Journal of trip to Gurukul Theological & early weeks on location followed by Work Summary through November. See Introductory paragraph about journal writing with family trip to Kodaikanal International School, 1986
May 22 –Henry and Sarah took us to South Bend airport to board a bus going to Chicago airport. Upon J’s opening van’s back door, my carry-on luggage fell to ground from on-top other luggage (I gasped since inside that carry-on piece was my new computer; what a way to start!), Shortly after on bus, I started the computer to be relieved that it works ok Traffic being heavy, we were wise to have left early. Amazed at number of international people, particularly Indians, near India ticket counter in Chicago # 5 terminal. Lutheran Warner Luoma joined us for hour in lounge. He gave useful background to Lutheran groups in India & responded to a few of our questions. Never had I as an American felt as such a minority in my own country. Only several days prior India had set off five nuclear tests w worldwide response being none too favorable, including w US econ. sanctions. Wondered how that action might affect attitudes toward Americans in India; we knew of euphoric spirit being displayed in major Indian cities. While truly a sense of achievement, concern for possibility of regional retaliation also surfaced. Will be interesting to follow news—India Today (weekly journal), The Hindu (newspaper)—of differing opinions regarding that “success.” Will be guarded about expressing personal judgment.
First 9-hour flight less than comfortable—up against wall likely because J had requested more leg room. Weary in London airport, inadequate seating for number of mingling passengers. Second flight more comfortable; space for J in row across aisle. Arrived Chennai on time soon after 3 a.m., two hours later out of airport. Carousels w luggage numerous delays but fortunately our six bags all arrived. Customs asked about weighty black duffle but nothing needed opening. No one from Gurukul to meet us so, w all our luggage into one Ambassador (car) taxi, checked in at Ambassador Pallava until 23rd. Early morning drive into Indian city w characteristic quantity of moving vehicles, sleeping figures alongside road en route, & horn beeping. Into Rm 525 fully air conditioned, contrast w outside temps remarkable. Impact of heat on leaving hotel convinces one of 40+ temps, hottest in Chennai for season. Set appointment w Jesudass at Gurukul, picked up by Deepak soon after 3:30.
It’s hot! pronoun w-out prior reference notwithstanding. Shifted to Gurukul, expensive living past tense. Grateful that guest room a.c. works. Frustrated not having met “charmer” Dr. Rajaratnam, aware of anxiety about whole venture yet hoping that “this too will pass.” Hard to orient campus w section of former open space inside main gate now filled w multi-storied apartment building. Dr. Jesudass gracious in his a.c. office; to Prasanna’s campus home where warmly welcomed; she soon to leave for Bangalore. W-in hour encountered “politics” of situation: busy travel schedules of R & P w little time for mere housing for newcomers.
Amazed on entering Nalini’s/Giggles temporary book shop where stacks literally floor to ceiling w barely space/aisle in which to turn between stacks. Little time to more than exchange pleasantries, hear “You should/will want to read this one” plus suddenly learn Sarah Chanda’s phone #. Called her & w-in two hours, she did more for our housing (next door to hers) than Gurukul officials had achieved in over two months. By noon of next day, she had key in hand to vacant flat—newly painted, clean floors, three bedroom/2 bath (one western/one eastern mode respectively), awful kitchen (that J. considers “par for Indian course”) Third floor of Landon Towers will be warm for now, w-out a.c. but realize that it’s clean & a 12-minute walk from campus which distance might be all too welcome at times. [Description of walk detailed in other website entry.]
Definitely back in India—initial reality of trash piles from which one young fellow rescues a potato, from another a woman sorts out paper—sheets from plastic—on to stacks, form of kabari wallah. Whether or not to notice refuse, shelled coconut here & straw strands there, cow cake remnant here & banana peeling well-trampled by loitering cow there. Varied odors accompany, some more potent to nostrils than others. Next day observed collection “service” w one lad atop well-filled, high-sided truck another handing him filled baskets to empty. “What if” either of those two workers had an open cut in his finger? W thoughts of automatic trash loaders back home too wide for street here that hosts people coming/going, inevitable scooters wending their way—squeeze horns ‘announcing’ presence—between cars or carts attached to bicycle-framed carriers, plus exhaust-bellowing busses loaded or disgorging travelers, each w destination. Scary how-in couple days such scenes look better, meaning that one has either already developed resistance to menace of sights or improved skill of dodging. Nipping in bud J’s ease to spit, the risk for barefoot folk repulsive.
