Our First Day in India

When westerners arrive as guests in the East they need to be prepared for a number of differences in the culture. One important difference is the whole area of hygiene. One should always remember that the left hand is seen as the toilet hand this means that you should never shake hands or eat with this hand. Talking about toilets, you will notice that beside each toilet is often a little water spray. This is used instead of toilet paper. Once you get used to it, it becomes obvious that it is a much more ecological friendly system, not nearly so many drains would be polluted with toilet paper if we were to adopt such a practice. busy-chennai-street.jpg We were wakened up the next morning with Alfred's knock on the door. It was 11.00 am and we had overslept. Most people in India had completed a day's work by the time we had surfaced for breakfast. The street outside was bustling with traders and people going about their daily work. We on the other had spent a long time travelling the day before and we had hours of sleep with which to catch up, so we didn't feel too embarrassed by our sleeping pattern. Alfred is an interesting man. It was obvious that his skills as a leader of men had not been lost and he was a man who likes to keep to time and he was intent on keeping our programme on track a talent we were to be glad of in the days to come. The day was to include a visit to a local Hotel to make arrangements for the next day's travelling arrangements. We are going to be visiting an area renowned for its Hindu temples and standing stones. Hiruvanmiyur is a south-end place in Chennai, Tamil Nadu. 239271297_b0e1d29b69.jpg Once unknown, this area is now an upcoming destination with Tidel Park being located nearby. The legendary Marundeeswarar Temple, dedicated to Lord Shiva is located here. Thiruvanmiyur also houses Kalakshetra, famous world over for the preservation, teaching and development of Indian culture, tradition, dance and art forms. 239271026_51fd2eb7eb_s.jpg Breakfast was served by Sulu who speaks four languages, India is a land of so many differences. I think there are literally hundreds of local languages and dialects spoken, hence many of the Indian's use English as a common language. Like most Scots abroad faced with the ability of other nationalities to speak English, you do feel a little inferior knowing that you have made little attempt to learn their language. Breakfast turned out to be a typical continental breakfast, although I thought the cornflake package looked a little odd having the face of a white blonde kid on it promoting child health care. The packaging looked a bit American. The tradition in India is that the lady of the house stands and serves her guests and looks to their every need. Sulu did exactly this with great dignity and grace. However we also found that there was also a servant in the kitchen, giving the backup support to the lady of the house, I'm sure this a custom of which many a lady in Scotland would be glad to adopt. Here again the opportunity for employment has to be maximised in a country of over 1 billion people. Working in service is how millions of people all over the world earn their living. India is an example. We got ready for our visit to the travel agent. We were keen to get some of the following days travel arrangements confirmed and we needed to confirm that we would hire a car to take us to the famous Tamil Nadu standing stones. Alfred explained that his driver would be at our disposal if we thought the hotel package was too expensive. Oh yes you will soon discover that many middle class families in India employ a driver to be available to drive their car whenever required. The driver also acts as general support to the family. This is really quite a good idea as an elderly fit couple like Alfred and Sulu will be able to remain pretty independent for many years because of the additional support. We came to an agreement with the Hotel for a driver for the day and duly paid up for the service. On leaving the Hotel we had a quick tour around the city, Alfred taking us to At Andrew's Scots Kirk. I wondered what kind of people attended this church now that the colonial period was over. standint.jpg We returned home in the late afternoon to take some rest and to prepare for our first meeting with a group of pastors that Alfred had brought together to talk about World Without Wall. It was an interesting evening meeting Raj Ignatious Sunderaj and Abraham. Each of these men have fascinating ministries and we were to find out a lot more about them as the weeks went on. Sunderaji was a part-time pastor who worked in a bank in the City of Chennai. He needed little prompting to get talking about his life as a Christian leader. Sunderaji told the group assembled how he has always been asking difficult questions. Questions that were to earn him many a clip round the ear from the local parish priest. He once asked why Jesus was still on the cross if we truly believe that he has risen from the dead. He smiled and used this as an illustration why he had left the Catholic Church as a child. While still a small boy he had made 15 of his friends disciples of Jesus. You can now imagine how we were feeling in the presence of such humble and godly people. Little did we know that within a few months he would be killed in a road accident Sunderaj Christianity isn't really taught it is caught, and I for one was being reminded of my own childhood and my earnest desire to serve the Lord as a young boy. I think there is a great deal of faith in our children and we as adults get a little afraid of that kind of spirituality in our children. When he pastors left it was time to retire for the night and reflect upon our full first day in India.
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