of the group had various other things.The appetissors and ,the pudding were lovely.We walked to Anu's place by the evening light over Thames.
I will miss friend's.When I think back about William Harvey it seems like a distant past but I still feel a twinge of pain which I can do without.That is with moving around so much ,some places win your heart and some don't,it makes you richer but I miss my peace,my time alone,my dreaming,my selfishness and I am looking forward to seeing my room in Mangan for the first time and the rest of my family.Another couple of days and I will be home.
I remember one curious lady asking me ,if, in my missionary journey, I ever felt rootless? She had had to leave all that was familiar when she found the faith.It was difficult to explain to her that 'Home' had different conotations for me ,being rooted was being rooted in Christ.It sounds theoretical put like that but it could not be more real in my life at this juncture.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Sprinting through places.

Today my neice was in a sprint mode so we made three different trips out.Early morning we went to Nottinghill and enjoyed the festivity of the weekend in the colourful town,I have always loved the colourful painted houses so could not resist a photograph for my wall at home, sold by the photographer, enlarged to slate size.It was all of twelve pounds but he could not shell out a two pound change so waved it off.I felt a little sad so asked him again if he was sure and he said a definate yes.
We also had mixed fruit juice in pineapple shell with pineapple slices.By mid-afternoon we had had a lemony day,my neice concluded.
We had lunch at an italian place where they were serving home-cooked meal Annie had Gnocci and I had beef lasagne with ice tea and lemon.Annie was not impressed with the food.She thought she had eaten better.We walked up and down the open air market while Annie picked bits amd bob from this stall and that.
I needed a suit-case so I bought one for half the price quoted in London the other day.I was very tempted to buy antique bathroom bits but I restrained myself literally.
We were back from Notting-hill for a break ,had a cup of coffee and then went off to Camden town.Camden town was I think a bit too much for both of us ,we were overwhelmed by the sheer crowd,their wierdness and the endless shops.Annie bought a few t-shirts but for me it was sometime before I realised I was standing in front of a guitar shop and in I went to pick up a capo for my guitar.
We walked all the way to chalk-farm and boarded the underground back to monument.After a quick cuppa and a short break, off we went to the south-bank to catch Tate's gallery which was hosting a whole new set of art and not as impressive as the last time.
We caught the Thames and the paraphenalia at bright daylit 9 PM as we walked back home.We saw a lot of preofessional photgraphers perched on top of the millineum bridge trying to catch St Paul's cathedral at late dusk on a bright summer day.
Walky talky by twilight and reflecting it-Courtesy Annie.

Friday, June 1, 2018


Last two days Annie and I have been soaking London up.The first day we rested the morning and then crossed the road and started walking the northside of Thames,We walked to the London eye,watched the Thames and the ship and ferries ,Annie took a lot of photographs,reached St.Pauls...walked down to a fete in the grounds ,ate original yoghurt with blueberries and strawberries.Watched the waters,took a ferry back to London bridge,walked to tower,bought some fish and chips ,sat on the pavement over-looking the tower for sometime and then walked back to Anu's flat in monument.
This morning we took our time with our breakfast and then took the underground to high street Kensington,walked to the Kensington palace,garden,Hyde park,Buckingham palace,Royal Albert Hall.We caught some lovely hot waffles with icecream and nuttella in the garden while we took photographs gallore of various flowers.We took the underground to Covent garden ,enjoyed the street performers with a very cooperative cheering crowds in nooks and corner,walked to Leicester square enjoying the friday crowd,picking bits and bob for gifts,continued to Picadelly circus,Mayfair and walked into the Waterstone which was a treat.There were books and more books.While Annie devoured them I quickly ordered a cup of tea and sat in the restaurant above watching the crowd going about enjoying the faciltiy.
Downstairs both Annie and I drooled over the knick and knacks being sold in Waterstone.There were penguin printed bags,mole-skin covered notebooks,recipe books,variety of book marks and book holders....it went on and on.
I bought two name plates of Covent garden and Regent park for my wall at home,and tiny badges of the London cab,the crown,etc for youngsters back home.
We also walked into a fair at the St.James church compound where I bought an antique silver sterling earring for my mother.
We also ambled into Mayfair.
By the time we took the tube back,it was seven at night.We quickly picked up some groceries at Tesco and were home in the next few minutes.
It is Annie's responsibilty to decide where she wants to go.We also need to read the book on Thames I had bought for Annie.


Dinner was a fire-cracker chicken curry with dumplings from Wagamamma,a treat from our dear friend Dinesh.

Thursday, May 31, 2018

Aroma of Christ...