Second evening found us walking Mount Road’s wretched sidewalks—up w foot-high step, down when shops take over space or clusters of humanity stand conversing/beholding whatever. So, this the Madras evening breeze? Along w humanity (6 million) out in full force, vehicles to dodge their fenders, or stray dogs reminding one of rabies protective shots. Here we go, few white faces met en route, looking for a Chinese restaurant—J’s “I think it should be in next section” only before crossing yet another street corner or occasional, fuel-smelling station. Here we go, among sea of those headed home from jobs or strolling toward who knows what. J. spots a little sign &, sure enough, we have found a restaurant patronized thirty-five years earlier. Then served on a quiet, second-floor porch, now a dingy cluster of tabled rows w “ching-hong” inscribed on weathered, leather place mats. Then a peaceful escape from madding crowd because few stopped at Chinese shops due to northern border forays, now tension of India’s recent nuclear bomb tests a threat to neighbors Pak and Sino. Here we are, never far from explosive contexts, often reminded that attempts toward good will also lie near the surface.
Newspaper accounts abound w analysis & reports, w predictions & counter charge. Just who offends whom or responds to whose response when absorbed in The Hindu’s daily ink? At least riots to dodge, as was case after Ayodhya, don’t now add spark. Poor India, left to rejoice on joining nuclear elite. To think that pride gains fuller expression due to capacity to destroy—proof of threat or justified due to bigger/arch-rival neighbor. Irritated now by constant fluctuation of power in overhead light bulb, hardly noticed by those more accustomed. So much depends on context, to savor now a bowl of Chinese chicken noodle soup, its delightful, soothing touch of simple broth.
Memory also prompts a stop near-by for ice cream in a shop where now the piano stands idle, where then an older man’s fingers softly graced its keys. Either deterioration real or construction new adds flickered light & sound to cinema’s blend of music. Here we are, increasingly exhausted from cacophony, broken sidewalk, or cow dung fresh to dodge, hardly free to notice array of cloth elbowing past on left & right. “We must have lost some weight” notes J, his hanky damp from wiping brow, his shirt askew, to have been tucked would only add to waistband drench. Here we are, in India, at times wondering why when 60, ever-comparing anecdotes to years gone by when less than 30, awaiting whatever next might unfold.
Further contrasts come to mind. Choosing not to be too graphic or negating, sights & sounds mingle in discordant ways. “Why did we come” gets quickly shunted from thought w “Here we are.” ‘Targeted by teenage girl w infant on her hip, fingers piteously plead. Aware I have no change, but ‘if I did would giving to each stranger thin be wise or otherwise,’ my mind explores. It further ponders while reading handful of books from Dr. Jesudass., most printed right on campus. Determined to stay awake until after 7:30 dinner on campus, hearing Vidyarani’s repeated claim to keep the meal bland. Very pleasant, a ready smile that disqualifies intruding teeth: “Just ask for any kind of help,” she repeats. W others, the barrier of language lingers; we fail to know Tamil nor think extended study worthy.
Another feature comes to mind: multi-layered caste of workers. For instance, at hotel where first stayed: Mornings in hallway a sweeper (w soft brush or cannister beyond the snake-like cord), another fellow cleaning window glass, his glance at customers prompts more circles w cloth than deserved. Another greets “madam” and “sir” while holding open the door while another asks “Room clean?” Noting name for breakfast room leads us to duo buffet array. High-hatted chef agrees to cook an omelet while I select corn flakes w milk, pineapple chunks, hash-browns donned w peas green & mushrooms sliced, plus crescent crossant that waits for marmalade at table’s core. Welcome too from Indian spread—sambar, poori, oppum, or paddy stuffed. Tea w milk (chai) comes poured a couple times. Of server options? One to pour tea; one to bring readied omelet; one to answer ringing telephone; one to readily remove emptied plate or sauce; one to replenish serving bowls; one to request gratis coupon, evaluate service rendered. Never far from layered labor, manager types wear suit & tie, while sport ties w white shirts the rest appear in green. To thank them all on leaving takes time; number on payroll quite a few.
