The passport controller at the tiny airport of Tiruchirapally, South India, turned the pages of my fairly new passport over and over again. At last he asked, “Madam, how have you come to India without a passport?
It would have taken too long to explain the whole story to him, so I just answered, “Your Government allows people from my country, Finland, three months travel without a visa.” This was July 1969. The story began many years earlier.
My first visit to India was in 1953. At that time I was a child, traveling for the first time towards the country which my missionary parents said was Home. The P & O Liner, S.S. ‘Maloya’ was on its last voyage from Australia to England. Our family of seven persons had boarded the ship in Colombo, Ceylon just a few days after my eighth birthday. Our first stop was Bombay. We had time to visit a park named Kamala Nehru Park. The word ‘Kamala’ in Finnish means ‘horrible’. We had fun in the park in spite of the name.
My father had acquired a ship of his own, a former minesweeper, BYMS173, which he rebuilt into a Gospel Ship. In August 1955 our family of seven traveled together with 26 other people on the Gospel Ship ‘Ebeneser’ to Colombo, Ceylon. Our school holidays from then on were mostly spent on the ship, if it was in a harbor in Ceylon. In May 1957 father had decided to take the ship to Madras, South India. I wasn’t too keen on going along as I was afraid of losing some days when school began again. That happened too. I was not at all happy about that. The memory of my second visit wasn’t too good.
The third visit was the worst. I had finished my final year of school in Kandy, and we had to leave the beautiful country and all my friends there. It was impossible to stay on, in spite of all my tears. I had no future in the country I had learned to love. We traveled with the Gospel Ship to India. Father left two of my brothers, aged 21 and 20, in charge of the ship in Ernakulam, Kerala, while the rest of us traveled 50 hours on a coal-fed, smoke-puffing, steam-engined train to Bombay, where we were to board the P&O Liner, S.S. Stratheden – to go ‘Home’. We arrived in a foggy, wet London on my seventeenth birthday. A week later we were ‘home’.
My road to India was long and hard. I never wanted to go there or anywhere East anymore. My whole life had been a life of traveling with my missionary parents, and soon that after for studies to England. I wanted to stay at home. I had discovered where home is two times in my life. The first time was when I was eight and the second time when I was seventeen. Now I only longed to go back home after my finishing my studies the next year, when I was 21. When I had turned 20 the Voice started calling. It had called me many times before but now it was clearer. “To win life you must first lose it. To receive you must first give yourself.”