Chapter Six, Section I
After nearly four years of exhaustive litigation to get this far, there were now insufficient funds in hand to appeal before the High Court in Nagpur where James and Lawyer Lobestrom believed justice could be achieved. James was too weary to be worried further about the case. He just wanted to get it over with, serve the time in prison and have the assurance that, within a year, he and Janice would be able to leave on a much-needed furlough.
However, James' Indian colleagues thought differently; they wanted to appeal. We agonized in prayer over this issue and finally decided that to further the litigation, could well mean several more years of legal wrangling and that was more than James was prepared to face. Besides, there were insufficient funds to appeal before the Nagpur High Court and it would be useless appealing before the Sessions Court in Aranchalganj where the whole body of the District Administration seemed to be under the domination of two extreme right-wing Hindu parties -The Arya Samaj and the Rashtriya Sewa Sangh.
Through bitter tears, Prabhu Das pleaded with James to appeal. "Please, Sahib, please go higher." he implored. "They will beat us; Sahib, they will beat us severely." We all knew that corporal punishment was a regular part of hard labour and our hearts ached for Prabhu Das, but what to do? We also had James in mind in this regard for he had a bad heart condition. But taking all factors into account, there was just no way that the case could be prolonged. Not only were funds exhausted, so too, was James' patience.
Following the judgment and within a week of Krishnadeo's return from Aranchalganj Lower Court, all hell broke loose. This upstart of a border constable became more pretentious with rumours spreading that even some of his colleagues were offended by his blatant arrogance. "Why, I'm more powerful than Delhi itself," was one of the boastful claims attributed to Krishnadeo, via the village "grapevine". Another was, "We've got Russell, now we'll get Skillicorn."
I knew that it was only a matter of time before I too, would become entangled in their vicious net. What made me really scared was that the latter rumour was being circulated also in Bundi, on the Palamghat, Bihar side of the border where I was serving. Hitherto, the opposition had been confined to Surgapam District of Madhya Pradesh.
Much prayer was offered for James and his three Indian co-workers and oh, what rich times of fellowship were enjoyed in those critical days. There is so much misunderstanding about prayer. And, of course, it is completely impossible, in our hedonistic society, to know, in any way, what it is all about. Even within the church, where introverted attitudes prevail, where there is no real caring ministry or where that ministry is exclusively confined to the activities of the "Minister", prayer may have little efficacy.
In some groups, where spoken prayer is the prerogative of the male members, such an exercise, intended to bind each other to Christ, sometimes turns out to be a barrier to still further inhibit the liberation of women in the most wholesome sense. Prayer, in its richest form, may even be unspoken as when each participant, clasping the hand of the other, or in loving embrace, pours out the human spirit to be fused with the very Spirit of Christ who envelopes the whole assembly. Such a Prayer Meeting can never be described in words; it only can be experienced.
Within ten days, our four
accused brothers had to complete all necessary arrangements prior to being
taken to prison. For those within the fellowship of Christ's
It is in such a relationship of sharing Christ's heartache, through empathising on the human level, that the real dynamism of faith can be appropriated. And so it was that the brethren and sisters rallied to the support of James, Prabhu Das, Budhu and Saheba. One brother offered to plough Prabhu Das's fields. Another offered to keep the affected wives supplied with firewood. Still another brother suggested that the animals of all his convicted friends could be included in his herd for grazing. The locals never before had known such willing co-operation so freely offered in time of need. This was Christ in action!
It was during those ten days, following conviction, that a most tragic thing happened - tragic in one way and yet, when viewed from the perspective of the Cross, it was nothing less than a Triumph of Grace. Pride had gone to Krishnadeo's head so he took his lathi to Jatibhai who had dared to testify in James' favour. Blow upon blow fell heavily on the body of this dear brother in Christ who had known for some months that he might have to suffer for his faith. He had been warned three times over a period of several months that he would be killed if he did not dissociate himself from the foreign missionaries. But Jatibhai had been won by the love of Jesus Christ and had no choice other than to steadfastly set his face towards his "Jerusalem".
The savage beating continued until Jatibhai was forced to the ground, but not once did he or his fellow Christians at Karchand retaliate. What thrilled me about this whole episode was that Jatibhai's local church manifested no real bitterness or resentment. It was a glorious "Lifting Up of Christ", when our Lord, through Jatibhai, could re-enact his own initial Calvary ministry. Jatibhai's condition was so critical that the church dispatched him on a "doli" to the mission base clinic at Karanja. When Janice lifted the blanket draped over this small string bed that had been carried by two frightened men, she found a bloodstained sheet covering the one who, in death, was to show forth Life.
