June 4, 2012
When I declare myself as a non-religious person people immediately shoot back and ask me, then why do you go to partake in the Sacrament of Holy Communion every morning? I give them a tailor made reply and tell them that I require a familiar atmosphere to start my day, familiar sounds, prayers and hymns etc because I do not know what my ears are going to hear and bear during the ensuing day; at least in the Church I know what comes after what.
They smirk at me and say I have no Faith.
Perhaps that is correct because my Faith does not lie in running from saint to saint, novena to novena in order to reach my Lord. When I say my Lord I refer to Christ, the last emissary from our Creator, His very own Son, our Savior.
Why this mystique preamble to this write-up one may ask. Christ once said to His Apostles – "Why are you afraid? You have so little faith!" (Mathew 8:26) and I am about to address this charge in my own humble way, bear with me.
Even after discussing with students of Basic Theology on Faith and its corollaries for the past 12 years, I do declare that I am a man of little Faith; and I am afraid. I do not stand qualified to hear the words, “I tell you, I have not found such great faith, even in Israel,” (Luke 7:9)
I am afraid, even after my Family and I have suffered the tensions, qualms, loss and chaos of the Iraqi Invasion of Kuwait in August 1990 when death stared at us.
Much has been said about this Invasion by the 1.50 lakh Indians who made an excruciating journey, most of them from air-conditioned homes and foam mattresses to sleeping in a tent on bare, stony ground. My family, Jane, my wife and Ruth twelve year daughter, being one of the lot.
I am not going to elaborate the fifty-two days we spent in Kuwait after the infamous Invasion on the 2 August 1990 but our exodus along with a consolidated figure of 1,11,000 Indians (others, the brave ones, opted to stay back to witness the fireworks) started in a convoy of 57 Iraqi buses organized by the Embassy of India in Kuwait.
Passing through the iniquitous Shalan-1 and Shalan-II refugee camps and finally waiting for five days for deliverance in the Al-Azraq Camp on the No Man’s Land between Iraq and Jordan, was no picnic.
When in the early hours of 2 August 1990, the first missile to destroy the Telecom Tower in the vicinity of Fahaheel where we lived for 16 long years, my daughter, rattled from her sleep by the shattering of the window panes, came out from her bedroom and asked a question: How bad is it, Dada? I nearly broke down. We had discussed the probable invasion just before we went to bed.
Hearing her question, I gathered her in my arms and told her: Perhaps we will be a part of history or the history will be a part of us. You are a writer’s daughter. Keep a hour to hour of what is about to unfold. May be I can use it some day, that is if we survive. My nerves are too feeble to take up the pen.
Ruth did write her diary of the Invasion as it unfolded in our lives and based on this account I wrote “Monv Ani Rogot” (Honey & Blood).
(The picture shows Ruth writing her diary, my sister-in-law Caroline and my wife Jane in Tent No.3.9A in the Al-Azraq Camp)
Coming back to the preamble on Faith permit me narrate an incident which I have been narrating over the past 22 years, narrating it to my own soul and to those who care to read/hear.
It was our fifth night in Camp Al-Azraq. Our nerves were a tangled mass and the waiting game was too much to bear. Every evening we were assured by our bus leaders that the Jordanian buses would come in the morning to transport us to Queen Alia International Airport. This never happened for the first four mornings. This was the fifth night. It was chill but the winds were calm. Responding to a nature’s call I crawled out of the tent and came out in the open. What seemed to be chilly inside the tent was about six degrees in the open; I shuddered and hugging myself looked up at the fantastic Jordanian sky. It was just beautiful. It was not December yet and I wondered how it would be in December, taking into account that Christ was born somewhere in this vicinity in December. The Night of Christ’s Birth must have been a holy sight to behold with the ethereal glow of the Star and the juxtaposition of five planets coming in line.
I whispered, perhaps I whispered too loudly. “How long, dear Lord,” I said. “How long?”
Then, I heard a scuffle of feet; I was sure it was not my guardian angel. Perhaps some one had come out to ease himself. For obvious reasons I did not turn back.
“Were you praying?” The voice that came from my rear was firm and crisp.
“I was just asking my Lord a question,” I said.
“And what did you ask Him?”
“I just asked, how long dear Lord, how long?”
There was thick silence. A sortie flew across the sky, perhaps the Jordanian air force was joining the coalition forces now lined-up in Saudi Arabia? Perhaps.
“Do you believe in God?”
Again I hesitated but mustered an answer. “I believe that there is a extremely superior force that takes care of us. You may call this Force God or....”
“I never believed in one!” I was surprised at the past tense he used.
“And now?” I dared him.
“And now,” he said with a deep sigh, “When I see about twelve thousand Indians sleeping in tents on this expanse with abandon but with a hope that there is going to be a tomorrow and they will be home soon in the safety of the Motherland, I believe that there is Somebody Up There Who Loves us!”
I stood rooted to the ground.
I do not know for how long, an eternity perhaps.
And then when I turned to see there was no one at the back.
He was gone, leaving undeletable Foot Prints of Faith in me.
(This is a true-life incident)
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