We reached Edinburgh in the morning ,a beautiful architectural marvel .Mrs and Dr Macdonald hosted us with such warmth.For me it was a lesson in humility to see the resilence of the stalwarts.Dr Macdonald's humility,warmth ,sharp mind and extensive encyclopedic memory,Joan's efficiency,perkiness,ability to embrace,beautifully traditional home-cooked meal both Indian and Scottish ,and seeing an evidence of fruitfullness in their old age.
Dr Ann Urquat came to see me from Dundee.She is a marvel.She is a tiny fire-brand for the Lord.I was deeply touched to hear just how matter of factedly she explained why she decided to settle in Dundee.She had been requested to do so for ministry purpose.
She also gave me a packet of letters to deliver once I get back to India,impressive in it's earthy connectedness to her place of mission.
I had the privellage to meet up with Kathleen Mackenjee and her husband for lunch just talking about Lakhnadon.
Two youths from the church were kind enough to take Annie sight-seeing.
We also could meet up for bible studies one evening with a lively multi-cultural group.The discussion was on Collosians 2 vs 6-10.
Dr Macdonald interviewed me and then we had some informal question and answer sessions.
It was a wonderful time for me talking and catching up with Dr Macdonald,just spending time with Joan ,learning about recipes and life in general.
Even as I leave Edinburgh,I take back with me a certain nostalgia for people and a place I have never seen before,a fragrant aroma of Christ, a living embodiment of Hebrews 12:1.
Thank God for such a privellage.
Joan's handiwork of love....Triffle -Part of the traditional scottish meal that was eaten as the Lord's supper.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Everything English....and Southern..

We spent the afternoon with John and Jenny who were absolutely wonderful and gave us a taste of English hospitality.We drove up the hill to enjoy the view of Vales,Exmoor and just the expanse of green ,green lawn with horse-riding,amateur horse races and beautiful footpaths.Mid-afternoon,we drove down the valley to this beautifull tea-place overlooking the beautifull hills where beautiful people were enjoying cream tea.It was a traditional place and I would guess awefully precious for the local people.
We enjoyed freshly brewed tea and fresh scones from the oven and learned to cream the scone the Taunton way with cream first and jam later.
After the relaxing tea,we made our way to see the steam engine which is a national heritage site and has a host of volunteers who run the place.There was an amiable man who calls the engine which stands for Great Western railway,God's western railway.The station was a charming place with some posters from the early 1900s and we caught the steam engine chug into the station.An elderly gentleman was waiting by the station,I thought enjoying the sun and was just enjoying the sight but once the train stopped and the holiday makers deboarded ,he closed the windows one by one and he got into the car and left the place.Just how wonderfully the community was involved in the running of the train and mantaining it.
We drove back home and just after six John was kind enough to drive me to the evensong in Oakes.
The reading was from Isaiah 6 and John 3 vs 8.The service was beautifully traditional.It started with the all too traditional 'Holy,Holy,Holy...Everyone in the church were very kind and went out of their way to make me comfortable.The person who was leading the service welcomed me.I felt absolutely at home and at peace...with strangers in this faraway land.After the service I walked around the church to see a bench which apparently had been made out of a cedar of Lebanon apparently brought by the crusaders.
John,Jenny and Annie picked me up after church to drive us to the golf link restaurant to a dinner of steak and the paraphenalia.
Our hosts were extremely gracious and very kind ,like a gaurdian in a foreign land.
We are now getting our things together for a very long travel to Edinburgh via London tomorrow.

The beauty that you can miss in a blink of an eye.

Yesterday we spent the day in Bath.John and Jenny drove us to the train station in Taunton .We took the train to Bath via Bristol temple mead.I had wonderful memories of Bath from the past.It is for me the most beautiful city especially the areas around the Bath abbey and the roman bath.I booked a ticket for Annie to get into the bath while I sat in the sun reading on the bench outside the abbey enjoying the sun,the crowd ,the pigeons and beautiful classics both opera and musicals sung by a lady.It was frightening in it's beauty with the ability to transport you to another place altogether,I could have wept but I found myself clamping down.I travelled to the Doone Valley with Lorna Doone vicariously though.
Annie enjoyed Bath ,she took a lot of photographs,bought souveneirs in the abbey and just enjoyed the architecture of angels ascending and descending ,the stained glass windows and the amazing ceiling and then we walked the town of Bath popping in and out of shopping centres,visited the museum of medicine,walked to river Avon,watched the barge swaying down the river ,crossed the bridge which brought back memories of five years ago when I had walked the bridge to get to town from the place where I was staying in the hills.Got a glimpse of the little theatre as well.Caught a quick lunch of cornwall pastries and wedges with hot chocolate and latte.
We left Bath late in the afternoon ,was supposed to give John a ring to pick us up from the station but our phones let us down so we took the 17.45 to Hillcommon and walked to old rectory.
I had a splitting headache.We barely managed to make a cup of tea and gobble down slices of cake,I needed to rest which I did.At nine Annie woke me up and offered to make dinner which she did ably ,roast beef cutlets and bread.I woke up ,ate it and then went into another slumber.
I woke up at five in the morning today and dillydallied till seven and sauntered out in search of the Hillfarance church which was supposed to be having a communion day today celebrating the trinity.
This afternoon.John and jenny have offered to take us for a drive up the hill and sightseeing locally,and I hope to make it for the evensong in the evening at 6.30 PM at the Oake church.
Tomorrow we head for London and then Edinburgh.