Skills training in Divya Shanthi

The New Normal in Bangalore means learning new skills

Vinay Samuel continues his diary of the work of Christian Community Services in Bangalore in coming to terms with the new normal.

The last designated train to take migrant workers back to their home states in North India leaves this week. As the Federal Government has now allocated resources for providing employment for them in infrastructure projects in their own states, they are not likely to return to South Indian cities like Bangalore and Chennai (Madras) in the near future. Work and business in these cities will change significantly. Our vocational training unit expects to revive training in various trade skills that will now be in short supply. Local young people will need to be trained.

Spike in Infections

The last week has seen a reversal with the number of infected people rising daily. Infections have reached close to us. A street 300 yards away from our facility had 6 people confirmed as positive with the corona virus this week. The local municipal health authorities have recommended we close our daily medical clinics. Our team of doctors and nurses believe they should be at the clinics, at least, for a few hours but treat people remotely by Whatsapp. People with chronic illnesses and others in our low-income area need the security of speaking to a doctor and a trained nurse and picking up a prescription as needed.

Our tailoring unit restarted employing 12 women to produce facemasks for sale. Last week we produced 6000 masks of acceptable quality and provided them free to the unemployed in our area who were going out to look for employment. We were able to do this with a gift from a local donor. The women who were struggling to find employment were able to earn three days' wages. This week we will work for five days and produce more masks for sale and also for free distribution to the poor. The state has enacted strict rules about wearing facemasks in public places. Many poor cannot afford proper masks.

Our pastoral ministry has transitioned to contacting and praying with people on the phone. Bible studies and prayer meetings take place by Zoom and worship using Face Book live. What is encouraging is the request for Holy Communion at home. On average each of our four pastors does 12 home communions each week. They are finding that sacraments and the experience of the holy in this way is very important to our simple believers. In a very uncertain environment it connects them with a familiar ritual that mediates the unchanging presence of Christ.

Last week’s event in the western Himalaya region where Indian troops clashed with Chinese troops and suffered 20 deaths has added another layer of uncertainty, even in Bangalore. With 70% of the goods we use imported from China and the call to boycott Chinese goods there is concern about shortages of goods in regular use. The inevitable price rise will make life more difficult for struggling families. The number of Christians in the armed forces has declined steadily in the past three decades, not least as it was difficult for them to get in. There may be opportunities now to show that Christians will be part of our defense forces in the same way as they were 50 years ago.