Yellow…

On the drive between Palani and Oddanchatram, two small towns in southwest Tamil Nadu, there’s a particular wonder to behold in a particular season. Vast fields bathed in yellow. Yellow- the unapologetic bright kind. Oh yes, the colour yellow is associated with Palani a lot, especially ‘cos of the robes the pilgrims to the Palani temple wear and walk the roads on. But no, that’s not what I’m talking about.

It was Monday morning, and I was on the way back from an eventful weekend at home back to the place where I live and work. The driver anna was being his usual chatty self, filling me in on the local political scenes and all that was happening in and around his village and I kept him engaged with an occasional comment here and there and mostly with the vigorous nod that most South Indians have mastered over time. The kind that almost compromises the stability of the atlanto-occipital joint. We kept at it, me encouraging him to go on, while my mind kept busy, pondering over the demands of changing seasons in life. Noise on the inside and noise on the outside.

“Madam look!” He suddenly said, pointing to the sides. And there they were. Golden yellow fields. On both sides of the road. The sun shining on them enhancing their colour. Vast fields of sunflowers. Big ones. We stopped for a couple of minutes to just take in that beauty. As we gazed at those fields for a bit, the driver anna’s friendly voice faded into the background and the noises inside of me died down. There was a peculiar thing though. I was looking at the sunflowers. But the flowerheads were all turned in the opposite direction. Each one of those hundreds of flowers were faced in the same direction, their stalks straight, their heads held high- the direction the sun was shining on them. There was not a single flower that turned the other way round and not one of them drooping down. Not one flower turned the way the people who stopped to admire them were looking at. They just had one focus. And that was the source of their beauty, their nourishment and all that they were about. Named appropriately- Sun-flowers.

“Madam, polaama?” (shall we go?), the driver’s voice interrupted that moment with an urgency. As we resumed our journey forward, there was a strange peace inside of me. I was being reminded with as much clarity as possible- ‘ Why’re you looking around? Look to the Son (Jesus).’

That’s been the image in my head since. That sea of yellow.

No matter what everyone else has to say, or how much you’ve left to do or how impossible you think things look, will you look to the Son- the Author and Perfecter of your faith? Your Rock, your sure foundation.

Can we do that in our day to day lives, casting but a glance at what is around us, fixing our gaze though on Jesus? Unashamed, heads held high, undisturbed in our devotion to Him?

And when we do that, what others will notice about us is the light that falls on us- the glory of the Almighty God dwelling in us, His love brimming out from us. The colour of His love- that’s our ‘yellow’. Whatever season of life we’re in.

Turn your eyes upon Jesus,
Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim,
In the light of His glory and grace.
(Helen Lemmel)

and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith…“( Hebrews 12:1, 2a)

The Freefall

I like structure. I’m the kind of person who would ideally like to be well informed before I take a decision, or well briefed/read before I approach a problem. I’m pretty sure most of us out there would identify with that. I mean who wouldn’t like a blueprint of what lies ahead right? Like a map, with directions and best of all, a safe path to follow.

As doctors, we are trained that way. We get the information we want from our overworked juniors or whoever is on the floor that day before we have even seen a particular patient. We like being informed, we like knowing the percentages, the best treatment options,the prognosis. We like having an approach. Nothing wrong with that. But as doctors, one would also realise that on the flip side, sometimes nothing goes according to plan. Ask a medical friend, and he/ she would testify to the number of times they have seen patients defy percentages, textbook descriptions or grave outcomes.

Somehow that’s the way with life in general. Despite our greatest efforts to be as prepped as possible, most times, life does take us by surprise.

I was sitting in the OPD the other day, wheeling under the happenings over the past couple of weeks, thinking and overthinking and then overthinking what I’d already overthought. I called in the next patient, and as they settled down, this six month old chubby fellow kept edging out of his mommy’s lap towards me. He kept reaching out and looking into my eyes till I finally took him onto mine. The next thing he did was what I hadn’t seen coming. He turned around, tried standing up and gave me a wobbly warm hug. And then just stayed there. Hanging onto my neck. I don’t know how to describe in words what I really felt at that moment. The warmth of that gesture translated into a certain kind of warmth deep in my soul. Ever thought of what it would feel like if you were in an elevator and suddenly it’s chain got cut? ( Now I know it’s not what normal people think about. Excuse me.) You become weightless. ‘Cos the elevator and you inside would be at the mercy of gravity.

