Visiting God’s own country

I have been away these past three weeks from the blogosphere and social media, probably not such a bad thing. I am now catching up with “normal” life, as one does, but felt I would devote my first blog upon my return to what I have been up to during that time. I realize if my readers are anything like me this might be the time to switch off but I promise to try and make what I have to say interesting.

The reason for my absence is I have been to Kerala (staying in a small village just outside Trivandrum) and among other things I was away from the Internet and the media. Kerala is the most south westerly state of India and is affectionately referred to as “God’s own country” because of its natural beauty. The impression one gets observing this state from the air is how green it is, being full of trees (often with exotic fruit of some kind) and lush vegetation. This is confirmed when seen from the ground, although like a lot of India this is often intermingled with things unnatural and not so beautiful.

I have been a frequent visitor to India ever since my first visit back in 1983 when as a backpacker I set out to explore this amazing country. In that time I acquired an Indian wife and a large extended family, as well as friends I met during that time. I also found myself involved in various community and preaching programs, given my interest in these areas. On this visit I was accompanied by my wife and son and stayed with family members in our India home. The main highlight of the visit was the marriage of my wife’s sister and as with Indian weddings generally this was to be a grand affair. It also meant we got to spend time with family and friends, some I have not seen for a long time and some never.

I reckon given my many previous visits, I have visited most of the “sites of interest” and, besides which, doing so this time was a low priority. In fact it was not our intention to venture much from the house and, for me, it was a great opportunity to catch up on my reading, writing and thinking. In fact I came laden with a good set of books, some of a more serious nature, and found I got through these all and even visited a local bookstall to get a couple of more books to read. I also prepared much of the draft for my next book! In the house there are two main spots I have for getting away from it all. One is the roof top of the house where the main view are the tops of the surrounding trees. This is especially suitable from the two hours following sunrise and preceding sundown. The other spot is the veranda, which is under cover and cooler. We usually like to visit India during the Winter time (December to February) when the climate if we are lucky is like pleasant summer days in the UK. This time round we came at the end of the monsoon season and when it rained it did bucket down. But then weather wasn’t a big issue.

At least, until the wedding at the end of the trip, life was fairly routine and it was great being looked after and not having to attend to many of the matters that would normally occupy my time. Two in the house innovations, thanks to my 17 year old son, was learning to play and playing Poker (Texas hold ‘em) and setting up our own in-house badminton court and playing lots of games. Given there were always visitors coming and going they got involved too. The outside visits made included to church (my father-in-law is the pastor and I got to preach), taking my nieces to the zoo (always a fascinating experience), visiting a local hospital for a checkup (and because it was a Christian one I got to share in the devotions), teaching in the local Bible college including reading in its well stocked library and to attend the engagement and wedding.

The main highlight of the holiday was the wedding and before that a reception in our home and before that a visit to the groom’s home place for the engagement. Several hundred people attended each of these occasions and it was a joyful time. Meeting many old friends was an added bonus as was the satisfaction of playing our parts (I got to preach – which was a nice contrast to funerals given just prior to our leaving I had attended four) and Mrs B was heavily involved in the organization and trying to sort out her family. One of the nice features of this wedding was the sense that it is all about family and handing on the baton to the next generation! And then back to earth, seeing off family who came to stay, saying our final tearful good byes and the 2am start drive to the airport for our return trip.

I am already looking forward to my next trip to India and visiting my large extended family in God’s own country and beyond. There are aspects of Indian life I am not so keen on. I dreamt of eggs and bacon and roast beef dinners, being back in my own comfort zone and being more in control for example. My regret is not learning Malayalam, although many do speak English. But this is my second home and I still haven’t ruled out it becoming my first one! India is a country of contrasts. It has issues and less savoury sides of course but then it is possible to make a difference and contribute in some small way. It is good to encourage those who do. For example poverty is there and unlike in the UK the part played by the welfare state is less than in the UK. There are many wonderful and fascinating people. It is somewhere that I can make a contribution, noting a prophet is without honour in his own country. But needs must and it is back to work here in the UK having been inspired and invigorated from my India trip.


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