I just received the following Independance day (Indian’s) Email from Marueen about some of the friends she and Tony have made. Know you will enjoy the warm comments about them. God bless, Donnacha
FROM MAUREEN AND TONY, INDEPENDANCE DAY 2009
Well, the monsoon does seem to have begun properly – and, as in most other places in India, it comes each day at more or less the same time! Great!….you can get your washing and shopping done in good time! The heat still remains, but it’s lovely and cool in the mornings and at last, the water in the shower is cool too!
I know that we’re not leaving India any time soon, but the passport application has kind of provoked a time of reflection in many ways and I’ve been reliving some of the places we have lived and the people we have met.
Over the years there have been some colourful people in our lives here, all having touched our life and vise versa. From the old man that used to sit at the end of the road on a daily basis in Mohan Row Colony, to the wannabe cowboy who rides a souped-up Honda 150 around the streets here in Chennai now. So many years, so many people. Pity we don’t have photos of them all,. but carrying a camera around has never been a strong point with me – and the good old cheapo cell phone doesn’t quite ‘do it’ when pics are taken with it – most have to be deleted as the pictures come out quite indecipherable!!
As there’s no news to speak of this month, we thought we’d share a kind of diary of people that we have had the good fortune to meet whilst in India – SO, we hope that you enjoy the ride!
In Mohan Row Colony, every morning we met a lady that has a mentally challenged little boy (not so little now!) and she would offer a little smile. We learned her child’s name was Balaji. Through Tony, she told me that she was sad that her little boy would never be able to do anything. I let her know that Balaji did something every day that she wasn’t aware of – and that was that he brightened up so many people’s lives because of his utterly infectious smile – she hadn’t looked at Balaji like that and smiled herself then. It was true – the little boy broke into a wide smile when he saw other people and most would smile back at him, perhaps their only smile of the morning, but it had come through Balaji!.
Then there was Rosaline – a sweet lady in Krishnagiri who ran to and hugged us each time she saw us when we were out. She was as close to me as a sister and we still call each other. It was my first experience of a female holding hands with me (it’s common place in India) but it felt as natural as breathing. We talked together as if we had known each other all our lives and still do, albeit by telephone now as she moved away to Kerala. People in the stores always give an honest and open welcome – and call us into the store for a cup of famous South Indian coffee. We sit for a while and leave. We bought nothing, instead, for free, we deepened familiarity of our neighbours in the town. People came out of their stores simply to give a sweetie to Tony and young ladies especially (much to Tony’s delight) would swarm around his chariot to say hello to him!
The market especially has always been a place where fruits are peeled when they see us coming and given in little bits of paper or a small plastic bag, for consumption now or later
People here give out of their own poverty, simply because they want to.
There are those who stop us to practice and ask to be corrected, in their English. Almost all that we meet, invite us to their homes. Some we have been to, some have been a little too far away.
There is an old lady in Hosur. She is very thin and probably around 80 years of age. Her gray hair tied back in the familiar bun. She sits atop her barrow that is full of bracelets, toe rings and trinkets. Next to the barrow is a shelter made out of palm fronds and tarpaulin which she shares with her husband – the barrow is tightly tied up at night-time, covered in plastic and bits of tin and padlocked to her husband’s foot. She has lived there for twenty years. They are not supposed to live there, on the street, but police kindly turn a blind eye to some things like this. She has all she needs, she says – what would she do in a house? ….with all those rooms? Her husband smiles a toothless, warm smile.
There is an auto driver named Basha. He is a lovable rogue who would give the earth to you if he had it. There is a lovable rogue of an auto driver too, here in Chennai – Pandian – a little different to Basha, but nevertheless, lovable and kind.
There is the extremely tall, well built, formidable looking DSP (Deputy Superintendent of Police) we met in Krishnagiri – now in Salem, who invited us in to the Station for a cup of coffee and biscuits and asked my son “are you afraid of me?” to which Tony replied, “No, why, should I be?” and who then laughed so deep and loud it frightened me! It was he who made some life-saving calls, even though he was in Salem by then, when my passport was stolen a few years back. He asked me what God I believed in and I was stuck for a minute – wondering if it was a question I should answer or not, given the place I was in. I simply said that I believed in the One God – to which he replied “Yes, there is only one God!” and this from a staunch Hindu talking with a Christian.
The wonderful little friends that Tony has had and has now – who trample through the rooms, leaving them looking like the Russian Army has camped here overnight. Do I moan? no. I simply sit back and enjoy the fact that despite the disabilities he has, that Tony is capable of making and keeping friends.
There were the thirty or so street kids that came as and when they pleased, to our home. They came to eat, to play or simply to ‘be’. Their little faces will never leave my mind or go far from my heart. All with their own heartbreaking and sometimes tragic stories. The resident children over the years, who were so much a part of our family. The men who delivered our water & gas containers and ended up staying for supper with the kids and then playing with them. The computer engineers that installed games for free on the kids PC, and then wouldn’t take a penny for coming out in the first place.
The volunteers that came from South Africa, Canada, the UK, and elsewhere. The people that lived for a short time, in cities nearby for work and who came laden with gifts for our resident and street kids. All with their own personalities and experiences to offer the children. The special people that are still our friends and who visit regularly and call every week Those who love and have never yet met Tony, but who nevertheless support his wish for the future unreservedly & wholeheartedly. Those who offer unconditional friendship, both here and abroad. Those who work behind the scenes in the hope of cutting through some of the endless reams of red tape – all of you – are firmly in our book of life. And very especially, those who allow us to remain together because of your support, which without this support, we would have been lost a long time ago.
I know of several people who have come to India and adopted children. One family from Canada adopted three children through “Families for Children”, another Indian lady (Indian born) and her British husband seemingly couldn’t have their own children – adopted a little girl from Bangalore and then found out they were pregnant and now have the two little girls – all living in the UK now. I guess my wishes for Tony are the same as their wishes for their new families.
It hasn’t all been good, not at all (is it anywhere we live? – I don’t think so!). But sometimes the tiniest things that happen, reaffirm your belief in human nature and you simply forget the unpleasant things that have happened. There have been many and at times I have wondered if we could ever pick ourselves up again – but then, we put those things out of our minds and out of our lives and start afresh on the new day that God has given us.
We walk along the road and fill ourselves with the mysteries that surround us constantly. Even where cattle and goats, chickens and dogs, feed on the mounds of rubbish that adorn these streets, we can find such amazing and stunning beauty, that I wonder if my heart can hold it all!
This is the diverse and sometimes tragically beautiful India – a place that you find yourself in and you know your heart and your very being is changed forever.
Happy Independence Day for the 15th (Indian, that is!)