That’s something like what I felt then. The anxious thoughts that were rolling around in my mind suddenly disappeared. And all I could think of was – Freely falling. Yes, I’d been following him up since he took his first breath till now; but that doesn’t give a baby any reason to remember the doc who resuscitated him at birth. He decided to give me some love that day, and he jolly well did!

As his mother and him walked away, God was speaking to my heart. Can you rest in my embrace like that child? Without fear. Casting away anxiety. Trusting. Freely falling.

Oh I was struggling. I needed more information, I needed a better picture, I needed more clarity, I needed a roadmap, I needed……. In all that noise in my head, a more firm still Voice was telling me, ” All you need is to let go. Underneath are the everlasting arms.”

‘The eternal God is your dwelling place,
and underneath are the everlasting arms.’ ( Deuteronomy 33:27)

Dear friend, been in that place? Of strife? Of crippling anxiety? Of restlessness?

Sometimes we don’t have all the answers, most times we do not have as much information as we’d like to have, many times the picture we paint in our heads doesn’t match the one we actually see, and almost always, we can never be prepared enough for the days ahead. But you and I can do this one thing- trust in the God who holds the universe. In the One whose arms are holding you. You can let go.

Because He’s got this. You don’t need to know everything.

Remember the psalmist said, Thy word is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path (Ps 119:105)? He never mentioned ‘ a floodlight on all my days ahead’. No. We’re called to fall- fall back on Him.

Take it from this control freak, whom God has mercifully kept from being able to control anything significant in her life. The greatest blessings are the ones I’ve received with open trusting hands, unexpected, with faith the size of a mustard seed.

That’s what I’ve been asking for the grace to do these past few weeks. To be able to hang on to Him like that baby was hanging on to me. To free-fall.

Moving on into another year, let go. Freely fall back on Him.

“And the arms that hold the universe
Are holding you tonight
You can rest inside
It’s gonna be alright

And the voice that calmed the raging sea
Is calling you His child
So be still and know He’s in control
He will never let you go”
(Hope rising, Fee)

Esperanza!

Weariness.
That’s what I saw in the eyes of that grandmother who’s been coming for steroids month after month with her little grandson with Nephrotic syndrome, whom his parents had forsaken, in the tears of the mom who brought her son with chronic kidney disease once in 2 days for dialysis simply so he’d be alive, in the face of the father who brought his daughter with Beta Thalassemia every 21 days for her next blood transfusion- there are many more- all of them with the same question- When will this be over? Or will it ever? And their eyes searched my face… for hope, atleast an inkling.

Funny thing is, I was asked the same question three times over the past one week that I’d been asking myself already- Is there hope? Is there an answer?

As I sat back against the terrace wall and closed my eyes, my thoughts drifted to that one blank page somewhere a little more than halfway through my Bible- the one that separates the Old Testament from the New Testament. That page was symbolic of 400 years of waiting- when so much of recklessness and oppression prevailed, and there was no prophet, no leader, no dreams or visions, no voice from God. A loud silence. Deafening in fact. A prolonged wait for a Saviour. Nobody knew when or how. They were a tired people. Weary.
Sounded like my life, I thought.
And when you turn that page over and as the gospel of Mathew unfolds, you hear a cry, a newborn baby’s shriek, breaking that silence. The wait for a Saviour had come to an end. He had come! And how!

My mind’s been blown away again and again as I read and reread the account of the birth of Jesus as given in the gospels. A young woman, a bewildered carpenter, shame, confusion, a census at an inconvenient time, rejection, a manger of absolutely no significance, a helpless baby- these were some of the circumstances that God chose to display His glory through. They were weary, Oh yes. Tired of what people were talking about them back home, tired of being misunderstood again and again, exhausted from a journey on a donkey’s back and about as comfortable as anyone could get in a stable surrounded by animals- and yet the baby’s cry brought hope- He had come to deliver us from eternal damnation.

You know, that’s the story of Christmas, that’s why the bells and the carols and the candles and all that jazz- it’s not about the big man in a red suit riding reindeer, it’s about a God who became man to save our souls. A God who came to give us that hope- the hope of eternity.
This story is the beginning of all other stories- a story where in the midst of weariness, pain, anxiety, disappointment, unanswered prayers and uncertainty- hope shone through.

