I’m here in Chennai again, 6 weeks after the last trip I made to Chennai when the Foreigner Registration officer handed me three “Leave India” notices, one each for Morgan, Abbi, and me. Nothing is concluded.
Today, if I am not given a stay order in the Madras High court, I will be deported. It feels like deja vu; I have been here at this juncture two other times this last month, and always at the 11th hour a miracle happened, saving me from deportation. Will it happen again? Not only is this my last day, but the hearing is way down on the court list of cases to be heard. Will time just run out without the judge hearing our case?
An urgent call came from our advocate at 3 pm yesterday, reaching me in my living room at home in Ooty; “Take the night bus to Chennai and be in my office in the morning.” Fortunately, India has sleeper buses with bunk beds, curtains, and air conditioning, so I caught a few hours of sleep as I headed down the mountain for the 12-hour journey to Chennai. I arrived early in the city and took a taxi to the office.
The taxi driver was young, inexperienced and new to Chennai. As we threaded our way through narrow streets, I realized quickly that he had a greater command over the English language than most drivers. “Don’t worry Madam, you will reach your destination safe and sound. After all, if any car were to touch us, we would be both physically and mentally and emotionally damaged.” The tension of our impending court hearing eased a fraction and I couldn’t suppress a smile. Extending further comfort he said, “Don’t worry Madam. Charles Darwin, ‘Survival of the fittest,'” and promptly floored the accelerator.
As the conversation rollicked on unchecked and unstoppable over several random subjects, it suddenly plunged to a new depth. He explained that he had quit his IT profession because he ‘didn’t like the Western values and culture in the work environment.’ I secretly wondered if the values of timeliness and attention to detail were the ones he spurned, but listened intently. “Madam, I am here in Chennai doing this only (taxi driving) because I am searching the questions of life. Where do we go after we die? Why do we age?”
We talked about our spirit, Jesus, grace, the law. “Oh, yes, Jesus taught many good things. I just need to discipline myself to His teachings and give application to what I read, but actually I am a human (vs. a Christian), and I believe all roads lead to God. There are many different ways.”
As we wound on and on through the city on roads he had clearly never traveled he asked for directions repeatedly. In fact, I have never met a driver so averse to following the GPS that was so clearly pointing the way on his cell phone. He seemed utterly determined to find a different way. I began to wonder if he believed that all roads lead to the same address. As the lanes successively narrowed to just the car’s width, we jostled for pre-eminence with ox carts, stray dogs, and throngs of people. The conversation rose to the brink of hilarity when I heard him mutter, “She trusts the GPS, so much trust in a GPS.”
While the ride to the office was trivial in light of the weighty matters at hand, the experience was so absurd, amusing, and poetic that I felt it captured some of India's very essence. The driver encapsulated all the eager enthusiasm, spiritual yearning, vibrant optimism, lawless idealism, and determination that make this country so appealing to those of us drawn to this wonderfully spontaneous, somewhat chaotic spot on the globe. I love this land, and I do not want to leave.
We made it to the office where the conference table was a sea of papers neatly bound and wrapped, evidence waiting to be aired. The tone of our senior and junior advocates was subdued. The judges who seemed so favorable ten days ago were now postponing the case. My hopes that this case would be concluded today faded as the advocates rushed off to court.
A couple of hours later, they all trooped in looking weary, but a little more hopeful. The judges have given me another stay of 5 days and will be reading all the case materials over the weekend to hear the case at 2:15 on Monday afternoon. A definite time, a definite date. I will wait in Chennai until a final conclusion of this case.