Monday, July 10, 2006

Do Cyclists Deserve Some Respect?

This question arose in my mind after two months of cycling around the city of Chandigarh. A newspaper ad of the new Ford Endeavour claimed that other vehicles will make way for it even in rush hour traffic because of its majestic presence. It seems this vehicle spells such awe on others and puts the rider in a commanding position in the road. I don't want to speculate on the authenticity of this extraordinary claim. But if any cycle manufacturer can dare to make a claim half audacious as that, I will buy that cycle without second thoughts.

A guy who rides big lorries deserves maximum respect in the road. No sensible person will challenge to block his way (unless he is attempting to end his life). Neither the people who ride cars seem to have any worry as they zip ahead in full speed at ease. Even the people who commute by motor cycles look comfortable. Some of them perform such acrobatics that even an expert circus artist will be put to shame. They seem to have the unduly knack of jumping lights, swerving and overtaking vehicles on the roads, and perform so many other tricks that will make a toothless baby to flash a smile. Especially if the motorist is a young chap driven by a penchant for speed, he imagines himself to be the only one on the road even in maddening traffic.

Unfortunately, it's the cyclist who recieves scant respect in the roads. Only strongwilled people can ride a cycle. If I put it more straight, cycling is for men not for the boys! Every time when a cyclist comes across a round- about he goes only by blind faith hoping that he will not be a victim on that day to the law of probability. If the Christian life demands faith, I must confess so does cycling!

If you are wondering why I am sounding so pessimistic about cycling, it is because of the many harrowing experiences I have encountered. Let me recount to you the latest one. A couple of days before as I was riding on the main road, a car zipped by my side. I felt a cold sensation on my skin, inspite of the scorching sun! As i looked at myself in horror, I saw freshly laid scented cow dung all over me. My hands, my t-shirt, and pants were sprayed with the auspicious portion of India's holiest animal. I stopped my cycle on the middle of the road to wipe myself clean. Some of the roadside children found it to be very amusing, and kept staring at me.

This is just a sample of the enormous traumatic challenges that every cyclist in our country undergoes. This write up intends to create compassion in your heart the next time you see a cyclist on road. Do cyclist's deserve some respect? It is up to you to answer.

Monday, July 03, 2006

My Experiments With Cooking

I have heard of the famous book by Mahatma Gandhi by name "My Experiments with Truth." Any experiment poses a threat as it forces us to come out of the comfort zone. I think one needs a lot of courage to fiddle with new things. We are so uninclined to come out of the box and try our hand on things foreign to us.

I have a new agenda in hand now - to experiment with cooking. Not that I am trying to be creative and want to learn a new art (cooking is definitely an art) but I have been forced into it. It has become a matter of survival! Having arrived in Chandigarh I had the luxury of eating all my meals in the Bible college mess. It was indeed a jolt when I had to shift my residence last week to the office where I work in Mohali. It meant I had to cook my own breakfast and take care of all meals during the weekend. The rest of the days I have a cook here (May God bless her, she is my lifeline) who makes lunch and dinner. I shudder at the prospect of how life will be without her!

I have never cared to appreciate people who have cooked for me till now (especially my mom and grandmom). It never even occurred in my mind that cooking is strenous and difficult until the day has come when I have been placed with the gruelling challenge of making my own food. Sometimes, it looks like a battle when I struggle every morning to turn my omlette upside on the pan only to see that it has torn once again. And talking about battle, how can we forget the injuries? Having stood in the forefront of the firing line I proudly sport the battle scars on my fingers as I burnt it yet another time (ouchh...). The saga seems to continue every morning. Deep inside rises a cry "Give up, you can't handle it any more". But I am in no mood to give up coz it is better to suffer than to remain hungry.

I have started my experiments with cooking and it may look quite bizzarre as of now. But the battle has just begun. Still there is a long way to go, and there is that blessed word that goes by the name hope and it keeps egging (oh not eggs again, it reminds me of the omlete i messed up) me on. I do have the confidence that the battle will be over and I long to hear the victorious war cry "I have mastered the art of cooking". I tell you, the day is not far away....

Friday, June 23, 2006

PULPIT VIEWS

Well… this is a subject that has been in my heart for a long time. I dared not to open my mouth about it except to a few trusted friends. But I reckon it is high time I speak out on this issue that has been bothering me.

I still remember my Homiletics (art of preaching) classes in Bible College. The nuances in preaching are far too many, right from dressing, voice modulation, communication skills, gestures and facial expressions, and most importantly the long sermon preparation process. A famous evangelical theologian considers a good sermon needs at least 18-20 hours of study and preparation time. This may be shocking to lay people and you may even wonder do we need to prepare so much to speak some drab stuff every Sunday morning. My answer is a big YES. A preacher who stands up to speak is burdened with so many expectations. In order to be a good preacher there are numerous considerations. After all, as someone said, preaching boring sermons is a sin!

