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India Trip

Week 1 - 2 - 3 - 4  
February 4, 2009

Week 4 ~ Jean & Jim in India

Wow - the day is done - well - not quite - just our BODIES are done. Actually, it is 9 pm and we are sitting in the Chennai airport - our flight leaves at 3:15 am - so we have 6 hours to wait - and then 20+ hours in transit. What IS over is our physical presence in India - at least for now. We leave with hearts overflowing, and a little broken, and with connections to so many new friends who have become a part of us. Thank you to all of you, in India and at home, who have made this possible and who have accompanied us on this journey.


This last week has been a time of final events: many rehearsals, the beautiful closing concert with all the choirs in full traditional Indian dress - stunning; the completion of the CMC International Consultation and the CMC Council Meeting (we led music daily at these events); many "good-bye" meals and conversations with our new companions. I have a special thanksgiving that Jim waited until the day before the concert to come down with a cold and sore throat, managed to sing through them, and wait until the day AFTER the concert to pass them on to me - I woke this morning able to sing a low "E" - almost 2 octaves below middle C - not concert material!! Hopefully we'll both be in better shape by the time we land in San Francisco.

So - on to the pictures. First, the concert of Sat., Jan. 31 was held in Scudder Auditorium (it seats 1,000 - we pretty much filled the lower floor - a few in the balcony).

     Friendship & Fun Singers (about 35) - performed "There's A Song of Love" and backed us on 2 of Linnea Good's songs and our "Stand for What is Right."


     Melodious Madcaps (45 singers - youth choir) - "Song of Good News" with 4 young men playing guitar & Jim Manley's new song "The Time is Now" - concern for the Earth in this time of climate change.


     Adult Choir (combined Hospital & College chapel choirs - 45 singers) - Come Let Us Worship & Bread for the Journey; Water Me; Laughing Alleluia; and backed us on as-Salaam, Shanti, Micah 6:8 and There'll be Sunshine.



     Of course, J&J did a few songs too - at the close of the evening we were surprised by a presentation to us AND to all of the choir directors from Dr. Arul Dhas (head of the Chaplaincy Department) - it was beautifully done and respected the work of the people who work here on a weekly basis to lead the community in music and worship.


It's hard to move on from that evening, but that's always the case. So we left the "mountain top" experience - had a great time singing IN the college chapel choir on Sunday evening, and have been experiencing hard "good-byes" and, finally, leaving CMC and its dedicated, beautiful people.

The last two days, as we've traveled back to Chennai, we've made time to see and experience a small part of the beautiful heritage and history of this vibrant country. Briefly, first stop is the city of Kanchipuram - known throughout India for its silk saris and temples. The Kailasanatha Temple was built in the 7th century and reflects Dravidian architecture. I've tried to catch some of the remaining fragments of the vivid murals - most of the color is gone after 1400 years.



Then we traveled on to Mamallapuram which is located on the ocean. We walked that night on a beautiful beach with the constellation Orion shining brightly overhead. In the morning we drove through the town, known for its stone carvings, both current AND dating from the 7th century. The pictures show the 5 Rathas - stone temples, each carved from a single rock. Then we drove to the relief carving on the face of a huge rock - Arjuna's Penance (you can see the light house in the background); Krishna's Butter Ball - immoveable BUT apparently balancing precariously - and finally the Trimurti Cave Temples - honours the Hindu trinity - Brahma, Vishnu & Shiva - and I only caught the sheep lying on the top of the temple!! So much for my photographic skills in a moving car!



The afternoon was spent at Dakshina Chitra - a remarkable cultural center that had craftspeople working in traditional arts from the 4 southern states: Tamil Nadu (the state we've been in); Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka and Kerala (the state on the southwest coast of India - interesting fact: largest concentration of Christians in India - 23 % - dating back to St. Thomas who came to India in 52 AD). We saw homes built in the traditional style from each area. Unfortunately my camera was eating batteries by that time and I only got a few pictures.


Finally, we approached Chennai - I'd been asking about the 2004 Tsunami and how recovery was going. All of a sudden, there we were - in the middle of what our driver called a "refugee camp". The pictures follow.



Just one street inland from this scene is San Thom Cathedral - housing the remains of St. Thomas (Doubting Thomas of the 12 disciples). He is reputed to have come to India in 52 AD, was killed in 72 AD. This church is one of only three in the world said to be built over the grave of one of the 12 disciples (obviously, St. Peter's in Rome is the most famous of these). It was disorienting to see the contrast between the church and the dire straits of the people living behind the back wall of the church.


We started this LONG 4th blog in Chennai - and are now sitting in the Hong Kong airport, awaiting our flight to SFO. It seems premature to have any kind of organized reflection on what has happened - that may take years. Yet, some things are clear. The beauty of God's children shines brightly if we take the time to see. The beauty of these particular people, the 7000 staff at Christian Medical College and Hospital, shines quite clearly through their dedication to healing God's children. It takes a special kind of leadership to steer this "ship" and we have been privileged to spend two evenings in the home of Dr Surajan Bhattacharji (Director of CMC) and Dr. Sara Bhattacharji (Director of the LCECU - low cost hospital that serves the slums of Vellore). I think Jim's rewrite of an old blues song can say it better than I.

We were sitting in the Bhattacharji home with a group of friends after our final Sunday evening chapel. Having just finished an unforgettable potluck of Indian cuisine they were about to have a meeting of "the book club", an on-going study and support group. But before they embarked upon their journey with Marcus Borg's "The Heart or Christianity", using friend Tim Scorer's study guide (small world, eh?), they asked us to lead some singing. Jim was inspired to make up a song to honor the people sitting in the room. We close this narrative with three of these verses.

"Dr. Sara, you're a shining light, Oh Dr. Sara, you're a shining light ~ a compassionate woman and all of your friends' delight."
"Dr. Suranjan, you're a gentle man, Oh Dr. Suranjan, such a gentle man, ~ with a backbone of steel everybody knows where you stand."
"Jim & Jean, it's time to depart, Oh Jim & Jean (sadly) it's time to depart ~ though we leave this place you'll always be in our heart."

Love to all - wherever you are. ~ Jeanie & Jim

Fri., Feb. 6 - 3:33 pm - Just to let you all know that we have arrived home safely. Walked in the house a few minutes ago - good trip home - kind of feel like we "left it all on the court" - ie - tired and feeling fulfilled. It will take a few days to turn our timetables around and find our footing here. Hope you enjoy our week four writings. ~ J&J

Jan. 12 - Week 1 in India

Jan. 17 - Week 2 in India

Jan. 27 - Week 3 in India