Dear friend, I do not know what your Christmas might look like this year, whether there’s a family you’ll be going to or you’ll be in the ward, like me, on duty, whether you’re in a place of weariness and you’re close to giving up on God or you’re filled with thanksgiving, whether you’re drowning in your doubts and uncertainty or you’re hanging on for dear life, whether you’re prepping for an upcoming wedding or you’re wondering when you’ll ever find the one for you or whether you’re wondering like the parents of those children I mentioned earlier, “when will the suffering end?”.

Interruptions, inconveniences, unanswered prayers , doors that refuse to open- whatever this year has handed out to you, may I remind you as I was reminded that God chose to break nearly 400 years of silence with a tiny baby’s cry from a manger in Bethlehem. His magnificence shone through the darkest of times, through the most obscure circumstances, through two very normal people who were going about their usual lives that were suddenly interrupted with a lot of inconvenience.

What child is this
Who lay to rest
On Mary’s lap is sleeping
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet
While shepherds watch are keeping

This, this is Christ the King
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing
Haste, haste to bring him laud
The Babe, the Son of Mary

So bring him incense, gold and myrrh
Come peasant king to own him
The King of Kings salvation brings
Let loving hearts enthrone him
(What child is this, William c Dix)

There is hope. As the houses light up and songs are sung and gifts are exchanged, let’s remember- there is hope. Esperanza. Jesus is the hope.

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for me one who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2)

A Blessing…

He was a big man. Literally. With an ailing three month old baby girl. It was a difficult 2 weeks. While his baby progressed from one complication to the next due the nature of her disease, he ran- ran for blood products, to arrange money as the medicines got costlier and more sophisticated procedures were done, ran to provide for his four year old son back home- and then ran back to be by the bedside of his infant. As her treating doctors we left no stone unturned to try salvage this precious little life. I for one never saw this man so much as sitting in one place for more than 5 minutes. At the end of a week and a half, when all of us knew without many words being said that this child didn’t have much time left. He still looked hopeful. Another 24 hours later, when I gently suggested he be prepared for the worst, he sat down in the hospital corridor and wept out of his wife’s sight- huge giant sobs. I stood there. Just to share that moment with him. There wasn’t anything left to say.

When the day arrived for him to take the lifeless body of his precious daughter home, I saw not a defeated man, but a man who rose up to hold the rest of his family together- he paid for the entire hospital expenses, completed all formalities, headed all the arrangements to be made with a stoic boldness I wish I had. Just before he left, he did one more thing. He walked over to me , held my hand and thanked me through tear filled eyes and asked me to convey his gratefulness to every doctor on our team. Not just that- He uttered a blessing over me before he got into the driver’s seat to drive his family home. A blessing! Yeah! (If I were him, let’s just say it wouldn’t be such a graceful scene!)

I stood there in that same hospital corridor where I’m sure his tears hadn’t yet dried up, not knowing what to think or make of it. This big man had just lost his daughter to a terrible disease, something that he would have never imagined 2 weeks ago, he was exhausted and drained- of everything, but he didn’t forget to stop and say a blessing over me. Despite… Inspite of…

Oh friend! When was the last time you stretched your hand out towards someone else and prayed a blessing over them despite how you felt about your life at that moment? (I’m not talking about how we say ‘Bless you!’ when someone sneezes at the dinner table.) I’m asking about the #real#deep from the heart despite all the hurt# blessing- when was the last time you were prompted to do that?

With a very difficult year coming to a close, if there was ever a time to celebrate the birth of a Saviour, it definitely is now. To be reminded that ,” For God so loved the world that he GAVE his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”( John 3:16)

Yahweh- the Almighty God- He loved so much, He gave. He promises us that His face is always towards us. Always. So as children of this amazing promise, can we- you and me, stretch out our hands today, towards the next person and pray a blessing over them in the name of His precious Son- Jesus Christ?

As I type this down, I pray a blessing over each and every one of you who happens to read this. Despite what my life looks right now. In spite of the billion reasons I could give myself to avoid doing it. Because God loved me so much… He gave. And I pass on that candle to to you.

Receive it with an Amen.

Your turn now. Who do you wanna bless today?

With your words and your actions…

May His presence go before you
And behind you, and beside you
All around you, and within you
He is with you, He is with you
In the morning , in the evening
In your coming, and your going
In your weeping, and rejoicing
He is for you , He is for you
( The Blessing, Cody Carnes/ Kari Jobe)

#theDrawingDisciple

Gracias!!

