Post 14) Jangpura Eagle Fly Over

eagle over delhiShe took my photo with her cellphone camera. I was sure of that. Walking past her I wished I had fitted a rearview mirror on the cross. She probably took a picture from behind as well. I began wondering if she would post it on Facebook and what the comments would be when suddenly I spotted the bikers.

There they were, waiting impatiently for their fellow club members to tank up at the Defense Colony Petrol Station. After all, it was a long weekend and most bikers were rushing out of Delhi for their adrenaline fix. All I wanted was to disappear.

None of them noticed this awkward guy in running shoes holding a ten foot cross waiting for them to make way. They were too busy following the script of being a boisterous bikers’ club out to have a good time. “Freedom” had been reduced to a logo, a fast bike and some beer at the end of the day.

After the last of them pulled out and their taillights faded into the distance, I resumed my walk. Slowly up onto the Jangpura Flyover. If I was going to make it through the day I would need to keep reminding myself what I was actually carrying.

Some people were feeding the pigeons on top of the flyover. There was one lone eagle flying low. The obvious verse popped up “God gives power to the faint, and to him who has no might he increases strength. Even youths shall faint and be weary, and young men shall fall exhausted; but they who wait for the LORD shall renew their strength; they shall mount up with wings like eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk and not faint.” (Isaiah 40:29-31)

“They shall walk and not faint. They shall walk and not faint. They shall walk and not faint…” I chanted along. Huffing and puffing. The eagle kept circling above.

I wondered if God could make the eagle do a summersault over my head. Something, anything dramatic to confirm that He was indeed with me. That my walkabout was not due to some messiah complex.

It was a silly request that got answered few hours later when I really needed my strength renewed. There was no summersaulting eagle but something happened that I could not have ever imagined.

Post 13) Continue…minus the titles

You may not know exactly where you are going.  But you better know who you are you going with.

Being a pastor was never a ‘career’ choice. June 2003 I got sick with jaundice and the month long bed rest helped me process the direction my life was heading.

There was nothing else I could imagine doing and nothing else that terrified me as much. I was terrified because it was all about loving God and loving people.

Loving could never be contained or tamed into a ‘job’. I had to be willing to be ruined for the rest of my life. To be disrupted, interrupted, frustrated and yes, elated.

I had seen how pastors turned their congregation into pet projects. Serving till they burnt out but refusing to receive healing and love. I was terrified because I too could end up preaching beyond my practice.

Then one morning while reading my Bible, I received the confirmation to stay on in what was then known as Capital City Church. “But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have firmly believed, knowing from whom you learned it…” (1 Timothy 3:14, ESV) The word ‘continue’ resonated within me. Why should I continue? Because I knew from whom I was learning.

Before my ordination I vowed to never become a “professional” pastor. I would sit under my own preaching before I preached to others. I would aim at spiritual maturity and let what I heard not just fill my head but break my heart. I also made peace with the fact that this was going to be one unpredictable journey.

I would not spend my life critiquing the transient. For every abuse and excess in the Christian world I vowed to find those who translated their conviction in the most consistent, hopeful and joyful manner.

Resilient and valiant is what I thought Tony was. The man who helped me see that being a pastor is indeed ‘a noble task’. In June 1998, as I walked out of my school for the last time, Tony had handed me his music album ‘Off The Edge’.

In August 2003, I followed in his footstep and stepped off the edge to what turned out to be the best decision of my life. I was called to do this work. Others had observed my ability to work with people. But ultimately God confirmed it deep within me.

The ordination declared to the congregation and to me that I was set apart to collaborate with Jesus. To serve and build the body of believers Jesus was building. I was now authorized to teach, rebuke, correct and exhort the people.

I was now an “Elder” or an “Overseer” or “Bishop” in the church. A “Shepherd” or a “Pastor” of the people. I was wondering which of these job descriptions could be shrunk into a title to boost my fledgling ego when I read Jesus’ sobering command.

