By Aparna Jacob
In our lonely journey through life we are watched over and assisted in innumerable ways by spirit guides and celestial beings. So take comfort. We are never alone.
When she was a baby, a group of angels came to visit Chitra Uttamsingh. ‘My mother left me playing on the bed while she went to check on something in the kitchen. Suddenly there were four little girls in the room. I remember wondering, ‘where did they come from?’ ‘
‘We’ve come to play with you,’ they smiled. The child immediately felt warm, sheltered and at pea ce. They were dressed in frocks and seemed like ordinary children, except, says Chitra, ‘not quite flesh and bone. And they vanished when my mother returned.’
‘I was three,’ Chitra explains, ‘I didn’t question it. Mother was convinced I was making it all up or that I’d been dreaming. But looking back now, I’m certain it wasn’t a dream. It really did happen.’
Do you believe this? It doesn’t matter who believes it or doesn’t. Those touched by an angel would testify that their lives have never been the same since. Chitra today works for the Central Bank of India and cheerfully admits: ‘I’ve had a problem-free life. My father always said to me – if you have any questions ask the voice inside you for directions. And all my life there has been this voice steering me in the right direction.’
Sometimes an angel’s mission is to offer simple reassurance. At others, it is to gently open our eyes to the infinite possibilities that lie before us, the ones our careless eyes gloss over. They come when we lose all sight of how life is brimming with hope and promise. They bring us new perspective on situations.
Why do we need angels? My friend Dipika Aranha, addicted to the television series Touched By an Angel, was a great admirer of Della Reese who played the angel Tess in the show. She tells me there’s an entire cult around the ‘Tess theory’ which believes angels are sent by God to herald the truth, especially the big truths, to specific people in critical situations. Angels are not there to be meddling fix-its, but to be our helpers in responding to the truth. We can just blow them off, but people usually find themselves responding instantly with some amount of trust, comfort, or awe.
To know an angel, Joan Wester Anderson in her book Where Angels Walk says, calls for a willingness to suspend judgment, to open ourselves to possibilities we’ve only dreamed of. It is, like all things faith-related, to be understood not from the mind, but from the heart.
Most people confess to meeting angels in human form. Angels have typically appeared in whatever form the visited person was most willing to accept, says Wester. A winged young version for children, perhaps, or a benign grandfatherly type for a woman in distress. They seldom appear in dazzling spectacular form so as not to scare people. Or sometimes they do to get one to pay heed. Survivors of near death experiences, however, cite ‘bright beings of light’ that they met along the way. Often angels look the way we assume them to look: with wings, in flowing white robes. But most often they manifest as ordinary folk dressed like you and me.
‘There’s a diversity of angel forms to be celebrated, and there is an element of surprise to be realized,’ writes G. Don Gilmore in Angels, Angels Everywhere, ‘but unless people revive their childlike wonder and imagination, they may never experience such things.’
Lead me Home
When my mother was 22, she was required to journey alone from Bombay to Rajasthan to attend the wedding of her favorite sister Eku. She was carrying with her the wedding sarees and the mangalsutra and it was imperative that she made it on time to Dungarpur, an obscure little town near Udaipur.
Eku had instructed her to take a train for Delhi. ‘Don’t talk to strangers, and please dress simply to attract minimum attention,’ she’d written. At 4:30 a.m., my mother boarded the Delhi train at Ahmedabad.
When the TC made his rounds my mother handed him her ticket. ‘I’m sorry but you are on the wrong train,’ he said to her horror. ‘Please get off at Himmatnagar and board the train to Udaipur.’
Two hours later, her confidence and composure shaken, my mother found herself in Himmatnagar. To her dismay she was told that the train to Udaipur had left and she’d have to wait until the next day to board another. The stationmaster suggested she could take a bus to Udaipur and even sent a coolie along to accompany her.
The bus stand was utter pandemonium. Name boards in Gujarati, people everywhere speaking a language she couldn’t understand and so many buses. ‘Are you sure this is the right bus?’ she asked the coolie again from the crowded bus but he barely heard her as he hurried back.
An hour later she found herself in another dusty town, boarding yet another ramshackle bus. My mother realized she was hopelessly lost. ‘God please help me,’ she whispered and tried hard not to cry. ‘Daughter, where are you going?’ My mother swung towards the comforting voice to see an old man in a white dhoti kurta and a worn turban approaching her. ‘I felt such immense relief just then,’ my mother recalls ‘that I wanted to sob for joy.’
‘Dungarpur,’ she whispered, feeling strangely serene. ‘That’s where I’m going as well. Come with me,’ he said.
