While in Chennai, India, I decided to go out and explore the city with a girl I was seeing. We get out of the boat, hop in a cab, and drive off. Instead of leaving out of the normal gate to the mainland (we were docked at the piers), they take this back route to try to get around customs. There were 3 of the guys. Well, they get stopped finally by these guys, and the customs guys start yelling at our drivers and pointing their guns at them. Not speaking the language at all, we think, 'sure! This is the way it goes I guess.' Finally, the agents drag one of the guys out, and let us pass.
No clue what that was all about.
The car pulls around the corner, slows down, opens the door, and the guy they dragged out jumps back in. They are all laughing, and we think 'wow! Nice Indians foolin' around on a sunny day!' So, we negotiate a rate for the day, and they take us to a stop or two. Finally, we ask them to take us to a stop outside of town, which they do. They stop at the gas station to fill up, and ask me to pay it for them. Confused and growing suspicious, I pay for it. I am sure to tell them that the rate we negotiated is now reduced by the cost of the gas. Yes, yes, yes, they mutter.
Well, we finally get outside of town to our place. We stop, eat, enjoy it a bit, but start eyeing the guys. I am looking for other cabs, rickshaws, phones, anything else. Nothing REAL bad has happened, but they are sketching me out. I would have up and just began to walk back, but I have this girl with me!
Not only did she insist on wearing a skirt (imagine me trying to run with a girl in a skirt), but she is stubborn and won't follow my lead on anything. (We would have already been out of the situation, but she didn't listen to me before!)
So, we get back in the car and ask them to take us home and we will pay them the rate for the day. Immediately they speed off the opposite direction of the boat. For the next few hours they are yelling at us in some foreign dialect. It was quite odd in that they would speed the car up, yell at me for more money, then slow down as if to pull over, then speed back up again. for ever!
One of the men was fully turned around and in our face, constantly going for our bags. Again, I wanted to start punching them, but I had this girl with me who a) wasn't listening to me, and b) I couldn't leave behind, and c) if I started fighting with them, i don't know if she would not be bullheaded and not run away.
So, I kept fending them off and trying to talk them down. After so much time, it hit me to actually pray! So, I did. I really started praying. I don't know where you stand on this, but I started praying in tongues out loud, which agitated the crap out of them because they didn't know what I wsa saying. (neither did I! I wsa freaked out of my mind.)
This whole time they are demanding more money, threatening to kill us, slapping at me threatening the girl, going for our bags while I fend off their hands. It was ok for a while because they couldn't quite get at us in the back seat.
Anyways, something finally struck me. I decided to totally offend them! It had to be God, because I didn't know until later the implications of this.
I finally grabbed the really agressive guy with my left hand, and started yelling at him. I told him that he was a disgrace to India, he was a disgrace to Hinduism, that I see that he had a tika (the little ash dot on their third eye) and that even though he thought he was absolved of his sins that his karma would come back to him, that he was a disgrace to his state (tamil nadu), his clan, and his family.
Fuming, he shut up, swore at me in Hindi and turned around, spitting.
the driver was the only one who really spoke English.
He turned the car around and we quietly drove back toward town. Mind you, my adrenaline is in overdrive, my fists are still up, and I am so freaked out of my mind I am in cold sweats. But here we were driving back to town as if nothing had happened. The girl had visibly fainted more than once, and was now just barely focused on what was happening.
We began slowing down again, and suddenly the aggressive guy jumped out of the car. I figured that they were going to attack us at that point, so I shoved my bag at the girl, pushed her all the way against the door opposite of the guy, ready for them to open the door and fight.
The driver then jumped out of the car, flung the door open, and as his hand came flying at me, I swung immediately at him. He caught my hand in his in a handshake! A handshake of all things!!
he said in perfect English, "This man will take you back to the boat."
Not know if this was a ruse or some mischief, I grabbed his hand and yanked him into me so that I was nose to nose with him. I grabbed his cheek with my left hand and said, "you swear upon Sheva and your state?"
He said yes. I released him.
And off we went back toward town. It was perfectly quiet and at ease. The new driver, speaking almost no English, was just softly chuckling the whole way home.
We got out of the car, ran to the boat, reported it and I didn't leave the ship for 2 days. I was freaked out of my mind. I had no idea what had happened, or how we got out of it. I was shocked.