Come November and, I don’t know about you, but I’ve been feeling a sense of foreboding and dampness in the spirit. Why? One may ask. I don’t know. Maybe its just that another year is drawing to a close and the overthinker in me is pondering over questions like ,” Was this a fruitful year? Have I moved forward in life? Was it really worth one’s existence ?” And so on. As the fervour of the upcoming festivities and holidays kick in slowly and not very subtly, I stand with trepidation at the brink of it, preferring to drown in the sounds of the pouring rain beating against my window, refusing to think about lights or decorations or holiday plans or Christmas barbeques. 2020 being the year that it has been, helps to foster such feelings too. I don’t need to explain that one to you right?

It was one such damp morning when heavy rain and loud thunder, hypothermia (because I’d slept off without a blanket) and a restless mind, woke me up. A cup of coffee later, I settled into a warm corner of the room with some writing material and my Bible, seeking the face of the only One who could calm the storm inside of me. As a billion questions battled for priority in my head, I opened up my diary to start writing out a petition to the Almighty. A well worded one that conveyed my problems and questions to Him in very strong and clear words, with the questions I had listed out in descending order of priority and all my unanswered prayers throughout the year in capital letters and underlined in red- in case He had missed out on or forgotten those.

My pen and heart however, seemed to have a mind of their own. The only words that I finally wrote down on that first line were “Thank you Lord”. I looked at the paper for sometime in disbelief. Absolutely not how I wanted to start out. But my pen seemed to go on. And on and on. At the end of what seemed like a good half an hour, there were two pages, both sides, filled with points of praise and gratitude and tears in my eyes.

Tears of gratitude, of saying ‘Thank you’, ‘Dhanyawad’, ‘Gracias’-for days gone by, for abundant grace and exceeding mercy, for protection, for strength, for love and laughter, for simply and absolutely everything, every single day I could sleep in peace and wake up knowing I’m unconditionally loved and taken care of by Jehovah- the Almighty God, the King above all other kings, my Father and Best Friend.

Needless to say, as my eyes ran over those pages, the only way this created being could respond, was by lifting hands in worship. And as I worshipped, the dampness lifted, a song broke out in my heart and the storms stilled. Forgotten was the petition I’d started off to make in the first place.

What grace! What mercy! What love!

So here’s this note I write to myself today- Dear me, you may still have unanswered questions and undecided days ahead. You will still get hurt in the running, you may still find some days more difficult than others, some circumstances harder than the rest, some mountains taller, some giants stronger. But hey! Will you promise to remember the days you never thought you’d get through and yet you did and you’re here today? Will you promise to remember to give thanks despite….? Worship in spite of….? Praise Him even when….? Will you?

Circle Zion, take her measure,
count her fortress peaks,
Gaze long at her sloping bulwark,
climb her citadel heights—
Then you can tell the next generation
detail by detail the story of God,
Our God forever,
who guides us till the end of time. (Psalm 48:12-14)

Friend, Get up! Take full measure of your life till now. And sing when you see the Glory of God so intimately entwined in every detail of your days.

Shall we lift up this sacrifice of thanksgiving this morning? We can never be thankful enough. That’s one thing we could never overdo!

“He wants to give Himself for us each moment of our lives just as completely as He gave Himself on the cross. We have nothing to give Him; we have only to receive of Him!”
― Merlin R. Carothers, Prison To Praise

Breathe…

I woke up the other morning with a feeling of drowning without air. Like someone was at my throat. Physically. It took me a couple of minutes as I sat up to realize that I needed to get a hold of my inhalers and that I was suffering the consequence of wearing a dusty mask the previous day – an exacerbation of asthma, as my bronchi refused to lighten up. Another couple of minutes and some salbutamol later, I was breathing freely. And Oh! What a relief that was.

Now any of you reading this who’s ever had to get a nebulisation to just help you take the next breath would surely agree with me this that there’s nothing that can compare to that sense of freedom of being able to just inhale and exhale freely again. (Yeah, I see you right there!)


‘Happy hypoxia’ is a term most of us would have heard by now with regard to the COVID19 pandemic. It’s a phase of this illness where you’re unaware of your body’s need for oxygen till you suddenly collapse . And then there’s the scurry of activity- ambulance, hospital, ICU, ventilation, desperately hoping for a good outcome- essentially disaster management in non medical terms.