ICSA (Inter-Church Service Agency.) down the street & to the left, w few but fine employees: Moses Manohar, Dr. Yesudass & Samuel the financial office guy. Through this agency we able to cash personal checks since ELCA/Chicago deposits our monthly wages or reimbursements for bills. ICSA also serves local multi-handicapped, providing training on computers or using varied hand skills. More adjustment comes w payment of any sort. Rupees, after being fairly stable for years, now knows fluctuation. But nothing like in Indonesia, Malaysia, or Korea now struggling with financial flux. About Rs. 40 to the dollar is fairly simple to convert—two and a half dollars per Rs. 100; when first to India, 1962-65, exchange was Rs. 7 per dollar. Every scooter rickshaw or taxi ride begins w negotiated fee; we have both overpaid &, in some drivers’ views, underpaid, assumption being that all North Americans have lots of money.
To hear a European ensemble group in Music Academy Hall w friend Sarah Chanda special indeed. Reflecting how well Sarah is known to “higher ups” in town: “that fellow is German High Councilor & those are from British Council” she informs. She quite involved w local organizations & meetings scheduled for diverse causes. This first occasion for us to spend time together since her divorce from Borin, a change tough for Sarah; w-out a car-cum-driver, she aware of cost involved for transport. Concert by fifteen string players free, paid for by Brits. Amazing, how first violin player also directed group from his chair. Glad to have met Sarah’s friend Damaini w whose choir I might sing Schubert’s “Mass” this fall.
May 27, Wed. – Where to pick up? Shifted from ridiculously expensive Ambassador Pallava Hotel to guest house at Gurukul. Reacting to dirt—can’t presume to place anything down on a clean surface. At least there’s a.c. Perturbed at lack of Gurukul assistance/follow-through w what promised, mainly from Rajaratnam who we’ve not yet met, now in Oslo with his “right hand” for some bishop event. Ironic that unkempt guest house has TV w excellent reception. Bulls game started at 1 a.m. so watched a while. We wrote Rajaratnam & Jesudass noting observations. Not sure ever so irritated by someone not met but aware that his control yet inept leading quite detrimental for Gurukul. Other faculty met pleasant, so trying to be hopeful.
Lovely, no food service at the Women’s Center today (tho woman cook gave us tea & loaf of sweet bread). Grateful that kitchen gets strong clean out one day per month! I’m uneasy about cups & metal plates on learning from Sarah that none wash dishes in other than cold water. Part of adjusting here may be city life—constantly bombarded by horns, dodging trash/filth, feeling grimy, ever-needing to drink w need to buy all drinking water. What a God-send for us—Sarah. Damaini’s sister Shanti the woman who lives w/cared for by Sarah. During first week-end went w Sarah to St Mary’s Church, CSI (Church of South India) one on Fort St George’s grounds built in 1670, w 170-year-old organ. Not a large group, currently w-out pastor. Preacher involved w high caste Hindus; sermon about Christians being in mission w those met—not strong Jesus-only mode but w responsibility to share personal claim of salvation in JX. Padma and Jesudasson, he retired from banking, drove us to place where Sarah purchased a cake; she amazed to see me gulp down a Miranda (orange) drink!
May 28 –A bit about Parveen overnight bus trip to Kodaikanal: seemed forever before out of Chennai. Leaving at 7 pm meant that many people & cars out/about causing traffic snarls. Twice we stopped at temples to offer rituals (for safe travels, no doubt). What a bus ride—to be compared to other overloaded city buses, a few riders hanging onto outside at entrance step, w many on every bench plus aisle packed full. Here at least one person per seat along w grime of seat, smudged windows, partly functioning interior lights or fans. During first hour plus, cinema music blared uncomfortably loud; what relief when turned off. Riding through Indian villages, towns at night provides distinct mood, marked by occasional flames for cooking, people lying asleep on edge of road (what may have been sidewalk in front of shops). Such existence known by hundreds haunts me of privilege that others of us take for granted. At one point I saw a man lying in an uneven little plot (like Jacob w stone for his pillow), his cow munching ground near-by, a clump of grass most rare. Also, chaotic bus stop places en route where humanity moves toward shadows’ edge to find “relief.” Decent facility at fairly new Sanjeeta open air restaurant, a couple hours downhill from Kodai. Sleep en route next to impossible.