“But you are not to be called rabbi, for you have one teacher, and you are all brothers. And call no man your father on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven. Neither be called instructors, for you have one instructor, the Christ. The greatest among you shall be your servant. Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23:8-12, ESV)

I need not have worried because soon I was being referred to as “Brother Joshua” by various city pastors. Which is a euphemism for “unqualified but full-time servant of God”.

Couple of years later I got promoted to the “Youth Pastor” category. “Qualified to amuse and entertain the bored kids of tithing members”.

While I dismissed those descriptions without a second thought, I began to be flattered when people started referring to me as the ‘Biker Pastor’.

Post 12) Restless Stink and a Priceless Smile

I still fought with that ‘indescribable peace’ because circumstantially I wondered why all heaven was bent on flooding this church venue? And as though the stink in the basement was not enough I went home to a room that was a major downgrade from the Woodstock hostel and the Stephen’s campus I had spent years in.

In Chirag Dilli my room overlooked a cow infested garbage dump. My three housemates from Kenya and Ethiopia gave me the only room and kept the hall for themselves. The reason became apparent when on most days there were a dozen others from various African countries who came to pay homage to Duke.

Duke was a Kenyan who was part of our church. I liked him. He was taller than tall and had this chief like air about him. When he smiled, one wanted to applaud and say, “Thank you, your excellency thank you!” It was as though he gave you an imperishable gift. And when he laughed, it would start like a reluctant tractor and then he would be heaving away, taking the entire room along with him.

Only years later did I realize it was he who taught me how to smile unreservedly. He laughed even when people would taunt him. On Mondays we strolled across to the night market to stock up on our weekly ration of Suji (to make Ugali), potatoes (and oil to deep fry them) soya nuggets, instant noodles and if we were feeling ambitious, some vegetables.

While I haggled with hawkers to save couple of rupees Duke got heckled by gawkers for just being an African. “Abey dekh, dekh! Habshi oye! Kaloo bhootni kay bacche!” (Hey, look, look! A nigger! Son of a black ghost!) Nine years in India, he understood not only Hindi but also what it means to constantly forgive. To remind oneself that your worth is in what your Maker thinks of you and not the labels people hurl at you.

Such unwarranted hate knotted me up inside. It was beyond me to try figure why cheerful couples in Delhi along with their kids would suddenly blurt out abuses at the sight of an African.

Maybe they believed the sinister saying painted behind trucks and taxis, “buri nazar walle tera muh kala” (you with an evil eye, may your face be blackened) As though the Africans were reincarnated with blackened faces to shame them for their previous lives’ mischief and mocking them would ward off evil and reassure us of our superior birth. No one seemed to care what judgment awaited those who belittled fellow humans.

Our Gujjar landlord maintained a cool distance and did not care who we were as long as his rent got paid. In the years that followed I went through the renting ladder as my salary increased. Gupta’s, Kunkreja’s, Saraswat’s, Singh’s and so on.

Having left their ancestral homes in Pakistan during Partition of 1947 these were landlords who now hosted students and job seekers from South and North East India, African students, Afghani refugees and Europeans overstaying their tourist visas. Their strip of land had become multi-storied ‘train’ apartments.

With windows only in the front and balconies at the back these houses were built side by side in a horseshoe shape with a tiny ‘park’ in between. No two houses looked the same. Wherever I lived, there was constant reconstruction, rubble and upheaval.

A good bit of tarmac meant it would be dug up to lay cables. A patch of green grass in the park meant a wedding party would ruin it. Lack of parking space in front of the house meant buying another car to park it elsewhere. A thriving tree was destined to have its base cemented so a minor thunderstorm could fell it.

Year after year, it seemed the city deliberately wanted me to see its worst side. Like an orphan convinced of being unworthy of love, the city thrived on being brutalized. It welcomed the mercenaries, the hard-hearted hot heads who believed in the survival of the fittest. Who lived by ‘might is right’ philosophy. Who networked, took, trashed but refused to give anything back.