As I looked around the other day, I saw a community of people who are running low on their sats, but unaware. Happy hypoxics. I looked at the mirror and a happy hypoxic stared right back at me. No,no… I’m not talking about a Covid hotspot. (In case you’d already reached out to my contact ID to find out what place I’m talking about).

I’m talking about the business of busy bodying. Now what I described in the beginning was a physical feeling I felt the other day, but there have been many days before that day where I’ve felt suffocated on the inside. In my mind. After the initial wonder of the lockdown forcing our usual selves to take a break from our regular busy schedules, and explore parts of our lives we never knew existed before, we have ( as human beings over centuries have done) ,adapted to the pandemic- to wearing masks, to learning to be distracted and busy within the confines of the restrictions. Scurrying about. Zooming in. Zooming out. Webinars, Classes. Deadlines. Plans. Worrying. Wondering. A feeling of doing so many things, being in so many places at the same time, yet essentially not really being significant enough .
Have you noticed that when you are working out really hard or even running quite fast, you end up holding your breath till the trainer (if you have one, or simply your brain) calls out – exhale? If you’ve not noticed it before, watch out for that now. You’re so into what you’re doing that your chest feels like it’s going to explode and you just have to breathe out. And then you wonder, ‘Why didn’t I realise that before?’

Sometimes our lives are like that. Most times actually. We scurry, we scramble, we strive, we struggle, we shuttle between things, we get so caught up in our frustrations of how things/ people should have been as opposed to how they have turned out….(You make your own list here.) And our chest is so full. We are so busy doing the good things we forget to seek out the best. We don’t see anything around us, except us and our fragile egos and we gradually run low on life – happily hypoxic, severely myopic.

With having to wear masks day in and day out , I’m sure all of us at a time like this, are more aware of every breath we take than we’ve ever been before. Oxygen is one of the most expensive medicines we offer in a hospital. When our body refuses to cooperate with the natural order (due to disease), we end up having to resort to this costly drug and pay that price to just keep us alive! But imagine the amount of oxygen we breathe in on a daily basis that is unaccounted for! Such is the Creator’ s extravagance towards His creation.
If only we could take it in. Freely.

Friend, is your chest about to explode? Have you been super focused on your miniature world that you’ve forgotten to exhale? Have you been running low on love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness and self control? Have you missed out on the Voice from the burning Bush because you were rushing to get water to put out the fire? (In your hurry to do good, you missed out on the best.)

Are you in that place? Are you a bomb about to explode? Or a breakdown just waiting to happen? Is it all falling apart?

Your Creator calls out to you today…

Breathe………Just breathe.

Let Jesus in- into those spaces. Into those confusions. Into all that hard work you’re at.Into your strife.

For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. (Psalm 36:9)

“I’m busy, busy, busy, and it’s no surprise to see
That I only have time for me, me, me
There’s gotta be something more to this crazy life
I’m hanging on tight to another wild day
When it starts to fall apart in my heart I hear you say just
Breathe, just breathe
Come and rest at my feet
And be, just be
Chaos calls but all you really need
Is to take it in, fill your lungs
The peace of God that overcomes
Just breathe
let your weary spirit rest
Lay down what’s good and find what’s best
Just breathe “
(Jonny Diaz, Breathe)

Shall we, you and me, take a moment to revel in the extravagance of His love?

“There is a moment, a cusp, when the sum of gathered experience is worn down by the details of living. We are never so wise as when we live in this moment.”
― Paul Kalanithi, When Breath Becomes Air

Bonsai

‘Doesn’t this look like something from the Enid Blyton books?’ My brother asked, after sending us this picture. Oh sure it did, only it was a miniature version of it. It was a bonsai tree and he was looking through a nursery when he came upon this sight and was blown away by how expensive it was!!

I looked at that picture for sometime and smiled wryly. My mind recollecting the excitement I had felt as my younger self read those books, how I’d checked on a few big trees outside the school campus later on to see if there was any magic to them. Almost expecting to see some branch leading to a door that opened to fairies or brownies or animals that talked in them! Like the Magic Faraway Tree.