Seated over left rear wheel meant that my knees became increasingly stiff from being bent. J‘s level of comfort being worse, his legs w no place to re-arrange except into aisle. Should not have taken luggage inside, overhead areas not wide enough, so handed out through window to be locked into storage space below. Several times on hitting road bumps I wondered if bottom of bus might drop out. General condition of buses enough to be test of trust. Windows rattle, whether closed or open, metal clangs, adding to total noise pollution. Aware of some hearing loss reinforces that actual sound worse.
Before getting out of Chennai, my left ear already felt slight pain from being hit by moving air Providentially, found inflatable head cushion intended for flights, given by Gretchen & LaDene as joke, to serve through night (held reversed in front to cover ear, nose, and mouth, keeping out dust & air yet allow for breathing). Awaiting face mask supply when unpack suitcases for scooter rides amidst pollutants that leave throat w scratchy feel. Incline ghat road fairly long w many vehicles needing to pass a bus (whether space warrants or not) causing anxiety on seeing how near blocks of cement “came” to bus wheels—exercise of faith. Every means of transport w risk to life/limb prompting one to “rest” confident in Divine that safe arrival re-affirms purpose for living.
After clean-up at Gours late breakfast &lunch, walked to campus glad to meet numerous friends, w meal invitations to Pawates & Lynn N. Glad for email messages from Lynda (J-D’s decision about GROB offer) & Gretchen. Met familiar faces from KIS or Cottage Craft (Saimary’s 3 sisters!) though many staff on vacation w no students around. Building changes since here before (Alumni Hall, library, kitchen, Solvek dorm, elementary complex on Ganga compound; a sense of funds somewhere, that KIS will continue long into future (as first century mark nears).
Most interesting conversations in homes: w Pawates (including daughter Kamal recent Masters grad), particularly about recent bomb test & US sanctions. Differing perspectives freely owned & expressed, like Mr. P’s confidence that sanctions of little effect. Self-sufficient India; perhaps several year delay until achievements; India’s need to establish strength in region aware of China’s 1965 border intrusions & Pakistan’s ever-inappropriate actions as in Kashmir. Interesting response when all own how a country’s (whether India or US) media influences citizen’ views of why certain actions taken or what that proves. Kept coming back to moral responsibility regarding people’s lives put into jeopardy or wrongness of false presenting of people. Good to hear informed responses of a vigorous youth, the less frequent but wisdom of Mrs. P & convinced bias including pro Hindu/BJP/Advani for H/Kashmir of Mr. P. That we could freely exchange speaks positively of international trust on a mini scale needed. If they come to US for several years, we will further renew contacts. Mrs. P confident about being involved w others (as when in Chicago) & regrets diminished engagement/role while here.
Evening meal w Lynn, her mother & son also revealing, especially about entrenched fundamentalism at KIS. Lynn into Puranic healing/chakras, etc. having discontinued church/SS involvement due to increased emphasis. Disappointed to learn of de-valuing of dorm parents by key administration. Real tension over new evaluation procedures & making inevitable that some could be given due credit. Lynn likely right to leave after 13 years in dorm task hassles. Wish well for L & Asoke’s transition, Lila & Haresh in university. So good to connect w Rita Paulraj who has found her niche as leader of private school (last year fourteen students ages 3-10). Half of house provides four good rooms plus outdoor play area. Her one-on-one approach to education strong compared to own granddaughter’s experience in Bangalore w 75 in classroom. Paulraj’s home quaint; can imagine her crying on return to this reality after Goshen/US year’s stay. She’s genuine w no doubt more than her share of tough times. Quite creative renovation of former garage into guest house. Most people up in that area fairly poor. Roy, back from bus ride to Dindegal, reported an astrologer’s prediction that war between India and Pakistan by November “will not leave much of Pakistan.” Admit little trust in either country—biases against each other too severe for deadly stuff using to tempt each other to “make a mistake.” Today Pakistan set off another; dim wits.
May 30 – Sat. Gretchen called saying “Grandma’s not well.” Thurs in Iowa Mother called someone to take her to Dr, from there to hospital w congestive heart failure, liquid on heart, kidney infection. Evie flew directly, found Mother “not looking good at all.” Glad Gretchen had persisted to learn Bimla’s phone # via KIS gate man. She’ll either call back in 24-30 hours if Mother’s condition worsens or email us at Gurukul on Monday. Mother not plan to attend King reunion (already thinking ahead, recognizes how tired she is.). Also impressed that she asked Evie “to bring airmail form to hospital so she could write to me.” This alerts me to fact that I’ve easily “assumed” that Mother will be living when we return w-out thinking seriously about fact that a heart condition can change quickly at her age. J and I talked about whether I would return if in fact Mother would die soon. Glad that we had week-end w her in Iowa on Mother’s Day just three weeks ago.
