last week i got to be one of the first people outside of mother and two grandparents to hold a new baby boy. the woman is a graduate of the Bible training center and lives in a village outside the city. her husband had not yet been able to come, so even he has not seen or held his son.
we took the sumo down into the neighborhood. we reached the row of houses and parked. walking down this gauntlet of shacks, roosters crowed to each other, hens and their chicks pecked at bits of styrofoam and scraps. goats bleating (do goats bleat? i’m not entirely sure).
everyone stops to stare at the foreigners who have come to visit. all eyes wondering where we will stop, who we could possibly know here. we arrive at auntie’s house, her gate consists of some boards zig-zaging their way across the opening. the courtyard is dirt. a partially bricked in area gives off the unmistakable scent that lets you know it is the outhouse. two trees serve as clothesline as well as closet.
As they hear us, auntie scrambles to tidy up. which is funny to me because every indian house is clean all the time. it would be a terrible shame for it not to be. so the little bits of this and that that may have been out were hurriedly put away. The swish swish of a broom just to make sure everything is presentable. we try to put her mind at ease that all this is not necessary, but she insists. we are her guests. her honored guests. for my friend is the pastor’s wife and she is very well respected. we are both foreign and that in and of itself garners its own respect.
a very low entrance to the home is covered with a wispy sari perfectly cut so as not to drag in the dirt. there is some kind of flooring inside, one bed, one slim table supporting speakers and a tv. plastic chairs are given up and wiped nicely so that we may sit. the baby and his older brother are not wearing pants so mother and grandmother quickly find some and slip tiny legs in. all ready for a visit.
auntie disappears into the adjoining room to put chai on the stove. an indian housewife is also always ready to provide refreshment for her guest. whether she has planned for them or not. biscuits also are brought on a silver plate and we sit and sip chai. discussing the delivery and all the doctors have said. height, weight, follow up appointment timing. this baby boy is precious. so quiet, sleeping mostly. but when he does wake up his big dark eyes are sparkling.
my friend has brought a gift. a small toy some socks and a hand crocheted toboggan. the titus women made it and mummy is thrilled. we ask if we can take some pictures, so i snap away at this precious one in his new hat. we sit and chat a few more minutes, enjoying this family and their new baby. she mentions that we are the first to come, although he was born two weeks ago. they seemed disappointed that no one else from the church had come by.
indians are very particular about the first 40 days or so after a baby is born, they do like their visitors, as the mother will not leave the house once she has brought the baby home. they do not normally allow anyone from outside to hold the baby, for fear of germs and such. on this point they do well to be careful, so I am expecting a “look but don’t touch” encounter today.
as we close our time, we pray. i love that about the Christians here. never is an opportunity missed to pray. hardly ever do they go to someone’s home without praying. it’s very much a practice i want to take home with me. my friend asks if I would like to pray over this new life. i am honored and glad to do it. as soon as it is relayed that i will pray for this new son, mother immediately picks him up, straightens his too-big clothes and hands him to me. i was so excited…i just love babies. but especially new, indian little ones. i take him and carefully cradle him. look him over and fight off the tears. find my voice and pray blessing and favor over him and his family. that he would come to know the Lord and use his life to make the name of Jesus famous in india. that God would bless this young mother as she raises two men of God and that they would be such.
in the midst of this moment…he pees. of course he does, but they don’t use diapers in india. So the thin shorts he has on in no way absorbs. my salwar suit does the job and i keep praying. after the collective ‘amen’ i pass this tiny one back to his mother who hurriedly changes him and gives him to my friend. as she does, my friend asks if this little one has a name. “no, for you to name.”
this is another indian custom. you do not name your own children. you take them to the priest at the temple, or some respected person. indians take the naming of a child very seriously. on top of that the meaning of those names is most important. the stigma of a name follows a child through to their adulthood.
this made me think of all the children here who either don’t get names or are named “unwanted.” can you imagine carrying something like that your whole life? the burden, the weight, the responsibility that comes with a name can be enormous here.
so the Christians turn to their pastor. especially this young mother. she graduated from their training program, her husband also I believe. and they want a good name. a name that will bring honor and blessing a name with hope for the future. a name to give him something to aspire to. for him to know that from his birth God had a plan. something special sown into the fiber of his being. my friend says she will pray and think over this very important task.
we thank our hosts and wish them well in the days to come. we step out into the light and make our way through the duty street back to our waiting vehicle. It was