Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Steeple Chase, Hyderabad Style

Oh, my!  I just read in the Deccan Chronicle this morning that the monsoons have really hit Mumbai hard over the last couple of days.  It's evidently a pretty big storm, too...it's the Indian Ocean's version of a hurricane, only here they call them "cyclones" or "cyclonic storms".  There is a deep depression which is now stalled over the Arabian Sea, so the winds may dissipate, but I guess that the rains have been brutal!  According to the India Today website:

"The downpour resulted in water-logging in several parts of the city. People waded through knee-deep water. As in the past, the storm water drainage system collapsed again.


Large parts of the city were flooded and residents were marooned in their houses. Normal life was hit in areas around Andheri and Hindmata due to heavy water-logging."

As if the rains were not enough for those poor people, a high tide of 4.8 meters has been forecast for this afternoon!  Mumbai is getting swamped!  Oh, BTW, as an interesting aside...by-far most of the Indians I have run into still call it "Bombay"!!

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It's 6:30 A.M. now. I just returned back to the house about a half-an-hour ago with Naseer after driving in from HiTech City, where we got Suzanne dropped-off at Deloitte's A-Block.  Today is her first day without Stephanie.  At least she'll be getting Stephanie's old office and (finally!) a land-line.  Later today, at 3:00 P.M., we are going to test-drive (well, it'll be much more like a "test RIDE", with Krishna taking the wheel.  Deloitte has arranged to have two models sent out to the house (these were our "final two" from a long list of possible choices).  I'm not exactly sure which is the first model.  I think we've pretty much decided already, for safety, passenger space and room for golf clubs and, of course, the occasional saddle...to get the Mahindra ScorpioIf you find the soundtrack on their website as obnoxious as I do, here is a picture of one.  "Scorpios" are smaller SUV's - kinda like a cross between a really small Hummer and a Jeep Cherokee.  It seems that most Deloitte ex-pats have chosen this vehicle as their "ride".  It doesn't take much time in Hyderabadi traffic for you to realize that you want just as much steel as possible between you and the other guy...who could be driving a truck or a bus or whatever!

Yes, unfortunately, our time with our first driver, Naseer, is fast coming to a close.  He's basically the guy who has kept us alive in this insane traffic since he picked us up at the airport ... and it has been Naseer who has shuffled us off to various places at the ring of a cell phone.  He is really a nice guy.  He has a wife and three kids.  I hope we will remain in touch.  I'll miss him if we don't.  I keep joking with Amy that when she returns to the U.S. in a few months for a Partner's Meeting, I am going to invite all my new friends over to the house for a big party and poker game, with cigars and lots of Kingfisher BeerNaseer will certainly be on that invitation list, although he is Muslim... and doesn't drink beer!

This is Naseer, doing what he does best:
















Yesterday was the most productive and by-far the most fun day that I have had since we arrived.  After dropping Amy off at work, I told Naseer that "today is the day we find Father Scott a church!"  No, Archbishop Prakash still has not called nor e-mailed. 

I had some general directions and had communicated some of my mental notes to Naseer as to the general direction we were going and the part of the city we were heading into.  I mentioned the area before - it's the old "Gun Foundry" district.  Unfortunately, the buildings there are packed so tightly (although not all that tall by American city standards) - that it's nearly impossible to find even the tallest of structures!

As you drive (i.e., "ride") south from Banjara Hills, you know you are getting into the Old City when you see the giant light-standards for "the stadium".  I have to believe that it was originally built as a soccer stadium, but I think Naseer told me they have all kinds of sporting events there.  The fact that the pitch looks perfectly round (see Stadium Link ) makes it a perfect venue for cricket matches.  By the way, I'm finally starting to understand the rudimentary rules for the sport of cricket.  At least I know that they play "matches", not "games" - and that the game is played on "the pitch", and not on "the field".  Oh...and the "pitcher"? He is called the "bowler"...and the hitter is called the "batsman".  It's a really strange game.  Matches can go on for days because they end..."whenever".  I guess with enough "Kingfisher" - all sporting events are fun!

Driving down one of the main streets, all of a sudden I see the gate for St. George (Anglican) Church!  I had Naseer stop and let me out.  He warned me that "they are closed" - but no matter.  I told him I just wanted to find out their service times and perhaps snap a picture or two.  He couldn't park the car where we were, as it was a taxi-only zone...so... (gasp!!) - he let me out of the passenger side (still strange to do this from the left-hand seat)... AND DROVE OFF!!

The huge iron gate was indeed closed, but I could see that the padlock was opened and the chain was loosely wrapped around the bars.  There were three security guards in the inside, at what looked like a "guard shack" of some kind.  I walked up and said "Hello...".  The obviously more-senior of the guards approached the gate and asked "Can I help you?"  With my dark glasses on and a camera around my neck, I must have just reeked of "TOURIST" - and someone who was much-indeed in need of help!