So people have piled up a heavy load on poor preachers. When a preacher fares miserably, that becomes the talk of the day. A barrage of criticisms is thrown at them, and all of this happens behind their backs! Now if the people sitting in the pews are having such huge expectations from the preachers, don’t the preachers have the right to express their legitimate expectations from the audience? I want to share some of them from my heart, as a mouthpiece of the numerous preachers of this world, who suffer the ignominy of repeatedly being insulted by the people from the pews. As a preacher standing in front of people, you get to notice things which you will never notice if you were just a normal person. Keep these things in your mind when you hear a sermon:

1. Never leave the first row vacant (unless the preacher has a bad habit of spitting). A vacant first row just shows no one is showing keenness to listen.

2. Please don’t talk when someone is preaching. It is so frustrating for the preacher to see attention getting deviated.

3. For heaven’s sake DON’T YAWN. Yawning can be so infectious and spreads like wild fire to the length and breadth of the congregation.

4. Look at the preacher when he is preaching, not the ceiling or outside of the window.

5. Even if you don’t feel like it, yet keep nodding your head once in a while. There is nothing more encouraging for a preacher than the sign of a nodding head.

6. Lastly, when the sermon is over please remember to grab the hand of the preacher and appreciate him. After all, he tried to entertain you for 30 minutes, doesn’t he deserve this?


Well…. the list is never exhaustive but what I have shared here are surely important items. The next time you want to criticize a preacher, just remember the preacher has his own expectations too, and you have to strive to fulfill them by all means.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

My First Buy

Well... after the trauma of losing Aboli's cycle I was moving around on borrowed wheels (cycle also has wheels, right?). Finally, the moment of reckoning arrived - I received my first pay.

I had worked in a couple of part-time jobs and received payment for it. But strictly speaking this is the first time I am getting remuneration in a full time work situation. After a month of daily grind in the office, and preaching in the church I carried home my salary with a sense of deep satisfaction.

It was also the first time in my life I was handling a few thousands of rupees which belonged to me!! Now if it had been dad's money may be I would have just blown if off. But now this was my money, my earnings, the fruit of my labour! I promptly realised that I need to spend them very judiciously.

There is something very special about our own first buy! It gives us a sense of pride that we are buying something from our own resource. Having had enough with borrowed cycles, and the bad habit of losing them, I made up my mind that my first buy will be a second hand cycle. So lo behold, as I went to the cycle shop to enquire, it appeared as though this cycle was waiting just for me (or may be there were no other takers for it!) It was chained heavily with other cycles as though it was an Al-Quaeda activist in the hands of the American soldiers. I paid the price and purchased its freedom, and it became a memorable moment in my life - my first buy!

It is an Atlas racer cycle, tall and lanky (just like me!). It goes pretty fast as it is light in weight (once again, just like me!). So today, I am a proud owner of this machine, my very first buy, and it will be etched in my memory forever. May be it will get a special mention in my auto-biography if I ever go on to write one!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Overcoming Loneliness

Finally, after a week of reflection and deep thinking (scared I may get grey hairs soon) I am updating my blog. I must say I have been enlightened by the comments and personal responses from all of you. It was indeed overwhelming to see the interest the topic generated.

I did receive a lot of exciting offers to my appeal for help. Dad was very benovolent to offer money for a two wheeler. I did refuse though, as I am determined to stand on my own feet and also willing to go through the grind. We learn lot more lessons when we learn to cope with the harsh realities of life. So dad you have cocooned me enough, not any more. Besides dad's offer of help, there were other offers of assistance like invitations for movies, lunch, and numerous suggestions ranging from giving a try at swimming to getting married. (Does marriage, solve the problem of loneliness?)

I have come up with some constructive ideas that I will be putting into practice. Thanks to Ashish, my desire to write has pepped up again. I want to contribute more in writing Christian articles for magazines. I also intend to do more reading as it comes naturally to me. Although I dont have the immediate resources to invest in a two-wheeler I have made up my mind to explore a lot more of the city in my cycle, and also use the bus (provided I learn to understand the strange language of the Chandigarh bus conductors)

My blinkers have been opened when I understood the difference between loneliness and being alone. It was satisfying to note that I fall under the latter category. Hopefully, there will be a lot more people around me for company in the near future. Last but not least I need to remind myself that this stage of life is something I will never get back again. Therefore, instead of grudging and complaining I need to start seeing the brighter side of life. As I am about to close, I do think getting married is not a bad idea after all. So if there is any one interested, I want to let you know "I am single, and hoping"! (Let me become the guinea pig to find out whether marriage is an antidote for loneliness!)

