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Five Days of Intermissions – day Five

DAY FIVE and GOODNIGHT

Fizzling Out

It’s 9:20 pm and I was sitting bed writing on my laptop which was on a small table meant for a sick person to eat in bed. The keyboard on my laptop had died, so I worked on an external keyboard balanced on my lap. It’s past “busy” timings. Relaxed, I read my email.

I review the news; a two-week old baby and her mother and grandmother were pulled alive from the rubble of the earthquake in Turkey. A young mother in America saved the life of her two children and her mother from a fire by lowering them on a rope from a window on her third-floor apartment. There are robberies, murders, coups, terrorist raids. It’s amazing to think that all this is happening somewhere, while I am running a village school. How small the world seems, and how trivial my life seems, how marvellous to consider God who puts up with the disorderliness of humans!

At bedtime, after the news, my husband returns from his permanently busy day. He is too tired to talk when he arrives in at night —just too exhausted to re-live or recall it. So, we smile at each other in solemn appreciation and agreement that we have both managed another successful day.

When my husband was literally pioneering the land (nothing but rocks, more rocks, snakes, and more snakes) he slowly saw the land transformed into fields, then he worked in the fields and sun all day, returning totally beat. If I had washed the bedsheets, I’d rush to get the bottom sheet onto the mattress before he lay down on the bed. After that I’d make the rest of the bed around him; he was too tired to move. We’re satisfied, but our minds keep on secretly ticking away, pulsing with ideas and brain storms to introduce and birth in the “morrow.” 

When will it end?

Regarding all daily Intermissions:

Don’t look back at the busy day part; but when you have finished your usual full day, review the intermissions; the intermissions are the part of the day that give your life enrichment, enjoyment, stretches your experiences and increase your awareness. What would life be without intermissions?

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day Four

Day Four

Cupids Arrow

You stole my heart
But I’ll let you keep it.
Bollywood

My husband and I ate super with our hostel boys; all twenty-two seated at three long wooden tables end to end. They were pleading with us to tell them our “love story.” At home, I was not the revered “Principal,” just one of the family. We were compelled to give in —I hoped it matched up to their dreams and high romantic Hindi movie expectations; the kinds with A-Z in them.

I began my dialogue and the room of teenage boys went silent (which was an extraordinary phenomenon). A crowd of eager faces surrounded me, straining to catch every word.  I assured them it would be the “shortened summary” rather than the “full version.” But they continued to press and demand, Tell us, Aunty, how did you meet? How did you fall in love? We were cornered, so I began:

Once Upon A  Time

“Uncle and I were volunteers at a children’s home along with a British fellow, Brian. One sunny hot day, Brian went across the dusty campus to see Uncle (Ken) and announced that he needed to talk to him concerning a serious matter. Obviously, Uncle showed immediate concern. Brian did not work up gently to the matter, he burst forth like a bomb; “It’s about Frieda.” Ken looked alarmed, “What’s wrong? Is she sick?” Brian looked impatient and shook his head. “No! She’s fine! Open up your eyes, don’t you see her? There she is across the campus! Ask her to marry you!” Brian turned abruptly and left Ken feeling rather befuddled and highly perplexed.

Next, Brian made his way to the opposite side of the campus where I was. Again, his approach was straight to the target; he drew cupid’s arrow, “Frieda, you’d better start praying, because Ken (Uncle) is going to ask you to marry him.” Now I was the one who was puzzled. What a remarkable thing to say!

Dear Brian left the two of us in a state of wonderous confusion, that is, we were both doubting if it was true? What was true? Truthfully, was it what we wanted? And in truth, it had never occurred to either of us before. Whoa! Were we mixed up!

I began to think about Brian’s declaration, but became so emotionally excited, that taking Brian’s advice seriously was difficult. He told me to pray about it, so I prayed about it the best I could. As I put the matter before God, one thought kept running in the back of my mind which blocked God answering me with a “no.” It was the over-riding thought that I wanted to marry Ken. I had to tell God quite firmly, and yet as politely and sincerely as possible, “Lord, if you don’t want me to marry him, you’re going to have to stop me. Otherwise, I’ll say ‘yes’.