I was deeply depressed about it for those few days. There is a phrase, IWA; India Wins Again. The ambassador came on the boat and warned us. "India will always win. Never expect otherwise. It will frustrate you. it will confuse you. It will not make sense to you. india will always win."
This burned my butt, and the fact that I had this experience just made this pessimistic US ambassador right! I hated that even more than I hated my experience!
the last day in India came around, and I was still disturbed by my event, but insisted on going out. It was largely uneventful. We went shopping and met different people. Quiet and nice, but nothing unredeeming. As the sun set in that furnace of a place, and we were driving back to the boat, we were all visibly exhausted.
I had almost put the event behind me, and was pondering the dissatisfaction I had with this last outing to really undo the event that confounded me so.
Well, no more than a mile from the boat, our rickshaws were stopped because of train. This train was full on stopped, and blocked all access to the boat for miles. We just had to wait. We were all hot, sweaty, and dripping with the cakelike smog of that dirty city. I was again leading the expedition, and I felt the frustration and disappointment of the team. We sat there forever.
Finally, someone in the group muttered, "Yeah, we can't even get back to the boat. India wins again."
"NO!" I yelled before I could stop myself. "India DOES NOT WIN AGAIN! Don't you see that India winning is a spiritual battle! This is a spiritual oppression on this place!" Suddenly hearing myself, and being stirred by this preaching that was more directed at me than anyone, I felt a warmth all over, inside. The heaviness that was only immediately scattered.
"These events, this place, the frustrations, and our acceptance that this is just the way India is is an indictment against our Christianity! This place is rife with opportunity for something. There is opportunity for change, and hope. God! These people need hope! Look at them. Look in their eyes. They are expecting us to despise them! They long to be 'western' so that we won't despise them! India will not win!"
It was deadly quiet in the group. The train was passing on and nobody knew what to say. I didn't know what to say as I was processing the very thing I had spoken as if it came from elsewhere.
We approached the final gate to leave India soil and get on the boat, never to return. As everyone passed the gate, I couldn't do it. I had no satisfaction. The trip was not complete. I had not learned the thing I had been meant to learn. I had not finished my mission with India.
They all turned to me to see what was taking me so long. That's when I felt a tug at my pants. There was a naked boy, with his hands cupped, looking to see if the gate attendants would chase him away like they had obviously done before. I looked at this boy, and suddenly, like a geyser in my spirit exploding, loved poured out of me for this child. I began to weep. I began to weep visibly. (and I don't cry in public!)
I suddenly realized that what India needed, what it needed from a few Christians, what one simple thing it needed to overcome all the oppression, all the confusion, all the desperation, all of the hate and discord was one simple, little thing; love.
I can honestly say that I had not felt love before that moment, and question if I have felt it sense. It was a love not of me; nothing I could have imagined or felt before. I wanted to hug this child. I wanted to his his very marrow. India would not win today. India would not win in oppressing, or causing fear, or causing apathy; not this day!
I reached into my pocket and pulled out all the rupees I had. I guess I handed him several month's wages in rupees. He ran off around a corner screeching. Suddenly, a drove of children came running, dozens of them. Laughing, begging with hands out. And that love multiplied with each one of them to the point where I felt I would explode like a thousand suns. God said, 'Give it all.' I responded in my spirit, 'but I have given everything I had.' Just the same, I reached into my pocket and pulled out more and more rupees. I pulled out rupee after rupee. I gave them all everything I could. There was what seemed like an endless supply of rupees.
My friends saw what was happening, and they came back across and just started pulling out all the money, rupees, coins, and gifts taht they could. We were laughing and weeping and handing out every last penny. I felt God impress on me that, 'if you give all you can give, and then some, and then some more, I will be the only thing to win. Give everything you have, even unto your life, spent, bleeding and exhausted on the battlefield, because my love will never cease to flow, and will never cease to heal. And nothing will stand up to that.'
They all left, and I managed to pull out more and hand it to the rickshaw driver, and then virtually collapsed. It was too much for me to bear. I was totally exhausted. I could not even lift up my hand. I had wept too hard, and been more moved than I had been in years. They had to carry me back to my cabin, and I slept. I slept from then until the next morning, totally spent. It was more peaceful than anything I could have imagined.