Thursday, 23 March 2017


There is something superbly gratifying about taking hundreds and hundreds of small colourful pieces which all seem alike and then slowly, carefully putting them together to form a beautiful picture...

Saturday, 11 March 2017

Snow in Mussoorie

It was a silent night.

The night before had been all sturm und drang with rain and hail and thunder.  But last night was quiet.

When the alarm went off at 5 AM, I sensed something cold and still and white in the darkness outside.

The glimmer of dawn showed this outside our window, downstairs at Shanti Kunj.

Can you say "winter wonderland?"

As with all frigid beauty, it is best beheld in the coziness of a warm home.  And things don't get much cozier than having an electric blanket below and a feather quilt above you.  Perfect place for your morning devotions of course... 

But we can't sit in bed all day, either!  There is a young man who needs to go to school...

So upstairs to the breakfast table it is.

Needless to say, this is one day you want to make sure you are facing the windows, while slurping your coffee and munching on the scrambled-eggs-on-toast.

Snow in Mussoorie.

So rare.  So fleeting most of the time.  And for our family, Mussoorie means summer and running away from the heat, so we have never spent a winter up in the hills.  Mum is a winter owl of course, happy to be in her nest at Shanti Kunj, and most winters the sun shines down out of a clear blue sky making Shanti Kunj arguably warmer than New Delhi most of the cold months.

Hence for me, snow in Mussoorie is the blue moon of blue moon occasions.

What a glorious sight when it does carpet the landscape.  This is looking out the window of Mum's home - with the snow actually all the way down to Dhobhi Ghat and with a little dusting on Pari Tibba!

Being on the very top of Landour, we got the king's portion of soft, powdery snow last night - at least 3 inches of it by the looks of the scooter which I have borrowed from Andy and Rachel Francis for the week:

I am in Mussoorie because Enoch is starting school at Wynberg Allen School.  We are commuting between Shanti Kunj and Bala Hissar for the first week, and Enoch goes into boarding on Tuesday.

Here is a shot of WAS framed by the snowy boughs near Sisters Bazar:

Asha has been at WAS since May last year, and it is bitter-sweet to have Enoch embraced into the arms of Excelsior!  

Our task this morning was to get to the Wynberg senior school by 8.30 AM.  Thankfully we headed out the door at 7.15 just in case.  

With Sisters Bazaar looking like this, it was clear that the scooter was not going anywhere quick soon:

We called our dear friend Edwin, with the hope that we could get a ride with him in his jeep.  Edwin drops his boys off at St. George's every morning, but his phone was switched off.  

Later in morning we found out why: last night his father had a stroke, and Edwin and others are down in Dehra Dun after being transferred there from Landour Community Hospital last night.  Please do pray for the family.

So it was on foot that Enoch and I headed down through powder-white landscape.

I mean, when do you get sights like this on your way to school?

Or pass the majestic deodars looking like this?

Motorcycles in Mussoorie usually don't have this livery...

We are glad we abandoned the scooter right at the top of the hill.  Otherwise we would have slipped down the icy hills, and missed sights like this...

And of course, kids are kids, wherever you are.  I copped a snow ball, thrown at me by a girl who had been looking down sweetly at us with her Dad as Enoch and I walked by.

When I turned around, only the Dad was looking down.  I flashed a big smile back at the benignly smiling pater-familias.

Down near Omi's sweet shop, this important task was being done:

We parted ways at the (slowly being rebuilt) Landour Clock tower at 8.02 AM.  Enoch to soldier on down to WAS - with a good 25 minutes to get to his morning assembly - and I to get back to Landour Community Hospital where I was to give the morning devotions in -2 minutes.

The appointment had been made 2 days earlier with no thought of snow and with plenty of time to drive the scooter up to LCH after dropping Enoch off.  But now I had to huff and puff on my two legs in the rarified air of Landour to get there .... hopefully not too late.

However, on the way up I could not help by taking a shot of Landour Community Hospital in the snow...

Devotions done, a nice hot cuppa and some chappatis and alu sabji consumed along with new friends - Chinese-origin Ozzies and our dear old friend Dr. Bona from Nagaland (via many years in Yemen), it was time to walk back up the eye-brow to Shanti Kunj.

More winter-wonderland of course.

And a meeting with some of Mussoorie's finest:

 Before the path took me to the welcome bosom of Mum's home:

 And now it is back out into the snow to get Enoch up from WAS again (its a half day!) ... but am I every happy to do some more tromping in this white wonder of a place....

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Looking around

Mussoorie is glorious.

Wherever you look, you see beauty.

Like this iconic scene from Mullinghar, looking out over Pari Tibba and the hills rolling down towards the plains.  And yes, there is a certain well-known school nestling along the first ridge too.

Poetry in form.  Early lightbeams painting the spurs with subtle hues, melting into the distance, waiting for the up-rise of sun to burn them into solid blocks of shade against the impossibly blue sky.