Ken also thought about it seriously, and the more he thought about it, the more he thought Brian might have a good idea. So, Ken hatched up a plan. He decided I needed to help him go shopping in Dehradun. He was strategic with his plot, down to the last detail. First, he told me to go in the night before and meet him in Dehradun the next day. He even arranged a place for me to stay with friends. This request was unusual, obviously premeditated, and had the looks of a conspiracy. Ken and I had never done anything outside of the children’s home together.  Certainly, we’d never gone shopping together; it was nothing but suspicious.

I spent the night in Dehradun and met Ken at the rendezvous spot the next day. Ah-ha! Trailing behind him were about a dozen little boys, the ones he was taking shopping. My hopes were dashed! But when he saw me, the shopping plan went kerplop. He turned to the boys and basically said, “Get lost” … of course that’s not really what he said, but that’s what he meant. He also made a rendezvous spot and time with them.

With obvious nervousness, he asked, “Do you want to get a cup of coffee?” I willingly complied; Ken loved coffee. It turned out he was a patron to the only chai shop in Dehradun which served coffee. It was Deepak’s Chai Shop, located directly across from the main post office.

We sat down across from each other on the simple, well-worn and smoothed out wooden bench from having countless bottoms sliding across it. The table was dirty and stained from numerous spills; crumbs were immediately dealt with when a young boy whisked a filthy rag across it. The crumbs went flying in different directions. It was now clean. 

I began to think it might really happen like Brian said, for Ken was acting very peculiar. He was nervous, and assuredly, I felt just as nervous. Without further ado, he began his speech:

Frieda, you are mother to all those girls at the home, and I am father to the boys; it’s like a family. I think it would be a good idea for us to get married… what do you think?”

It was not a romantic red-roses lined poem, nor the on his knee’s stance,

BUT HE WAS SERIOUS, AND HAD ASKED ME

THE QUESTION!!!

For me, nothing at that moment was more important than to answer his question. I had prayed about it. I loved Ken and held him in respect, but had never expected to be asked this question.

God did not stop me… I wasn’t ill, I could still talk, there was no lightning bolt that had struck me, nor any apparent negative response from God, so in answer to Ken’s question, I replied, “Yes, it seems good.”

And there you have it, an agreement was struck. He breathed a sigh of relief, and said, “Let’s go get some lunch.” Then he took me for lunch at a more expensive restaurant to celebrate.

Our short romance, no dates, and Ken’s proposal may not have been a Bollywood production, but the great thing is that we’ve had a marriage that has lasted now for nearly 45 years, and I suppose that’s how the Hindi movie love story ends up, with humour, a few times of unhappiness, and lots of emotions. Sure, marriages are full of all those things, but ours ends in a “happily ever after.”

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day Three

Day Three

Intermission
What do you say to Geeta?

Never bend your head.
Always hold it high.
Look the world straight in the eye.
Helen Keller

Geeta was unaware of what had happened when she arrived home from school, opened the door and walked apprehensively into her house. She’d heard wails from outside. Upon entering there were men on the right, a few women on the left. Turning slowly, there she was; her mother lying motionless on a cot with a long scarf draped over her face and body.

That day it happened, I visited Geeta. She was ten years old and an only child —very bright and very brave, but very sad.  As I entered her house, it was evident that her personal needs were unmet. No one had held her close and let her cry. She sat alone in a room full of people. Women were scarce, those who were there were involved in wailing; her father and uncles sat silently.

The front door was locked from the inside, so her father had been summoned; upon breaking it open, he found Geeta’s mother hanging from the ceiling fan in their small house. Suicide. But why? Her father’s world was turned upside down and he had no idea what to do. How would he raise Geeta by himself?

Geeta’s life was dramatically altered in that instant; her childlike joy left, never to be the same.  I understood. It happened to me when I was a child; my mother was murdered. I knew her confusion and grief. We both lost our mothers in a sudden, terrible death.

