ENTRY SIX – Lahore Cathedral
ENTRY SIX – September 15, 1986
Lahore Cathedral (Cathedral Church of the Resurrection)
As I struggle to put our experiences on paper (now a travel blog) in a coherent fashion, I can see now what I totally failed to comprehend then. There was a pattern emerging from the events of recent weeks. A mystery was unfolding.
Our plane to Lahore was seven hours late and there was no one to meet us at the airport. We looked a sight! Not wanting me to meet the Bishop in my unkempt state, Miranda booked us into a hotel. I phoned Bishopsbourne and made arrangements for the following morning.
As the next day dawned – the humidity lower and sun shining – I set out for my appointment with the Bishop. It felt good to march along the Mall Road, marveling at its great width. The British Raj had set out the street to be wide enough to turn their elaborate horse-drawn conveyances.
The majority of the buildings were Victorian: antiquated structures that had been converted into shops and restaurants. Several times I stopped to admire the intricate detail on some of the gables and eaves. People were everywhere, scurrying about their business.
Cathedral Close was a sanctuary from the dust and hubbub of the city. Birdsong and sweet smells from the flowering bushes enveloped me. The long, winding driveway continued past the Bishop’s residence. Beyond tall hedges, the towering Cathedral loomed, red-bricked and magnificent against the green foliage and pale-blue sky. The architecture was definitely 19th-century England. As I drew closer, a strange sensation overcame me and I became rooted to the spot, staring.
It took a moment to comprehend the appalling fact: I had been standing, gazing ahead, zombie-like, for forty-five minutes and was now late for my appointment!
To my surprise, the Bishop seemed unconcerned by my lack of punctuality. He asked me to sit in his large, front room, positioning himself in a leather armchair. We spoke comfortably for half an hour as he outlined my duties as curate at the Cathedral.
When we finished, the Bishop explained that Miranda and I would be staying in the Vicarage, sharing accommodation with the present curate, Timothy Evans. It was suggested that we attend the 8:00 a.m. Morning Prayer service the next day, then make our introductions.
Overgrown Praying Mantis
As he opened the door to the Vicarage, my first reaction was that the Rev. Timothy Evans looked exactly like a Timothy Evans should. He was extremely thin with pointed features, very fair skin and almost white-blond hair. A pair of gold wire spectacles were perched on the end of his long beak-like nose, jutting out from between two watery, light-blue eyes. The eyes were too small and too close together for such a nose. Or maybe his breathing organ was too prominent for those beady little eyes. In any event the Rev. Timothy Evans glared superciliously over his folded hands which were pressed together just below his long thin lips. He was dressed in a form of native Pakistani dress, a kurta qamiz, but its baggy, long shirt and billowing trousers only emphasized his bony, fragile-looking frame.
I gathered by his attitude that he was not pleased to see us. In a cold, clipped, British fashion that seemed downright condescending, he enquired, “Who, might I ask, are you?”
I was taken aback by his lack of hospitality. However, I did manage to reply politely, “I am the Rev. G. Bryan Porter, from Canada.”
“And what are you doing here?” he sneered.
“I hope to serve the Lord.”
“And how do you propose to do that?”
“With your help. The Bishop said you’d be kind enough to welcome us and get us settled in.”
“I’m Miranda, his wife, the other half of ‘us’,” I heard a voice say over my shoulder.
“Well,” Timothy Evans snapped, “I am presently engaged, and you do not have an appointment, and I do not like being interrupted. Come back in two hours’ time and I will see what can be done.” He firmly closed the door.
Miranda and I left. He had clearly taken an instant dislike to me, and that hurt.
“What’s wrong?” Miranda asked, seeing the look on my face.
“Nothing,” I muttered.
“Don’t let that overgrown praying-mantis get you down. We’ll return in exactly two hours and I’ll deal with that insect,” she said in a way that made me thankful I was not he.
