“Makeup? Makeup? Is good one. Pen? Is best pen.”
“Is it all good?” I bantered, waving my hand around the crowded little stall filled with measuring spoons, tin cups, can openers, mirrors (which the shopkeeper called makeup), plastic waste baskets and of course, pens.
The wiry Indian man smiled back. Benson paid for our items, I told the host of workers “Shookria,” and we walked down the narrow Mumbai sidewalk to the next stall in search of a clothes drying rack.
On our way home, we stopped by the produce seller who works from a broken down rickshaw half a block from our apartment and handed over sixty rupees for a large bunch of tiny bananas. Afterward, we shared the elevator ride up with our neighbor and I held up the fruit. “How much should these cost?” I asked, wondering if the seller gave me a good price.
The tall man examined my bananas and thought. “The small ones have more nutrition,” he said. “Sixty rupees is good.”
The Lord gives and the Lord takes away. On our first trip here a few months ago, God definitely took away. He took away some of my idols. He took my crutches. But He gave. He gave me breath when I was drowning and comfort when I wept.
This time, He is taking different things: my fear, my prejudices. And He’s giving. He’s giving so much. This time the gifts are more tangible and sweeter in the moment: a new apartment with big windows that overlook the most beautiful part of the city, a restaurant I love a three-minute walk away, a kind driver who brought pictures of his family to show us the first time he picked us up and is teaching Benson new Hindi words every day as he weaves through traffic, a local phone number, a currency exchanger located in the open air market across the street who gives us a fair rate from his incense-soaked shop, a hand-made quilt for our bed.
I am overwhelmed. I am overwhelmed by how much easier and joyful and fun this city has been this time around. I’m overwhelmed by the fact that I prayed that God would help me love these people who are so different from me, and He has answered so rapidly.
I have a million scenes in my head: the dusty man ringing my doorbell selling a coconut; fat cows confidently walking down the sidewalk in front delicate women draped in lavender and aqua fabric; the security guard at our gate who said, “I like mangos” when we offered him one, and then added, “I like you,” smiling wide and offering us a thumbs up; beet root hummus with tahini yogurt over vegetables and rice; the American coffee I pay a fortune for each morning but relish every sip of; a patio chair strapped to the back of a man on a motorcycle; Benson and I, sticky from walking in the heat, eating pizza straight out of the box on our kitchen floor because we have neither a table nor dishwasher.
I know there will be hard days mixed in the next year, but for now, I am only grateful for how much God is allowing me to love this land of old and new.