The enormous difference between Geeta and I was that in my loss, I had no lack of women who wanted to, decided to, and did, mother me. Mothers make all the difference to survival, even if they’re not your birth mother. Lack of love makes orphans. Children find it difficult to receive substitute love for the deep wounds that were inflicted. We all seek love; a human need.

Geeta regrets not knowing “why” her mother left her. She dealt with anger towards her mother for leaving her, she felt grief and bitterness, but finally, healing came as she began to realize her mother was a person with problems, and she wished she could have helped.

Me? I was stubborn and refused to be comforted, even though all my forgiving mothers never gave up on me. I decided the only one who could have stopped my mother’s death was God; I blamed him. I searched the world for love, for truth, for reasons, for answers, for healing balm that to me seemed not to exist. I flew from one side of the world to the other and found no answers, until I realized love is relationship, and that…

Love demands
Sacrificial, relentless Forgivenes

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day Two

Day Two

Village Babble

“Living in a city shouldn’t make you cynical 
and living in a village shouldn’t make you vulnerable.”
Amit Kalantri 

(Wealth of Words)

At 5:30 pm today I walked to a nearby house and was accosted by three village women. They were poor, smart and slightly cunning and knew without a doubt what they wanted. The older woman (who is known for talking) recited to me clearly that she had some matters to put into my mind.

You need to remember that one of my grand-kids needs to be admitted into your school in K.G. class. You also should hire my daughter as a classroom assistant and you can include my brother’s daughter as an assistant as well. Make sure you tell my daughter where she should study and don’t forget to tell my daughter-in-law EVERYTHING she needs to know. (I wondered what that was?) If she does what SHE wants to it will just make me sick.”

Then, in another quick breath, she summed it all up by announcing that she wanted to “put all that into my ear.

I meditated, then put my fingers into my ears and probed; “yep,” I said, “it’s there.”

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Five Days of Intermissions – Day One

Day One

Getting the day’s work done is impossible, because remembering everything that needs to be done is hopeless. After a busy day, I have no recollection what I did or what I didn’t do. Is the phrase “busy day” being used correctly? Instead of uselessly writing about the business of my day, which doesn’t come to mind right now, I’ll write about the “intermissions” which tend to be more memorable.

Day One Intermission

A Naughty Boy
A refusal to correct is a refusal to love;
love your children by disciplining them
Proverbs 13:24
MSG

A certain boy in the school was continually brought to my office to deal with his wayward behaviour. As Principal, all ill-mannered students arrived in my office, often just entering into it was enough to make them cry in fear. I knew why that was so, and felt bad about that; I didn’t have a strict bone in my body. It was the parents and teachers who put such fear into the students.

That boy regularly came to me. He’d sit in a chair directly across from me while I sat at my desk. I’d question him about his misdemeanour, we’d have a little chat, he’d promise to be good, and afterwards he’d happily be on his way back to class. He enjoyed being in the office. I began to wonder why? It happened repeatedly.

One day, a teacher came and asked me to come to her class for the same boy was mis-behaving. I trotted off with her. Indeed, he was running around the classroom. I gave him a scolding and as usual, told him not to do it. He agreed. I turned to go, but as I turned, out of the corner of my eye, I spotted him facing me with his thumbs in his ears and the palms of his hands wagging up and down. I whipped myself around and caught him with his tongue sticking out at me as well. I thought to myself, this is enough!

I yanked him out of the classroom and shoved up against a wall outside the door. Even that much was quite a surprise to him. Then, in as threatening a voice as I could muster, I bellowed, but in a whisper, “In our school, teachers are not allowed to hit students… I hesitated for the punch line, “but I’m not a teacher!” It was very satisfying to see his eyes go wide and his jaw drop open —I hoped that this time I’d made an impact!

A week later he was back in my office again, smiling broadly. He’d missed me. Acting up gave him the privilege of visiting with me. It was clear, this little boy just needed love, and someone who cared enough to correct and input his life was love to him.