Because the injuries were criminally inflicted, Janice, by law, was not permitted to render medical help. Besides, there seemed to be nothing she could do, for Jatibhai was too far-gone and this looked like being a case of murder. Wisely, Janice directed that our near-dead brother be taken to the Government Hospital at Ramanupuri but, as was to be expected, Jatibhai was beyond physical help. The young church at Karchand, of which Prabhu Das was the pastor, had gained its first martyr. The words of Thomas Kelly could well be applied to this loving, simple Aboriginal Christian - "Saint Jatibhai" :-
To them the Cross with all its shame,
With all its grace is given;
Their name, an everlasting name,
Their Joy, the Joy of Heaven.
They suffer with their Lord below,
They reign with Him above,
Their profit and their joy to know,
The mystery of His love.
The Cross he bore is Life and Health,
Though shame and death to Him,
His people's Hope,
His people's Wealth,
Their everlasting theme.
Chapter Six, Section II
The road between Bhavnagar and Karanja was serving us well. It was now possible to travel the twenty-two miles between our two Mission stations in under two hours, even with a fully loaded vehicle. We gave it an appropriate name - "The Mahima Rasta" or "The Glory Road". The Mission Home Board had allocated three hundred rupees (about thirty dollars) per year in the budget for the maintenance of this road through manual labour.
At Mudkima, mid-way between Bundi and Karchand, there were several large boulders, some almost as large as the Jeep, which protruded above the surface of the road. Each year, at considerable cost, these rocks had to be covered with earth to prevent them fouling on the Jeep's transmission. With the coming of the monsoon rains, the earth would be washed away, once again exposing these road hazards. To obviate this expense, I thought of burying the rocks, which were too large to move otherwise. Out of a team of nearly one hundred men we had engaged at the time to do road repairs, about twenty were put to work undermining the huge boulders, allowing them to gradually sink below ground level.
It was while Ruth and I were overseeing this work that the seeds of my own court-case were sown. Our motor-cycle trip to Mudkima to organize the road workers was chosen by our opponents to make it appear that I was inciting a gang of one hundred men to riot. Fabricated reports to this effect were sent to the Sub-Inspector of Police at Bhavnagar who, several days later, called at our bungalow to arrest me.
"For what reason?" I asked the Daroga (Sub-Inspector of Police).
"On a certain date, you incited violence against Shri Kalinath Mehta, threatening to kill him with a gun!" was the staggering reply made by Daroga Faridamiya.
"Why, that is ridiculous," said Ruth. "The day my husband went to Surgapam on the motor-cycle, I was with him all the time, so if you arrest him you must also arrest me." Daroga Faridamiya was caught unawares - completely dumbfounded but finally, blurted out in English, "I cannot arrest you because I don't have a lady policeman!" Then turning to me, he impatiently beckoned, "Now Skillicorn Sahib, you will please accompany me to the Thana (police station)."
In the dilapidated old police station, a lengthy hand-written document was placed before me and I was asked to sign it. The Daroga was rather surprised when I said that I must first read it and it was just as well that I did. To my amazement, I was being charged under Section 145 of the Indian Penal Code, with - "Causing Apprehension of Breach of Peace".
"This is completely ludicrous," I said. "How can I, as an ambassador of the Prince of Peace, be responsible for causing apprehension of breach of peace?" It took some time for the Daroga to answer that strange question, but he finally did.
"Of course, it is not a serious charge. You will only be bound over, under a bond of two thousand rupees, to refrain from any further threats of violence during the following twelve months. Now you will please sign here," he said, anxiously pointing to the dotted line marked with a "X".
"And what if I don't sign?" I replied - a question that few ever would have dared to ask of such an arrogant, all-powerful police officer.
"Oh, but you will HAVE to sign, " insisted Faridamiya, " because all the papers have already been filled in and this has been established as a prima facie case. Of course, you will realize that this is only just a formality. You are not to be fined, nor will you be placed in custody. "
"But if I sign this document as it is worded," I strongly protested, "the implication is that I actually DID cause apprehension of breach of peace. There is no way that I will sign this paper."
My reply was not what the Daroga had expected and almost two minutes elapsed before he pointed out that I had an obligation to those involved with me - about fourteen Uraon men of the Bundi area, both Christians and Animists. It appeared that these were the "rioters" I was alleged to have incited to threaten Kalinath Mehta, a trader of Bundi Bazaar whom the locals believed was deeply involved in the rice smuggling business. I realized that my refusal to sign could well mean that these poor, innocent farmers would be inconvenienced by having to walk forty- five miles to court and forty-five miles home again, every ten days. I felt that I should first talk the matter over with my "accomplices".