But Delhi also attracted the passionate warriors on a mission to convert, cure, correct and change the city. Hyper analyzing their pet causes, spewing statistics, these missionaries for change lived awkward lives. Eager to help, but unwilling to put their roots or their guards down. Ready to be martyred for those they would never call their friends. Just like the corrupt, the righteous too built walls around themselves, lest Delhi should contaminate them.

In such a city of extremes, to remain lukewarm meant being spat out.

new delhi from
All together torn apart. Usual day at Nehru Place.

Post 11) Models and Murals

“Delhi is such a dump baba, so regressive na? Creative types like us should definitely be in Mumbai…now tell me sweetie, any work for me?”

Six months of feeling like a pimp describing body types to ad agencies and I gave in my papers. Until then I had believed the career counselors who had said I was meant for the ad world.

In those insightful months I learnt what I could not do. Convince people of their inadequacy that could only be cured by some product I wanted to sell them. I had wanted to use my art and creative skills to say something significant but the direction I was headed had only one purpose. Shouting trivialities to sell trash just to make money.

The irony of where I ended up next got lost because I didn’t know what irony meant.

From one basement filled with semi-clad portfolios of models, late night fashion shoots and humoring seedy filmmakers, I went on to take a job as a mural artist in a basement where a church gave classes on modesty.

I went with a vague sense of peace about painting a blue wall with neon characters and pop-quotes. The peace and the painting lasted until monsoon arrived and all my artwork began to bubble up and peel off.

That was just the beginning of a new job description. As the rains kept pelting day in and day out, tiny holes appeared and smelly water started to flood the basement. I started my day carrying buckets of sewer water out of our venue.

Every time I met family and friends they wondered when I would leave Delhi and get a ‘real’ job. They reasoned how there was no future in this tasteless, creatively cold city for a guy like me.

If it’s church that I was keen on, they advised I go get a theological degree. Spend the next few years learning Greek and Hebrew to become a ‘real’ preacher. But leave Delhi nonetheless.

Basement Rock
One of the many concerts & art shows we hosted in spite of various setbacks.

Around the time the basement kept flooding, I got an offer to edit films in Mumbai. It seemed like the perfect plan to start afresh and stay high and dry.

But each day I woke up sensing I had grown up a little. I had barely enough salary to manage two meals a day and pay my rent. Yet because of the eclectic people in church my inner self was having a growth spurt.

They were more real than any bunch I had ever known, and each time we met, my heart would sync in to a joyful rhythm. I was fascinated by their transparency, their lack of caution when it came to people’s opinion and their utter confidence in their Maker. I had heard many claim the same things but had seldom seen it lived out so unconventionally.

They were fickle and flawed just like me, yet they lived like their lives really dependent on God, possibly why I felt so free with them. Though circumstances made me restless, I learnt that Jesus was more real than all the degrees I could acquire or some job I could secure. He was really who he had always claimed to be. The Truth.

I was progressing in ways that did not make sense to many around me. The Truth was setting me free within but it was the size of my salary and my residential address that I was most probed about.

They concluded I had made a poor choice and failed again. But it was the beginning of the end of living a life based on people’s expectations. A year later I had begun my pastors training. Not out of curiosity or a sense of inadequacy but simply because I was letting the indescribable peace of God lead me on.

It was that same peace that enabled me a decade later, to pick up a cross from our second floor church office and walk the streets of Delhi.

basement daze
Say hello to Da Base! The damp wall that tested more than my artistic skills.

 

 

 

 

Post 10) The Inconvenient Cross

Having never tested the 10ft. cross before, I started walking down the M-Block market road on Good Friday morning. It rattled and bounced erratically. It was like trying to dance with a mannequin. Add to that, the noise of the wheel on the uneven surface seemed amplified in the early hours of the morning. So I picked it off the ground and carried it until the road evened out.

Stray dogs became agitated and barked viciously. A cross-carrying coolie was no different to them than the rag pickers with sacks on their back. Somehow these mongrels, themselves outcasts, knew who were the unwanted.

But the groggy-eyed security guards chased them away. I think they presumed I was some sort of baba minus the religious robes out on a quest for enlightenment. Smiling quietly they gave me a namaste with folded hands. I bowed a little and raised my right hand, since the other hand held the cross. Though unintentional, it came across as a typical gesture of blessing.

