I forgot to mention one interesting thing about my room. I had assumed that there weren’t many Muslims here in Madurai–I always assume that there are more of them in the north, just because of the history of partition. However, I think that assumption is incorrect, for two reasons. First, there is a mosque right around the corner from my hotel, where I have been hearing the call to prayer. And second, last night when I was lying in bed reading, I looked up and saw something on the ceiling. When I looked closer, I saw it was a sign indicating the direction of Mecca. I have never seen that in a hotel room before, but, obviously, it means that they get enough Muslim guests here that they need to have the signage. Interesting!
OK, so, tomorrow [VERY early!] I am off to Hyderabad–the last stop of my grand India tour! This, however, will be a much different sort of visit: I am not going to Hyderabad to see temples, historical sites, or anything else of great tourist interest. Instead, I am going to stay with family of a dear friend. When I was studying in Berkeley, I met a colleague, my friend Moses, who is now a professor at PLTS, the Lutheran seminary in Berkeley. He and his family–wife and two young daughters–came over from India, and he started the program two years after I did. The admissions office put us in touch, asking veteran students to help new students get oriented. This started what became a deep friendship that has continued through today: I am “auntie” to the girls–now young women in college–and we have stayed close over time and space.
The family suffered a terrible tragedy last summer, however, as my colleague’s wife, Elizabeth, died suddenly while she was in the emergency room getting treatment for something everyone thought was routine. She herself was a doctor–and my age–so the whole thing seemed at the time–and continues to seem–unreal and impossible. Her family in India was not able to come back for the funeral–visas can be difficult and expensive to get, to say nothing of the flight costs. Everyone continues to grieve deeply, especially Moses and the girls, of course. It’s one of those terrible, inexplicable things that test even the strongest faith.
It is her family I will be staying with: her brother John and his wife. It was important to me, and important to Moses, that I see them while I am here–somehow it is like making a connection between here and there, between the present and the past. I am really looking forward to meeting them, staying with them, and seeing Hyderabad with them. It will be a great way to end the trip. However, I’m not sure what the internet situation there is, so this may be my last post until I get back to the States. If it is, thanks again for reading, and touch base with me again right after Easter, when I head to Japan!