Devesh and Sonny sensitive to my report of phone news. Continued w planned ‘program,’ J and I w Devesh to sheep farm. What an awful road, cannot imagine a car’s serving many trips over those chuck holes, uneven rock surfaces. Valued time given to explaining multi-faceted operation –in addition to sheep and rabbits, flower drying, vegetable growing and more. Devesh has very positive rapport w workers; he’s an innovative entrepreneur, w an artist’s twist. Had rice/potato lunch, aware of condition of kitchen plus fact that cook dealing w diarrhea. Ever-need to weigh risks w-out offending those hosting
June 3 – Returned to Chennai by Sunday, all-night bus. Bus more pleasant, passengers better-dressed, including group of sisters-in-training, perhaps Catholic or Mar Thoma Christian. Seated on right hand side of bus (next to on-coming traffic), troubled at time by risky driving patterns, “near misses.” Overtaking a major problem, w bus drivers needing to “prove” kingship among vehicles. Pollution from lorries cannot be overlooked. How matted one’s hair becomes from exhaust and dust.
Monday night, Dr. Raja, Jesudass, Abraham Athyal, and we had dinner at Dragon Restaurant of Taj. What opulence, food becoming increasingly heavy, w sauces as plush as surroundings. Useful conversation, w background to Gurukul, general getting acquainted. R. R. asked me to speak at staff Retreat session to begin school year. Jesudass had gone w us to purchase small refrigerator & a.c. (for bedroom). Ravi Samson quite helpful w furniture selection. Grateful that Sarah Chanda provided some of her furniture. On Tues. Ravi also w us to Spencers Plaza for more household furnishings—spending around Rs. 6,000. Such a store convinces one of India’s Middle Class; number of employees amazing. Purchasing decisions can become burdensome along w heat. Enjoyed lunch w Paul & Donna Beth Wiebe at Ranjith Hotel where they’ve been staying since arriving from US. They’re sensitive to our “plunge” into city life & repeatedly welcome us up/down to Kodai, like for anniversary—same year.
June 4 – Today would have attended Maneesh & Nisha’s wedding, had their engagement not ended. Families must all be thinking “What if?” Temp would likely have been tough to endure. Finding myself resistant to wearing Indian salwar kameez—ridiculous to endure multiple layers, plus w some a dupatta. Maybe after we get beyond suitcase living & have more clothes choice. Today another FAX from Evie at Kalona. Sounds like Mother making progress, that double pneumonia indeed severe. That she’ll briefly need to be in Pleasantview Nursing prompts my thought-adjusting regarding her present cottage living. Can believe Evie’s comment about how “busy” Mother is thinking through circumstances/plans.
Today’s call (117 option) w Lynda from Spencer’s Plaza’s learned that Aunt Nellie died last Tuesday. Glad for conversation w her & Stan several weeks ago. Our main reason for calling to express concern for J.D.’s vocational direction. Hope that he can work out deal w GROB to also explore NASA phase II option. Realized that we said almost nil about adjustment here, not being too ready to verbalize it all. Agreed that circumstance here economically poorer than expected. Not having “warmed up” to Chennai: so trashy, mounds of refuse along nearly every street plus dust plus pollution plus millions of people. If I had not seen reality, I could not have imagined number of people shopping in just one two-story store last night, for cloth/sheets/towels. Weary of needing to purchase things; need to get into apartment.
Continue staying on Gurukul campus–people who make meals in Women’s Centre might be appalled by our expectations. Feeling guilty about being ungracious w repairman for not fixing a.c. in guest room yesterday. Granted, we had fans, but clang w every revolution leaves an echo in my head for a half hour after shifting to living room area. Didn’t help that I killed two healthy beetles either. And how dogs can bark & howl during night; do owners care? Offered a limp “shut-up” from front door, drank more water & soaked washcloths that use all night on forehead, behind neck, or someplace hot. Didn’t help that when washing clothes, no water came from hot pipe & little from cold. Time will tell whether this a portent of things to come, how things will improve when into an apartment off campus.
