This is one notion pleasantly came to life, after I started living out of India. Since childhood we were taught, ‘Those who come and stand with you in times of trouble if not more, but are not any less than God’. Never realized that this teaching would come alive when I was not in familiar territory.
In South Africa, one is warned not to talk to strangers especially for directions, which was so unlike India. In India, if free, one might even drop you to the address you are enquiring about, but in South Africa asking for directions is a big no-no.
We were at St. Lucia and our car broke down at a place where the boards around us said drive carefully – Hippos on stroll, another board said Crocodiles around, be-ware! And then we saw a Springbok (the south African national animal, similar to our Indian Deer), just jump across the street. As the evening approached the noises came to life, those noises were not the ones that made us feel comfortable.
Animals on one hand and stories that we had heard of being mugged, kidnapped, hijacked or even raped, on the other made me, my husband and another couple, nervous and scared to the little finger on our feet. Asking for help was a big Noo!!! We didn’t know what to do; we had cars passing-by, but by the time we could come to an agreement to ask for help they would drive away.
After a long waiting period suddenly we had Lord Krishna who appeared in a flash – oops, Lord Krishna was white in color, wearing crocs, khaki shorts and a ranger T-shirt! He helped us in every way HELP could be spelt or uttered. But he was white – how and why would a white man help us, we were not even white??? I still remember him and have his name in my prayers.
I knew God as being black, blue, bearded, with multiple hands, but after the above experience God was now also white, and he helped Indians too! Partition had its effects on my Sikh family, having lost our land, our dear ones in the Sikh-Muslim riots, we did have its spillover effects on our upbringing. “Try to not get too involved with that community, don’t eat at their houses” and other notions were expressed to us throughout our existence in India. And of course Gods were completely different, so we weren’t even allowed to go to Muslim houses much.
Life however had a new lesson to teach us. I delivered a pre-term baby who was in the care unit. Neither of our families could make it to help me after having got the baby home. Visa become a swear word at that time and I was sitting with the worst post-delivery blues, and was suicidal in nature. My only hope was calling mom and howling over the phone. Just randomly I had visitors; a good friend, her mother and sister came to visit us. They saw my condition, took my baby and asked my husband to pack our bags and took us to their residence!
They allowed us to share their space; we rented out their out-house and they taught me how to take care of a child. Oh, I did forget to mention, they were Muslims. Yes God came in a Burkha this time. Since then my approach towards skin colour or religion has got refined. When you are in need and you are helped, it’s God or nature who is there for you. And to our pleasant surprise it may be a he or she, with any colour of the skin, wearing some attire or shape or form.
We as Asians or moreover as human beings have to broaden our learning or conditioning on color, race, religion, gender and form. We do crack jokes which include all – from Sardar, Marwadi, Jew, black or white and our platter is broad on that account, similarly when it comes to helping and being helped I have broadened my platter too.
God came to me in different colors to help me and somewhere convinced me that I too had to carry on this gesture of helping without looking out at the color, shape, form or religion of the person who was in need. Yes, God came to me as a human in all colors to restore my faith in humanity!