As mother and principal; discipline is LOVE.
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Clean Sheets

I sat down in the rickety-rackety old bus heading towards Delhi. Those buses are the cheapest way to travel, not to mention the dirtiest —windows are open, dust floods in, people get travel sick and dangle their heads out the window to vomit… vomit streaks down the outside and the repugnant smells seep back in. But Delhi trips are a necessity and must be done. This time, I was on a mission to get my new passport. I planned to spend the night in a cheap hotel near the railway station, rest and freshen-up, go to the American Embassy in the morning and jump straight back on a bus home. That was the plan, I expected.

Arriving in Delhi dirty and travel weary, I made my way to the hotel which was the usual grovel with the dirty (previously white) sheets. But its restaurant made it popular; a wide variety of continental and Indian menus and bakery items for all meals. I had my shower, went to bed, and went for breakfast. I gobbled it down in record time and was soon heading towards the embassy to get my work done ASAP.

The waiting lines were as usual, but kept moving. I fumbled along with the formalities and forms to fill, proceeding from one booth to another, gradually making my way to the last and final booth where my passport would be waiting for me. And lo and behold, as I stepped up to the counter and gave my number and name, the shining new passport was unveiled. At last, the work was done. I reached in my purse for the payment and pushed the exact amount needed towards the clerk.

My husband had given me American dollars to pay for the passport, so I was flabbergasted when the clerk refused good American dollars and stated, “We only accept rupees.” Why hadn’t I gotten that right? WASN’T THIS THE AMERICAN EMBASSY? Of course, without internet, without phones, it wasn’t as easy to communicate. I pressed and pleaded; couldn’t I pay in dollars? The answer was still “no.” I DID have enough to pay in rupees, but after that I’d be virtually penniless, nothing for bus fare. I’d gotten that far in the embassy, and assuredly didn’t want to go through it all a second time, the ride to Delhi was anywhere from 7-9 hours long, hotel stays with dirty white sheets, it was too tiring to even think of doing it all again. I paid in rupees and received my gorgeous passport. In confused frustration I left the building. At that point my thoughts went blank, until…

…I walked outside. Once I outside, I thought, now what? I had no idea. At that time, there were no mobile phones, only pay phone booths, which were beneficial if the person you were trying to contact had a phone. We had no phone at home, so contacting my husband was out of the question. There was nothing left to do but cry, which I proceeded to do.

It was not a good day. Stuck in Delhi, a city I didn’t know and didn’t like, with no place to go and almost no money. Suddenly, I remembered a friend who ran an organization downtown. I had my tiny phone number/address book with me. I found a public phone booth and phoned him. Speaking through muffled snuffles, I let him know my situation. In a soothing manner, as though talking to a child, he questioned, where are you? He suggested I wait for him inside a nearby restaurant. Adding, order yourself some food, I will pay.

You might be able to guess the end of the story. His organization had a guest room, and I gratefully enjoyed a free room with a good meal that night, slept in a bed with clean (white) sheets, had breakfast in the morning and to top it off, was given bus fare home.

All that drama was a lesson; a cleansing of my insignificant worries and distrust, like sleeping once again in clean white sheets. Misfortune comes and it’s easy to fall apart and focus on “poor me.” We trot right into a little pity party and burst into tears… (or is it only me?), or just become engrossed in worrying. I’m so glad, none of those are actually helpful, because they aren’t a particularly good alternative to bad luck.  

I stalwart lead forth on a quest,
On my sheets at home I had slept,
Undeterred from my stance
A new passport I grasped
And stood in the street and wept.

The moral?

  1. Be a good Samaritan, you may need one
  2. Relax, stop worrying, hakuna-matata
  3. Choose clean sheets

And then the BIG question looms:

Is it luck or is someone
bigger than us
out there in control?

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Personal

The Centre of the Universe

Here I am in the centre of the universe. Where? It’s located in a village in India, in a sunny, cosy corner room on the east and south side of my house, a very small room, packed with all sorts of paraphernalia. Photos, song files, pens and pencils, my desk, a sitar, a piano keyboard, a trunk and a large ancient wicker chair stuffed with pillows and furry blanket —all part of my universe. A website was born from my universe; the universe is extending rapidly!

