An emotional and poignant report by Nupi and Suresh:
“It has been a very difficult day but we choose to humble ourselves before the will of God. We received a phone call yesterday at 3:30 am that Vanda is no more.
Suresh started early with one of the Prakash ex-students. We had prayed and decided that we will not be rigid on how the funeral will take place in a Christian way or a tribal way as this was Vanda’s last journey and it was important that it be peaceful.
When I reached the village, all the ladies had gathered near his house. As soon as I reached the village Vanda’s mother came to me she
hugged me and
First she started saying something in her language which I did not understand for almost twenty minutes then she spoke in Marathi, ‘Doctor Saheb your son has gone to His God.’ Then she said, ‘Why did you not bring Big Saheb (Loren) to meet Vanda?’ I told them that he is not in India but I have conveyed him the message and he is very saddened by Vanda’s demise and sends his love to you and your family and he will surely come to meet you when he comes to India.
Slowly, slowly people started gathering and a big mob of almost seven villages gathered for his funeral. NEVER before had such a large number of people gathered there. People were all pointing at me and talking in their language that this is the Christian doctor who was like Vanda’s father and was with him till his last days.
Then the discussion started that they would bury him according to the tribal system but a few people wanted it to be in the Christian way. Then the Chief quietly came asked to Saheb and me is it possible to conduct the funeral in a Christian way as Vanda was following the Jesus way. I, (Suresh) was puzzled as I was not prepared for it mentally or financially but I asked him if that is what the family and you all will allow to happen peacefully I would be more than willing to do it.
At this moment the Chief stood up and announced to the whole crowd of seven villages that, ‘Vanda was a believer of Jesus and that is why I am announcing that the funeral will be in a Christian way and this is my final decision as the head of the village.’
I still did not know how I am going to arrange everything. I called Nupi who was home and was going to join me later that this is the situation. ‘How do we arrange the money at this moment?’ She said, ‘Your salary has been deposited in the bank let’s use it and we will go ahead.’ After that Nupi called all the pastors Jitu, Moses, Padmaker, Nagesh and Joy. Nagesh and Padmaker went to arrange for the coffin box.
Until they arrived I talked to the young people of the village to deepen the already dug pit. I also helped them. The youngsters did not understand why it had to be deeper than their usual one. I was explaining that we will put a coffin in it. The word coffin was something that was very difficult to explain finally I said a box with Vanda in it and one young man said ‘You are saying the box of God the Father?’ I said, ‘Yes’ and he said, ‘Now you relax, I will manage everything else.’
When I returned back to the Vanda’s hut, people of the other village started saying that now Doctor Saheb will stop coming to the village as Vanda is no more. When the Chief heard this he said, ‘I trust him that he will not stop coming. One Vanda is gone but more Vandas are going to be raised in this village.’ The Chief also asked me is it possible for big Saheb (Loren) and Sahibin (Sylvia) to come for the funeral we can wait till evening? I told them that it takes almost thirty hours and more from his place to come here. I told him that I have conveyed him the message and also will send him the pictures.
Then I went and brought brand new clothes and a shawl for Vanda, as it was required, and flowers. Nupi, Nagesh and Padmaker reached in Nagesh’s car followed by the coffin in an auto rickshaw (Nagesh was part of Vanda’s baptism.)
As soon as Nupi got down from the car the ladies pointed to her and said ‘Doctorin Bai has come. She
raised Vanda up in God’s way.’ Sheshi and Vanda’s mother were inconsolable when they saw Nupi.
Everybody was looking at the coffin for the first time. His mother specially asked me that she
would like to apply turmeric and other things as per her tribal custom would you mind and we said you are free to do what you want. They applied turmeric on his face and hands we put him in the coffin box . . . his sisters were crying,
Sheshi became unconscious, so we gave attention to her and gave her some electrolytes. She
was well enough in some time. Then the Chief signaled me to start the funeral.
Padmaker read a few verses from the scripture and prayed. I was very surprised that everybody stood in silence when this was happening.
Vanda’s coffin was laid in the dug pit they asked me if they can put two bags of salt around his coffin and I agreed to it.
Then the procession started towards the burial place. The burial place was chosen behind the village near the creek. This was done because the Chief wanted the burial to take place in the vicinity of the village.
The Chief announced that you will do what Doctor Saheb says and nothing beyond that. There was a old man who started yelling and started talking to Nupi in his language after paying a lot of attention she understood that he was very concerned about the position of the head of the body. She asked him which way do you want it to be? He said. ‘It must be towards the water and all this young foolish people are doing it their own way.’ He was not understanding as the coffin box was closed. Nupi very calmly made him understand that, that is how he has been laid. He said, ‘Are you saying that just to pacify me how do you know?’ Then she told him that she could tell from the position of the cross on the coffin box. He started patting her on the shoulder and said. ‘Good girl, now I am at peace.’
We sung a song in Hindi that says we will go beyond the blue sky where Jesus lives. After that I asked Nagesh to pray and when he started to pray, some people who knew closed their eyes for the prayer. Suddenly in middle of the prayer the Chief told everybody else keep quiet and eyes closed. It was funny to see him do this in such a serious situation, but very touching also.
Chief said. ‘We would like to build a small platform here when is it done.’ So we told him it can be done a few days later then he looked around as if he was searching something he started asking Nupi, ‘Where are the vertical and horizontal sticks (cross)?’ This has totally slipped out of our mind so we told him that we will arrange it in a few days. He said, ‘Make sure you bring it.’
We walked back to the village sat for a while and Vanda’s mother kept hugging Nupi all the time and saying, ‘Vanda was your son, but I am also your mother. Please don’t leave me alone. I want you present on my funeral also.’ Nupi told her, ‘We will never leave you. You are our family. Be assured that we will always come back to the village.’ She told her that Vanda wanted his son to be educated more than him. So we now need to focus on his children and their future. And Nupi said, ‘Yes, his children are important to me too.’
The Chief said, ‘When you come back we will discuss about some important things.’ I told him we will do that after three or four days. Then we prayed and came back home.
People of the village admire our work and many of them inquired about you both.
Thank you so much for your prayers your support and please thank each and every person that was praying for Vanda. We know that Vanda isn’t no more, because he is with Jesus. We wait upon the Lord as the future is in His hands.”
A note from SHE:
For all these years I have been storing up the stories of Vanda’s unimaginable life and finally put them into a book. The book has just been printed and is available in hardback and eBook. I have called Vasentha, Vanda for all these years in the Journals for his security.
All the royalties will go to Prakash for India and Vet-Med Outreach. Praying this may help pay some of Vasentha’s children’s education.