“there was such a lot of whispering that it sounded like a thousand leaves rustling at once!”
― Enid Blyton, The Enchanted Wood


Isn’t there one particular tree all of us remember or have fond memories of? It might be the one in our backyard that’s older than our grandparents or the one huge tree in our school campuses that looked like it knew every dirty secret from yesteryears? One such tree I remember that well is one from our college campus- right next to the mess hall. We called it the ‘mess tree’ ( not very creative, I know, but a landmark nevertheless) . Oh that one tree knew it all! It stood tall like the whole campus was built around it. It has given shade on many a sunny day to those who preferred the outside air to the lecture halls, has attempted to shelter a few strays in heavy rains, has seen friendships strengthen over relentless rants, has been the meeting place for all kinds of meetings, has tolerated overenthusiastic college kids hang decorations on it for every festival all year round, and has been the one thing that really brightened the entire campus when it lit up with on New Year’s Eve with an explosion of lights. It still stands strong to this day and whether we remember our batchmates or not, every student in that campus had and still has a story with the ‘mess tree’. It left a lasting impression.

The bonsai had the shape and the looks, but it could never ever provide the experience of that enchanted tree we read about as children or the ‘mess tree’. Nope- no one could rest in it’s shade, it would not bear fruit, it’s bark would never have anyone carve their names on to it, it would never have any stories to tell. Because, though it looked like a tree, but it had been robbed of it’s very potential to experience the fullness of its existence when science decided to genetically modify it to fit into our comfort zones. That which was supposed to thrive and live in all its glory in some park or in our yard, now sat in our living rooms or terrace gardens- a poor excuse to what it was actually meant to be.

Do we live bonsai-sized lives? That’s been the question on my mind ever since I saw that picture. Teeny-weeny pretty versions of what we were actually made to be, self designed to fit into our comfort zones, while the Creator himself longs for us to live in the freedom that He offers? To thrive and not just survive? Are we afraid- to make commitments, to take stands, to follow the One who has been calling out to us even before we were born, to live to the fullness of our existences?
Pause for a moment. And think about it.

Bonsai is safe. Very comfortable. Pretty. Yet… way too small… To make a difference.

Or will we respond to the Shepherd’s call- committing our lives to Him and thereby stepping out into the glorious freedom He offers- selflessly loving, fully giving and thereby truly thriving and engaging with the world around us. (John 3:16)
I asked myself this today, “Would I be like that tree that stands tall, bearing marks of a race well run, having stories to tell, having been a shade to many, standing strong in the wind and the rain- unapologetic, because I know and I’ve trusted the One who called me?”

But blessed is the one who trusts in the LORD,
whose confidence is in him.
They will be like a tree planted by the water
that sends out its roots by the stream.
It does not fear when heat comes;
its leaves are always green.
It has no worries in a year of drought
and never fails to bear fruit.” Jeremiah 17:7,8 (NIV)

What about you? Do you want for your life to amount to more than cosy decisions and safe hideouts?

Bonsai lives or not. You get to choose.

Sooper!

“Akka, neenga super !” A smiling starry eyed five year old popped her head back into my OPD cubicle, just to drop in this statement and then danced off into the rest of her life, her shiny black plaits waving around in reckless abandon. It took me a few seconds to realise she was paying me a compliment and then by the time I registered a confused smile through the layers of masks on my face ( these days it doesn’t even feel like a foreign object on the face) , she had already disappeared.

In the place I live, the word ‘super’ is pronounced ‘sooper’. Give them a chance and they’ll even spell it out like that for you. There are certain English words that’ve been localised by the locals here ( yes, a befitting punishment to the ones who introduced the language to us in the first place.) ‘Sooper’ is one such word. It’s a compliment word y’know – more like a word that comes from a full heart. It can mean anything ranging from a delicious meal, a good friend, a nice looking dress, a pretty girl, a fulfilling time, an exciting cricket match or even a brilliant idea. Many meanings, just one word- Sooper. Broad spectrum. No specific grammar rules. No particular contraindication to use it. Can be used freely. For all age groups. Yeah. But a compliment nevertheless and one that is uttered from an overwhelmed heart. There are many other such words that’ve been forcefully converted into the local language, and very seamlessly woven into daily vocabulary, but that’s a discussion for another day.