But hold on,

It's not everywhere you look that you see beauty.

After taking the shot above, I turned around, and saw this:

Same spot.  Two totally different views.

Why is it that most of what humanity touches looks so totally ugly?

So here is the question, do those living in this concrete monstrosity 'see' the beauty outside their windows (picture 1?).

And then the questions start spilling out:  Who lives here in the first place?  Why here and not somewhere else?  What are their stories?  What are their dreams?  What is the broad trajectory of their lives?  Which places have their paths crossed before ending up living just above Mullingahr, looking down on the valley which includes the residential accommodation for a school recently ranked No. 1 in India?

And what is going into their minds?  Do they take photos of the sunrises?  What forms the back-ground to their selfies?

How much does beauty shape our minds?

Questions, questions as we look around...

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Toto - Africa

Mystic melodies from the foggy mists of high-school casette-tape-recorder-boom-boxes swirl through time and tide into today...

I hear the drums echoing tonight
But she hears only whispers of some quiet conversation
She's coming in, 12:30 flight
The moonlit wings reflect the stars that guide me towards salvation
I stopped an old man along the way
Hoping to find some long forgotten words or ancient melodies
He turned to me as if to say, "Hurry boy, it's waiting there for you"

Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Old Friends...

Delhi is a big city.  And over the years I have traipsed its varied corners at various times and in various ways.

Most of my journeys have involved stays with friends and loved ones.  So it is very strange to be staying at a hotel (something the younger Eichers are clamouring for to experience).

We are here for an amazing 3 days where our main funding partner is building us up and introducing an evaluation tool to help capture what changes take place in our communities - a special desire to map out progress towards seeing 'human flourishing' take place.

Learning about the tool is heady stuff - but what makes the whole experience beautiful is to be with so many of my past and present collagues.   The Bombay gang is there - with folks from ACT, Oasis India and Sahara Charitable society.  My dear friends from Eficor are here in force - those whom we have been privileged to work with in the Bundelkhand cluster - and new fresh new friends made.  A smattering of other friends are there from other organisations from across North India... and then our own dear EHA brigade - my dear co-workers who do some amazing work across our country.

In one of the exercises, we did a quick evaluation of EHA, mapping out how we as an organisation were moving against the 9 areas of growth that the "LIGHT Wheel" approach looks at.  It was exciting to see how God has been using EHA to see some real growth in every dimension.  We have come a long way from where we were 20 years ago when I first joined EHA - all thanks to Him.  And we clearly still have a journey to walk along - on which I am grateful to be sojourning with my dear friends.

And that is just it. Beyond the techniques, our major partner is also knitting our hearts together. Giving us the opportunity to fellowship and draw our bonds of love stronger.

And then there was the after hours.

Last night Vasu and I went on an hour's metro ride to the heart of New Delhi - the venerable Connaught Place.  Our destination was the kicking Zabardast Kitchen restaurant - and our wonderful host none other than Anand V. Sinha.   Over a delectable meal, Anand regaled us with tales of his adventures and gales of laughter.  We talked about the amazing medical sleuthing which last month discovered the reason young children were dying in the lichee growing areas of Bihar.  We talked about biking and morning walks.  We caught up on siblings and trajectories of life.  We explored Anand's funding foundation's partner meeting which was themed "talking failure."  And so on.  All while a kings feast made its way into our innards... As with so many times, we just did not want to part - but that we did taking our separate metros to our warm beds.

This evening I had the joy of meeting up with Jonathan Parmar - who serves with Eficor - and whose parents Himmat and Prema Parmar were so deeply intertwined with our family in the Nana Chowk years.  "Johnny" as we used to call him is now happily married to Nalini and they are blessed with three lovely girls: Suzanna and Stephanie are twins and their youngest Shekinah.  Uncle and Auntie are living with them and how amazing to see them continue to be active in living and sharing their faith with others.  As I was there uncle left to go with a church family who have come back from the US to deliver food and encouragement to some poor families.

We have not met for at least 30 years - but amazing to see the trajectory of love that this family has lived out.

Tomorrow evening we are slated to meet Indrajit and Lydia and Hannah Judith.  Another remarkable evening lies in store as I meet up with the only friend from my 3 standard Cathedral and John Connon days.  I plan to walk from their home to Nizammuddin station and take the night train back to Lalitpur...

And could I squeeze in another visit to a long-unmet friend.  As we walked away from the Zaberdast restaurant, we passed some graffiti.  One of pieces caught my eye.  It was this stencil:

Could it be prophetic?  I am hoping that somehow we will also be able to meet Mr. Arbindar Singh who I got to know during my college years in the US, many moons ago.  Let's see as tomorrow unfolds.

Tuesday, 14 February 2017

One country, two worlds

I have a camera that allows you to make phone calls.

