Mahab is a village of old and new, with ancient Hindu temples carved from red sandstone in the 7th century standing just next to newly constructed guest lodges and shops. Fresh paint of every brightl color adorns the more affluent businesses and homes. We even notice a brand new traffic light at the main intersection – a first for tiny Mahab. We are thrilled to discover a brand new grocery market, with a modern inventory and a powerful air-conditioner blasting out a little heaven on earth as we enter.
Throngs of villagers clog the streets, milling from the famous Shore Temple to the Hindu Bathing Pool choking in lily pads. There is no place to go, but the promenade continues, back and forth, languid and slow. Everything is slow in India. We once again notice how quiet India is. So many people in such a small area – and yet they seem to have little to say to one another. Old women – or more accurately – women who look old and sad sit on the dirty door stoops of their dark and sparse homes, staring ahead with blank expressions of nothingness.
Life is hard in Mahab. Most villagers rise with the sun and work hard day in and day out, through the constant heat and humidity. They don’t seem to notice. We do. The heat is oppressive and we marvel at their tolerance for such difficult lifestyles. For many, they are trapped – born here, into a life of poverty, or brought here to live with their new husbands in the home of
their in-laws. Some do not know the language of their new families or neighbors. Most are aware of “western lifestyles”, but long ago accepted it is not available to them. Little is.
As we walk, slowly, the poverty and hopelessness that permeates every corner of this village settles over us, like the dirt from the streets. It’s a familiar feeling, one that greets us every time we return. Even with it's new paint, Mahab, like much of India, can be a dark, oppressive place. There is little light here – there is little hope for change. The dirt that seems to pervade every corner of the village casts a dark shadow over all – even the ominous Hindu temples. Idols are everywhere we look. Thousands of idols fill every nook and cranny. Pagan temples line every street. Some are large and open-air. Some are dark and dreary. Some are brightly painted and sit outside shops and homes. And one temple to the peacock god travels in the bed of a pickup truck and moves throughout the village so people may come and worship on the street. Hundreds of temples and thousands of idols. The caste system lives on in the societal expectations, banishing all hope of a better life. Social welfare support is a function primarily of non-profit and Christian organizations and the need is overwhelming.
Our first day back in Mahab is discouraging. The chaos is frustrating. The heat is overwhelming. The flies and garbage are repulsive.The overbearing sadness is obvious. But it is the Darkness that breaks my heart.
“Thank you, Jesus, for breaking my heart for these villagers who need you so desperately. They live in Darkness and most never realize your Light is available to them. Open their eyes and their hearts to the Truth - that you love them as much as you love me. That you love them as much as you love your own son Jesus. That Jesus lives in this tiny village with them, in the dirt, and wants to live in their hearts. Amen.”
PS – Thank you to all who have been faithfully waiting for updates. Everything in India moves slowly and organizing Internet access has been “an opportunity for learning patience.” Now that we’re connected, we hope to update the blog regularly. Pray for good Internet access! Hope you’ll check back soon and please comment below. Blessings!