“Okay, Suresh says you should not speak or look like a foreigner when we are in Chhattisgarh.”
Anand on the left, with Suresh and two locals, as they ponder this piece of land for an orphanage
That’s Anand. He’s just spoken with Suresh who is stationed in Chhatisgarh, our first stop. Apparently, the area is a Red Zone for terrorist insurgents, and is the least politically and socially stable region of India.
And if that’s not enough, I get a mail from The Captain. He’s a school friend from 20yrs back, a British military officer with tons of experience and knowledge far beyond me. He’s in India and, under my brother’s request, has been keeping a watchful eye.
“Philen you cowboy. How are you doing? Don’t mean to get you into trouble with your bro, however, watching your FB page, I can see you are going deep into potential bandit country. My concern is that if anything happens to you;
1, nobody knows these people you are with,
2, you are not checking in with anyone to say everything is ok,
3, I bet you have no medical plan if you get hurt,
4, if the cops find out there is a foreign national in the area, they will get excited and maybe arrest you,
5, have you let the RSA Embassy know where you are traveling in case they need to assist you.”
Wow. I didn’t know. Typical of me, I just went off on a whim, following my heart and not researching anything beforehand. Medical plan, embassy …. seriously? I’ve never thought of this stuff before. If I did, I would’ve known that I was heading into the land of Maoist terrorists and Naxal bandits, where foreigners are kidnapped for ransom … especially by the police. Thankfully, I have The Captain. All I gotta do is check-in with him to let him know my expected dates of arrival and departure from places. If I don’t check-in when I say, then he’ll send in a team to get me out of trouble.
Before I left South Africa, Nicole and her Mom connected me with Anand, a young Catholic Missionary in India. In January 2014, Anand invited me on a 3-week trip through India’s tribal lands, where he and two friends, Suresh and Antony, are still active in their ministry amongst orphaned and vulnerable children, in the region of Andhra Pradesh, where my GrandFather was born.
It was an experience that stays in my heart, even today. 21 days that culture-shocked the bejeezus out of me and kept me smiling like a child, throughout. Continue reading