I was born in the UK, the last of 4 children to a Brahmin Hindu couple who had emigrated from Kerala in 1955. My father was not in any way religious, in fact, he was very political and had been a journalist for a communist newspaper in the 1940s during very turbulent times in India and had been in jail for some time for his political beliefs. He married my mother immediately after India’s Independence in 1947 when he was 29 yrs old and she was 15 yrs old. My mother was very religious and it was she who brought us up in the Brahmin tradition in the UK.
My father became a traveling salesman whilst my mother took care of the children and when I was old enough, she started working for BOAC (now known as British Airways). By this time we were living in Southall, Middlesex, which saw a huge influx of Northern Indians in the early 1960s. I was very aware at primary school that my siblings and I were in the minority but at that age, we never thought about race issues. We happily played and grew up with our classmates and neighbors’ children.
We went to India for the very first time in 1963. This was a traumatic experience for us…the heat, strange smells, beautiful sights, animals, and strange customs created memories that would last a lifetime, some wonderful and others traumatic. It was the first of several two-yearly family trips to India which would lead to my conversion to Christianity as a 19yr old as I saw things that troubled and saddened me and which would affect me deeply in later life.
When I was about 3 yrs old, a stranger came to my parents’ house and took me out to a fair and bought me sweets on the way. I didn’t know who he was or why he was there but when I was brought back, my mother screamed at him in a language I couldn’t understand, throwing the sweets into the back of the large cupboard in the lounge. I never saw the man again but from then onwards I developed a fear of men and became frightened of my mother’s temper. I never talked about the incident to anyone throughout my life as I realized that this man could have abducted me…why did he bring me back to my parents’ house and why did he take me away without asking my mother first? These questions haunted me for many years. I was always frightened of strangers and haunted by nightmares as a result.
When I was 9 yrs old I experienced racism personally for the first…The fact that it came from my school friends whom I had known from the age to 5yrs and they were Punjabi’s and Muslims made it worse…I was devastated one day when they decided to create a gang…the “makeup gang”…which I was not allowed to join as my mother wouldn’t allow us to wear makeup. I was no longer one of their friends! I played on my own for hours in the school yard, my heart breaking because I was now an outsider and I didn’t know why.
At around the same time, I was at the local park which we visited every Saturday in the summer holidays and at weekends when the weather was nice. One day we went to the swings and I looked up longingly at a child on a wooden swing waiting for her to stop so I could have my turn on the swing…as I looked up, the girl pulled the swing forward so fast and so low it went crashing into my forehead stunning me…The pain was excruciating and was likely to be the cause of a condition which would lead to depression and daily headache syndrome for much of my life.
Family life became more and more stressful as we had no extended family in the UK and weren’t allowed to have friends. I had become the victim of sexual abuse and by my mid-teens had begun contemplating suicide as it seemed everyone in my family hated each other. My parents and siblings seemed indifferent to what I was going through and with deep feelings of rejection and isolation as a teenager, I became more and more distant from them and more introspective. One day as a depressed 18yr old, having failed my A levels and having no friends due to the extreme isolation we grew up with, I decided to go back to my primary school which had now held mostly sad memories for me except for one school teacher who showed some interest in me when I told her I had started having piano lessons. I was 10yrs old and playing the piano in my parents’ front room became my escape from daily stress, brawls and screaming matches between my older siblings and my parents. It was my safe place where I could shut the door and hide in music because I knew no one was interested in listening to me play the piano or sing. In fact, I was ridiculed and never received any affirmation from my family during my childhood. I was tolerated and never felt accepted.
I went back to the primary school and managed to find out where my music teacher had moved to as, by now, she was married with children. I wrote a letter to her explaining what I was doing now that I had left grammar school without any A levels and with no prospects as I had no idea what kind of job I could get or what I wanted to do in life. I had been seeking for truth during these very dark years. This school teacher had taught me music and when she found out I had the same piano teacher who had taught her, she asked me to play what I had learned. This one act of kindness towards a lonely, confused and depressed 10yr old had a huge impact on me. It was also only of many “God-incidences” up to that point which drew my attention to the fact that God was hovering over my life as it says in Genesis Ch 1..”And the Spirit of God brood over the waters…”…He was drawing me to Himself without my even knowing or asking Him to!
A few weeks after writing the letter I received a response from the teacher. I was amazed as I had no friends in the new area my parents had moved to and she seemed to be what I wanted in a friend. She wrote about how she had remembered me, her new family life and about my search for truth. Her letter ended with these words “Vasantha, if there is one thing I can pass on to you, it’s the opportunity to seek Jesus”. I had no idea she was a Christian!
These were words I did not want to read, however…I was indoctrinated with so many conflicting ideas about Jesus that I had already decided to create my own religion made up of all the good bits of other religions which I actually knew very little about! I pretended I knew everything and told my teacher in subsequent letters but all she ever wrote back to me was about my SIN and how Jesus was the only person who could solve the problem of my sin.
