Christmas comes quietly…

I guess that makes sense in a land where only about 2.3% of the population understands themselves to be Christian… Christmas doesn’t hit you over the head like it does in the states with the radio playing Christmas music everywhere, every shopping mall and individual store decked out with sparkly excess, individuals with inflatable lawn ornaments and an intense debate and challenge for many churches trying to claim Advent against a Christmas backdrop that seeks to dull your senses and lull you into a shopping frenzy only “befitting of a Christmas season.”

Of course other holidays and festivals garner much attention at different times. October celebrated the Hindu festival of Diwali, the festival of lights which to American eyes felt like Christmas in the shopping malls in the days leading up to this big festival. And the night of which felt like the 4th of July (American Independence Day) on steroids. From the roof top that I was able to be on that night, I could look in any direction to see amazing displays of fireworks. I can’t imagine the cost in Indian Rupees, though the cost in air pollution was a little more obvious…

But Christmas seems quiet in the days before it comes. I like the preparation time that feels maybe more like Advent but I have to admit missing a little of the buzz.

Still I was able to find Mary and the baby Jesus under the tree…

The colors of red and green…

The comingling of the sacred and the secular…

Disquieting Similarities

I’ve been having some incredible adventures here in India and I’ve also had some introspective times, reading and reflecting. The shear diversity and difference of experiences here keep me thinking and contrasting life in the United States with life in India. Some of those comparisons have been trite, some leave me baffled, some make me laugh and others simply break my heart.

I often find myself a little lost in the understood hierarchies and patriarchies of the land. And if I am completely honest, I find myself a little mad at times too. Oh the hearts and hurts that people (mostly women but some men too) have shared.

God heal the brokenness in all of us. Grant us redemption and resurrection that we may use what others intended for evil to your good purposes.

It seems that in every unfavorable reality of any given society there are authors, though often few, who are willing to tell their stories. Authors who are willing to lay their souls and even bodies bare to reveal, with dignity and integrity, that which has little of either.

I recently read a book called Joothan: A Dalit’s Life by Omprakash Valmiki.

I recommend it. It is not an uplifting book, it is not an easy book but it is one brave author’s account of his life as a Dalit man. The Dalit people, as they are sometimes called, were previously called untouchables, people considered lower than any other caste and to a certain extent lower than human. It is a recent story, (published in 2003 but recalling a childhood of the 50’s and 60’s and an adulthood beyond) and all the while I was reading it I was reminded of an American book written about the 50’s in America, Black Like Me by John Howard Griffin…

Have you read that one? Another one I recommend and again not because it is easy or uplifting. Horrible historical and current realities repeatedly have echoes in other contexts, cultures and times. The faces and the presentation might be different but the spirit of hate and division holds a disquieting similarity.

Forgive us God for we are not always the people you would have us be.

New York City

I visited New York City, it is home to many iconic American images, institutions and collective history. The Statue of Liberty, Ground Zero, Wall Street … I wanted to put those images in my head as I started off on this year of adventure.

So just a few pictures and comments…

 

 

Nearly ten years ago the Twin Towers fell, leaving us with Ground Zero. Today most of it is a construction area blocked off from street level view by blue industrial fabric.

 

 

 

 

Unless of course you can find a periodic hole … but that doesn’t lead to much either.

 

 

So you have to find a building with public windows that open up to the area to get a better view. A friendly NYPD lady directed me to this building and it’s fifth story patio that was closed due to weather but nonetheless the only close view I could find.

I couldn’t decide which one was having its picture taken most often…

New York Stock Exchange

 

 

 

 

 

Oh to my last truly American meal for quite awhile…

It was great to be in the city again.  It was kinder, just as busy and crowded but somehow much more human, than I remembered it….