Anyways, as I wondered as to which of these meanings my little patient was alluding to, there’s no denying the warm fuzzy feeling that settled in on my heart on an otherwise cold and grey afternoon. She had taken that time out of her regular buzz of activity, to just run back in to let me know she appreciated the time we spent together. She didn’t need to. She’d gotten what she had come for. The exhilarating pleasures of childhood were beckoning her from beyond. But she set apart a teeny tiny moment of her universe to gift me a ‘sooper’. She didn’t need to. But maybe I needed it that day. Kindness. And a reminder.

A reminder that my Creator and Father God also looks at me today, right where I am, and sees me not as a frail human being with this innate tendency to fail Him at any given moment, but as a broken vase He took, cleansed, purified and justified – calling me precious, the apple of His eye. Sooper.

So also each one of you reading this today.

This year with all its incessantly flowing unpleasant surprises has neither been easy, nor a pleasurable journey. Fed up? Frustration, anger, irritation, disappointment , resignation, loneliness, exhaustion- are some of the many emotions most of us have been going through. But dear friend, would you look up today, lifting your eyes from the darkness around you to the Father above? And hear His voice in your ear, calling out to you?

“I will give up whole nations to save your life, because you are precious to me and because I love you and give you honor.”                                                                         ( Isaiah 43:4)

When we dwell in that overwhelming awareness and assurance that we are so precious and so loved by such an amazing God, kindness will flow out of us to the people around us. Like that little child, we’d be able to take a tiny moment out of our universe, to maybe tell the next person (Be it your boss or the milkman ), ” Hey you’re appreciated!” The more we open our hearts to His love, the more we would be able to see God’s fingerprints in these dark times.

Put this blog down, and look at the mirror today. And remind yourself what God Almighty thinks about you this very moment:

Days will come when you don’t have the strength
When all you hear is you’re not worth anything
Wondering if you ever could be loved
And if they truly saw your heart, they’d see too much

You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You are made for so much more than all of this
You’re beautiful
You’re beautiful
You are treasured, you are sacred
You are His
You’re beautifu
l
( Beautiful, MercyMe)

And when you’ve done that, open your door and tell the first person you meet, ‘You’re beautiful!’ or if you come from where I write this from, ‘Sooper da!’

In His Eyes.

Yes!!!

Pontine Glioma- a diagnosis I had to explain to two different sets of parents over a time span of 24 hours. Not easy… not on the eyes, not on the mind and definitely not on the heart. Two smart, absolutely bright six year olds, with the promise of a whole lifetime ahead of them. A fall while playing. Sudden unexplained weakness of one side of the body. One visit to the OPD and a scan later, that promise of a future suddenly snatched from them without any mercy. A grave diagnosis. Poor prognosis. Tears. Disbelief. Lots of gasps. More tears. “Is there nothing we can do? No where we can take him/her?” The same questions. The same profound helplessness on both sides- the doctor’s and the parents’.

Finally when I did hit my bed at 3 am early morning the next day hoping there would be no more calls from the ward, my thoughts were racing. For all the exhaustion of that day, sleep evaded my eyes. The weight on my heart drove me to my knees. And this time the tears were mine. The mother’s fearful eyes, the father’s brokenness, their testimony of how they conceived after nearly 10 years of infertility and how special this child was, the child’s innocent unaware voice asking me if I wanted to hear him recite his favourite Psalm to me again. I felt so undone. Why these children? Why such terrible suffering? It felt like the carpet you were standing on was suddenly pulled away from under your feet and you had landed face forward on the ground. I didn’t have answers to the questions that were raging in my head and heart. But I knew and still know that God is good. He knows what He’s upto. But in that moment of grief, and multitudes of questions, and exhaustion- the only thing I could do was weep- weep not out of sympathy or pity, but just knowing that I was sharing their burden by pouring out my tears at heaven’s altar in intercession- not just for those two families, but also the ones I knew around me who were suffering- either from loneliness, depression, one physical ailment after another, torment for taking stands for their faith, lack of gratitude after years of work or just the feeling of hopelessness at unanswered prayers and unfulfilled desires.

Bringing them one by one to the Master with nothing but a broken heart for them in the wee hours of the morning, a beautiful revelation dawned on me. I had allowed them to be a part of my life, to have a share of my time, to make me care enough to be broken for them , to keep me awake at night praying for them.

In short, I had let them get to me. I had opened up my heart to love them. So much so that my needs and wants didn’t matter to me as much as theirs did!

