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Previous Challenge Entry (Level 3 – Advanced)
Topic: India (02/12/09)

By Emily Blakely


“Emergency landing!” came the announcement on my flight from Kathmandu, Nepal to New Delhi, India. One engine was experiencing problems and the plane would have to make an unscheduled stop. My face paled, showing the sheer terror I felt inside.

Our landing, though safely made, seemed to be in the middle of nowhere. A heavy, oppressive heat smacked my face, so that I had to grab the stair ramp handrails to steady myself as I debarked the plane. Later I learned that our landing location was at the hottest spot in India.

A little more than an hour later we were on our way as a second plane was sent to take us on to our destination. Still shaky, feeling unsettled, a very polite stewardess let me know I had been invited by the pilot, who wore the distinctive headdress of a Sikh, to come forward and watch as he flew our plane. Today, I would grab at such an offer, but that day my legs felt like rubber and I was content to cling to the arms of my seat and pray.

Reaching solid ground in New Delhi felt good and I was comforted in finding a room for rest, a good meal and wonderful cup of tea. A train trip the next day took me to Agra, India, arriving as the setting sun gave an iridescent glow to the white marble of the Taj Mahal. I spent a quiet hour absorbed in the beauty of the Taj, air pleasantly cool and with no interruption from the daytime throng of visitors. A sense of receiving something special and rare settled over me and I left feeling very satisfied.

Travel in that world distant from American culture proved interesting. Whether by train, bus or truck, vehicles overflowed with people, luggage and a monkey or two but I never met with hostility or real danger while there. These are memories from a more peaceful time in India, 1969.

Violence against Christians erupted last August in parts of India in connection with the murder of a Hindu Swami, even though another group claimed responsibility for the murder. Many Christians were killed and hundreds fled to jungle areas near their villages. Homes and churches were destroyed; even orphanages were not spared. Mother Teresa would be grieved.

Natural disaster soon followed when monsoon rains triggered flooding that killed more people and affected above 2.4 million others. But persecution of Christians continued even in the midst of the natural disaster.

India’s constitution requires its state governments to honor the constitutional freedoms and protections, including freedom of religion. Even though a warning was issued that the federal government may have to take over state control, the violence continues. Little of this situation is being broadcast by mainstream media.

One news source in December estimated over 50,000 Christians in the region to be homeless, and around 30,000, more than half of them children, are hiding in the jungle. 4,400 homes destroyed, 300 villages cleansed of all Christians. Many are facing starvation. The numbers are staggering.

At home in America we struggle with what the outcome for us will be from the stimulus package being passed by federal legislators. All countries have their problems and isn’t it is easy to focus on them, forgetting the misery of those hiding in the jungles of India?

My time in India seems like a dream and today’s reality, a nightmare. I pray that India will soon enforce its constitutional rights for freedom of religion for all its diverse population. Every day that we enjoy comfort and shelter of home we should remember these who are suffering so greatly and pray for them.

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Member Comments
Member Date
Jan Ackerson 02/20/09
Very well done; the first half in particular was extremely engaging writing.
Angela M. Baker-Bridge02/21/09
Interesting mix of 1969 (the year my dad first went to India) and 2009. I wasn't sure what the point of the pilot's invitation was. Definitely a reality check.
Seema Bagai 02/23/09
The descriptions at the beginning of this piece were engaging and well-written. Then you juxtaposed it by describing current events. Lots of things have changed in India ince 1969. Not all the changes are bad, though. ;-)