June 7 – Journal-writing not a daily discipline so important parts of total experience likely overlooked. . . We’ve been in India almost three weeks & are not located in our apartment. “Oh, yes, by tomorrow the frig or metal beds or a.c. or something will be there. But not so. This is India where what isn’t done today will, presumably, be done another day.” While flexibility may be virtuous, how much efficiency would indeed benefit people’s existence here? Hard to know. While I typed notes for next Tuesday’s MED (Mission, Ecumenical, and Dialogue) department meeting yesterday afternoon, J spent several hours cleaning at apartment. He came “home” drenched with perspiration—from having worked at cupboards in kitchen w no fan, before walking twelve minutes back to campus. His exasperation at mess left by Gurukul carpenters kept him awake for hours into night. At least we had Pizza Corner for supper—well-lighted, good food, & unlimited soft drinks plus friendly, young waiters.
Friday late afternoon and this forenoon I attended a conference on “after-care” for mentally disadvantaged women. Again, Sarah C. was thoughtful to invite us (though thought of w suspicion by Jesudass when told—maybe opposition to bishops–!) Paid for by National Committee of Women, Delhi (Mohinni Giri, Pres.) & local Social Affairs organization w which Sarah C active. Realism of experience for women, many young, really deplorable. An excellent documentary shown “Silver . . .” Those active w mental health issues are vigorous but, as elsewhere, severe stigma attached. W-out doubt marital climate for many drives them over brink Fundamental problems w dowry, low self-esteem, abuse of physical, emotional and verbal types, & male domination blessed by India’s religions. Being women & being mentally ill makes for double burden. A good legal advocate, Sheila Jayaprakash, presented this a.m. along w Sarah Matthew, counselor w family court system who I was glad to meet again on Friday. Am sure that we’ll connect again, first time w Fulbright study group in ’88.
I’ve been reading Women’s Studies materials here at Gurukal & rather disheartened. While listing of courses may be impressive, limited & generally unacademic content of curriculum/courses leaves much to be desired. Before leaving for five weeks, Prasanna &I talked briefly; although I feel welcomed to that department, many needs also obvious. My first task to create curriculum for course on Women and Interreligious Dialogue. Startled at lack of biblical content (nothing about interpretation) in course called “Women and Biblical Hermeneutics”! Also, on reading Prasanna’s edited resources Feminist Theology and Gender in Contemporary India, I find. that writing/editing definitely needs to be cleaned up. I’ll offer to edit what may come from conference recently held, sponsored by Gurukul. Need to get perspective from Corinne Scott, one of presenters. Many sections of Prasanna’s two books leave me wondering what progress has occurred during past decade. Grateful for an institution to give attention to social issues but need for specific changes, rather than re-iterate generalities, seems clear.
Sent email to Stan/Bonnie (regarding financial details & sympathy regarding A Nellie’s death) & FAX to Kalona. Glad that Lois now w Mother; wonder if she’s been released from hospital, and if not, if she’s becoming impatient. Thinking through reality of sudden changes from when we there a month ago. I look forward to meeting Nisha’s Chennai connection for dinner this evening. Continue to wonder/be aware that Gurukul staff perhaps not into hosting each other. Glad to have met Padma’s friend Sarelal David in library. Few faculty members around campus until next week-end w retreat.
As stated repeatedly, we need to get into our own space & out of suitcases, Discontent w water man today; none available three mornings; he likely resents our expectation. Becoming dull toward poor condition of bathroom here. Managed to wash/shower w two 2-cup containers of water dipped from bucketful saved. Laundry already tell-tale gray. To see several of Bulls & Jazz games a plus—though half-way around world. Amazed at number of countries w TV that show that series; now 1-1.
