Wednesday: A Poem

It's Wednesday again

again and again

the rhythm of life

keeps me bound

to duties of love

that I long to behold

in a third eternal day-dream.

The Dialogue

On Saturday evening (October 4th, 2008), I attended a public dialogue at the YMCA in East Nizamuddin (New Delhi). It was called, “Perspectives on Peacemaking: Muslims and Christians in Constructive Conversation.” A little over a hundred people – and hardly a uniform crowd – gathered in the small auditorium.

The dialogue featured two speakers. The first was a prominent Muslim leader named Maulana Wahiduddin Khan who began the Center for Peace and Spirituality (, a Delhi-based organization committed to spreading the message of Islam. The Maulana firmly believes that Islam has a message of peace for the world today. The other speaker was Dr. David Shenk, a Christian scholar from the USA who lived in Africa for much of his life and has extensive experience in dialogue with Muslims. He believes that the Gospel of Jesus Christ is also a message of peace for the world today.

The event was sponsored by another Delhi-based group called the Interfaith Coalition for Peace (, which is working extensively throughout the country on various issues that challenge the peaceful co-existence of numerous faith communities in India. The President of the Interfaith Coalition for Peace (ICP), Dr. Syed Zafar Mahmood, chaired the evening, while his close co-worker, Father Packiam Samuel, opened the meeting. Samuel is an Anglican priest and Secretary of the ICP, which means that the leadership of ICP exemplifies good Muslim-Christian cooperation and was, as such, a fitting team to host this particular event. 

Beginning with the opening remarks of the Chairman, much effort was made to establish common ground between Muslims and Christians. It was readily acknowledged that the person of Jesus Christ was a good place to begin, as both Islam and Christianity hold Jesus in high esteem. (Differences as to the identity of Jesus within each of these two faith traditions – whether as Prophet or as Son of God – were left unexplored in the course of the dialogue.) 

Maulana Wahiduddin Khan continued on the theme of unity and took great care to articulate the many similarities between the teachings of Jesus on peace and that of the Qu’ran. In his understanding, this provided ample reason for Muslims and Christians to join forces and work together for peace, which he challenged the audience to do.

Dr. Shenk affirmed this spirit of cooperation as well, and then went on to explain how the Biblical story in general and the Gospel story in particular reveal a God who makes friends out of enemies. He also emphasized the brokenness of man and that it is only by God’s Spirit that we are enabled and empowered to do the same with our enemies.

Various people who participated in the evening commented on the fact that this was a good beginning and that there is great potential for more such events, especially if they are able to include representation from other religious groups such as Hindus, Sikhs and Buddhists. Indeed, it was mentioned that one of the signs of the event’s success, and maybe a glimpse of what is to come, was the fact that it attracted those other than Muslims and Christians, namely those from India’s Hindu majority. Among those who took interest in the event were various media personnel, a prominent Hindu academic as well as a representative from the Bharati Janata Party, the nation’s strongest Hindu political body.

Others thought that the dialogue was perhaps a good but shallow start, meaning that deeper studies need to be done which highlight not just the similarities but also the unique features of each of these religious perspectives. In addition, these features need to be explored in terms of how they further the cause of peacemaking in our world, even as it pertains to the non-religious. 

Also worthy of note was the fact that some of the Muslims in attendance took the opportunity to distribute English translations of the Qu’ran afterwards, which was a gesture gladly received. The members of CPS were also eager to make available various tracts written by Maulana Wahiduddin Khan. Some Christians commented that they perhaps missed out on an opportunity to provide their non-Christian friends with literature that would help to increase understanding of the Christian faith.

After the formal dialogue, a meal was shared, and it seemed to me that this scene emphasized what was perhaps most significant about this event – that such a wide variety of people were together in one place in a spirit of humility, interdependence and simple celebration. The atmosphere was very positive and I know that various informal dialogues were continuing on during the meal. I sincerely hope that these dialogues will continue on into the future through the friendships that were born or strengthened that evening.

In the end, I felt that the event was a success. And personally, that was significant for me because I was involved in organizing it, or at least envisioning it. Months earlier, when I had heard that Dr. Shenk was coming to India, I contacted him about the idea of a dialogue. When he gave a positive response, I asked some of my friends here about it. They liked the idea and ran with it. From there, the event required very little of my time and energy, mostly because the others who joined in were so willing and competent to carry the load, not only the speakers themselves, but also those assisting them, namely Rajat Malhotra (CPS) and Packiam Samuel (ICP).

The evening was also very special for me because I saw so many of my friends from various aspects of my life in Delhi come together in one place. I was especially reminded about how warmly I have been received in my neighborhood by people of faiths other than my own. As I saw one of my Hindu friends there at the dialogue, I was reminded that if it wasn’t for his initiative to approach me in the park one day, I would not have been introduced to Father Samuel and Dr. Zafar at the ICP. In similar fashion, one of my Muslim friends who had befriended me on the street had later introduced me to Maulana-ji and the work of CPS. I have benefitted personally from these interfaith friendships and I continue to give thanks for the opportunity to live out my faith in Jesus in such a rich multi-faith context here in Delhi.