Next day, after cycling to Bundi, I conferred with the villagers involved in the case and the unanimous decision of the group was that I should not sign the police document. I pointed out to them the inconveniences they would have to suffer if I decided not to sign the bond to keep the peace. "Never mind," they said, "For the cause of justice, we are prepared to suffer, however great it be."
One day was spent on that visit to Bundi; nine days remained for me finally to decide and that decision would have to be filed before the Magistrate at Mandya, sub-Divisional Headquarters town of our part of Bihar. Time was running out. Talking the matter over with Ruth and my Indian & British colleagues, it was thought advisable to inform the Australian High Commission in New Delhi.
While visiting the Capital, it was considered wise also to confer with the Union Minister of Health, the late Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, with whom James had been in constant communication since the inception of his case. This gracious Christian lady, senior Cabinet Minister, close colleague of the then Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru and former disciple / secretary of Mahatma Gandhi, was most sympathetic towards us. The consensus of opinion within our fellowship was that mainly, I should be guided by the wisdom of Rajkumariji. The advice she gave me, when I visited the Secretariat in New Delhi, was to have profound repercussions in my future ministry.
Rajkumari Amrit Kaur was born in 1889 into a princely family in Kapurthala, North India. She was educated in England at the Sherboume School for girls and later at Oxford, London and in France.
At Sherbourne she became Head Prefect, a coveted position in school life. She developed a great love for sport and captained her hockey eleven and tennis teams. She played tennis at Wimbledon and, with her brothers, shared Lahore & Simla tennis honours for years. Rajkumari's other loves were music and flowers, symbolical of the grace she manifested in her personality - a winsomeness that attracted me to the very heart of India.
As she once wrote, "My ear was early tuned to Western music" and, as a talented pianist, she was able to blend the beauty of the Great Western Masters like Chopin, Mozart and Beethoven with their Indian counterparts such as Rabindranath Tagore. But her "principle love", as Mr.. Nehru once said, has been the Women's Movement and it was in this regard, that I held Rajkumariji in very high esteem. She was the spirit behind obtaining for the All-lndia Women's Conference, consultative status on the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations.
As a devout Christian, Rajkumari's faith was broad and universal enough to accept Mahatma Gandhi's teachings. The humble, the suffering, the refugees and other needy people flocked to her home. Tired after a long day's work, she did not drive them away. As with India's great Mahatma, people could visit her freely whenever they pleased and it was because of her gracious availability that I was able to meet this high Central Government Cabinet Minister. I was led to her for counsel and learned that years before, many of the leaders of India's National Movement, including Jawaharlal Nehru himself, were attracted to her for the same reason.
Her family residence in Simla was the meeting place of the great leaders like Mahatma Gandhi, Gokhale, Malaviya and Motilal Nehru who influenced her very much. Mahatma Gandhi recognized in her a genuine spirit and took a personal, fatherly interest in her. For sixteen years she worked as one of the "Bapu's" secretaries and dedicated her life to freeing India from foreign rule, in a non-violent way, in the spirit of Jesus Christ as reflected in the life of Mahatma Gandhi.
In 1942, the British Occupation Forces near Ambala imprisoned this gentle lady. It was while she was under arrest, in strict detention in Simla that her health broke down. I felt that Rajkumariji was the best person to advise me in relation to my own impending imprisonment.
How privileged I felt when her secretary granted me an interview of indefinite duration. As I waited outside her busy chambers, I recalled her outstanding contribution to world peace and development. She participated in many international conferences as India's delegate. In 1945, she went to London with the Indian Delegation to the UNESCO and again in 1946, as Deputy Leader, to the Paris Session. In 1948-9, she led the Indian Delegation to the World Health Organization. In 1950, she again represented India before the WHO Assembly. Finally as a fitting tribute, she was elected as President of the World Health Organization.