I love to write. It helps me think, review, gaze at life yesterday, today and tomorrow. I pen my thoughts… but only in black ink. I would never think of using a blue ball pen; it would be like eating a wet ball of synthetic bread… simply sacrilegious. Creativity would be squashed.

I plan to write mostly about me, my experiences, my thoughts, etc. Boring? Once, someone told me I had written “I” seventy-two times in a letter. Being terribly embarrassed I immediately started counting all the “I’s” in the letter. It was devastating to discover he was right. It was insulting. My immaturity arose to great heights and he never received a letter from me again.

So why DO I write and continue to write about my “I” experiences? Its because I’ve had so many great ones! It is impossible to keep quiet! Give me a chance, and I’ll tell you all about it. I extend my universe, but no one needs to enter into it. Whether or not you believe my experiences is up to you. I’m not one who tends to lie, although I may not always have the greatest correct-est memory, but now, who is perfect?

What happened to me, can happen to you (mostly). No need to come to India. If I tell you a story about a tornado that blew our house away, you’d believe it. If I told you a story about a cobra, you’d believe it. If I said I nearly died in an operation, you’d believe it. But if I said I’d entered another dimension, not of this world, would you believe me?

That’s why I write. Tune in for the next (perhaps) believable episode.

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I am Raghav

“I have a story.
Would I tell my story?
I love to tell my story; it inspires me so much.”

Raghav

I am Raghav and this is my story. Punjab, in the northwest, borders Pakistan and is rich in agriculture. It boasts huge fields, large combines and farm machinery rarely seen in other states.

Uttarakhand, is known as “the mountain state,” because the Himalayas rise out of it. Dehradun is its capital. The mountain people are proud, living in shadowy valleys and sunlit snowy heights. Ancient villages lay hidden, deep within the steep and shifting Himalayan peaks. In these states, Punjab and Uttarakhand, my story begins before I was born.

My Punjabi Grandfather was considered wealthy because he owned land and cows. But more than that he had a healthy sum of money given from the army as his pension. Grandma died early in their marriage and left him with the responsibility of raising their young son. Grandfather was an irresponsible father and instead of teaching and disciplining his son, he spoiled him and that spoiled man became my father. I suppose Grandpa just didn’t know how to be a parent, or perhaps he didn’t want to put all the time and effort into doing so. Grandpa’s bad habits are what my father saw and learned.

My father had the chance to go to school, but he never even bothered. He wasted his childhood doing as little as possible. As an adult he spent his time drinking and indulging in other bad habits as his own father had done. Of course, the time came when grandfather wanted his son to have a wife; that was a necessity. Who else could manage the fields and the cows and the household? 

Grandfather arranged his marriage with a girl from the city of Dehradun. Her father died when she was still very young and her mother was left to care for eight daughters and two sons. The burden of raising her children and running the house was huge. Arranging marriages for eight daughters is an enormous and expensive task for a poor widow. She tried to give her daughters the best marriages she could afford, but for a daughter, marriage is not cheap; dowries are an obligation and tend to be pricey. Thus, my mother was destined for the farmlands of Punjab, a marriage with a cheaper dowry.

Cows are holy and walk freely in the streets of Dehradun eating whatever garbage they find. When my mother, a city girl, arrived on my grandfather’s farm in Punjab, she was immediately expected to look after cows, crops, land and the whole household simultaneously and single-handedly. Having never lived on a farm before; she gritted her teeth and learned fast, for she had no choice.

Our little family began soon; three sons. My oldest brother never had to live in the poverty that soon crept in on our lives. From early on mother was smart and wanted at least one of us to get a good education. She convinced my father to let my oldest brother stay with his maternal grandmother. Dad agreed to her demands, off went my brother. Dehradun is a city known for schools and good education. Now it was just me and my brother, Akash, in Punjab with our Mom and Dad. Our home situation was not at all healthy and was daily deteriorating.

