Friday, March 9, 2012

The Pushcart Lady

I did quite a few rounds on my bicycle between Pondicherry and Cuddalore. (Read the previous post) From under 4 hours the first time round, I was able to drastically improve my time to about 2 hours thirty. 54 Km in about 154 minutes is OK without being exceptional. With the  skiing trip just round the corner, I cut down on the running from around the 120 min mark to about 45 to 60 minutes or so. So about 10 or so Kms followed by 45 to 50 Km of cycling upto (or sometimes towards) Cuddalore and back was the routine. I consider cycling a better workout (along with swimming) than running since it is devoid of the trauma associated with long distance running. And if one is running about 110 Km in a 6 day week, then the odds of injuring oneself increase manifold. 

So here I was, eagerly waiting to ski down Afarwat and Mary's shoulder among other mountains. With a week to go (this is around the second week of feb - unfortunately blogger doesnt allow one to backdate their blog entries - hence the late entry.) I was cycling more and I had almost halved my running distance. During these trips to Cuddalore, I would stop at a juice stall (it was more of a pushcart) right across the entrance to MGMCHRI (Mahatma Gandhi Medical College). The stall was run by a lady whom most people would ignore. Not me. I have learnt the most important lessons of my life from Jesus Christ. Seldom do I go by the words of self proclaimed prophets, Sadhu's and shepherds. BUT, this lady comes right on top of the list of others, apart from Jesus, from whom I have learnt my lessons. Well! at least some lessons. 

She was mute and I didnt even know how to ask for her name. She sold sweet lime juice for Rs 20. The first time she gave me One Glass for Rs 20. The following day she smiled and enquired if my muscles hurt (in gestures). Not one to show any signs of weakness I pretended like I could do 10 more rounds. I figured she could see right through my "I am tough" act. That day she gave me two glasses of juice and urged me to go home and eat well. I have rarely seen  RICH, educated and wise people who CLAIM to be Christians show any compassion or generosity. May be in words; but thats all. This woman outdid all those so called disciples of Jesus in the way she treated a stranger in me. Her warmth and sense of concern were striking. I went home that day and prayed for her. I thanked my Lord and Savior Jesus for bringing me to her. I thanked him for blessing me with another sister. A poor, illiterate sister, RICH in deeds. Whenever I think of her, I feel ashamed of the kind of Christian I have been. The Bible says that the Lord has chosen the poor of this world, rich  in faith to be heirs of the kingdom, which he has promised to them that love him. So true.

The following day I went to meet her (of course on the pretext of a drink after the workout). I took a Bar-One snack along with me. After the drink (2 glasses :D) I offered the snack to her and she took it with a smile on her face. She gestured with her hands around her neck and straightaway I knew she was asking if I was married. I looked to the heavens to suggest,"In His Time" and hoped that she got the message. The way she enquired about my marriage was not in some haphazard way in which most people (christians included) enquire about ones welfare. Her concern was genuine. I wondered for a while if I should ask her to pray for me. But how would I convey the message, I was glad that she was at least concerned. Apart from my sister (of course Jesus too), I have seldom come across people who have been genuinely concerned about me. Most of the Christians (preachers and their audience alike) I have come across have been scavengers, willing to peddle the Word of God for gain. In that context, meeting this woman was a milestone in my spiritual journey. I went home and prayed for her again. 

One of those days I went to a Bible shop to pick up a tract or a pamphlet to give her. But I didnt even know if she could read. Besides, I didnt know what scriptures to pick since I dont read Tamil myself. So I said a quick prayer and I saw a key ring with a cross on one side and a scripture (in Tamil) on the other side. The following day, (14 Feb) my last  scheduled work out day before leaving for Kashmir via Bangalore & Chennai, I met that lady again. This time with the key ring and Bar-One. I had my drink. I offered the snack and the key ring and suggested to her that I will be leaving in a couple of days. She smiled. She gestured to me that she also is a Christian (and what a brilliant one at that). Just as I began to step backwards towards my bicycle, she offered her hand. I shook her hard, rough, dry hands; one of the most beautiful hands  that I will ever shake. A hand that had the blessings of God Himself. I wont forget her.

I mounted my bicycle and looked at her one last time before pedaling away.