I shall never forget the elation I experienced when I was ushered into the presence of this lovely person. She was seated behind a massive, highly polished table of the richest Kashmiri Walnut, festooned with about half a dozen telephones. In spite of the dignity of her office, she put me completely at ease by rising to greet me and leading me to a more private corner of her chambers where she ordered tea to be served. Having earlier received my full report on the case, which obviously she had studied in depth, she came quickly to the point. "We (Congress Leaders) had to suffer imprisonment for India's political freedom; you must suffer imprisonment for India's moral and spiritual freedom! "
She made it quite clear that it would serve no real purpose to persuade the Cabinet to order my acquittal. "It would be far better," she said, "to follow the example of Christ and the Mahatma in suffering injustice gladly and in full identification with those you seek to help." She had a very real understanding of just what the Cross of Christ is all about and so was able to strongly advise me to suffer its ignominies by not signing the document before the Magistrate.
"Endure the consequences lovingly, kindly and without resentment," she continued. "Just as Jesus would." She wished me God's Blessing and assured me of her deep interest and constant prayers. When I finally did go to prison, Rajkumari's letter of welcome, enclosed in an official Government-embossed envelope, was awaiting me, much to the embarrassment of the jail authorities responsible for censoring all incoming mail to inmates!
There was one more contact to make in New Delhi -The Australian High Commissioner. It was the Second Secretary with whom I was granted an interview. The High Commissioner himself was out of the Capital but had familiarized himself with the correspondence on the case and had instructed the Secretary to advise me accordingly.
"By engaging a competent lawyer, certain legal procedure could be adopted whereby two cases could be made out of one," I was advised. This would mean separating myself from my fourteen "accomplices" who would be tried at Mandya. My case would then be transferred to a more conveniently situated court, possibly at Raxaul, with easy access by air travel for the lawyer who would represent the High Commissioner on my behalf.
Although the advice and kind offer of the High Commissioner was appreciated, it was also unacceptable. Nevertheless, this contact with Australia's highest representative in India had favourable repercussions because, years later, the Australian Government took serious and encouraging cognisance of the work we had done for the people we had come to love and serve.
The idea of making two cases out of one could never have been further from my mind than when I thought of my fellow-accused, all desperately poor, agreeing to walk a total of ninety miles every ten days to appear before the Mandya Magistrate. To accept the recommendation of the High Commissioner would have meant deserting my friends and denying my calling to the Christian Ministry. I left New Delhi with my mind firmly made up - I would go to prison. I thanked God for leading me to Rajkumari Amrit Kaur who, with Shantibe Dube, served to turn me into an Indian at heart and even to this day, that gut feeling still remains. Occasionally, I still dream in Hindi and think from an Indian perspective. At one stage, Ruth and I had seriously considered applying for Indian citizenship but problems relating to our children and their education helped us to reach a more pragmatic decision.
The day to report finally arrived and I set off in the Jeep with Lionel and two of the older men who would find it most difficult to walk the ninety odd miles to and from Mandya. Rumours had it that the prison had no beds and that all the blankets were infested with bed bugs. Also, via the "grape-vine" I heard that, being a foreigner, I was entitled to take my own camp-stretcher, blankets, pillow and mosquito net. At that time of the year, in the interior parts of India, the nights are bitterly cold with frosts some mornings, which made me wonder if I really had the fortitude to face an indefinite period behind bars, with no doors or windows to keep out the cold breezes.
Before appearing at the Court, at 10 am, I knocked on the huge, heavy wooden gate of the Mandya Prison and asked if I may meet the Jailer Sahib. "I have decided to request hospitality," I said, "and would be grateful if you would kindly allow me to leave my bedding and other gear with you while I visit the Magistrate."
"1 am sorry to inform you," he said, in a very polite manner, "that this jail does not have facilities for foreign prisoners. I suggest that you appeal to the Magistrate to have your case transferred to Raxaul in North Bihar, near the Nepal border. There you will get a bed, floor-mat, table, chair and also a small weekly ration of beer, tobacco, meat and milk." I also heard from another source that, because I would be a foreign remand prisoner, I could also apply for other luxuries such as boiled water, toilet paper, soap, library and longer visiting hours.
However, to accept such a transfer would mean that my fourteen "partners in violence" would have to leave their families and farms and travel hundreds of miles to sojourn in a "far-off-land" for the duration of the case, which could be years. Little did I know at the time that it was to be nearly three years before I finally would be acquitted. "Where would my friends live in Raxaul?" was one of the major questions that plagued my mind. It would cost us a fortune to accommodate them in even the cheapest "hotel" while they were on bail and regularly appearing before the Court. Besides, their farms would suffer irreparable damage during their absence and their families, particularly the female members, without a male supporter, would be at risk due to bandits in the area.
Weighing up all these contingencies, I gave my reply, "Well, Jailer Sahib, that settles it; I will stay here."
