My Beloved India: The Grim and the Humorous

Posted by Ravi Zacharias on September 13, 2017

I am writing this aboard a flight between Delhi and Bangalore. Bangalore is now a megacity in the South, bustling with cars, motorbikes, and the masses in motion that are standard fares in India. I was born in the South and raised in the North. I learned the best of two languages among many in India. I’m a foodie and with prejudice I say that Indian cuisine is among the finest in the world. Not the healthiest, I dare say, but how does one argue with the taste buds?

I write because I love the land of my birth. No matter where you wander, the heartbeat of your native soil pounds within you saying, “This is home.” Ah, to be sure, I’m glad to live where I now do, in the good old USA, but I come to India at least three or four times a year, just for the romance of my memories—both good and bad.

Reading the newspaper on this flight was a grim and trite reminder of what India’s heartbeat is like. The front page story in the Hindustan Times is of the shocking cold-blooded murder of an Indian woman journalist yesterday in Bangalore. She wrote regularly against Hindu extremism and, like a few other journalists who have done the same, paid with her life. It’s a heartbreaking story. The mass of public opinion railed against this murder. But Twitter and YouTube were not without the supporters of the murderers who believed anyone who disagrees with their religious views should be silenced. In fact, I myself have been threatened on this very trip. There will always be the hatemongers and perpetrators of violence. There will always be those who cry for reason and sanity. The tares and the wheat grow together.

But as I turned from page to page reading, I was filled with the sense that life is not always grim news. There is a lighter side to it. On a page opposite the sad details of the killing was the story of an imprisoned goat. Two claimants to the ownership went to the police station, each claiming the goat was theirs. So the police put the goat in jail, saying they would keep it there ‘til one of the parties showed proof of ownership. Where is Solomon when we need him?

But then another ad caught my attention. A man had taken space to advertise that the name of his wife was misspelled on their wedding certificate. The clerk at the local office entered her name as “Fool.” Her real name, the man said, is “Phool.” It was required by law that he make a public announcement before her name could be changed back. May I add that “Phool” in Hindi means “Flower.” So here’s this poor woman having to live with the name “Fool” ‘til the clerk could officially correct his own mistake.

This is India. From stories that get your goat to unintended humorous mistakes down to the grim tale of a murder. There is a well-known Hindi song that says:

“Oh, my heart, living is difficult. You bob and weave and duck and swerve. This is Bombay. This is life.”

But the amazing thing is that life goes on here amid what may seem chaotic. The traffic is bewildering. The driving makes you think everyone has a death wish. I recall being driven in a three-wheeled rickshaw a few years ago. The driver was driving like there was no tomorrow. I asked him to pull over for a moment. He asked, “Why?” I said “Just pull over; I want to talk to you.” When he did, I asked him how old he was. He said he was 26. I asked him if he had children. He said “Yes, I have two.” I asked him how old he thought I was. He said “Probably in your fifties.” I told him he was a kind man but obviously not accurate in his judgment. Then I said this: “Every night, your two children are waiting for you to come home. If you keep driving like this, one day they will keep waiting and you will not return.” He just stared at me. I said, “Let’s get going.” His driving changed dramatically. When we reached the hotel and I started to pay him he said, “No sir! You don’t owe me anything. You have already paid me enough with your words.”

This is India. A land of swirling emotions that will “pay” for “wisdom.” This is the land of some of the brightest minds and the greatest personalities in history. This is also a land where a goat can be in jail for lack of ownership proof.

There is a lesson in all of this. People ask me how I handle the rough and tumble of travel, how I handle the letters of hate and anger that some vent towards me, how I handle the threats? Raised in India, you are raised with constant chaos. But every now and then a calm breaks out and you see through the keyhole of a different reality. God is sovereign and cares for the lives of those who are assaulted. He cares for the beasts of the earth. He reminds us that the “ox knows its owner and the donkey its master’s voice.” Sooner or later the goat will reveal who the real owner is. And the extremists will know that judgment awaits those who hate and kill.

We bob and weave and duck and swerve. This is life. As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord and He is our shield and defender. May we ever hear his voice amid the clutter of crowds and horns. India taught me that is what really matters.

The news each day has the serious and the trite. Let the earth hear His voice. That’s why I speak. That’s why I write. That’s really why I live. I love the peoples of the world. We witness and hear all kinds of things. I am at home in India and in America. We keep our eyes on Him and our ear to His word and truth.

Please pray for us and thank you for standing with us.