Born in India, raised in Kuwait, stranded in India (1974 – 1991)
Born in Kerala, India. A family of four, we moved to Kuwait in 1980. Son of a construction worker, I grew up a child stuck between the East and the West. I was an amalgamation of Bollywood, Mollywood, Hollywood, Marvel, DC, and a host of literature and TV shows. Oscillating between Catholicism, new technologies, Americana and music. The Pied Piper played freely at our home.
By the end of the ’80s, the chaos of hormones; a couple of brief but traumatic experiences of sexual abuse; and the utter madness of pornography had all descended upon me… you can imagine.
In 1990, the unthinkable happened – I was ripped from my hometown Fahaheel and all that made me “me” was lost to Saddam Hussein and the invasion of Kuwait. I found myself stranded in India (we were holidaying in Kerala when the war broke out) At that time, Kerala was radically different from Kuwait. The place felt hostile, and primitive.
Not being able to say a proper goodbye to your home, and losing all your possessions all of a sudden – the repository of a decade of your life – is a horrible experience. I was shattered. Riches to rags.
It didn’t stop there, the slow burn sequel was the utter fall of my father. From a reasonably stable, warm, with the occasional light drinking at home – to an overnight alcoholic and an unpredictable, self-destructive thug! What added to it was that this was who my father truly was… everyone around me knew it but me. The one I had known all my childhood in Kuwait was a facade! It took me years to wrap my heart and mind around it.
By ‘91 – I had become the proud owner of a fragmented personality, filled with bitterness, anger, lust and an appetite for destruction… in retrospect, I don’t know how any sane person put up with me for long…
Yet I find there are many of us out there, playing with madness, we flock together, and survive in the quagmire – great pretenders, hopeless optimists or pessimists, occasional or obsessive abusers… We abuse or distract one another, share momentary comfort or point to another drug or lifestyle to trudge on. Depressive reading, but truth be told. More than two decades working with people, I realize many of us share the same dark underpinnings or origin stories… Deny it, bury it, wear it, “own” it, or release it… ‘it’ is still there. Takes on a thousand different expressions, but it’s the same hole in the soul.
I charted a course to excuse and vent my frustrations, rebellion, and pain. An emotional atheist that experimented with satanism. A socialist, capitalist, and an aspiring hedonist all rolled into one. A voracious reader of anything and everything, increasingly awed by the temple of Hollywood and popular western propaganda. A Pseudo intellectual who waded in pools of shallowness.
Left to our own devices, what a bag of inconsistencies we become.
Unhinged (1991 – 1992)
Meanwhile, things were getting more desperate at home.
My dad – having invested in building a large house, pursed a brief but unsuccessful political career, and with deteriorating family relations, a massive heart attack, losing his father, two attempts on his life and the alcohol abuse – was hurtling towards a literal dead end. He had pinned his hopes on returning to Kuwait for financial stability but that never took flight – all his plans unraveled… I still remember the feeling of dread and darkness at home. The devil is in the details.
In this background, I grew ever more rancid- spewing venom at God. Welcoming Satan into my life, leaning on the crutch of science and taking great pleasure in tearing into Christians and Christianity. I remember, at school, a child from the lower classes walked up to me and handed me a book or paper I had meticulously designed proclaiming “Satan is God”.. he looked me in the eyes and said, “Achacha (elder brother), don’t do this, it is not right.” Another instance comes to mind, a youth pastor confounded me with questions to my questions. He had me grudgingly accept science creates more questions than answers. But what is it about us? Fuel to the fire is even the sincerest attempts, I paid no attention.
The Great Physician (1992 December)
Having exhausted every option.. my mother did what I detested with all my heart. She approached a Pentecostal church nearby to pray for us. I was the last hurdle she needed to get past, I blocked her path possessed with a demonic hatred – “We don’t need these weakling Christians or the failure that God is! Let dad die, we can survive!”, I raved. I would have physically assaulted her if she hadn’t acted like she took my advice and then slipped out later without my knowledge.
My mother, in her desperation, made the crucial decision to ask for help, for which I am eternally grateful. Thus began a concerted prayer vigil at this church and visitations from the pastor (Note: I want to acknowledge many others that were already praying too. God answered your prayers. Thank you for praying for us)
My father was famous for his capacity to down bottles of alcohol and hold his own. However, his addiction was complete – My mother and I would try in vain to keep him from leaving the house early in the morning for his fix – his appearance by now was of someone twenty years older than he was, and his hands shook violently without the spirit running in his veins.
As the church began praying, something in my father’s physiology changed, a miracle if you ask me, he barely would have a swig and he would collapse! The first time it happened, his companions had him admitted to a hospital on meds and alcohol at the same time. The second time, the same procedure was followed but our family doctor had enough of it. Thrown out of the hospital, advised to find psychological help, my father walked to the arrack (country liquor) shop and collapsed again… I was summoned and found him fallen on the ground outside that shop with no one around him. A pitiful sight I cannot forget. All the fair-weather friends had left… I had to carry him home. For the next day or two he had no idea where he was, or what he was doing.
Then it happened.