Ten-Rupee Note: A Short Story


The child spoke softly as she clenched the ten-rupee note in her hand. It was perfect gratitude. Though her speech was imprecise, that dirty little child in tattered clothes communicated truth and dignity in a way that humbled the young man. He had gifted her with the money; she had gifted him with something more. 

She had a scar on her lower lip that impeded her speech. She had a second scar just below her left eye that caused her to blink and squint. Her cheek was stained with tears. Her smile was marked with pain.

The young man looked once then twice as he walked away through the parking lot. In those moments, the child's eyes were ablaze with joy and delight, though he could also see beyond the moment, beyond the light to a blinding darkness. 

Still, he was the one in need. 

The young man entered the post office with one simple task on his mind. The package needed to reach its destination in the UK by the end of the month. He had ten days. He had told his manager that it was possible. He could think of no reason why it couldn't be done. Yet if it didn't happen according to plan, someone would be gravely disappointed. It would probably mean his job. 

There were four people in line ahead of him, but the elderly lady behind the counter was in no rush. She smiled politely and attended to each customer with grace. It was, however, a strange grace. Her method of service seemed entirely inefficient. It was apparent that she was serving more than one person at a time. Instead of dealing with each customer from the beginning of their business to the end, she was keen to start serving the next one before she was finished with the previous. This meant that she was taking money from one person while giving stamps to a second and fielding a question from a third. It was a rather remarkable feat, but it left the young man feeling nervous about his important package. It seemed to him that the possibility of error on the lady's part would increase dramatically with the number of people that she was simultaneously serving.

The young man wasn't willing to take that kind of risk on this task. So he resolved to wait until those in front of him were completely finished before he would begin. He only hoped that no one would interfere from behind him. At the moment, he was still the last in line. 

The young man continued to observe the situation with great curiosity as the three men in front of him completed their business one by one. The lady had looked up at him twice while the others were still being served, as if to beckon him to put forth his request and join the muddle. But he only smirked and waited patiently, as if to say that unlike the others he would resist the temptation to begin prematurely. 

Then finally, as the customer in front of the young man finished, the lady smiled and gave him her full attention. With a sense of relief he placed the package on the counter and began to explain his request. But as he did so, he noticed the lady's eyes quickly wander over his left shoulder, and before he knew it another lady from behind him was interrupting him. 

“Is this the line for stamps?”

It was a simple question, but its stupidity appeared to amaze even the elderly lady behind the counter.

After re-focusing and clarifying his intention for the package, the young man turned his head and glared at the woman behind him. She hardly noticed. 

As the lady behind the counter began processing his request, the young man glanced back to notice another two customers enter the post office and approach the line. They took their place behind the lady looking for stamps. He made eye contact with each of them in an attempt to say, “Just wait your turn like a civilized human being.” 

When he turned back to the counter the elderly lady was asking for payment. As he opened his wallet, ready in his hand, one of the men from the back of the line leaned in and began an enquiry. But before three words fell from his mouth, the young man spoke out in a strong voice.

“Just wait your turn!”

There was a cold hush in the post office as the man returned to his place and waited. 

“Can you guarantee that the package will arrive within a week?”

“Yes, definitely 7-8 days,” the lady assured him.

“So, maybe more than a week?” 

“No, it will arrive within a week. The tracking number is on your receipt. You can check on the internet.”

“I don’t want to check it on the internet. I want to know that it will definitely arrive within a week.”

“Yes, yes. Don’t worry.”

“It will arrive,” this time the simple words of assurance came not from the lady in front of him but from the one behind him, and the words conveyed about as much confidence.

The young man rolled his eyes, and spoke out starkly, without turning around, “I’m not talking to you.”

“Sir, please,” the elderly lady spoke calmly.

The young man handed over his payment and entrusted the package into her hands. She smiled. He smiled in return. His smile was tainted.

Outside, the young man paid the parking attendant and waited for his change. But the attendant refused to give it, insisting that the man had exceeded the time period for the base rate. The man knew that he hadn't, so he stood his ground. He wasn't about to be cheated. He knew what was going on. It was a noble attempt on the part of the old man to take advantage of him. But the young man was stalwart, and knew that he would win if he persisted. The old man begged. The young man scowled.  

Eventually the old man pushed the change into the young man's hand and turned away. With contempt and clarity the young man spoke into the old man's back.  

“Thank you.”

As he turned to walk away, the young man looked down at the ten-rupee note in his clenched hand. He looked down again, this time into his heart where he saw glimpses of a blinding darkness.