Monday, January 18, 2016

Reflections on India

We  have  been  here  for  3 months  now  and  it's  time  to  share  some  thoughts  and  observations  of India.

The  traffic:  When  we first  arrived  I was scared  often  while traveling  on the  roads. I would  close  my  eyes  when  I  saw  cars driving  on  the  wrong  side  of  the  road. I noticed that  cars would not  stop and  look  before  turning or entering, and  there  was  constant  honking  of  horns. No one traveled in the marked traffic lanes, often squishing 5 or more lanes of cars and motorcycles into a 3 lane road.  People  would  cross  streets, even  busy ones, just  holding  up  their  hand asking  the  traffic  to stop for  them .  Even though none of that has changed, some of my perceptions have. I now see how  everyone watches out for  everyone  else and tries their  best  to  not  hit anything or anyone. Yes, city traffic  is  usually  slow  moving, thank goodness, so reaction  times are  adequate, but we have seen  very few accidents and we are on the roads  quite  a  bit. In fact my natural  tendency  when crossing a multi lane road is to cross as quickly as possible   (run) but I   have  been  advised to  just  walk so the approaching  drivers can  more accurately  judge  where I am going and when  I  will be there. I admire the amount of cooperation required to travel the roads here. The drivers are constantly yielding the right of way to others. But they do use their horns a lot!

The weather: We arrived at a good time of the year weather wise. People  say  this  year  we really  haven't  had  a  winter, it's  been  so  mild. It can feel  cool  when there  is  90% humidity  and  it's  only  about  50 degrees  or so, but most days have warmed up to around  70—pretty comfortable. Some  people  we visit  don't  seem  to  have  any  space  heaters, as there is no need for anything more than that,  so we may feel a bit chilly and keep on our jacket, but that is the extent  of  it. But we are hoping that a warm winter doesn't mean a warmer summer since we've been told it can be 120 degrees by April—stay tuned.

The people: Indians are a pretty amazing group, and very helpful. Quite often in our adventure of finding yet another address of a member, our driver just pulls over to the side of the road and asks whomever is there.
There have been many a time when we even have the member on our phone and the person on the side of the road gets to talk to them and tell our driver exactly where to go since they are usually more familiar with the exact neighborhood. We appreciate their assistance and make sure to say, “Thanks!”

The people here don’t seem to complain—at least not in English! One missionary shared, just as he was completing his 2 years here, that what he admired most about the Indians was that they don’t need much to be happy—just food and clothing and shelter and family and they are happy. It does seem to be true. I see some carrying what seems to me as pretty heavy loads/burdens (both physically and spiritually), and they just do it. Pretty amazing!

Elder and I are getting spoiled, I’m afraid. For example, we ride the metro quite a bit.
There are seats along the sides, but most people end up standing in the middle. There are a few seats with signs over them: “For ladies,” or “For Senior Citizens or Differently Abled,” or a more general, “Give your seat to someone who needs it more than you.” Now if we are only going on a short ride, I don’t mind standing. But sometimes we’re on for 30-45 minutes (and if going from Dwarka to Noida it is a 75-minute ride) and a seat is really quite nice. Usually someone takes one look at me and offers me their seat—and often someone gives Elder one as well. Once in a while, there is a man who tells someone to give me/us their seat(s) and that’s ok too. We don’t really think of ourselves as “senior citizens” though I’ve heard the definition here is over 60, so I guess we are. But we do tell people that back home we aren’t considered old yet. However, life conditions are harder here and so people do age quicker I think.

We have now attended a couple more memorial services as well as an actual burial, though it was a Christian burial. It was interesting to watch the family cover the grave with flowers, lit candles and burning incense.
We have been the only non-family members at some of these but have always been treated with great respect, given seats to sit in and invited to speak at two of the three. In fact at one, we said our goodbyes and thank yous and tried to leave before the dinner, but to no avail. The family insisted we eat with them, and waited on us hand and foot while we did so. (The expired person was the father of a church member whom we home teach with the rest of the family attending  a variety of different churches.) After dinner, two college-aged young men who knew English (the entire service had been in Hindi) escorted us to the nearest Metro station, only a few blocks away, but since it was about 8:30 at night, we accepted their help gratefully. They chatted pleasantly with us and made sure we got to where we needed to be. In fact most of the people we go visit escort us to our auto or taxi and ask that we let them know when we arrive home. How kind! ( Here is a picture of one family we are working with whose son is a member but they are not yet.)

In closing I will relate one conversion story we were told just yesterday, an example of the kind of experiences these people are having. This story begins about 8 years ago when the man had just finished 12th Standard (12th grade) and decided he wanted to become a pastor like his uncle. However, when he approached his uncle for some references, he was told to wait one year first. He told us of seeing LDS missionaries around but not knowing who they were or why they were there. Then on his birthday (Aug 27), he met them at a bus stop and talked to them briefly. They gave him a Book of Mormon and invited him to read Alma 32 or 34. He went home and told his mom about them and she said that maybe the Lord had a plan for him. However, he threw the Book of Mormon on his bookshelf and ignored all of the missionaries’ phone calls. Then one day when he was home, the electricity went out and he was bored. He looked over at the book shelf and saw the Book of Mormon and picked it up. Now he had a habit of taking his Bible, thinking of a question and then opening it randomly to a page and reading for his answer. One question he had was why the missionaries said he had to get baptized again since he was already a baptized member of another Christian Church. So he picked up the Book of Mormon and randomly let it open. It opened to 3 Nephi so he turned to chapter 27 verse 8 (in honor of his birthday, the 27th of August) and started reading. It starts off by talking about the name of His church and then the need for all to repent and be baptized in His name and endure to the end. Well, this brother couldn’t believe how clearly it answered his question and more! He called the missionaries and set up an appointment to be taught. He was baptized before too long, followed by his siblings. A bit later even his parents joined the church.  He went on a mission, serving up here in New Delhi, then returned home in southern India, baptized his girlfriend and now they are married and expecting their first child. They recently moved into one of the branches we are supporting and he is a great help as Branch Executive Secretary. The Lord truly is preparing so many of the Indian people to accept the Gospel and its message. 

In short, we love being here! It is truly amazing!


  1. It is fun to hear your reactions to the culture as well as stories about those you are working with.

  2. Interesting conversion story! And it's interesting how our perspective changes with time and experience.

  3. Awesome! Thanks so much for sharing! I love reading about your experiences.

  4. Thanks Sister Allen, your newsy posts help us to wait patiently for our visa's to come through. The weeks are marching by and we are praying so hard that we make it there on schedule or before!. signed Sister Mickey Adams

  5. Your pictures are amazing to me. They look like they are from the National Geographic. I can't believe you are seeing and living this. What an experience! Thanks for your continued example. I'm glad the people take care of you.

  6. Sometimes I look around and tell myself, "Self, you are really in India. These people are Indians--they really do dress this way, eat this way, think this way, live their lives this way. This isn't all a dream." It really is amazing! But now for a little confession, the pictures I used for the metro are from the internet--I haven't taken any myself. And the picture of the crowded streets was also from online--it was better than any I took myself. However, these are the first pictures I haven't taken myself, and they are real to life! We are experiencing these scenes all the time! In fact, the metro is often so crowded we are packed in like sardines!

  7. So good to hear about your experiences, Judy! We love you both and are excited to follow your mission. Tren and Pete