Yesterday evening I got into an autorickshaw in Lalitpur.  I was passanger no. 6 and so was seated next to the driver on the right side (the left side had been taken already).  Rs 10 later I arrived at Lalitpur station.  As we drove down the main road going to the railway station - I took a quick shot through the rickshaws front window - showing the pot-holed road.

A swift train-ride to New Delhi.  A post midnight auto drive way out to Dwarka sector 12.  And then the next morning a walk over to the hotel where our major funding partner is hosting a meeting for al their India partners - the Radisson Blu.  As you walk in, you fairly catch your breath - the huge interior stretches up and there are palm trees and water flowing below you.

In my phone camera the two photos are consecutive.  One nation. Two worlds.  Bharat and India.

How do we make sense of such contrasts?   As I read the names of the young servers providing the morning tea, I can't help but wonder what kind of a house they live in.  And yet, however humble and shabby their dwelling place may be, here they are.  Employed.  Working.  Earning.

In the cold Delhi night, as the pre-paid auto-rickshaw driver drove me to Dwarka, I asked about him and his family.

"We are six brothers," Mr. Jagat the autodriver tells me.  "I am from Bihar.  From East Champaran district."   Jagat was married 3 months ago.  His new wife is still in his village.  I know the area since our flagship EHA hospital - the Duncan Hospital - is in Raxaul, the largest town in his district.

"I am not educated" Jagat tells me. "I stopped after 10th, but two of my brothers are very smart."  It turns out that one of them finished engineering studies at IIT Chennai.  He got a job at Rs. 75,000 per month on graduating.  But now he has quit his job.   And why?  Because he hopes to crack the entrance exam for the civil services.

We live in aspirational times.  75K per month is not enough for this young man.  He desires the power that goes with the post of being one of the select few how crack the IAS exam.  His rickshaw driving brother is cheering him on while driving through the cold night streets of Delhi.

How much does rural, hand-to-mouth Bharat transition into the India of true prosperity?  Can it happen?  If so when.  Do we have areas where some islands of change are seen?  Oh for the fulfillment of all the God-guided potential that each precious person in our country has....  

Saturday, 11 February 2017

Super... Mum!

It's easy to get angry about things.

Everywhere you look there is enough to irritate, to provoke, to flip one's internal switches to red.

But doing something, and that too something constructive is usually a different story.  Most of us are too distracted by the flotsam and jetsam of our lives, and the constant stream of entertainment that we muffle ourselves with...

There is however, a fiesty German lady who lives up in the Himalaya - who marches to the beat of a different drummer.

We are, of course, talking about our own Christa Eicher (nee Fischer).

Many years ago, as a young follower of Jesus Christ, she plunged into a life of Christian service with a then obscure group of Jesus-freaks (before the term took root) that became known as Operation Moblisation.   Here is a flier telling folks about the 1962 outreach in Europe and high-lighting the fact that this was a movement of people from many nationalities who all were united in Christ.

Our dear mother's photo is in the upper left hand corner, announcing that she was from Germany.

In the middle of the lower row is a photo our bro Hoise Birks - the first African-american to join Send the Light (which later morphed into "OM").  Hoise eventually came out to India and served here for some years, and then was a pastor and missions-mobiliser in the US.  His book 'A New Man' is well-worth the read.  This week we heard that Hoise was called to meet Jesus face-to-face.  Another one of the saints who have run their race well.

On this side of the world, by God's grace, a sprightly 79 year old is still kicking up a storm.

Mum has been saddened by the garbage littering the Landour Christian Cemetery.   It She wrote a few letters - and then has jumped in to doing some thing.  Doing the right thing.  And getting others involved.

Mum, along with our faithful Vikram, recruited 6 teenagers to the cause.  Their combined ages may just top Mum's almost 4 score years - but all pitched in and picked up.  Including our lady from "Allemagne,"

At the end of the morning they hauled up 59 kgs of rubbish.  All from the graveyard.  Stuff that has certainly not fallen from the sky.

The merry team was met at the road by Sundeep and a colleague who had been asked to come and cart the trash away for recycling.

You can get tired just thinking of what Mum does.  But in the issue of trash - we are fully with her.  It's very true that a basic human deterioration is the way that public space inevitable seems to look shabby and dirty.   Part of it is the strange phenomena - that if there is already some trash on the ground - more gets added.

The following pieces were picked up by me in the period of a 3 min walk between 'Bethel Villa' (our home on the HBM campus) and my office.

Picking up and putting in the trash helps seed a landscape that is clean, rather than what we so ofthn have in our dear nation of Bharat - a sea of plastic bags - being blown around willy-nilly.

So we salute the Lady on the mountain and her 7 helpers!

Going back to last weekend's 'sharm-dhan' up in Mussoorie....With a good day's work done under their belts, the happy 8-some wandered back to Shanti Kunj.

There an Enid-Blyton-worthy lunch awaited them.

Needless to say, we are super proud and thankful for our wonderful mother.

We only wished we all were not living so far from each other!