On the Josip Broz Tito Marg heading towards Moolchand, joggers avoided eye contact and hurried past. I think I would have done the same. There are only so many hours in a South Delhi residents’ life and they are neatly assigned to various tasks. Any digression would be an utter nuisance.

I had resolved to pray for all who walked past. But right at the outset all I got was indifference. First there was the newspaper boy who refused my offer to pray for him. Now these posh joggers walked by disdainfully because of the cross.

“When the world hates you, remember it hated me before it hated you” were the words of the One whom I was trying to follow.

Eventually I would have to come to terms with being rejected, abused, humiliated, misunderstood and hurt if I really, really wanted to follow Christ all my life. It was not an “if” but “when the world hates you”. An apologetic smile while carrying a cross through the streets of Delhi may get me by for now. But in the long run, the Bible I read had no bit about pastors retiring to write their memoires in between talk shows and counting their blessings. Our conviction is seldom convenient and if followed through, it ends up costing us everything.

I was disturbed by what the cross represented. How does an instrument of death most gruesome turn into a symbol of love most profound? Paul the apostle had warned how not all would be impressed by the cross. It is folly to those perishing, and God’s power for those being saved. It is a “stumbling block” to those wanting a warrior-like messiah. One who can perform an instant miracle and make us the comfortable majority. A hero who could add a little spiritual fuel to our agenda and do our bidding.

On the other hand, the cross is utter foolishness for the philosophically minded. How does one debate the logic of one sinless man dying for humanity’s sin? What lopsided transaction allows forgiveness to be credited to anyone who dares to believe in the finished work on the cross?

“Karma be damned, today you will be with me in paradise!” was basically what the criminal crucified alongside Christ had heard. He had no time to set his wrongs right. The eleventh hour salvation occurred after the world had passed its judgment.

This was scandalous grace. It was grossly unfair. Grace extravagantly gifted to the one who had excelled in wickedness. If not that criminal then who could call the day the Messiah got executed as ‘Good’?

Christ in Delhi
An illustration I made while in college (1999)

 

Post 9) St. Stephen’s College

stephens04
The sense of having arrived got cancelled by my inability to leave gloriously.

As soon as I left the cool cocoon of Mussoorie I became terribly homesick for a place that had always carried an expiry date. Just like that, my identity went from being a student to alumni. The security of knowing and being known got stripped away on graduation day. And just like that, I turned into a nostalgic wreck.

I continued in a daze through the excruciating heat of Delhi and the tedious college admission process. Carelessly following my second cousin Abhilash from Janakpuri to North Campus, jumping from one notorious Blue Line bus into another as he tried to prime me about what to expect.

I watched anxious parents coach their children on how to impress the panel. I had applied in two colleges and had presumed the St. Stephen’s interview would give me practice for the real admission at Delhi College of Art.

At the interview the English faculty consisted of an eclectic bunch of experts who seemed to have turned the selection process into an art form. The interview ended with one final question. Who was my favorite author?

I replied, “Yasunari Kawabata”. Since the panel was already aware of our school curriculum, I casually named the author on whom I did my 12th grade symposium. Besides, I had no idea who had written all the DC comics I grew up reading. Kawabata was the better bet.

Presuming I read Nobel laureates for fun, they nodded knowingly and one of the professors flaunting a ponytail and Buddha-like calm asked which books of Kawabata had I read? I had read only two and could remember the title of only one, ‘Snow Country’.

So what was it that I liked about his writing? I said what I had heard Ms. Hoffman, my English teacher say few months back. “Kawabata’s writing is…subtle”

To date I think besides Divine favor, that was the word that clinched my admission into India’s number one college.

stephens01blog
The long and straight corridor to the Princi’s office.

In the next three years I assumed the role of the understated silent student and hoped it got passed off as being subtle and smooth. But my days at Stephen’s would eventually be summed up as a surreal blur.

