Renu's Week

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Report of 8 Sept '08

Hello from the B -

I'd better hasten to type this in before the electricity gets cut. When I was much younger, Madurai would have unscheduled power cuts, esp in the summer. The Electricity Board tried to avoid night-time cuts, as one could not sleep then, and daytime cuts were de rigueur. When Scott and I moved to Chennai as adults with families, we noticed no power cuts, and I was grateful for the new affluence. Powercuts are back, and scheduled powercuts are the norm now. Nighttime cuts are still avoided, as children have to study. Quite a few aspects of daily life here revolve around children, their study schedules and their exams.

A dear friend wrote and stated she was very offended by an earlier blog about my experiences with Christians. I was extremely grateful for the candor, and want to give a little background. 2 years ago, a friend suggested we approach an Indianapolis church for help with funding, as churches tend to support projects in the 3rd world. Indeed, my lone year of funding was by a Christian charity. So we approached the church, the person there suggested my cause would be considered much more deserving if I attended services, and after much time, deliberation and soul-searching, I started attending services. I enjoyed them, revelling in the Minister, Carolyn Scanlan-Craighead, her sense of humor, and her earthy messages. One day, a couple started talking to me (this happened a lot, as I was new), got a few details about my life and work, and asked about my faith. (People are wont to consider my work God's work, or some kind of Christian mission, and I don't belabor any point, beyond mentioning that I am not religious - esp after Manu's demise.) I mentioned that I was raised in both the Hindu (my mother's) and Christian (my father's) faiths, and was comfortable with both. They asked which way I was leaning, and I told them I wasn't. This appeared to bother them, and they persisted, wanting me, I thought, to choose the Christian faith. I left the discussion, and mentioned it later to a senior staff member, stating that the original warm welcome I felt in the liberal Methodist church appeared at odds with this couple's insistence. The lady stated that this couple had come from another church, that they had been married to others then, had had an affair, divorced their respective spouses, married each other and left that church, fearing condemnation, to attend this one. Evidently, then, I thought mildly, Hinduism or "bifaithness" ranked higher than adultery in this couple's list of sins. Near Scott's relatives' town, there is a bookstore with the sign "Hinduism, Satanism, and other cults" above a display. On a flight once, I sat next to a pastor's wife, and she stated she was a follower of Pat Robertson; I asked if that was the person who had ordered Hugo Chavez killed, and the lady offered a justification. I believe there is a commandment that states "Thou shalt not kill." (Undoubtedly, there are Hindu and Muslim fanatics also, I simply have not met any.) There have been many promises made by churches and representatives of churches, and none, yes none, of them have been delivered. Scott and I discussed this yesterday, and he stated that Christians want something done to alleviate the sufferings of the poor. As to why promises were made is beyond my comprehension, other than it made the promiser feel good that something was being done, nay promised, for the destitute. Why they were not carried out is also puzzling, esp when that is not the norm in the U.S. Is it that folks feel good to promise all kinds of things, and then, when it's time to collect, the people promised are so far away that delivery need not occur, and there would be no reprisal or follow-through, at least in this lifetime? The person who wanted to advance my cause if I attended services has also not done so. So, you see, the lack of execution of promises is much more the norm for me than otherwise. I should have, however, not generalised. It is my experience that all grand promises made by Christians have not been kept, but I cannot state that all Christians do not keep promises. My apologies to all.

In that regard, I also want to state that I expect nothing of any substance from anyone. What is done or promised for the Banyan, though, I zealously want. And the hordes of unfilled promises, undelivered money, etc., only serve to reinforce what the destitute must feel when there is no avenue for help. And it helps me feel grateful, all over again, to Vandana and Vaishnavi, for putting us in the enviable position of saying "We can help" to the abysmally poor and forgotten. This is a nice feeling.

We spent last week at Navin's school, Abacus, for their sports festival. Navin won the best athlete award for his age group. Shortly thereafter, we got his grades, and suffice it to say he ain't close to getting any kind of "best student" award. It irks me considerably that a child of this potential would get these grades. So, mighty rounds of yelling have occurred, and umpteen tutors, all the norm for 10th and 12th grade students, have been employed. As we went to each teacher at Abacus, and heard volumes about how it was clear that Navin was not doing any work at home, the sinking feeling in my chest became a physical ache. I told the boys that if Scott and I did not experience such turbulence, we might never know what peace means. There is absolutely no excuse for poor grades, though: if non-comprehension is an issue, we can employ tutors. If poor grades are the result of sloth, grounding and removal of privileges happen - as Navin has learnt. India is very unforgiving of poor effort. We will find out Naren's grades next week; he was in the same state when he was in 10th grade, and appears much more motivated in the 12th. And then we will go check on my nephew, Sudhir. 3 teenage boys, 3 courses of study = 1 very full plate for the parents.

Unw -



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