passage to India

20140104-211913.jpg My colleague Jen Letherer and I left southern Michigan Thursday evening with 20 students on the heels of a snow storm and stepped off the plane in Mumbai about 20 hours later. We had changed planes in Paris where we had a 3-hour layover.

There was some confusion over a lost suitcase but customs and immigration were otherwise painless. A few students exchanged dollars into rupees and we walked out of the airport into a fenced plaza where the temperature was a humid 80 degrees. It was midnight and this is winter in Mumbai, which used to be called Bombay.

The thing you noticed beside the heat was the crush of people waiting for friends, relatives and associates. This explains the fence. It was hot and crowded and noisy. And this is India.

We stood just outside the plaza with our hosts, who had purchased tea for all of us—a hot, sweet, spicy tea with cream that appears ubiquitous. Several men insisted on carrying our luggage to the bus and then insisted we tip them. It was about 40 minutes to the YMCA hostel where we are staying for a week and by the time we got checked in it was almost four in the morning.

The accommodations are gracious and comfortable. My room is air-conditioned and I have a balcony. They serve complimentary tea in the morning to your room if you call the kitchen. I woke early to the sound of children playing in the street outside the hotel, as scooters and taxis roared by and horns blared. The whole day was a cacophony of noise. Did I mention the crush of people?

Crowded shops on and along the side walks lined our way as our bus blended into the throb of the city. The colors are rich and vibrant—the flowers and fruit and fabric join the assault on the senses. It makes you wish you had a better camera. Or at least a better memory.

We visited two colleges today, one a women’s only school run by nuns from the Society of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and another city college named after and founded 180 years ago by Scottish missionary John Wilson.

Although Wilson College has long since ceased to function as a Christian university, we met in the chapel with Christian students who sang loudly and passionately about their love for Jesus in a building built in 1935 for that purpose. Tonight, as I write this, I’m listening to an Imam in the neighborhood call faithful Muslims to prayer.

The majority of people here are Hindu, however, and the Hindi greeting you hear everywhere is namasthae– “I bow to the god in you.” I heard it echoed in the comments of the teacher who let us sit in on her class at the women’s college. Our guests are as gods to us, she said.

I was sorry to hear it.

This is serious and seductive, and accounts for the attraction of Eastern mysticism to many privileged Westerners. But there is no god in us, of course. God is over and above and outside of us.

I’m glad for that.


3 thoughts on “passage to India”

  1. Blessings on your trip to India, Dr. Metts.

    I understand your sorrow about the Indian belief that their Hindu gods reside in people, including non-Hindu guests. However I’m wondering about your statement: “But there is no god in us, of course.” While it’s true that “God is over and above and outside of us,” the Bible states that 2 persons of our triune God–Jesus and the Holy Spirit–are also IN believers. . . Below are several of the many verses that indicate this . . . I’ve capitalized the specific “inner” references:

    JOHN 15:4-5
    “Remain in me, as I ALSO REMAIN IN YOU. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me AND I IN YOU, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. ”

    Acts 2:4
    “All of them were FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit enabled them.”

    Acts 9:17
    “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, “Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again AND BE FILLED WITH THE HOLY SPIRIT.”

    1 Corinthians 6:19
    “Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, WHO IS IN YOU, whom you have received from God?”

    I’m no Bible scholar; perhaps these verses are symbolic/metaphorical. . . but I see no contextual reason not to take them literally. I may not be able to grasp how the infinite God can be in/around/above us, but I am glad He is truly “Emmanuel–God with us” in every possible way. False gods–Hindu deities & others–certainly are not.

    Traveling mercies to you & the group!


    1. Thanks, Linda. I understand the sense in which these texts refer to the spirit’s work in us. This is not, however, the sense in which they mean it. It is a hugely and important thing for us to respect our guest because he is made in the image of God but
      NOT to respect him because he is a god or is potentially a god. Thanks for making your important point/reminder that He is God with us.

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