Based on a few real people.
Rani lives 5 kms away in a 2roomed apartment; her husband has the TV on all day at no nominal volume, he has a kind face that is tired with taking the kids to and from school between hours at his veg shop. One of their 4 girls is socially challenged; Rani is a part time teacher; she eyes the bags we’ve taken for her kids.
“When our little girl was born this way, I said Ok Jesus I will carry this cross. Then one by one He gave me more crosses. Ok I’m saying, ok.” Her eyes glisten with unshed tears. “We have money like ok. He is doing vegetable business. I am not asking anything more- just need strength. Also our rooms are small. Mother, his aunty, my sister, our all children are here. Now we cannot go out to play also.”
The youngest Tinchi is two years old; she’s had her ears pierced and is miserable. I want to play with her but am overwhelmed. Will she like our books? We have some squeak-soft-backs and colour books untouched by our second daughter who couldnt stay still enough to colour anything. Tinchi pulls out Bear Story– a palm- sized book shaped like a basket. Then she pulls out another and another, stacking them next to her like friends waiting for her. Tinchi grins at me and then at them… Roro (Caterpillar tales), Minnie mouse, Lief, a Times Happy hour series…. she sighs then puts the others away. These will do for now; I catch her grin at Minnie, as if they are good friends already. Her little ear lobes are smeared with turmeric paste for antiseptic care.
Rani offers us a plate of fried green plantain and capsicum from a tea shop next door. It is smoking fried with mustard oil. When Rani smiles she is like a 16 year old girl, her skin smooth, flawless. Worrylines have found their way between her high winged brows above a thin nose with tiny nose stud. It twinkles in the early dusk, a reminder of beauty and strength. Her husband has turned off the TV. We call them to our home to share a meal- they don’t think they can just yet; that was March 23rd a day before Lockdown.
Rani called me a few days ago, about the crosses Jesus has given her to carry. I dont know what to say, I want to really tell her we could never carry that Cross, but that would be insensitive to say. She has health issues I do not probe into, and she knows a little of my own troubles.
Rani, I want to say– we can leave our cares with Him, He isn’t asking us to go back to His Cross: He’s done that for us already. All the cross I must carry is pray for one another, feel each others’ hurt and, help if we can. It’s not easy to be generous in these days, we could spend an evening together with this precious couple we met years ago, but I cant do much more. She isnt putting the phone down, I don’t know that I can take more conversation. Rani isnt listening, she’s talk talk talking. They want to give us some good rice and veggies, she says. When could her husband drop by? The two of them aren’t allowed on a bike, Lockdown rules. But could he drop by?
I’m stilled, I’m reminded of the way Christ works. It’s exactly what He’d do today, quarantine or no. We do not need an extra bag of rice at all: I tell her to keep it, she has a much larger family than mine. She isnt listening. So I plan to cook a meal for them, send it over. I ask if thats alright, she laughs and says “No,no. We eat simple food only, but we both are fasting and praying you know this country so needing health. We must carry the Cross for Jesus, how much will He bear alone?”
I totally do not know what to say. She is running with Jesus and all the angels and politics of a pandemic. Fasting and praying. I pray. Between meals, and while snacking. Or between chatting. Much easier than Rani’s cross bearing lifestyle, yes I totally dont know what to say.
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