As far back as I can remember, my father and grandfather would go out in the morning and come back late at night every day. What did they do all day? They drank their days away —drank away all the army pension money, and then started borrowing money from their friends to continue drinking. Finally, their friends “wizened-up” and Dad and Grandpa were exposed; they had borrowed money from everyone they knew and the well was finally “dry”. The only alternative they could think of to support their drinking, was to sell off the livestock, and then the land, which was sold bit by bit until there was nothing left. The only reality that remained was ourselves; a very poverty-stricken family.

Akash and I went to the local village school about six kilometers away from our house. We walked to and from school daily when we were only four and five years old. Our father would buy a small notebook to write our lessons in which was filled up completely in two or three days. Even on the days when we didn’t have a copy, Dad would still force us to attend school. Showing up empty handed, the teacher would promptly send us back home. We’d walk hand in hand back to our father who would angrily tell us to go to the store and buy a new copy. Slowly, once again, we’d plod down the dusty road back to school. On the days when we had the copy we would still be sent back for some reason or other, such as having to pay the school fees which our father hadn’t sent with us. Nearly every day we would walk back and forth those six kilometers two times a day. We were sick and tired of walking back and forth day after day and of being disgraced in front of everyone. Two options were left for us: being humiliated daily by the demands of our teacher, or feel the hostility and rage of our father on our backsides.

Day and night mom worked while Dad never lifted a hand to help. Even as children, we understood what was happening, and it made us feel helpless and sick. Every day we would pray that evening should not come, because when evening came our father came and he would be drunk. That was the worse time of day. When Dad arrived, he always thought mom needed a beating. When he beat her, we were very scared. Sometimes our dad would tell us to stand in the corner. But many times, we were beaten alongside our mother. It was terrible that our mother worked like a slave all day and then faced punishment for it every night. But Mom loved us and worried more about Akash and I than she did for herself. She was powerless to make it better. Those evening beatings were our biggest fear. Mom’s biggest fear was that if something did not change, we would become like our Dad. She couldn’t bear that thought.

Fear drove Mom into making a very bold and daring decision. She decided to flee. In desperation, she resolved not have this situation for the rest of her life. In Punjab, custom demands that money not be kept with the women of the household, it is only with men. The only way Mom could get money was to sneak it. I don’t know how she did it, but she slowly began to collect some here and there. After she had about 200 Rupees (around 3 dollars) she made her escape. Waking up before dawn one brisk, foggy winter morning, she quietly crept up to our beds, gently shook us awake and whispered “get up and get dressed.” In a flash, she had rushed us out of the house as fast as she could. Our destination: Dehradun.

Frightened and panicky, Mom continuously looked over her shoulder while shoving and pushing us as forward on our way to the bus station. Though relieved to be at the station, the bus hadn’t arrived and the wait seemed interminable. We waited and could nearly count every breath; suddenly, the thing that mom dreaded the most happened —Dad appeared. It was horrible. We had never seen him so angry and a big fight ensued. Our father dragged us towards himself while our mother yanked us back. Dad yelled, “Leave these children to me! Go if you want to go!” He was beating Mom hard with his fists. After a short while, Mom couldn’t take any more because she thought she had lost us and began to cry. It was more than she could bear, but unexpectedly, out of the morning mist, a man emerged from nowhere wearing some kind of an official uniform. He stepped in closer through the heavy fog and asked my dad, “What is happening? Why are you beating her?” Mom wept and told him everything.

Even with the intervention and sudden distraction, Dad’s anger didn’t subside at all, and instead he sharply reiterated, “These boys are coming with me!” That started Mom and Dad off, and fist fighting began again. The man in the uniform didn’t leave. His presence carried an aura authority, “Don’t fight anymore! Ask the boys who they want to go with.”

Before Akash and I knew what was happening, Dad slapped us really hard across our faces and asked, “Who do you want to go with?” His intention was to make us too scared to say anything, except the answer he wanted to hear. He immediately achieved what he wanted in part; we were terrified!

Mom stared with apprehension and dread, afraid we would give in to fear and give Dad the wrong answer. We were very frightened; afraid to give any answer, the fear of being slapped again was very real. We were unable to speak for a few long minutes; a lapse of time, which helped us collect our thoughts and our courage. At last we both spoke out together —we wanted to go with our mother.