The first thing I learnt was that everything had to be abbreviated. Principal was ‘Princi’, Shakespeare Society was ‘Shake Soc’, Kamla Nagar was ‘K-Nag’s’ and so on. I was bewildered by the hype around our college being the ‘Best’ in India. Each morning we got harangued about the privilege of being in its prestigious corridors.

Every class confirmed my utter ignorance about the subject I was pursuing. My peers intimidated me just by knowing how to spell and use ‘bourgeois’ and by having an existential crisis at every tea break. By the time I got ready to speak, we had graduated.

Well, almost. In 2001 I had cleared my ‘Main’ papers in English Literature but failed my subsidiary paper in History. Then I failed again. And then again. By then I had either lost all hope or just wanted to punish myself for being such a loser. Either way, I stayed in Delhi, did a graphic design course, repeated History and cleared it in my fourth attempt. Then, I took the first job that was offered to me. Model Management.

kitchen staff
The class that never graduates. The ‘bearers’ of the Mess. Noble men who fed me well.

Post 8. Mussoorie to Holy Mess

Mussoorie to Holy Mess
View of Woodstock School hostel and the Doon Valley from Landour

Two decades ago if you had said I would one day call Delhi “my city”, I would have laughed with you. The city’s favorite existential question has always been, “So where are you really from?” Regardless of the fact that you may practically be the guy they named the city after, everyone wants to trace your ancestry out of Delhi’s borders. No one seems to know how long one has to be living here to claim being a legit “Delhiite”.

From the outset, what made it hard for me to give a straight answer was that I was a Bihar born, Uttar Pradesh bred, son of a Malayali couple, who spent his teenage years in Mussoorie, Uttrakhand and then came to Delhi University in 1998.

With a name like Joshua John, people presumed I was a ‘Christian’. It definitely helped during college admissions. But once I read the Bible for myself I found that all are born into sin. And that Jesus did not come to make nasty people into nice ones. He came to turn both nice and nasty into new people. Nasty know they are bad. It’s the nice ones who tend to hide behind their religious pride and niceties. When your Maker calls your bluff, the choice is to stay stubborn or surrender.

For all bureaucratic purposes I was indeed born into a religion called Christianity but if I wanted to go by ‘The Book’ then I would have to be ‘born again’. I understood that my good works were as good as doggy-do-do and a holy God didn’t dig such stink. So I repented and got baptized in water to demonstrate the death and burial of my old self and birth of a new man. This perplexed my college friends to no end.

“Dude, I thought you were already a Christian! What are you now, a monk!?”

My friends have called me many names but my mom has always called me ‘Joshu’. In school an American classmate started calling me ‘Jash’. This got tweaked and became ‘Josh’ when I moved to Delhi. In Hindi it meant ‘passion’. With the launch of ‘Josh Condoms’ I resumed using my full name.

“Namaste, mera naam Joshua hai” (Hello, my name is Joshua)

“Joshna?”

“Joshua”

“Joswa?”

“John bhi chalega” (John would do for now)

“Oho, jaisay Jondis!” (Aha, like Jaundice!)

In my teenage years I had emphatically vowed to never do two things. Firstly I promised to never be associated with any Christian institutions or churches. A Christian’s life seemed to revolve around meetings. I was dying to get out of school, and church promised nothing but a lifetime of lectures in colorless settings.

Then there was the propaganda surrounding Christian institutions being covert convertors sent by the CIA to subvert and corrupt ‘Indian Culture’. A fact confirmed by my reliable ganja-smoking friends. The undercover vibe I got through all the coded churchy language in the Dehradun-Mussoorie Bible belt only went to fuel my suspicion.

Secondly, I vowed never to live in Delhi, the city that sent the worlds most pretentious and boisterous tourists to ruin the tranquility of Mussoorie. To show my contempt I used to empty my bladder on the windshield of parked cars that had Delhi number plates. Needless to say, when I am up there now I ensure my car is never parked without its cover.