When we did return, Timothy Evans was a changed man. Even his appearance had improved somehow. He invited us into the sitting room, and asked if we’d like something cool to drink. While preparing the beverages, he chattered non-stop, obviously trying to make us comfortable. I could see by Miranda’s expression that she was as amazed as I at the miraculous transformation.
Next, he showed us what would be our bedroom, explaining that we must be careful of falling plaster during the monsoon season. He also noted other problems he’d encountered while living in the Vicarage.
As we were about to retrieve our bags, he apologized for his earlier behavior. The Bishop, he explained, had left him completely in the dark about our early arrival. Timothy had been perplexed, because he was not scheduled to leave until December. Having his replacement appear four months early, had been disconcerting, to say the least!
We assured the young deacon that we were not in Lahore to unseat him, but merely to help him. With everything ironed out, we all began to relax. By midday, he was offering to be our guide to the city.
The Old City Bazaar
Soon after my arrival, I’d been asked to hold services for a community located on the Indian-Pakistani border, because the armies of the said nations had been mobilized and the village was at risk.
While I was off in no man’s land, Miranda had been praying for my safety. However she decided that she must do something to take her mind off my trip, so she set off to find some earrings (although Tim and others had specifically warned her not to go shopping on her own).
Thousands of tiny shops and stalls filled the Old City bazaar. The crowdedness, cacophony and confusion hit her as she stepped into the main, covered market area and began her search for jewelry. Her heart raced with excitement. It was fun shopping in such exotic surroundings, she reflected.
As Miranda continued to wind her way through the complicated maze of lanes and passageways, her confidence increased and she felt quite proud of herself. She soon found an inexpensive pair of earrings: little burgundy flowers outlined in gold leaf.
The shop was not really a shop, but rather a few feet of wall where a simple collection was displayed. After being handed the ten rupees, the shopkeeper dropped the earrings into her open hand.
As Miranda placed the loose earrings into her purse, it struck her that a brooch or bracelet might really add to her outfit – especially if she could find one in the same colors. And besides, she told herself, the earrings had been so inexpensive she could afford something else.
Many of the dealers had earrings similar to the ones she’d purchased, so finding another matching piece should be accomplished quite easily.
At one jewelry boutique she studied several items in a glass-topped case on top of a counter, holding her new earrings in her hand. Seeing nothing that really fit color-wise, she started to return the earrings to her purse.
Suddenly, the man behind the counter reached out and grabbed her wrist. At the same time he screamed loudly that this vile woman was attempting to steal earrings from his shop. Horrified and shocked at being falsely accused, Miranda began to defend herself. “I bought these at another shop and was just trying to match the color,” she cried out, explaining that she was very honest – the wife of a Christian clergyman – and would never steal anything, especially a pair of cheap earrings.
The man was adamant that they had been stolen from his shop and threatened to call the police. A crowd of curious onlookers began to form. Real fear crept into her, joining the outrage already there.
“I’ll take you back to the place where I bought these earrings,” she pleaded in desperation. “Then you’ll know I’m telling the truth.”
The shopkeeper reluctantly agreed, and, signaling for someone to watch his store, he followed Miranda.
Walking along, pursued by a large mob, it began to dawn on her how hopeless the situation really was. Would she be able to find that tiny piece of wall in this mind-numbing maze? Not in a million years! Fear began to turn to despair, and thoughts of anti-American sentiment and losing a hand for theft crowded her mind.
“I must stay calm,” she reminded herself.
The entourage moved along, Miranda desperately glancing from side to side. When it seemed she could no longer hold back the tears, something curious occurred. A kindly, white-haired man appeared and asked what was happening. He listened carefully as Miranda explained her side of the story and the shopkeeper explained his.
After weighing what he had heard and asking a few more questions, the elderly gentleman calmed down the offended store owner and convinced him that Miranda was telling the truth. The laugh-lines around her rescuer’s warm, brown eyes crinkled as he smiled at her, the sensation produced by his gaze seeming very familiar. A great tide of relief flowed through Miranda, for she was free to go.