Monday, 12 June 2017

On Fatigue, Joy & Giving

It looks like this Himalayan TravelBlog isn’t going to be a daily thing.  The reason for that is the travelling plus my increasing age. The Air India flight was not the problem. Leaving Sydney around 11am it landed in Delhi at 7.30pm, so it was like a day’s work. I’m so used to the taxi ride between Indira Gandhi International Airport and Church of North India Bhavan, where I’m now regarded as family, that I often give instructions to the driver! But the 4½ hour time difference does extract a toll.

Nevertheless, the next morning I took a Metro train to a major transport hub called Kashmere Gate, where I met with my publisher, ISPCK. The Indian Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge is, obviously, a child of  the British SPCK. It’s not only cricket and railways that the British have bequeathed to India, but at well over 300 years of age ISPCK is very much its own entity. I’ve been commissioned to write a simple textbook in ecotheology for Indian pastors and laypeople. But I argued strongly (not that I needed to!) that any such book needed to be well and truly Indian and to be a collaborative affair involving both Indians and Australians, and women and men. I had a good meeting with Ella Sonawane, ISPCK’s Deputy Director. She has, marvellously, found a number of Indian women who are willing to write a chapter in collaboration with some unknown (to them) Australian! Suddenly my launch deadline, 26 January (which is both India’s Republic Day and Australia Day) next year looks feasible again.

Having run into the Church of North India’s Moderator, The Most Rev’d Pradeep Kumar Samantaroy, I exchanged my ticket in an “ordinary” bus for a lift to Chandigarh in the comfortable church school-owned vehicle that had taken him to Delhi, then bought the last available ticket on a Volvo (= “luxury”) bus to Manali. At 61 my body protests more than it did on my first adventure through Asia, when I rode through the night in “ordinary” buses! Starting at midday we made good time, and would have arrived in the evening except for the exceptional traffic queues caused by hordes of newly-rich middle class Indians who ascend to this tourist town at this time of the year. It was nearly midnight before I got to bed in the same flat Lena and I inhabited when we lived here.

The next morning my American friend Steve Ringeisen took me to the agent from whom I would hire the 500cc Royal Enfield Bullet that would be my means of transport on this Ride for Peace. To my surprise and pleasure Raju, the “hirer”, is the husband of Poonam, our cleaner during our sojourn in Manali. Later that afternoon I braved heavy traffic and rain to test out the Bullet, riding up the highway to Steve’s house in a village called Shenag some kilometres north of Manali, then back along a 4 wheel drive track. I found it to be an “easy rider” with an upright stance better suited to my ageing knees than some of the more modern bikes. My task will be to “stay upright”!

Church the next morning was something of a reunion, but afterwards I fell into bed, dropped off and, with short breaks slept until this morning. Sometimes, as my mother remarked during our Skype conversation, the body just takes over when the mind is not sensible! I had awakened to discover that my father as been awarded an OAM. Life can be really good!

It does feel like a privilege to be doing this. It is my very personal way of taking long service leave: on a bike, in India. It takes me back to my first Asian adventure, doubling Ian, my travelling companion, around Bali on a Yamaha 125. At the same time I’m hoping to do some good by supporting the local Indian church in its message of peace in a part of the world where violence is often not far away. “My” church, the Uniting Church in Australia, is in a partner relationship with the Church of North India, and in particular with its Diocese of Amritsar. That expresses itself in part in personal exchanges like the ones Lena and I have been involved with, and in part by projects that UnitingWorld, the Uniting Church’s overseas agency, supports. These include projects supporting church-run schools and hostels for girls and for boys.

If something in what I am doing moves your to want to help the Diocese of Amritsar and the people it is supporting, then by all means read and respond to the “begging letter” attached to this TravelBlog. I’m very conscious of the calls upon our bank accounts these days, and that many of you who read this have previously supported “my causes” (and indeed Lena and myself when we were volunteering) because I’ve brought them to your attention. This is not about supporting my long service leave adventure! As I said, if something in what I’m doing moves you to support those I’ve grown to love, have a look, over the next month or so at UnitingWorld’s begging letter.

This being a TravelBlog, I won’t mention money again…

Grace and peace,


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