"Oh, no, you can't stay here," he replied. "You would not survive here; you must go to Raxaul. I insist.”
"If I were alone in this case," I explained, "I would accept your kind advice, but this litigation involves me with fourteen others and we all must stay together." The clanging Court gong, signalling the opening of the Magistrate's Chambers, could be heard in the distance so I asked to be excused and left the Jailer’s office, depositing my camp-stretcher, bedding, toiletry gear, change of clothes, light reading material such as "Reader's Digests," National Geographic Magazines and a variety of translations of the Bible.
Little did I realize at the time that the Jailer would not be permitted to allow me any of these facilities without very special permission from the Governor of the jail!
Through my lawyer, the Magistrate asked me to sign the necessary document promising to keep the peace. Through my lawyer, I informed the Magistrate that I was not in a position to do so. The dignified legal gentleman behind the high bench looked aghast and leaned over to question my lawyer, Shri Dharmpal Pande. "Yes, it is true, Your Honour," replied Pandeji. "Also, he does not appeal for transfer to Raxaul."
The proceedings were over in a matter of minutes. I had not spoken one word to the Magistrate and during the years to follow, for the full duration of the case, no verbal communication whatsoever passed between the Court and myself, nor did the Magistrate and I ever have eye-to-eye contact!
It was very obvious that many of the officials, some known to me personally, were deeply embarrassed by my presence, knowing the case to be a complete fabrication. But rules were rules and court procedures required my imprisonment for failing to comply. I said "Good-bye" to Lionel and requested him to telegraph to my folks in Australia, the following message, --
"Keith enjoying free hospitality indefinitely"!
I was most grateful for what Lionel did after seeing me confined. He met with the Superintendent of the jail and requested that at least I should be allowed boiled drinking water. Westerners who come from areas where the municipal water supply is of high quality are very prone to intestinal infections if they drink from a contaminated source such as an open well and it was from such a well that we had to drink in the jail. The Superintendent went the second mile and also approved food being taken to me from outside to supplement the jail ration. How grateful I was for that because, at times, the jail food contained maggots!.
But on Lionel's own confession, which revolted him most about imprisonment, was not having access to toilet paper. I could never thank him enough for securing a special permit for me to receive the needful rolls.
You may be wondering just how these extra amenities were to be supplied. Would my wife have to leave Bhavnagar and all the needs of a busy mission station and come to Mandya to live for an indefinite period? That would be a huge problem because there were no hotels in the town and rented quarters were extremely hard to acquire.
Besides, we had a young baby, Bruce, also Paul, and Robert was home with us on Christmas vacation from his Himalayan boarding school. Such a scheme would virtually be impossible. We had no friends or contacts of any sort in the town, which also had no Christian connections on which we could rely. What to do? What would Dr. Rambler do? Well, this is where faith takes over and where we experienced another miracle. Only two days before I went to jail, "Moussie" Dube's younger widowed sister, Premi, a government nurse, was transferred to Mandya Hospital to become the first Christian in the town and the medium whereby the Lord would take care of his servant behind bars.
Every day and sometimes twice a day, Premi would visit me, travelling the one mile distance in a rickshaw with her precious "surahi" of boiled water and various items of food, deliciously prepared with her own hands - eggs, meat, fish, cookies, fresh fruit, also writing materials and toiletry needs including - toilet paper! When my health, if not my very life, depended so much on Premi's regular visits, it is no wonder that Ruth and I developed such a close relationship with the Dube family which became our family and our family, theirs.
The Dube family became our family and our family, theirs. .
Left to right: -
1. "Moussie" on crutches to whom this publication is dedicated.
2. Premchand (at rear) husband of Pamela (2nd from right) whom we adopted
3. Premi (nurse) centre with dark jacket. She is the one who fed me in jail. She is sister of "Moussie." Two small girls in front are Pamela's daughters who we also adopted after Premchand died.
4. Pamela (with glasses) our adopted Indian daughter has M.A. and B. Ed Degrees and is a Senior High School teacher.
5. On far right is Lata, Pamela's domestic helper.
Many times I asked myself how ever I could repay Premi for what she had done for me, but always, the same answer came back; there was just no way that I could even hope to reimburse her for such sacrificial, loving concern.
Little did I realize at the time that, nearly thirty years later, after Premi and her son, Premchand, both had died, we were to have the opportunity to express appreciation for all that this dear sister in Christ had done to keep me sane and in good health. The loss of Premi, due to painful cancer, was a blow that hit me very hard. It was just before "Moussie" herself died, in 1986, after a prolonged illness, that she sent us a desperate letter of appeal, pleading for our help.