Almost two decades later here I was willing to call Delhi ‘my city’ and carry a cross through its streets. But then, what had I expected by giving my life over to the most radical Man who ever lived, died and rose again? I was still a mess, but thanks to the transforming work of Christ, I was now a holy mess.

Post 7. Christmas 2012

The December 16th nightmare continued until I asked God to help me change. Only God knew if I looked with casual or impure eyes at a woman. Only God knew if I was patronizing or being polite. Only God knew what went on inside and in private. And somehow, that realization was strangely reassuring.

I dared to pray a dangerous prayer. “Lord, let me not end up having outsmarted the whole world by hiding secret sins. Expose me, correct me, rebuke me and change me before its too late. I’d rather lose my reputation before this fickle world, than deceive myself into believing I can ever hide from a faithful God”

Ever since that prayer I found that it got harder to exaggerate, lie and manipulate. I had to take full responsibility for what I heard, saw and got influenced by. Being “open-minded” no longer meant I kept sacrificing truth at the alter of tolerance. God’s presence became more precious than some image I wanted to salvage.

By Christmas morning I felt free in my spirit. The heaviness had lifted and I went ahead with my preaching. It was short and punchy as I asked the congregation “Why was Jesus born?”

It was a rhetorical question. Orthodox theology liberally filled with alliteration. All I was expecting was an “Amen” to my answers.

Jesus was born so we can be born again! “Amen”

Jesus was born so we can be bought by his sinless blood! “Amen”

Jesus was born so we can belong to a body, his church! “Amen”

Jesus was born so we can bring his Kingdom on earth! “Amen”

Jesus was born so we can bless others out of love! “Amen”

I elaborated on each point and was thrilled by the unanimous response at the end. Heartfelt hallelujahs were followed by the jolly “Merry Christmas!” wishes to one another. Afterwards some wondered why I hadn’t mentioned Santa Clause? I didn’t want to start comparing Coca Cola’s mascot and belittle the Messiah so I just called Santa an impostor out to distract the gullible from the real birthday boy.

They were not too impressed by that dismissive statement. But before they could drag me into the rabbit hole to North Pole and back, they got their coffee and I pointed them to our fresh stock of ‘I Love Delhi’ t-shirts.

I consoled myself that if not my sermons, maybe these t-shirts would provoke people to love Delhi.

We had gotten them printed as an outward declaration of our inner conviction. If we truly believed that “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” then what was supposed to happen when sinners got transformed into saints due to such extravagant love? Surely it was to give away what we had freely received.

Hence while Delhi was stuffed up and stuck up, we were commissioned to love our city to the point of dying for it. Not to wait for Delhi to become more deserving just as Christ did not wait for me to get my act together. So I was to love as best as I knew how because Delhi was my city just as I belonged to Jesus.

Post 6. Being Anonymous

It was 4am on Good Friday 2013. I nervously began to get ready for the big walk. I was used to waking up early for long motorcycle trips but this time the attire was different. Instead of a riding gear I chose my most comfortable full-sleeve shirt, a pair of loose-fit pants and my running shoes, a pair I hadn’t used for years. I also took my forest green scarf that had travelled with me on numerous adventures.

If there was one day in my life when I didn’t care about my fashion sense, it was that day.

The 10foot cross was at my office and I had to walk from our home in Dayanand Colony to Greater Kailash (GK-1). In my backpack there was a sandwich, a bottle of water and my wallet. One thing that was missing was a camera. My phone was the ‘retro’ kind and just smart enough to make calls and I didn’t own a camera.

It wasn’t as though I had not tried to recruit potential filmmakers and photographers to document this urban cross carrying yatra. But as the day approached they had other more pressing commitments that took priority over doing a favor for a friend. I had imagined engaging interviews and snapshots that would capture the “essence” of this walk and maybe there could have been an exhibition of some sort afterwards.

But on Good Friday I was glad none of my plans worked out. In the two years leading up to it, it had been a very personal journey and I had not publicized it in anyway. Mainly because I was unsure if I could really do it. And I did not want people making a fuss about it.