Late at night, on his bed, my father had a vision. It was an auditory vision, a host accompanied by an orchestra singing a song of worship! Initially, he got out of bed and looked about the house for a source but none were found. The moment he came and lay down, the worship song would begin again. He had heard this song only once before in his life, at a charismatic Christian meeting, and that too in an inebriated condition. Yet here he was – hearing the words crystal clear! So he began listening to the words – “You will be set free from all bondage, and all chains will break when you worship! Worship the Lord” As he listened, sleep came upon him.
The next day, walking down the steps, wondering if we needed to stop him leaving the house…There, to my great surprise, I saw – seated on the ground – with a songbook open, my father learning this song! From that moment and for the next 21 years of his life, he had no desire for alcohol or any withdrawal symptoms! The Great Physician had visited my house that night.
And while he was seated there, trying to learn the song, guess who walked into the house? The pastor! What are the odds?! My father gently beckons him to join and pray for him. Next thing, the pastor invites dad for a meeting and off he went, he traded spirits for the Spirit.
This hit me hard, my foundations were rocked by my father’s transformation… The God I hated, spilled grace when I pierced Him.
At first, I hated my father for succumbing to Christianity. But there was no denying it, what was impossible, just happened. He changed overnight.
I kept a brave face, but on the inside, I was split wide open and grappling to make sense of it all.
To make things more uncomfortable, Dad made family prayer time compulsory. And now when he prayed, it could be 15 to 45 minutes long… the whole arduous process would span at least an hour!… I tried various things like hiding small magazines in the Bible, bathroom excuses, et al. But these efforts were too hard to sustain in the shadow of Dad’s fervency. Finally, an idea dropped in my head to try and read the Bible… after all, it was one of the greatest books in literature. The first pages of Genesis in KJV was a nasty experience, the language had me in twists and the concept of creation in its pages was too much for my Big Bang Darwinian mind! With a thud, I closed the Bible.
This period of my life is marked by so many miracles, it defies logic. That same week – my sister came home from the hostel with a Good News Bible (The Bible in contemporary English) To my sister’s bewilderment, moved by an unseen hand, I asked for this bible.
This time I started reading the stories of the kings (I and II Kings, I and II Chronicles) and found myself drawn into the world of the Bible, to quote Mel Gibson loosely – “no greater scripts exist!”
Long before the so-called “20th-century revolution” of “honest journalism” or the ultra-realistic movie making of Hollywood, I found the Bible’s accounts compelling in its portrayal of the human condition. It was a hard reading of the victories and explicit failures of Israel’s heroes.
Then it happened to me.
One evening I opened the Bible as my father started another epic prayer session, and as if the pages were turned by an angelic presence, the book of Job confronted me. The deepest, darkest angst toward God – the emotional atheism that was the fabric of my rebellious condition – found in the Bible of all places! – the brutal honesty of the Bible tore into me. “Sharper than any two-edged sword” I would later understand. I couldn’t stop reading it over and over… nowhere had I seen such writings… A Good God in a shockingly evil world, the suffering of the innocent, the impaired scales of justice, the mystery of sickness, the paradoxes, the philosophies… all page after page. Then, the final word and deed were God’s, where every wrong was righted and the scales restored! Job silenced by God’s wisdom, power and goodness. My soul drank it up, my spirit was awakened, and I offered this prayer – “Who are you, God?”*
That weekend, as was my custom to go looking for distractions, I visited yet another library with a friend. This time though, my attention was drawn to a dusty part of the library, and to a particular book entitled “The Desire of Nations” by Ellen G White. The experience of reading this book, I can’t explain, was the answer to my prayer* – a masterful exposition on who Jesus Christ was… the true desire of human hearts, the only Prince of Peace, and the One my heart and soul was crying out for. I gave my life to Jesus somewhere in the pages of that book and the books of the Bible.
The bitterness Satan filled me with – was washed away from my system – forgiveness, love, and life replaced it.
Of late, I recall more and more instances, where God had reached out to me from my infancy – it would be too long to list here. But there is something I want you to know, there is a war raging for your soul, from when you entered this world and to this very moment. Please choose wisely. There is only one “Lover of your soul”.. You can find Him on a cross, calling out your name.
It’s been 27 years since I gave my life to Jesus. I have seen and heard a lot of things. I have lost count of the questions I have posed Christ or the situations I saw miracles as answers to. Every week, every month, every year has proved – He is the truth, He is the way, He is the life, and He is alive. Today, I am the father of two wonderful children and blessed beyond my wildest imaginations. He lifted me up from the pit and gave me a future and hope.
If everything has failed you, try Jesus.
If you are stranded and in trouble, call on Jesus.
If you can’t understand yourself, or the world around you has frustrated and scarred you, If you are sick or addicted, come and see Jesus.
If He did it for me, He will surely do it for you!
I also want to encourage people praying for others – friends, spouses, parents, neighbors, colleagues – it might look impossible, but what is impossible with man is possible with God.
“The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not overpower it” Lk 1:5
“and He made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth, having determined their appointed times and the boundaries of their habitation, that they would seek God, if perhaps they might grope for Him and find Him, though He is not far from each one of us” Acts 17:26-27
and he fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” And He said, “I am Jesus whom you are persecuting” Acts 9:4-5
“Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matt 11:28-30