"Moussie" knew that, being a widow in India
is no picnic, and with her nephew - my very close friend Premchand - now gone,
who would care for his high-school teacher widow, Pamela, and her four
children, Putul, Honey, Bablu and Moon? The privilege became ours to fulfil
Moussie's dying request and through a "Service of Commitment", under
It was at this time, while we were trying to overcome the shock of losing our Indian sister "Moussie", that our son, Robert, also died, of a severe attack of Asthma, at only 39 years of age. This left us utterly devastated. Our newly acquired Indian family of five helped to fill the huge vacuum that this series of deaths had created in our hearts. In many respects, my experience in jail helped to give me Strength to face those future years of grief.
My cell was as plain as an animal cage at the zoo. There was no furniture whatsoever and the toilet was just a hole in the concrete floor. Excreta dropped through to a gutter below, which was meant to be flushed daily, but never was. This resulted in the proliferation of cockroaches of enormous proportion. After 5 p.m., an "orderly prisoner" was deputized to bring me my camp stretcher and bedding from the Jailer Sahib's office. At first, I considered myself a snob with such luxury, which included a “private cell”, and, in a sort of a way, I longed to identify with my fellow inmates with their simple mats and one issue blanket.
However, my spirit of self-sacrifice waned when I saw how they suffered due to bites from bed- bugs, fleas and other creeping, crawling things that infested their bedding. Being in a cell all by myself, gave me a taste of how terrible it must be to suffer solitary confinement. Fortunately, there were times each day when we were allowed out into the exercise yard and through those precious "outings", I recalled with the song-writer that the "Luckiest People in the World are Those who Need People."
My first night behind bars was a sleepless, shivering experience, one of the worst nights I ever have spent in all my life. I had to lay magazines on the stretcher to insulate myself from the cold draughts that rolled over the concrete floor. Later, as I accumulated newspapers and letters, this paper, interlayered between the blankets, served to further keep out the cold.
While the Jailer Sahib was a real gentleman whom I came to deeply respect, one of the guards, however, was an extremely officious character who deliberately wanted to rub me up the wrong way. He seemed also to have a sadistic streak in his nature. His delight was to keep me awake, knowing that the easiest way to make a man's mind snap is not to apply the lash or other forms of corporal punishment, but simply to deny the victim sleep.
This he did systematically and according to a strict time schedule. Every fifteen minutes he arrived at my cell gate after circumnavigating the block. For every moment of that time, his heavy metal- heeled boots could be heard as he plodded his way from cell to cell. Arriving at my cell, he would test the gate and its sliding bolt, rattling the bars and padlock so violently that I thought I would go crazy. I prayed to God to give me sleep, but no sleep came. Then he would shine his torch in my eyes to see if I was awake. Frankly, there were many occasions when, so easily, I could have ejected a fusillade of vitriolic curses at this particular guard, but realized that such an outburst would qualify me for more than a slap on the wrist and anyway, what would Dr. Rambler do in such a situation?
"God help me to control myself. Help me not to lose my temper and verbally abuse this monster." Perhaps it was in answer to my prayer that the Lord put into my mind the desire to pray positively for this guard. "What would Jesus do if he were in my position?" was the question I repeatedly asked myself. "For sure, he would oppose every negative attitude with a positive expression of love and forgiveness." And that's what I prayed for during every following fifteen-minute circuit. "God give me love and a spirit of forgiveness," was the prayer I really had to work at.
It is not easy to pray positively for one who would destroy you. But prayer works miracles and I can assure you that the Holy Spirit does help us achieve what humanly is impossible, developing also, a firm belief in the Resurrection. When our spirits are weak, His Spirit will bear testimony, but there is a condition - "provided we suffer with him. " (Romans 8: 16-17). As I prayed, the Lord called to mind such passages as 2 Cor. 5:19, - "God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, not holding men's misdeeds against them."(N.E.B.). So I specifically asked God to give me the ability to see some good in the guard who sought to destroy me. Again he would pass my cell - again and again and again. Each time it was the same - the heavy boots, violent testing of the bolt, gate and lock. He kept this up for four nights until, desperately in need of sleep, I developed a violent headache.
I was almost at the point of giving up prayer and even wondered at times if God really existed. Each time round, when the guard would shine his torch on my face, I would pretend to be asleep, yawn and roll over on to my other side. He then shone the torch from the opposite angle and I would repeat the pretence. I cannot remember how many times I did this; I'm sure I was the soundest sleeper this guard ever had in his custody!.