If you are doing something ‘big’ or ‘significant’ I was taught, do it loudly. Create an ‘event’, have a ‘flag-off’, get ‘full mileage’, invite personalities, publicize your propaganda, because otherwise you don’t get ‘your money’s worth’. But this was not about me. Hence I had to embrace Christ, pick up my cross and go about this anonymously.

As I got closer to GK-1, I was wondering, could I really give up all my titles, objects and relationships that brought security, that gave me status? Was I open to whatever challenges that would come my way? Could I just surrender everything to the One I claimed to be walking with? Was I really ready to listen?

My heart was beating fast as I approached the last turn into M-Block Market from Kailash Colony. Standing before me was a paper-wallah wincing from some sort of pain. He asked me if I could throw the morning newspaper up to a first floor balcony as he had just pulled his back. I threw the paper and said something that took both of us by surprise.

“Can I pray for your back to be healed in Jesus name?”

It seemed like ages but was probably just few seconds, he just stared at this 5.11ft. guy with a goatee. I think I was still smiling when he pushed his cycle in the opposite direction, saying “Nahi, nahi, bhai…theek hai, sab theek hai!” (No, no, brother, its ok, all’s well)

It wasn’t the reward I was expecting for being bold enough to ask a stranger if he needed prayer. I was a little bothered until a thought surfaced. How much of my praying and service for others was neither centered around those I prayed for or on Christ whom I petitioned but on how good it made me feel?

When I reached my office to take the cross out, I stood in the stairwell wondering, how can someone who is so self-righteous, carry the greatest symbol of humility?

Post 5. December 16th  

On December 16th a girl was gang raped in South Delhi on a bus. The news was so loud I felt I had gone deaf. The deafness was soon replaced by high pitch ringing sound. Every report was sharp, shrill and unbearable.

I joined in the ‘soul searching’ that was demanded of us. Is this the kind of Delhi I wanted my daughter, wife, sister and mother to live in? Who are these sons with no conscience?

Till the victims tragic death thirteen days later there was national and international outrage. The media stoked the frenzy and the public clashed with security forces. It was high drama all around.

The same lynch mob that wanted corrupt officials and terrorists hanged cried for the rapists’ blood. “Marro Sallo Ko!” became the mantra. Death equaled justice. Killing would cleanse us, they reasoned.

As the brutality of the crime got splashed across the news channels I could not but face my own hypocrisy. Pointing out the speck in others eye while missing the plank in mine. I preached that both men and women were created in the likeness of God yet never questioned the privileges I enjoyed simply because I was a man.

I began to wonder was there ever a time when there was harmony between the genders? No ‘golden age’ we could study when women and men lived as equals? Or was there an ideal we could aspire to?

And whatever happened to Christ having broken down the racial, caste, socio-economic and gender divide through the cross? It seemed all the talk-time was being hogged by those least affected by these divides.

Something had to be done! Bikers suggested we start independent vigilante teams to rescue dames in distress. Some petitioned the judiciary to legalize castration for repeat offenders. Militant feminists unanimously voted men as the source of all evils. Candle sales went up. Leading TV anchors rebuked us for connecting pornography to perverts. 

I could think of nothing but repentance. To some it is synonymous with humiliation. In reality it is the ultimate act of surrender and humility. One does not repent out of obligation or for appeasement but due to an acute awareness of ones own wickedness and the desperate need for the rescuing grace of God.

Nearing Christmas I felt a deep sense of sorrow. Grief over what I did not stand for. I couldn’t just wash my hands off like I did a year ago when Anna Hazare called Delhi to fight corruption. This was different. I had to repent of how I had justified women’s role as subservient to men in the name of God, culture and my convenience.

And if I could dismiss Delhi men staring at women as “time-pass” then it wouldn’t be long before I thought teasing was “harmless fun” and rape an “adventure sports”. 

That may have been a far stretch, from staring to rape, but I didn’t want to connect those dots. I did not need another victory in the social media battleground. I wanted change within. I knew that no real change had happened in me by chance or by luck, they happened by choice. And I had to choose to change by asking for help from the only one who could really transform my heart. Jesus.