A shower! Palm branches swayed convincingly prior to moisture & cooler air (over 104 every day since here). Noticed even in dark how street trash clogged drains. But in India always something w which to cope. Survival needs loom large yet we’re of privileged; we often fail to comprehend perspective from which others come. Concerned to notice J’s pimpled bottom—from excessive perspiration, no doubt. He’s gone often to Landon Towers to prod workers of one caste or another, getting considerable cupboard-cleaning done in process. I’ve been working on course development for MED, one of which to be on interreligious dialogue. Must revamp considerably the draft taken to today’s meeting—to conform more to Serampore outline. At least, Abraham Athyal and David Udayakumar know my point of entry to content. Opened six packages of books that arrived from Goshen today; can’t recall if should be a 7th
Prepared another FAX for Lynda & Gretchen; of all bright arrangements, today campus carpenters started to remodel computer room, just when teaching faculty need it for class organization (and after two-months’ break time). Also, a feature noteworthy of last couple days on campus—crew of ten cutting major limbs, even entire trees. Poor, thin guys sawing back & forth through 2-3 of trunks & most riveting to watch system for rocking & hoisting huge trunk up onto a four-foot trailer. I felt like helping but. they would have been insulted. Bullocks left their stacks to add for dodge-oriented walking.
Glad to hear from Shant Kunjam yesterday inviting us to speak at Mennonite conference in late September/early October. Good to get to Calcutta w assignments to be detailed—J w youth (along w Dave Gerber & Gonzalves) and I w Fern Gerber for women’s group meeting. Called YWCA today to agree to speak about biblical content on Women & Violence some Wednesday in July. . . Par for course today: after carpenters at apartment filled in space around a.c. in bedroom & swept up major scraps, Ravi turned it on, explaining how to get it to go superfast & it stopped, blowing current at front plug set. Great! Anyway, back to Gurukul, recovering again at Pizza Corner before first visit to new/good soft ice cream shop—taking “bitter w sweet.”
June 14 – We’ve moved into our own space—first time after five months out of suitcases in other peoples’/institutions’ rooms (starting w Annie Yoder’s basement since we had already rented our Goshen house). More than ready to get unpacked, not able to recall what was where. A.C. works & we’ve put a few items on the wall, several of which have since sagged or fallen. Walls being cement, any nail hammered in bends. To do laundry in kitchen’s sunken sink seems workable & w ropes strung criss-cross in eastern ‘b’ room, it becomes prime drying room. To have windows open (out, not up) means that nothing keeps insects out so need to buy netting w Velcro around edges for windows. Aware of how we’ve adjusted to heat, grateful to have brought three pair of shorts for wearing in apartment.
Truly, in India (not only Chennai) a constant need to cope w something—heat in extreme, trash & other pollutants to avoid when walking streets, or rains though monsoon not yet begun. When walking, traffic can be disconcerting: ever-need to be on look-out for motorcycle’s speed, scooter (auto rickshaw’s) abrupt turning capacity, car’s freedom to expect pedestrians to stay out of way. Makes walking less relaxing. Other people add to congestion plus bicycle riders halt w-out signal. City living has its hazards. How reassuring for Sarah (& Shanti plus young women workers) to be next door. Crossing a street at corners seems especially dangerous w traffic coming from “wrong” direction & some vehicles w-out lights on during evening. Honking adds to confusion, its purpose being to inform of its presence. Perhaps time & experience will make walking easier, but risks will remain.
Closeness of a neighbors’ apartment becomes clear w about five feet between our kitchen window & the next family’s. Grateful more than once for installed screen to keep an occasional rat out on ledge. Outside living room about twenty feet across to next building in which man cooks or reclines. Children’s voices resound during evening hours; some play badminton doubles w-out a net in driveway. Others on occasion sound disturbed, but I’ve not heard cries of any infant.
A few details from Gurukul Faculty Retreat. Left Friday 8:15 a.m.; noticed bit of class strata among us when for several faculty a helper carried their attache case & positioned it on bus. Stopped after an hour for “coffee” at which time several had a full breakfast. Then to our place for meeting—CRENIO (Center for Research on New International Economic Order)—other main organization w which Rajaratnam involved locally w office location also in Chennai. Numerous programs carried out here, like one “officially recognized” at tea time where about nine young girls finished a computer-secretary training program (of 40 enrolled). Give Raja credit for visionary orientation & multiple means for procuring funds. However, his mode of operation w-in part of Staff Council almost obnoxious. Although Principal Jesudass led segments related to academics & another faculty member reported “other matters,” clearly actions/conclusions remained in Raja’s control—similar to pattern on campus where he determines time that students to be in hostels or inappropriateness of “flirting” to guidelines for leading Sunday evening worship events.
