Thursday, May 14, 2009

A Creative Essay: Hope in India

Hope in India


The hot dusty streets, covered in trash and heavy with traffic, beat under a relentless sun. Red, blue, pink, green, yellow, orange, and purple—the colors of India move about as phantoms. They clothe the women, decorate the vehicles, and permeate the very air. There is no such thing as bleak here. No such thing as colorless. Even taste has color in India—the spice of fire, the aroma of garlic, brown grit of the dirt as it settles about clothes and through the air. India wraps around us from the inside out; it doesn’t so much invite us into her bosom as it pulls herself into ours.

             This country of millions, with almost as many gods as there are people and more holidays than there are yearly rotations of the earth around the sun, goes about its day as if nothing is different. Sundays are not days of rest here as they are in the West; after all, Christianity is forbidden. They are business days just as any other—that is, unless the shop owners and businessmen observe a particular Hindu holiday at random.

             Motorcyclists race past at breakneck speed, recklessly cutting corners and swerving in front of vehicles without care to the order and laws of driving. Cows languish in the already hot sun, chewing sedately with the rhythm of the morning. Camels, donkeys, and horses line the streets and pull carts of their own; other motorized wagons are overloaded with burlap sacks of petrified dung that is to be used for fuel. The sounds of the city fill the air—the insistent honking to indicate right of way, the yelling of those bartering at the market, the conversations of the pedestrians as they transverse the streets. Activity is everywhere; movement fills the air.

             A white tent is erected in the middle of a village. Elections will come soon. The landfill has been covered with dirt and then again with carpet, the kind of plastic grass common to putt-putt attractions in the West. Chairs are lined up, empty save for the hopes of those who will fill them in just minutes. For now, the empty tent testifies of what is yet to be.

             Minutes down the road, the lane is crowded with people. They wave the flag of India while dressed in saris and western wear. A banner hangs in front of them and drums pound their steady rhythm—one, two, three, four…and again, one, two, three, four…. It is the beat of attention, the calling of all who will watch this parade to take note: the candidate, the one who could save India, is here.

             Just kilometers away, in a quiet room, fans circulate the warm air, desperately fighting a losing battle to cool the room. Orphans sit cross legged, barely fidgeting, their high pitched voices raised sweetly in song. A man stands at the front with an emerald green guitar. His eyes are closed and he sings fervently, proclaiming his praise and adoration of the Messiah.

             These are the forgotten, the outcasts of India. Some of them have no home other than this one; others came here because they were abused, mistreated, or their families were too poor to feed them. Here they have found love, safety, protection. Here they have found Him.

             Flies buzz throughout the room, landing on feet and tickling bare necks. Brightly colored silks lay against dark brown skin, highlighting the deep, rich tones of their flesh. Feminine dark hair hides under beautiful shawls and hands wave in adoration. The One they sing of is not welcome in India, just as He was not welcome in their country and as they are forsaken by their’s. But He sees them. He loves them. And He is their King.

             When He came so long ago, his people almost missed the significance of his short years on earth. They were looking for someone else—a mighty, conquering King, someone to come and deliver the followers of Yahweh from the oppression of a powerful and sometimes cruel government. They wanted freedom, not foreign occupation; celebration instead of crucifixions.

             They were a people plagued with exile and slavery, first in the desert and then again in the pagan lands of Babylon and Assyria. Their temple was destroyed, their homes were no more, and the land of their birth had been laid to rubble many times over. They’d experienced the vilest of offenses as those who occupied their lands took captives, raped women, and violated the Holy of Holies. As unclean blood ran down that altar, they wept at the abomination.

             For centuries they waited. Heroes made of flesh came; men who did extraordinary things for the people. Their gaze turned not from the impossibility of God to the limitations of man, expecting a carbon copy of what they had seen—only on a grander

 scale. This Messiah wouldn’t just help them for a short period of time; He would overthrow the mighty Roman Empire and establish His reign. His people would not be enslaved ever again. They would not be exiled, tortured, or imprisoned. They would be free.

             So they waited. And they looked from one hero to the next, never expecting that their Messiah would be born in a manger surrounded by cattle—that his first breath would be polluted with the fragrant aroma of a stable in full capacity. They didn’t think that the first to bow before this King would be lowly shepherds and they most definitely didn’t expect this King to die on a cross barely three decades later. They wanted the messiah of their own image. But He was no such thing.

             Instead of physical beauty, He was unattractive. 

Instead of the widespread acceptance of His people, He was ridiculed, persecuted, and crucified according to their demands. Instead of physically overthrowing the government He spent three days in the grave. After He rose again and ascended into heaven, His people were sure that nothing would change. They were under occupation. They were not free. This man who called himself the Son of God could not have been the Messiah. They missed it. They missed him. And two thousand years later they still seek this Messiah, thinking that He is still to come and will finally do what they expected him to do all along.

             As the parade marches down the street and music fills the air, the tent in the Delhi village will fill with people. They will hear fancy words and grand promises, lofty claims and even entreaties for their vote. The candidates know what they want to hear. The people want to be free—to be happy. They are tired of this difficult life. They want a messiah to help them from the cruelty of survival. They want a form of salvation that man cannot give.

             Just kilometers down the road, a young orphan bows her head and folds her hands, squeezing her eyes shut. The drum echoes from far away, barely entering the room before being silenced by the whir of the fan. She stands and lifts her voice, proclaiming her belief in the Son of God and her love for Him. She thanks Him for what He has done. For today is the celebration of His death and resurrection, the cornerstone for her belief.

             Once again, the outcasts, the lowliest of society, have found Him.





“He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him, nothing in his appearance that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering. Like one form whom men hide their faces, he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way, and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”


Isaiah 53: 2b-6



  1. As always, you have captured the true essence about which you write. You've captured the very heart and soul of not only India, but those precious children. I miss them so much!! Thank you, thank you, thank you for sharing your gift with the world. I can't WAIT to see what God will do for you ~Jack

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