On the fifth morning, the same guard released me from the cell to thaw out in the warm, morning sun. "Sit over here on the steps." he said, "I want to talk to you."
"How did you sleep last night?," he questioned. Perhaps it was answer to prayer that prompted me to tell a whole string of lies!
"I slept most peacefully, thank you," was the reply that produced a most bewildered expression on the face of my guard whom, from this point on, I called my "guardian", thanking him profusely for the protection he afforded!
"How grateful I am to you for keeping me safe from the murderers, rapists, bandits and maniacs who occupy the adjacent cells and who pose a constant threat in the exercise yard. You are so kind," I went on. "Actually, I feel a greater sense of security here than I do in my own home," a statement that he could not understand, until I proceeded to explain how Ruth and I once had two large bears clawing their way into our bedroom in search of termites that pervaded the whole mud house. I also told him of the bandits who visit our area regularly and of those who want to cut us up into little pieces and throw us in the wells.
"Here within these concrete walls (not dried mud)," I explained, "and behind these iron bars and thanks to your strong arm, your gun and your 'lathi', I have such a deep sense of security that I am now able to sleep very soundly, with complete peace of mind." So it was that I convinced my guardian of the depths of my slumbers - an explanation that was accepted without question!
My answer to his query had had a profound effect but just to make sure he got the message, I passed out a few more bouquets, as it were. It had leaked out, within the prison staff, that Rajkumari Amrit Kaur, the Minister of Health of the Central Government of India, had not only written to me but also that this famous princess was my personal friend.
Taking full advantage of this fact, I gushed, "You are so kind that I shall commend your diligence and devotion to duty to the Prison Superintendent on his next round of inspection. Further to that, following my release, when I am next in New Delhi, meeting my Cabinet Minister friend, I shall favourably recommend your services to Rajkumariji !"
These were the words that put an end to all the harassment from this guard who actually became a friend!. On a number of occasions during the following three years, I met him in the Mandya market place and we would have a most cordial time of reminiscing over garam chai. Yes, an enemy had become a friend through the Ministry of Reconciliation. The next night I slept like a log, dead to the world. I didn't even hear the boots and I'm sure that he never again tested the lock. One morning later, when again I was released to thaw out, my "guardian" lost no time in telling me what I least wanted to hear.
"I fear you are going to die in this prison!" he said, with a note of genuine concern in his voice. There is just no way that you "wideshi" (foreign) people can survive for long under such Indian prison conditions. But never mind, I will see that you don't die because I have something that will make you immune to all the evil and disease that permeates this hell-hole," he promised me in Hindi. "I will bring you some 'Horn' (pronounced 'home') when it is convenient for the priest."
'Horn' is a concoction that Ruth & I had not included in our recipe book of Indian dishes. Asking him to elaborate on just what it was, he replied, "It is made from the most efficacious by-products of the 'Mataji' --- (The Honourable Mother Cow). The ingredients - dung, urine and clarified butter (ghee) - are mixed in equal proportions and blessed by the priest in the temple at that auspicious moment as the sun is just beginning to rise above the horizon and as the conch shell is blowing, while the temple bell is still ringing. You don't need to take much 'Horn' - just a little on the tip of the tongue each morning at sunrise!"
These were the directions that my newfound friend gave me for taking what, in all sincerity, he believed to be the "elixir of life". He honestly had shared with me what he thought I needed most of all to carry me through the trauma of imprisonment and I thanked God for his concern, which came from the heart.
We Westerners tend to laugh at strange and "superstitious" practices of those of other faiths, but, God sees such acts of concern in a different perspective. I had asked the Lord to reveal to me some possible element of goodness in this otherwise bully of a man. He did that very thing by allowing me to fathom the deepest depths of his soul. And the more I probed in love, the more he revealed what measure of goodness he had in his heart. He had a real concern for his wife and children, living so far away and sometimes not able to receive in time, the Money Orders he sent each month for their support.
There may not have been much fire of life to illumine his character; there was more smoke than fire, but this is what the Lord looks for in all people - some little trace of goodness, maybe only the potential for goodness, even in the worst of people. "He will not break the bruised reed or quench the smouldering flax." (Matt. 12:20 RSV). He reaches out to the human spirit to find that spark of hope and fans it into a flame and this is what the Ministry of Reconciliation is all about. This is Grace - holding nothing against a person by reason of his status in life, however debased it may be. Such a gracious, forgiving attitude towards others, must also be totally non-judgmental.
