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Batten Down The Hatches

None of us knows what might happen even the next minute, yet still we go forward. Because we trust. Because we have Faith. Paulo Coelho, Brida

Today as I look out over the mountains, thunder rolls in the distance, promising rain. I have been silent but not still these weeks since last I wrote.  I’ve been using every spare moment granted to me here in India to “batten down the hatches” and to prepare for an unknown future. I want to be poised and ready for anything, not just what for my mind can conceive, but for all the things I cannot fathom.

I lived on a ship until I was ten years old and storms at sea were a frequent occurrence. I remember the frenzy of the crew before the impending tempests. Men raced around frantically closing up the holds, tying huge ropes thick as a man’s bicep over the hatches, cinching them tight, closing up porthole windows, locking down huge iron doors. Everything had to be made fast. Any loose object would be swept away in the fierce wind and be lost on the vast and limitless ocean.

The worst storm of my short life was a journey through the Bay of Biscay, when forty to sixty-foot waves threatened to swamp the Logos.  The ship’s captain kept the bow pointed straight into the waves.  He had to abandon the planned route and steer a new course so that we would not capsize.  We children were the few who weren’t sea-sick; most of the adults, on the other hand, were violently ill. People lay in the cafeteria, tying themselves to tables to keep from rolling over the floor with the heaving waves.

Unfettered by school, adults, and illness, we had a grand time in our socks skating the highly polished waxed floors of the corridors as the ship pitched and tossed over the ocean.  We exulted in our freedom, never guessing we were a hairsbreadth from a watery grave.  The ride was wild, and we loved it.  I can’t remember what we ate, or how we foraged for ourselves in that week where the ship became as silent as a ghost town. I do remember the moment the grey skies cleared, the sea calmed and we arrived at a completely new, unplanned sea-port where the damaged ship was overhauled and the passengers and crew could recover.

The judges protected me well these last weeks as the case dragged on.  Instead of week-to-week reprieves, they gave me longer stretches of time, as the trial date was changed over and over again due to technicalities.  Last week the case was finally heard for the final time in the High Court of Madras.  The trial lasted three days, our lawyers arguing most of the time and the prosecution arguing for just 45 minutes. I guess they didn’t have much to say.  Our lawyers pressed the advantage and pursued a line of argument that focused on religious freedom; our rights as Overseas Citizens of India to practice and propagate our religion freely.

There have been so many stops and goes, so many postponed dates, cancellations, ill judges, and holidays that I stopped orienting my life around this case about a month ago. I found I couldn’t live long on the edge of the precipice, just hanging.  I had to take action.

I am re-purposing and re-designing our family home into something new as our children leave for college.  In the flurry of these two months of reprieve from the judges, I hope to complete a second garage apartment and that, in addition to our main home, will now become a guesthouse.  Locking and leaving an empty home in India is simply not an option. I want our place to breathe, have life, give blessing, and bring an income. Organizing the future care and management of our place is the challenge for the next weeks.  It's good to get our lives in order as we hold course through this tempest and look forward to see where we will land.

So much is still unknown and uncharted,  and although the trial was heard last week, there is still no final judgment!  The month of May is court recess in India and all the judges are on holiday.  There will be no final pronouncement until mid-June when courts are back in session and the judge has time to write the expected lengthy judgment.  Since the stakes are so high and the matter is “weighty,” with far-reaching implications for not just my family but for all OCI (Overseas of India) holders, this simply won’t be rushed. This is a wild ride, and while I can’t say I feel the exhilaration of my youth on the high seas, I yearn for the courage to trust the captain so implicitly that I can walk through these days with a measure of abandon and joy.


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