The train left Nampally railway station at exactly five twenty five and I made myself comfortable at my seat which was on the lower berth in the near empty coach. The coach is divided into compartments having four berths, two on the lower and two on the upper, facing each other.
My work involves extensive travel to meet shipping deadlines and I keep a travel case ready with all the necessities along with a Bible and a novel, bigger the better as I may not get reading material in some of those far off destinations.
Sitting on the berth with the back to the window and popped up with pillows I stretched out my legs on the berth and started reading the only book available with me, ‘Gone with the Wind’ by Margaret Mitchell. Even though I have read it many times before, I get so immersed into it, that time just flies by mesmerizing me as the South comes alive just like it was in the year 1861 with its old world charm, as the beautiful green eyed sixteen year old Scarlett O’Hara makes her way through one thousand and odd pages till the book ends with her famous words, ‘I’ll think of it all tomorrow, at Tara. After all, tomorrow is another day.’
The sudden ring of a mobile phone in the opposite berth startled me as it was particularly loud, and the owner, a plump lady in her forties, looked apologetic as she answered it. It was nearing eight and dinner was being served by the pantry boy.
After the call the lady asked me rather sheepishly, “Excuse me can you lower the volume?”
I took her mobile and made the necessary adjustments.
“Thank you very much.”
Pointing to the book I was reading she asked me, “Is it ‘Gone with the Wind’?”
I nodded again, but this time I smiled.
“They say the sales of the book were second to the Bible?”
“Are you a Christian?”
And she was silent. Seeing that she was minding her own business, I unwrapped my dinner, and watching me, she called, “Sheila”
And from the top berth, a girl, who must be in her mid twenties answered, “Yes Ma”
“Beta lets have dinner.”
I quickly finished my dinner and returned to my reading.
After about fifteen minutes, I glanced up from my reading and saw through the tinted window that we are approaching a station.
“Are you conversant with the Bible?” the lady asked.
As I looked at her, bewildered, she explained, “What I meant to ask is, are you familiar with the Bible.”
“Yes, I am familiar with it. I read it daily.”
“You read it daily?” she asked me shocked.
“Yes,” I answered with a bewildered look.
“I beg your pardon; please don’t think otherwise, what I meant was, do you read the Bible daily?”
“Yes, I do.”
“Is it that easy? Is it in English?”
I laughed and taking out the Bible from my travel case gave it to her. It is encased in a black zipped leather jacket with ‘Holy Bible’ printed on it in golden letters.
“Can I open it?”
“Sure go ahead.”
Opening the zip, she flipped the pages and looking at me asked, “Can I read it?”
“Oh sure, sure, please go ahead.”
“When I am reading should I cover my head?”
I laughed again. “Ma’am, read it just like you read any other book.”
Before I could say anything she started reading the Book of Genesis.
I didn’t know when I slept off, but when I woke up, I found her still reading.
The soft beep of the alarm woke me up and when I pulled the travel case from under my berth, I noticed that the Bible was kept over it, with a simple Thank You note. As the lady’s destination is Belgaum which is another five hours away, she was sleeping soundly on her side and facing away from me.
The surprise arrival of a fairly thick envelope at my office address after two months, by one Mrs.Tanushree Madhumitha, Belgaum and I immediately knew that it must be the lady I met in the train, though I had never asked her name. The envelope contained a couple of photographs, a wedding invitation and a three page handwritten letter.
Dear Mr. Richard,
Remember me? I met you in the train on 18 March 1992. Enclosed is my daughter Sheila, our only child’s wedding invitation. You may feel surprised that I am inviting you, a total stranger to her wedding but after 18 March 1992 you are a family member and I would like to share with you in detail of how you made it possible for us to accept Jesus Christ as our savior and Lord.
You see, Sheila wanted to marry George Gideon, a Christian colleague of hers, whom she was friendly from the last three years. We being from a very strong orthodox Non Christian background, fervently hoped that the phase would go away with the passage of time and waited for nearly three years. But their love, instead of waning, became stronger and stronger. She not only wanted to marry him but to get herself converted into Christianity that made us dumbfounded as none in our family for seven generations on my side and seven in my husband’s side have ever thought of doing it. Getting converted to a religion, a religion where there is no idol worship and a religion which is alien in India is unthinkable to us.
Richard, we never heard about Christianity or about Jesus Christ and to make our situation very difficult we don’t have any common Christian friends. So when I met you in the train and saw you reading ‘Gone with the Wind’, I had that woman’s instinct that you are a Christian and oh boy, I waited for a very long time to start a conversation with you.
But I never knew that you would carry a Bible and give it for me to read it and that made it possible for me to understand about Christianity. Reading it made me know more about Jesus Christ and convinced me to take this momentous decision, as well as make it easy to convince my husband, a forty eight year old man with an illustrious career in the Indian Air Force, a man revered in our family for his great success and a man much sought out in our social circle.
Richard thank you and God Bless You, and we look forward to see you and your wife Pamela at the wedding.
Ps: - I have noted down your office address from the visiting card which you had kept as a book mark.
We attended the marriage at the Church and the reception was one of the best gatherings we had ever attended.
The phone rang. It was my boss. “Richard the Goan handicrafts order is confirmed. Make arrangements to fly to Goa, and this time take your wife along as it is going to be fairly long trip.”
The plan was to fly direct from Hyderabad to Dabolim, but Pamela wanted to take the train. As usual she did the packing but this time she kept two Bibles and my visiting cards in each of them as a book mark.
And along with my all time favorite ‘Gone with the Wind’ she also kept ‘War and Peace’ written by Leo Tolstoy.
Glossary: Beta - Daughter in Hindi language.
Tikka -A vermillion dot or a colored sticker kept on all non Christian’s
Roti - An unleavened flatbread made from wheat flour.
Author’s Note: Christianity in India is as old as Christianity itself, as Saint Thomas preached in the first century A.D. The Bible Society of India and Gideon International translate and distribute the Holy Bible in forty nine Indian languages and eighty languages worldwide and in one hundred and ninety countries around the world.
Victor Jasti lives in India and is passionate about writing short stories based on the Bible and real incidents. He also writes Christian fiction and poetry. Five of his poems were published in Temporal Currents compiled by an American author, Ms. Christine Tricarico.
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