I arrived in Bangalore at 5am to visit Darius at boarding school and attend his drama. I had forgotten what a special place this is and how much a part of my life it has been for so long. Oh, how I miss this place.
It’s the little things one notices, like the chap dishing up food at the Tiffin Center (fast Indian food). Wearing a Punjabi outfit, he seems to waddle from bowls to pots, combining the sauces that comprise a given dish.
Then there’s the lady who plonked herself opposite me at the table where I sat eating my dosa. I just pretended it was normal and didn’t bat an eyelid. That’s how you do it here!
And of course the ladies toilets… Everyone accepts the fact that the last person in through the door can push her way into the next available cubicle. Again, just how things are here.
I find myself chuckling, not so much at the apparent oddeties, because it’s actually me as a foreigner that’s odd. No, I chortle at how quickly what is normal here has become foreign to me.
There is nothing more rewarding than creating something beautiful out of something that has been discarded. When I saw it in the little second-hand corner shop, I knew this neglected cabinet was the one. It had such charm and potential and would do just right in our dining room. The price was agreeable to my sense of bargaining, and so I set about getting my prize home.
I adopted the common practice in Sri Lanka of commandeering a tractor-trailer. This funny contraption has a mini tractor in the front, with a trailer behind and is steered using a back-to-front sort of manuever. Down the main street it trundled, and on up to my house.
Once home, I needed to strip it down, remove the hardware and get new wood cut to replace certain tatty parts. Then began the arduous task of cleaning it. It was a sorry sight and yet its potential shone through like a lantern on a dark night, inspiring me and calling me to liberate it. That’s when I realised that I had bitten off rather more than I could chew. If I were to transform this piece to a state beyond its former glory, then some good old ‘elbow grease’ and sheer determination would be needed.
And so it was that I spent eight hours this past Saturday scrubbing away the grime. There was the years of dust, gunk and dead bugs collecting in the many nooks and crannies. There was the silicon used to attach the little glass panels by the chap I had bought it from; and there was a greasy film-coating in blobs where paint would not be able to take.
The signs of neglect and disrepair put right, I was then able to tackle painting the anticipated masterpiece. Thus, with paint brush in hand, I whiled away five warm Sri Lankan Sunday hours to give my project its first coat.
I am a long way off from emancipating this derelict has-been. While it cures in the humid cling of tropical air, I need to give my attention to other demands, such as home schooling my eleven-year old son and all of the claims made on my time from living in a foreign country.
Dad was away and Matt and I were quite bored and feeling rather sorry for ourselves, so we decided to go down to Sea Street in Negombo, which is where we live in Sri Lanka. He wanted to browse in the little corner cafe, Tecso (yes, not Tesco!), over the road from the hotel-lined ocean,… and there he found a watergun which we took with us to the beach.
While Matt was swimming, I was having a ‘cuppa’ tea in the covered terrace at Jetwing Beach Hotel. I had a front row seat and was enjoying the tranquility of the lazy afternoon. The ocean extending in front of me and the buzz of happy children splashing in the pool was rudely interrupted by the cawing of the pesty crows.
I was aware that I needed to guard Matthew’s half-finished plate of french fries as I’d seen the birds ‘squizzing’ them. Fortunately I had in hand Matt’s fully-loaded water gun, so decided to lure the annoying scavengers in with one of the chips as bait. I pretended to be blissfully unaware of the cacophony of excitement coming from the trees and pillars around me. When, with a flurry of flapping wings, a crow swooped down to claim his prize, I was at the ready. My weapon carefully aimed, fully loaded and pumped, I pressed the trigger. A jet of water spurted out with tremendous force, darting over the table and hitting the unsuspecting critter. Totally bewildered and thrown off course by the offending rapid fire, the looter attempted a retreat. I endeavoured to suppress my smug smirk at the sight of the creature in reverse. Quite a funny sight, really – a big black bird with a hazardous beak, a malicious glint in his eye and with menacing intention – flapping frantically in the reverse of the direction he had set his greedy eye upon. Not long after, another uninitiated brute would flap in, the prize reflecting in the glint of his ominous eye. Another ‘zirt’ of water and another ridiculed beast.
I confess that I was enjoying all of this a little too much – a front row seat to a new theatre production – and started to wonder what this scene must look like to the onlooking hotel guests… this crazed woman sniggering at the defenceless birds. Any spectator must have wondered at my life issues or questionable state of mind as I gleefully reloaded for the next victim. Sad to say, the thought of what this comical picture must look like to the innocuous tourists, brought a further chuckle to my already tarnished fame. I attempted to stifle my grin and was very relieved when Matt returned to eat some chips. This simple act seemed to validate my campaign of defending the neglected plate of chips and teaching the dastardly predators a good lesson: the proverbial, ‘Two birds with one stone!’
“A man’s reach must exceed his grasp, dear boy, or what the dickens is a heavens for?”
– Raffles to Bunny
Since reading the classic, Raffles: the Amateur Cracksman by E.W. Hornung in 2007, I have adopted the above quote as one of my favourite live-by sayings. When we have every tool for life within our grasp, where does the growing come in? As healthy people, we need to constantly be reaching out for what is beyond us, for what is greater than us, for what is impossible to achieve in our own strength. Life is difficult, according to Dr. M. Scott Peck in, The Road less Travelled. If we are accustomed to being spoon-fed or having everything laid on for us then there is no need to grow. As people we need to grow into our destinies, we need to be stretched and we need to move out of our comfort zones if we are to become who we have not yet become. Life is a journey and we should always be doing what U2 sing in, Walk on, “… packing a suitcase for somewhere we have never been before”. Each of us has enormous, phenomenal and unique potential. All of us have a purpose and destiny, a God-given assignment, individualised and tailor-made to our uniqueness. We are told in Psalms 37: 4 to, “Take delight in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart.”. The desires that are in your heart are there because God has placed them there. He has implanted those into the fabric of who you are. Usually the assignment God has for us is beyond us. It is greater than us and it is impossible to achieve in our own strength. The secret to our success is given in the instructions to take delight in the Lord. He is the only one who can make the impossible a reality.