India, Here We Come
By James E. McEldowney
Go West, Young Man, Go West! Stories - Table of Contents Kashmir - a Fairy Land


Ruth and I garlanded with
flowers, Christmas 1935
When two people love each other they get married. That's what happened to me. My name is James, Jim for short. The girl I fell in love with was Ruth. We got married a very long time ago, in 1933. Both of us were studying to be missionaries. I wanted to go to China because I had some very good Chinese friends. I also liked Chinese food very much. Ruth wanted to go to India. Her father's cousin, Ethel Calkins, was in India. She wrote wonderful letters telling of her work with women and children. It seemed that India was a strange and wonderful land.

After we were married we were ready to be missionaries. Right then the Japanese people were fighting the Chinese, so we couldn't go to China. Ruth was especially happy when we were told we could go to India. Then we packed up and early in August 1935 we got on a train in Malvern, Iowa and said good-by to our folks.

When the train go to Lincoln, Nebraska, who should be waiting to bid us good-bye but my mother's sister Ada, and her daughter, Betty. Just before the train pulled out, Aunt Ada said, "Bring back a little Indian baby." Ruth replied, "We'll see what we can do about it."

We slept that night in the sleeping car on the train and the next morning we arrived at Denver and had just enough time to eat a hurried breakfast and change trains. Then we started out past Pikes Peak and soon we were in the heart of the Rockies. All that day we saw one beautiful mountain after another. That night we got off the train in Salt Lake City. We spent the night there in a hotel. The next day was Sunday. First we went to see the Mormon Tabernacle and then to worship at the Methodist church. But we had to hurry on to San Francisco. It was cold wen we got off the train the next morning. There was lots to do before we could leave for India. I still have the boat ticket we were given at the Steamship Office. The very next day we sailed out of the bay for India. We were on a Dutch freighter, the Tosari. It took 54 days to get to India.

You can't imagine how much water there is out there in the [++Page 16] Pacific Ocean. The only time we saw land was when we passed the Hawaiian Islands. After twenty days full steam ahead we reached the Philippines. The best of it was we did not get tired of sailing. We played deck quoits and other games and did a lot of reading. Sometimes flying fish would land right on the deck. It was wonderful.

When we came to the Philippine Islands we heard somone shout, "See the Dolphins." There they were, dozens of them, racing along-side the ship. Dophins are large fish, eight or ten feet long. They escorted us through the narrow channel, swimming close to the front of the boat and jumping out of the water. What a sight.

Before we got to Manila the ship stopped and small boats came to take us to the city. The captain said, "We have a ship full of gun powder. We are going to unload it at Fort Corregidor. We will see you in Manila in two days." I was very surprised and said, "What if we had been struck by lightning during that bad storm we had a week ago. Would it have blown up the ship?" He smiled and said, "Yes, and you would not even have known anything about it," meaning that we would have been blown up, too.

We had many other stops on the way to India but at last we arrived in Bombay. Mrs. Warren, a missionary who lived there, met our boat. "Welcome to India," she said. Then we had to present our passports and get permission to land. After that we went to customs. Our baggage had alread been brought to the customs shed. We had to show what things we were bringing to India and pay some customs on one or two items. Mrs. Warren waited for us and took us to her home.

What a strange place India is. There are crowds of people on the streets. Many of the cars are tiny and there are all kinds of horse drawn carts and carriages, and hundreds of bicycles. It seems strange because they don't drive on the right side of the road but on the left.

But we hardly had time to see even a little of Bomby when Mrs. Warren said, "Now you must get ready for the train trip to Hyderabad." Then she warned us, "There are sicknesses in India you do not have in America, so you must be very careful. Indian people like to be friendly and offer you some food. You had better not eat any of it because you might get sick." Then she told us many more "don'ts" before we got on the train.

The trains were different than in America. We were put in a little room, called a compartment. We had to make our own bed with bedding Mrs. Warren had given us. The train started and we slept during the night. In the morning we ate some of the food Mrs. Warren had fixed for us.

We were hardly finished when we stopped at a station. [++Page 17] An Indian man who spoke very good English came to the compartment and asked, "May my wife ride in your compartment?" We were not sure but we said, "Yes." Then he brought her. She was a large woman. She had many trunks and bundles. but there was plenty of room. She wore what we later learned was called a " burka." It was something like a long white sheet that covered her from head to toe. There were two little peek holes in the cloth over her face so she could see out.

He left her just before the train started. Very soon she took off her burka. She was fully dressed in lovely Indian clothes. Soon she tried to talk with us. She knew no English and we could not understand her language. But she wanted to be friendly so offered us food. It was hard to refuse without seeming to be unkind, but we had to say "no." After we had gone further she took out what looked like a large piece of candy. She kept insisting that we take some. At last I thanked her as best I could and put the candy in our food basket. Later I was told that what I should have done was to cut a couple of slices and given the rest back to her. We had much to learn if we were to live in India.

Then we arrived in Hyderabad. Many people were waiting to meet us at the railway station in Hyderabad. George and Elsie Garden were there. We were to stay with them until our house was ready. Edith DeLima, the principal of Stanley Girl's School was there along with a number of teachers and students. There were also some members of the church where I was to preach. Gabriel Sundaram, the principal of the Methodist Boy's School and some of his teachers and students also came. They seemed to rush at us and started to put garlands of flowers on us. Mrs. Warren had warned me in such uncertain words to be careful of Indian things that I almost refused the garlands but they piled one after another on Ruth and me. It was their way of saying "Hello." They use garlands to show respect to people and greet them. It is a very beautiful custom. Altogether it was a great welcome.

We lived in Hyderabad two years before Betty Ann was born. We studied Urdu, one of the Indian languages. I was the preacher in the large English Methodist Church. Many students and other people from the city came to my church.

We knew Betty Ann was on the way but we did not know exactly when she would be born. Near the time we were expecting her we had a great celebration in the church, a harvest festival. I invited John Paterson, a well-known missionary, to preach that day. Early that morning Ruth said, "I think the baby is coming. Send a note to the doctor and ask him what I should do." We didn't have telephones then. The reply came back, "Your wife is probably having false pains. The baby is not due for another two weeks. Tell her not to worry." All day, while she was getting ready for a big dinner that night her pains kept coming.

The church was filled for the service and John Paterson had just about finished his sermon when my cook, Meshak, came right up on the platform and handed me a note. Edith DeLima, who had offered to stay with Ruth when I came to the service, had hurriedly written the note. It read, "Ruth needs to go to the hospital. There is no hurry, but come at once!" Paterson was just finishing his sermon so as soon as I could I whispered to him to take charge and end the service, and I left.

Well we barely got to the hospital. Right away the nurses saw that the baby was on its way. They took her into the room where babies are born. Only a few minutes later I heard Betty Ann give her very first cry. Our first child was born! How wonderful! Soon they let me see her. She looked healthy and wonderful. Ruth was able to hold her and both seemed to be doing fine.

It was not long before people from the church came and asked, "Where is Ruth? She will be having a baby in a few days." A nurse spoke up, "Not a few days! She already has a little girl." And that is how Betty Ann began her very wonderful life in the land of India. [by James E. McEldowney, August 1997]

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