These many many people who’ve walked in and out of my life. Some leaving footprints, yet others , scars – a patient, a colleague, a friend or a dear family member- yet they are deeply loved and immensely valued. In those moments my eyes were opened to see what loving a neighbour as myself looked like. If that was what only a minute finite portion of God’s love in me looked like, I can’t help wondering at how passionately, how fiercely, how unconditionally He loves me, and each one of you reading this. Oh how His heart breaks each time for us!

To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.”
― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

I rose up from amidst those tears and prayers for mercy and healing, knowing that I’d given the best I could for those children who were my patients and their families , and to the ones around me whom I knew to be suffering- not my scientific prowess or skills as a paediatrician- I’d made a case for them to the King of kings, the Master of the universe, Jesus Christ, my Lord and Saviour- in love.

People may fail us, institutions may fail us, systems we fought to put in place might be ripped apart right before us, but there’s still scope for love.

So hey, are we capable of living a life of love, rooted in the faith and shielded by the Lord Most High, yet vulnerable? Despite and even if? I say….. Yes!!!

You lead and I will follow
I know you hold tomorrow
Lord, make of me one big yes


Wherever this road takes us
Lord even if it’s just us
I surrender, Lord, it’s yes
.. ”

( Yes, Larry Gatlin, Gaither Vocal Band)

Take a knee….

“I want to be straight with you: there will be no return to the “old normal” for the foreseeable future.” This was part of the opening remarks made by the WHO Director- General a couple of days ago at a press conference.

Well even if he hadn’t said it out that obviously, all of us can testify to the fact that this reality has started to sink in slowly for most of us, right? One of the things that this pandemic has taught us is that there is no shortcut out of this. This has to run it’s course.

Strangely that’s pretty much how life is in general. It has always been “not easy” ( In case it wasn’t obvious, I’m refraining from using the word tough). No shortcuts. Somehow when life confronts us in all its reality and glory, there’s no easy way out. No, I’m not going through a midlife crisis. But yes, I’ve been having to face a lot of difficult realities lately. And there have been not one but a multitude of moments when I have honestly wished things were so much easier, wished there was a shortcut, a less tedious exasperating way about this.

Amongst the mess the world is in right now, there’s a lot of mess within and amongst us as well. They say ( I don’t exactly know who), that post graduation is like a public toilet ( yeah! an Indian one). You must be desperate, to get in, however once you’re in, you can’t wait to be done with it and get out. Well, now explain to the person inside a public toilet that it’s gotten locked from the outside, and the key has been lost! Now that’s more like the exact feeling a couple of my loved ones waiting for the dates for their final postgrad exams to be announced are going through.

Indefinitely postponed. Don’t know when. Cannot say how. No solution in the foreseeable future. Cancelled till further notice.

These are some of the phrases we’ve been hearing over and over again over the past couple of months, with respect to many other things apart from exams as well.

As the day drew to a close yesterday, the culmination of events over the last few weeks finally descended on me like a heavy blanket. Oh and was I overwhelmed! Drowning in all the voices in my head competing for attention, the pain of people around me, the uncertainties in front of me and just generally life’s storms threatening to tear me apart into a million pieces. And I just knew that there was only one posture to be in when all this weight bore down on me- on my knees. There was no where else I wanted to go to at that point even if there was no lockdown.

My heart kept singing this song over and over again as the darkness within me seemed greater than the night closing in on the outside:

Lord, I come, I confess
Bowing here I find my rest
Without You I fall apart
You’re the One that guides my heart
Lord, I need You, oh, I need You
Every hour I need You
My one defense, my righteousness
Oh God, how I need You. ( Lord I need you, Matt Maher)

So that’s exactly what I did. I took a knee- not in protest or to express my anger as we generally understand that phrase, but in absolute surrender to the King of Kings, the One who holds the seas and has each hair on my head numbered. On bended knees and with lifted hands, amidst free flowing tears, that heaviness lifted, slowly but surely being replaced with a certain peace that I know no words to describe.

Friend, when the waves come crashing in, when the wait is unending, when there seems to be no light at the end of the tunnel or the silver lining seems to be missing, when it all comes sweeping over you, when there are no answers but only a lot of questions, here’s the thing – Take a knee. Actually both. Bowing in His presence, you’ll find your rest.

“I’ve told you all this so that trusting me, you will be unshakable and assured, deeply at peace. In this godless world you will continue to experience difficulties. But take heart! I’ve conquered the world.” (John 16:33, The Message)