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.
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.
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.
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!