On the Train to Chennai
I seem to be writing my diary a day late, so I'll try and catch up now.
Jerry nearly got arrested on Sunny on Friday when he went to the fish market with C. and Yesu. He got a good telling off anyway and C. felt really guilty. But 95% of Indians don't have licenses so the Policeman didn't do anything. Even Miss Shanti doesn't have a licence! If they cracked down it would solve the pollution problem, but would probably add to the poverty problem.
Our last few days have been strangely similar to our first few days. We were staying in the same room, we are travelling back to Madras on the same train (The Vaigai Express) in AC. Last night we had to go to the back where the Chief Reservation Officer got us seats within five minutes. The weirdest of our arriving / leaving coincidences is a man call Ravi who asked me if I remembered him. I met him on the train from Madras to Madurai in October! Haven't seen him since until booking our train home six months later.
On the way back from the station, we watched storm clouds gather and it began to rain just as we reached the Divine Patience, huge warm sticky drops from a previously empty sky. We stayed out in the rain until it turned into hail then escaped inside. Hail! It had been 37 degrees all day then it hails? Aunty Fenn said it was crying for us. It's good and bad, Pastor Fenn told us, some crops will die but others will benefit. Extremely unusual though.
I've ended up with a lot less stuff than I thought I had, my bag weighs 14.5 kgs and my hand luggage is almost empty. The bag that I took on the Round Trip is on it's last legs - I hope it'll survive the last journey.
I still don't feel as sad as I should do, probably the excitement of going home has overcome any other emotions. It was much worse when we left in March. Juliet said that the day after we went was like a funeral. She said the morning prayer had to be abandoned and she couldn't face it. But what's going on now? I don't know, life goes on.
Got to be up at 2am tomorrow to be at the airport for 4.
C.'s just told me about Rev Jothi's conversion, so he's the story (as C. tells it):
Rev Jothi's father was a Poojari (is a shrine priest) so he was pretty immersed in Hinduism. He had a friend who was a Christian and when he went to his friend's house they would pray and he'd laugh at them, boasting about how Ganesh (his personal God) was better than theirs. When his tenth standard exams came around he was studying with his friend at the station and his friend suggested having a bit of a pray for good luck. Jothi laughed and said there was no need for him to pray because Ganesh is the God of wisdom and would help him regardless.
So his friend prayed by himself for a long time and Jothi mocked him for wasting valuable study time. The paper was algebra and it came to the exam poor young Jothi just couldn't do it. His friend got top marks. The rules at the time were that if you failed one exam you had to re-take them all.
So, disgraced by his family and failed by his God, Jothi decided that if he passed second time around he'd become a Christian and if he failed again he'd become an atheist.
But he passed and went to see the local priest who said that he'd need a letter from his father giving permission for his baptism. His father refused and Jothi threatened to kill himself (apparently common among children who fail exams) and he relented.
After becoming a Christian, Jothi's uncle accosted him when he (Jothi) walked past his (his uncle's) shop. He shouted at him in the street and a big crowd came to stare and laugh. When he went home his parents told him that now he was a Christian he was no better than a Dalit so although he was allowed to stay with them, he had to eat all his meals separately, from different dishes and he had to wash outside. He went to see the priest again who suggested he went to Bible School.
He was named 'Jothi', which means 'Light' by his parents because he was born during Deepavali , the Festival of Lights. After his baptism he was called 'Nayagam', which means 'Leader' so his full name (Jothinayagam) means 'Leader of the Light'.
I wish I had a testimony like this. Maybe I should become an atheist to see what trials and tribulations I have to go through to be reconverted.
While shopping in Madurai, I had an incredibly interesting conversation with a Muslim bloke in one of the Government Emporiums. He told me that he reads the Bible but that he doesn't understand the way it is written and re-written and changed again and again. How can we believe it when we don't know whether it is authentic? The Holy Quran has never been changed. We say it's the Word of God and yet we question everything in it. For him, if it's written down, he has to believe it, no questions asked. He told me a story about Abraham and some King:
The King says to Abraham, I am as powerful as God, I have the power over life and death! He says to his guards, Kill this man and they kill him. Abraham remains unfazed and says, Yes, but only God can bring him back to life.
The King isn't too pleased with this, Shut up or I'll put you in that fire, he says. Abraham goes, Alright, only don't burn my robes coz they're new last Tuesday, but God WILL protect me anyway. The King has him put into the fire.
Various angels come to Abraham and offer their services, but he declines them all. Finally God himself turns up and tells the fire to cool down. FIRE! He says, Cool down! The fire does what it's told and Abraham is unharmed.
Now this Muslim chap believes this word for word and he HAS to believe it because it's written in the Holy Quran. It's made me think about a lot of things though, it's the SAME Abraham, they say. Muslims believe in all the prophets and that Mohamed was the last. Because he was the last, they believe that Islam is the truest, the newest religion. They believe in Jesus, the resurrection and the ascension. They believe that Jesus is the one who will come again because he ascended in Body ans well as in Soul.
So where do we stand? Are they the same, just different roads to the same hilltop? I'd like to know, but I'll have to be happy with the thought, the idea that they are.