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?

Day Four

Cupids Arrow

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

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,



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.”

Day Three

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

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.”

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

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.

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?