How difficult it is, when dealing with destructive
people, to relate to them in a purely constructive way. But in Christ, there is
no other way. The non-Christian world, often for legitimate reasons, looks upon
Christians as narrow-minded and critical people, all too ready to judge those
who do not conform to their moral code. Even within the
It is true that in the Old Testament, God is often portrayed in this light, however, if we believe that God is only fully revealed in the person of Jesus Christ and that, prior to the coming of Jesus, no one really knew fully what God is like, we shall understand the relationship between Judgment and the Cross. It must be understood that, in the Old Testament we mainly see man reaching out to God who is progressively revealed, while in the New Testament, we see God, through Christ, reaching out to the human race in a unique way.
On so many occasions, as in the relationship I was having with my "guardian", Ruth and I proved the dynamic of the Cross in bringing others to a realization of their "sin", to use an old-fashioned word. On not one occasion however, was it necessary to point out to others, the "wickedness of their ways".
In not condemning the moral weaknesses we may see in others, it should not be thought that we condone such bad behaviour. In any case, who is to determine what is good and what is bad behaviour? Who will dare to be the judge? What may be to one person an acceptable code of ethics, to another may be a very low moral standard.
If God is the Judge he is often though to be, then each person stands before him judged in the light of his or her conscience (Rom. 2:15). But does God really judge in the generally accepted connotation of the word? John 5:22 states that "The Father judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son." (RSV). Further on in the chapter (v.27), Christ's authority to judge is related to his office as "Son of Man" - as moral Representative of the human race or the perfect pattern against which our behaviour may be assessed.
Christ does not judge or condemn in the traditionally conceived way. "If anyone hears my sayings and does not keep them, I do not judge him," said Jesus, "For I have come not to judge the world but to save the world." (In. 12:47 RSV) Where then is judgment? The Father does not judge; Jesus, as perfect role model, does not judge and we are told not to judge, lest we be judged. The solution to the enigma is hidden in the phrase, "Because he is the Son of Man".
Judgment is in his divine humanity, poured out in love upon the Cross. Before that Supreme Sacrifice we "stand condemned". In Jn. 12:31-33, Jesus was referring to his imminent death when he said, "Now is the hour of judgment for this world" and his "Lifting Up", on the Cross, was to be the mighty power of attraction to draw people to himself. Self- giving, suffering" Agape" love was to be manifested in such a dynamic way that the human spirit, made in the "Image of God" or after God's nature, was able to perceive and be receptive of that love.
Apart from the example of Calvary itself, another illustration can be seen in the way Saul of Tarsus was brought to a knowledge of his own unworthiness when he consented to the stoning of Stephen who forgave his killers through the words, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." (Acts. 7:60). In that experience, Saul saw Christ "High and Lifted Up". To this day, Christ is being "Lifted Up" in the lives of women and men of the Cross. Jesus didn't have to say much on the Cross, just "Father forgive them" and a few other sentences. He didn't have to verbalize his feelings, for his life poured out volumes.
I had to go through that jail experience really to understand, in some measure, the role the Cross plays in Judgment. John 12:27 also took on a fresh clarity such as I had never before experienced. If ever my soul was troubled, it was when I was led through the massive, heavy gates of what had now become my home for an indefinite period of time. But I knew that God had a purpose in it all, just as there was a purpose in the Sufferings of Christ.
The most wonderful part of my confinement at Mandya was the realization of the fact that Jesus had been through it long before I was ever locked up. His prayer towards the end may have been "Father save me FROM this hour" (John 12:27 RSV), but it was not a prayer that pleaded for freedom from suffering, but rather THROUGH suffering. Generally, the Greek word "apo" is translated "from", but when "ek" is used, in conjunction, as also in Heb. 5:7, it means "out from". Jesus prayed to the One who was able to save him only 'out from' or 'through' suffering. He had to pass through the valley of death and endure the fiery trial in order to find a purpose in his ministry.
The same applies to us Christians; in our search for meaning, we only can find real fulfilment in life and true satisfaction in our ministry, "if we suffer with him". (Rom. 8:17). It dawned on me that I, too, had to be "Lifted Up", if Christ were to achieve anything profitable through my time behind bars.
Day by day, it was becoming ever clearer to me that the Christian life is really Christ living out his life all over again in the body of the one surrendered to his will. In those difficult days in prison, I prayed that I might be found fully surrendered4n order that the Lord might exercise a real saving ministry in the cesspool, which now threatened to engulf me.