I actually think that if I had been dressed in cassock and collar, they would have let me in.  I informed the senior guard (I'll call him "The Sarge"!) that "I was an Anglican Priest from the U.S. and that I had come to see St. George's".  The Sarge said that they were closed during the week, and only open on Sundays an "special occasions".  I said, "Oh, you mean like Holy Days of obligation?"  I must have sounded like "Charlie Brown's Teacher" to ol' Sarge, as he did not answer, except to offer a blank stare.  So I then guided our conversation back to logistics instead of theology.

"Can you tell me at what time the services are services on Sundays??"  Now THIS was a question he was used to answering!  It turns out that every Sunday there is an 8:00 and 9:30 A.M. Anglican Mass in English. I didn't dare try to ask The Sarge if they used the "Indian Missal" instead of the Book of Common Prayer...?"...so I bid him a hasty goodbye, and turned to take a few pictures (see link below).

I stood for a moment and revelled in the feeling of being in a strange place on the other side of the world...and except for the brand-new Blackberry Curve in my pants pocket, I was completely alone in Downtown Hyderabad!!  Soon after calling on Naseer to double-back and pick me up, a man with a beard walked up to me and smiled.  I think he must have taken notice of the gold Crucifix I always wear around my neck, as he seemed to focus on it as he began speaking...

"Do you serve God...?"

"Rut Roe, Scooby..." I said in my "inside voice".  I quickly determined that this was a merely a friendly question, and not a direct challenge from some hostile crazy person.

I said that indeed, I did try my best to serve Him.  We then proceeded to talk about God being "One" (I was deflecting any debate on the nature and economy of the Holy Trinity at this juncture)... and how Muslims (as it turns out, my new friend's name was "Ahmed"!) and Christians and Hindus must learn to live together in peace.  We shook hands after both of us repeated the phrase from the Q'uran - "People of the Book!"  Breathing an audible sigh-of-relief, I hopped into the rider's side of the car.

Finding our next objective would prove a little more difficult.  Although I knew that the Roman Catholic Cathedral of St. Joseph was somewhere close-by (that's a picture of the front of the building at the top of this blog-post.)... it is so terribly difficult to get your bearings with the streets being so narrow.  A couple of times Naseer had to stop and ask some fellow citizens on the street where "St. Joseph's" was to be found.  He must have gotten good directions from the last guy, because, lo and behold, around two corners and up a narrow road...there it was.  Between two buildings and really hidden from view, was a walkway and a long set of steps leading up to the cathedral courtyard and a sweet little grotto set up to look like the famous scene of St. Bernadette seeing her vision of the Blessed Virgin Mary at Lourdes.

The all-girls "Rosary Convent High School" was on the grounds as well.  My god-daughter, Sarah, attends "Rosary High School" in Orange County, so I immediately thought of her!!  The iron gate of the schoolyard was open a bit...and several giggling girls in crisp school uniforms stared at me as I passed by. 

The grotto had an iron gate with a hasp on it, but no lock, so I opened it and let myself inside.  There I snapped a few photos - - and then I wept.  It is so beautiful to find "home" so far away from where I have lived all my life!  Exiting through the same little gate, I walked up the final few steps and saw the outside of the Cathedral.  Overall, it is a beautiful structure with two towers, one tower featured a clock which actually gave the proper time!! It looks as if the exterior has undergone some fairly recent renovations, but is still in need of some minor repairs to the stucco.  And honestly...I couldn't have cared less!  To me, at that moment, there was no more beautiful sight on the planet!  All that mattered to me right then was that Christ was Really Present here in this place, in the Blessed Sacrament of the Altar!!

I walked around the large courtyard and snapped a few pictures - I must have looked like some sort of Japanese tourist on Main Street in Disneyland!  I'll let the photo-captions and friend's comments at the link below tell most of the story of the rest of the day .... a young man on a motorcycle, wearing a helmet (shocking in Hyderabad!), de-helmeted and introduced himself.  This was Father Anthony.  He greeted me as a brother Priest and generously opened the church to let me inside.  I also met two Franciscan priests (not in habit!), and one other Priest who is assigned to the Cathedral (I forgot has name!) - and a catechumen who was praying in the nave while I got my "tour".  I took a picture of a plaque near the entrance and Narthex.  It was a listing of all of the Prelates who have served the Cathedral since the beginning.  Most all of the names are Italian!  My old and dear friend, Amy Pease Scarpa, who has lived in Venice, Italy for many years now...pointed this fact out to me.

I commented back to "my other Amy" on Facebook that, yes, either those were the names of several Italian Priests...or it was listing the starting line-up for Italy's defending-champion World Cup soccer team!

Here's the pics.  Enjoy!

Facebook Photo Album - Steeple Chase, Hyderabad Style

I also shot this short video (below, on YouTube) - mainly because it was the only way that I could take notes about Mass times, what I had just seen and whom I had just met!! :-D  One glaring mistake in my video commentary...the second Prelate of the Cathedral is NOT the same "Daniel Murphy" who the old L.A. Catholic High School is named after.  This Fr. Daniel Murphy lived long before!

The Cathedral of St. Joseph in Hyderabad (VIDEO)

Thanks for reading this entire post.  Sorry...I tend to get a little wordy when I get excited about something.  And yesterday, by far, was the most exciting day since we arrived in India!  Thanks be to God!!

Pax vobiscum, y'all!

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