Dad exploded and was to the point of hysteria, but the man in the uniform stepped in and restrained Dad from hurting mom and us any further. An early morning bus was pulling up. When it came to a halt, that man made sure we were all on the bus without Dad. I always wondered who the man was and whether he could he have been an angel? He really was an angel to us —appearing to us out of the mist, just like an angel stepping in from heaven. We arrived in Dehradun and stayed with Grandma.

 One night when I was seven years old Dad came to Dehradun. Nothing had changed; another big fight took place at Grandmothers house. Someone called the police and the domestic dispute became a major production. My very drunk father started hitting everyone; even grandmother. He was trying to grab Akash and I to drag us back to Punjab. Late at night the police asked us the same question; “Who do you want to be with?” We both said, “Our mother.” The police told Dad that if there was a bus at the station, he should get on it immediately and go back to Punjab, otherwise, he should leave first thing in the morning.

Fearful that he would not leave without Akash and me, Mom made a plan. Once again, we were woken up early and heard her hushed voice whispering, “Don’t come back from school unless I come to school to take you home. When your Dad leaves here, I will come to get you. Go now.” Akash and I were really scared. School was a long way from home and we waited a long time after school. It was getting late, so we decided to leave the school premises and hide in some bushes that were along the way. We were really afraid that our father would suddenly appear and grab us. It was 3 o’clock and we were still sitting under the bush. It was 4 o’clock and we sat under the bush. It was 5 and 6 o’clock and we sat under the bush. Mom said not to come home on our own. The whole family was now worried about us and they were all searching for us. Finally, Mom’s face appeared under the bush, and she pulled us out with a scolding that was more like hugs and kisses.

At grandmother’s house in Dehradun there were still four unmarried younger sisters. After a month the gossip started: “How can a married girl come back to her home with her children for such a long time?” They spoke rudely and directly to Mom. Truly, it was not easy for Grandma to look after so many people. We had worn out our welcome. Mom began looking for work and met some foreigners who had a handicapped daughter needing someone to care for her. At last she found a job! We rented a room, but for some reason or other every month we would be asked to leave. It happened this way for a couple years.

Dad had gone back to Punjab. Finally, we managed to stay in a rented house for the next year, but school fees were going up. Financially, things were becoming tighter for our mother who also needed an operation, but money was scarce. Not once had Dad given us any money. We happily lived separate from him, but surviving was rough.

The foreigners Mom worked encouraged her to admit us in a hostel in a small village outside of Dehradun. Mom couldn’t bear the thought of giving us up to anyone. Maybe by working harder she could earn more money?

Her employers counseled and encouraged her further, stressing the advantages for her boys if she put us into that home. At last, she decided to at least visit the home. We, and her employers all went together. What she saw made her realize we would have an opportunity to grow up with dignity and be educated. The foreigners talked on our behalf and an agreement was made for us to be admitted.

We grew up there. I’ve now understood that you can’t learn from a book or a person the lessons in your past. It is the best gift God has given us, even if you faced trials. It is a testimony of how God works in our lives. Whenever I tell my story to someone, I find myself being encouraged. It is amazing to me how God brought me out of my physical, mental and spiritual poverty into my present situation. I have learned a lot from my past. Because of that, God has blessed me with a maturity from which I can share and continue to grow.

Whenever I go home on the weekend to my mother, she is very, very excited. She says, “Whenever you come, it’s like a light coming into the house.” When I sit with Mom and my oldest brother, and am about to sleep, something comes into my mind, and I share God with them until 12:00 or 1:00 in the morning. They have so many questions and so many doubts, ‘If there is God, why do bad things happen to us?’ They tell me, “Raghav, when you come, it’s a totally different environment.” They don’t put on the DVDs or television. Mom just says she is very, very happy. Dad is also at home with Mom now. He no longer causes us any problems —a wonderful answer to many, many prayers.

*Raghav is a teacher and gives the students all he has to help them down their individual roads. He says: “I’m able to pour out only what God, through life, has given me to share.”