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Seeing through Set backs

While I am battling with loneliness and discovering possible solutions to overcome this evil (remember, all evil is bad!)I realise it is a hard nut to crack. It will take me some more time to arrive at concrete answers. I am overwhelmed by your responses to my write up and it has lifted my spirits, so much so that for some time I totally forgot that I am lonely :-)
Talking about set backs, I must narrate this incident which had a profound impact in my life. It happened within a couple of weeks I landed here in Chandigarh to begin my pastorate. I was moving around the place in a cycle shuttling back and forth from my room to office. I am not very adventurous, so I hardly venture out into new territory. I seldom deviate from the prescribed route that I had registered in my mind to go to the office. And believe me, I don't jump lights either!
So on this fateful night I had parked my cycle below the staircase of my house as usual. I always ensure that it is locked. The next day to my horror I found out that the cycle had disappeared. I was getting frantic, and running helter skelter to see if someone had moved it around. It took me a while before reality hit that my cycle has been stolen. It is now lying safe in the hands of someone else!
Soon news spread like wild fire that Ashwin lost his cycle. Every person whom I knew in Chandigarh seemed to be asking me the same question, "I heard your cycle got stolen." I had to go through the grind of recounting to them the tragic story of how I had carefully locked the cycle last night but still some master mind had very intelligently hatched a plan to flick my cycle.
This was an opportunity for me to observe the diverse reactions of varied people. In every response I could also vividly see the personality of people. There were those sympathisers who tried to identify with my misery. Some were trying to comfort reminding me that God is in control over all things. Among others were the people of stauch faith who kept insisting that I should claim that cycle back in the name of Jesus. The optimists said i should lodge a police complaint and I will surely get it back. The pessimists said I should forget the cycle as a cycle once stolen is lost forever. The violent ones wished that the guy(it's always the guys who get the blame) who stole my cycle should meet with an accident!
You know worst of all it was never my cycle in the fist place. I had borrowed it from a dear friend named Aboli, a sweet girl from Nagaland who was kind enough to entrust her relatively new cycle to me. As soon as the cycle was lost, I had butterflies in my stomach. How can I ever communicate this shocking news to my new found friend? All sorts of possible bizarre consequences were playing on my mind. As I picked up my mobile to call her, I was bracing myself for the worst onslaught threatened by the fact that I may lose the only good friend whom I have found in Chandigarh.
As Aboli answered the call, I didn't know what to say. I was stammering, my English was going awry, I forgot the rules of grammar and sentence construction, and for a moment she might have thought I am going to propose to her. With much difficulty, I managed to divulge the news, and was waiting with bated breath for her response. I couldn't believe what I heard, and I had to pinch myself hard. The words still ring in my ears like sweet music, "Forget it, you are more important than the cycle."
Unbelievable, eh? Of all the responses I received for the lost cycle, this one was THE BEST. I won't mind losing a thousand cycles just to hear those words again. God bless sweet people like Aboli!

Monday, May 29, 2006

A month in Chandigarh and my first post

As I am writing my first blog, it took me a long time to decide on the topic. As I kept sifting my thoughts, I repeatedly shuflled between different topics. However, in the end there was one issue that remained crystal clear in my mind that I want to address here. It's been a month since I arrived in Chandigarh to begin a new phase of life. After two years of gruelling theological studies (sometimes gruelling experiences are sweet!!) I have finally made it. It does give me a sense of pride to me the associate pastor of this small English speaking church - Chandigarh Bible Fellowship. (the fact that no one here calls me 'pastor' is another story).
Working with the church has been a pleasant experience. I must confess that I have been rattled by this feeling that goes by the name loneliness. If you are like me all alone in a single room from evening 6 o clock with no one to talk to you will be able to perfectly identify with me. I have heard people talk about human beings as social animals and shrugged my shoulders off saying "Whats the big deal, I love being all alone. After all we all need privacy." I have been made to eat my words within one month here in this new city. I dread those long hours all alone in my room not knowing what to do. These are times in my life when I wish a day has only 16 hours. I know I am contradicting the philosophy of the world which says, "24 hours are not enough, give me more."
Loneliness has the potential to drive us crazy. It makes us feel dejected, depressed, frustrated, forsaken, left out,.... and a host of other bad feelings. As I look at my present life, I realise I am fighting against an opposition which has a strong fortitude, reslilience, and a never say die attitude. It keeps plaguing at you unceasingly.
Now I come to the big million dollar question - Is there an antidote for loneliness? I need to think through this week and hopefully I will be able to update my blog soon with a solution to one of humanity's greatest problem (thats how i see it, though you may disagree). Until, then I request you fellow friends to put your thinking caps on and give me some suggestions in overcoming loneliness. Remember, you are doing a big favour if you think along with me because there are lot of lonely people out there in the world seeking for answers!