One year and numerous letters later, I still had no peace, was lonely, depressed and confused so I asked if I could meet my teacher at her home. I didn’t tell my parents where I was going as I had little reason to. I just wanted to get away from everyone.
At the end of my day with her and her children, I asked my teacher if she had anything I could read. She ran upstairs and brought down her husband’s bible which had written on the front a passage from 1Cor 13 “…and the greatest of these is love.” I began reading the passage and also the Gospel of John as my teacher had encouraged me.
My days were long and lonely during that summer when I had failed my A levels in Biology and Chemistry a second time. Feeling disillusioned after practising the piano for hours in the hope of being able to study music at college instead, I sat at the table and said to God: “If you are with me, tell me who you are” ….a voice inside me simply said “My name is Jesus Christ” and on hearing those words I felt a huge weight lift off me.
Later that day in my bedroom I knelt on the floor and prayed a prayer no-one had ever taught me and received Christ as my Saviour. I had no idea what life would bring along, never imagining that I would suddenly be accepted to study music at a college as far away from my family as possible or that I would end up in a borderline cult for 7 difficult years during which I was told that if I wanted to serve God I would have to give up everything, including my career and college and so I did, causing my parent’s much pain as I had no point of reference as far as churches were concerned. they had no idea I had become a Christian. I had such a strong desire to serve God that I became depressed whatever work I did as my relationship with my family and people in the church was very bad for many years.
I ended up in YWAM for 2 years and this led to 10 years as a gospel singer in the UK and other countries. God moved in my life so powerfully that I realize this was His way of keeping me close to Him and giving me the love few people around me had ever given me.
Through the years since my 35yr journey began, I have been misunderstood, spiritually abused and felt like a wanderer in the church, rarely feeling accepted as I never felt totally Asian. I felt but didn’t look British and that seemed to be a problem for people. Yes, I was accepted to a certain degree and God did bring a few special people into my life but I never felt I was really part of “family” in the Body of Christ. I was single, female, from a heathen background, often viewed suspiciously by leaders and even asked to leave a church because I was the wrong nationality! All through the pain, isolation, and lack of friendships, I made the choice to forgive and I am grateful for those who did believe in me and remained loyal in spite of geographical separation. I also learned my conflict resolving skills were appalling and would always run away from conflict.
Some years ago I had the opportunity to have counseling at a Christian healing ministry in the UK. My journey into healing began. It was to be a traumatic journey with my facing literal death for the third time in my life as God dug deep into my past hurts, fears and brokenness but God brought me through as He promised and restored me. My parents were uncle and niece and so generational issues had to be dealt with causing me trauma to the point where I felt I was being terrorized by the enemy mentally. My journey into the physical long-term and mental illness gave me compassion for those who suffer in this area.
I later trained in healing ministry myself and have discovered that much of our healing simply comes through having genuine relationships with others in the Body of Christ and experiencing the reality of family in the church which is something eluded me for many years. I was taken to an Asian church as a young Christian but the memories of racism as a 9yr old had affected me so deeply I never felt comfortable. I couldn’t speak or understand the languages being spoken and felt as much an alien as in any other church.In fact, I couldn’t bear to be around Asians at all…one pastor even told me to “Go and speak to those visitors…they are YOUR people”…I ran as fast as I could in the opposite direction!
During the course of counselling I found out from my mother that her father was a Brahmin priest although she never knew him and had kept this a secret from us all through her life and I wonder now if that is where my deep sense of God’s call on my life came from so much so that I struggled for many years with secular work. I had been told in screaming tones as a child by my own mother that her mother had abused and abandoned her when she was a child as my grandmother had turned her back on her family and become an actress at the Bombay Talkie studies long before Bollywood came into existence. The childhood embarrassment of going to watch Bollywood movies every Sunday with a mother who sobbed her way through every film was profound but her behavior now made sense. My mother was mourning the loss of parents she had never had and could not be to us as she isolated us, forbade us to have friends, threatened us with physical harm if we disobeyed and yet she never carried out those threats. My mother is a lioness who hurt deeply for her children because of her own loss.
Last year I was given the opportunity to do a 3yr degree which I completed in 8 months! At school, my headmaster wrote on a report “Vasantha has an inability to retain information”…God proved him so very wrong! I came out the top of the college in record time and am about to become an Exec Vice President in a company in the UK. God restores the years the locust has eaten.
My life has been very much back to front, but through it all, God has been faithful, never leaving or abandon me, saving my father on his deathbed, restoring relationships that had barely existed and changing my family as He has worked in me and shown He is a loving Heavenly Father who seeks the One in order to bring in the many.
“A raindrop on its own forms barely even a puddle. It is a thing of beauty to the perceptive eye when seen in the pure light. But many raindrops create storms, rivers, oceans and ultimately the very source of life upon which every creature depends. I may have felt like a raindrop all my life, but together with all the others in God’s family, I am part of God’s great river of life bringing hope to a dead world”.
@ Vasantha Narayanswami 2017