Heavy meals served at Centre; we’ve learned that moderation w food avoids looseness after. Grounds & guest rooms here most pleasant Vegetation nicely planned w actual grass plot in center of building area. A.C. capacity abundant in meeting room, plus pedestal fans. Saturday morning Abraham Athyal led devotions (Peter & Cornelius account from Acts) prior to my presentation—out of dialogue study. David Udayakumar helped me read excerpts from my dialogue of biblical texts. Premasagar moderated discussion—“clarification” prior to and more extensive comment after coffee break. What a difference to discuss these issues among people who regularly encounter diverse religions, compared w groups in US. Good array of issues raised, useful for MED to further process; this new department off to good start through this session.
Had left windows open in flat on leaving for week-end, so wiped dust off everything on return plus mopped all floors. Same process likely needed couple times a week. We prefer doing household tasks ourselves (including J. w primary cooking for evening & breakfast) & eat lunches at Church Women’s Centre on campus. Arranged more desk items while J. out exploring immediate residential area. Called Mother & Gretchen. Mother had returned to cottage from PV room day before; Theo there to help w transition, Lois having left on day that Mother to PV. G. and LaDene pleased w growing garden. Time for me to read/cut The Hindu newspaper articles, especially related to religion, for week past. Not out to church this a.m., w devotions yesterday & opening tea/chapel from 4 pm on. Invited to Sarah’s for lunch along w two daughters.
I did not keep a journal during our months on staff at Gurukul, though that would have been revealing for both J & me. Instead, will now add my review of tasks completed, a review shared w our host Lutheran office in Chicago.
Review of Dorothy Yoder Nyce’s Work as ELCA Appointee to India (Chennai), June-November, 1998.
Tasks completed at Gurukul Lutheran Theological College (Plus a few assignments beyond Campus)
Mission – Ecumenism – Dialogue Department
Presentation on Interreligious Dialogue at opening Gurukul Faculty Retreat \
Presented lecture: “Interreligious Issues & Theological Education,” for BD students’ orientation
Wrote to introduce MED dept.: Brochure; Article for CCA (Christian Council of Asia) News; Newsletter
Created course “Interreligious Dialogue” (3 versions) Autonomy Proposal; MTh Degree; Lay Training
Library – submitted three different listings for acquisitions & extensive listing of articles in current journals related to Interreligious and Ecumenism
Co-Editor – Mission Today: Challenges and Concerns, 230 pp
Read materials related to department areas (included cutting over 300 newspaper articles)
Began listing of historic, significant interreligious meetings – Roman Catholic & Protestant
Meetings (8-10) with department members
Preached at St. Mary’s church on World Council of Churches Theme: “Turn to God, Rejoice in Hope”
Preached sermon on Ziegenbalg at two CSI (Church of South India) churches, on “Gurukul Sunday”
Presented one Bible Study with Christian Asian Youth Meeting – AIDS theme
Attended Meetings in Chennai – Inter Faith (2), Ecumenical (1), Mar Thoma Center Dedication
Women’s Studies Department
Met three times with department head for assignments, twice with 2 others in department
Reviewed department courses (8), as requested; developed possible course revisions (5) for teachers
Identified additional library books/chapters for each course
Created three courses for possible use in WS (Objectives, Methodology, Outline, Bibliography)
Presented two lectures to MTh students – (Biblical themes)
Participated in day-long meeting with Women’s Studies Board of Studies
Extensive library work –
Assisted several women students to think through content for assigned papers
Attended Meetings in Chennai – Women and Mental Health, Women Poets, Women & Equality
Presented three Bible Studies with Chennai YWCA organization – “Women and Violence” theme
Read 150-page manuscript about “Women and Media” – discussed suggestions (twice) with author
[I also prepared & gave six presentations on peace for the All-India Mennonite Women’s Conference.]
Preached 2 sermons: Sunday worship service on campus
Prepared Worship Order and arranged for components for three Sunday worship services
Created major brochure about Ziegenbalg – extensive reading; several revisions
Reviewed and made suggestions for brochure for Lutheran Archives Department
Connected frequently with four Tutorial students assigned to me (focus on academic work)
Met monthly (with John) with our “Guru-Sishya” student group of 8-12 (+ often informally on campus)
(included 1 Meal and 3 Tea events at our apartment; group prepared an anniversary meal for us)
Met several times a week with 4-6 students for conversational English
Wrote “Interreligious Dialogue: From Principle to Praxis” Studies in Interreligious Dial, 8/1998/1 114-28