It was pitch dark when the bus pulled into Dungarpur. Pinpoints of lights flickered in the distance. The old man helped her get off the bus and they began walking towards the big building that was the general hospital where Eku worked. ‘I’ll be fine now,’ my mother said to the old man and tried to offer him 10 rupees. He shook his head. His lined face was firm when he said: ‘I must see you home.’ After obtaining Eku’s address, they walked about 20 minutes and reached the cluster of homes that was the nurses’ quarters. Eku met them at the gate and the two sisters fell into each other’s arms crying in relief. My mother turned to introduce her benefactor to Eku. He was gone. She ran to the gate and scanned the empty stretch of road outside. The old man had vanished.
Loud and Clear
Melissa Ferguson’s incredible story appeared in the Miami News Reader in 1997. One day in April that year, her four-year-old son Bradley was being his usual mischievous self and getting in her way as she worked in the kitchen. Melissa handed him a cinnamon roll and told him to sit on the back steps to eat it while she did the dishes.
The Fergusons had an above ground pool out back with a safety gate built around it, usually kept locked. So, Melissa wasn’t especially worried for Bradley’s safety. She finished the dishes and savored the few precious moments of quiet that had come her way. She opened a can of Coke and crashed on the couch. As she rested, a voice calmly said, ‘Bradley is in the pool’.
Melissa jumped up and began to head for the window. But, how silly, she said to herself and began to return to the couch when the voice shouted: ‘BRADLEY IS IN THE POOL!’
Melissa walked out of the door, strangely composed. The sight of their cat wet and clinging to the side of the pool greeted her. She saw her son floating face down in the pool. ‘It felt like I floated over as I walked, strangely not feeling anything yet. I grabbed Bradley by the overalls and pulled him out, somehow knowing he had been in there since he first went out. I found no pulse, and yet I was still calm…’
Melissa distinctly remembers feeling her actions were not her own: ‘Something guided me through the house and out the front door and there sat a power line truck. I screamed for them to help me and the men rushed to the house, then took turns doing CPR until the ambulance arrived. Bradley came around by then.’
The doctors are still amazed when they recall Bradley’s instant recovery. They said his blood vessels showed he had been under around fifteen minutes – which very rarely allows a successful resuscitation. Also, Melissa later was told that the power line workers had just taken CPR classes only the month before. Was this mere coincidence?
Often these blessed beings are sympathetic lookers-on and simply watch – seeing, knowing and appreciating our thoughts and feelings and acts.
Adhiti Gaur, CEO of Zurich Publishing, remembers one rainy afternoon when she met a being she was convinced was an angel. Every Tuesday, Adhiti goes to St Andrew’s church in Bandra to pray and light a novena candle. One such Tuesday she found herself alone in the church. The rain had discouraged even the regulars that day. In the small grotto as Adhiti approached the Mother Mary statue, she felt the familiar calm stealing up on her.
Adhiti held her candle between her fingers and struck a match. It fizzled out quickly. She struck another, but it went out just as quickly. ‘How odd,’ she mused and tried again. The candle was fine, the matchsticks weren’t damp. But now, she was half way through her book of matchsticks, yet her candle remained unlit.
‘You don’t need to light it, you know. Just leave it there.’
Adhiti started at the unexpected sound. Turning around, she saw a scruffy old man who looked like he could use a wash. He was grinning from ear to ear.
‘Who are you?’ said Adhiti still thinking about his sudden appearance. ‘Well, I’m in charge of cleaning the wax here. Just leave the candle, no need to light it.’
‘Oh, but I must. I always do,’ said Adhiti, and turned to her candle again. She drew another matchstick and struck. The flame flared up bravely and Adhiti finally lit her candle. She turned around and saw the old man standing there looking amused.
Adhiti offered her prayers. As she was leaving the old man spoke. ‘Can I have some money?’ ‘Sure,’ Adhiti smiled and as was her habit reached into her pocket. As she handed him a fiver, it occurred to her that she’d pulled on a newly washed pair of jeans in the morning and had taken just enough money to get to church and back.
‘Now I won’t have enough to get home,’ she thought as she got into a rickshaw.
At her gate when she dipped into her pocket to pay the driver, she pulled out three five-rupee notes. Exactly the amount she’d taken that morning.
‘I wasn’t really surprised,’ Adhiti says now, ‘I’ve never once doubted that the old man had been an angel checking on me.’ Her investigations at the church about the old wax cleaner drew a blank. There was no one appointed to clean the wax, she was told.
Why would an angel in human form appear in distress? Surely celestial beings have no earthly worries. May be they become vulnerable for our sake, to offer us a chance to reach out, to trust, and to grow in the giving. And perhaps to reassure us that we are being watched over, taken care of, infinitely protected.
Angel in the House
When a newly-wedded Archana Mehta Tanna, a jewelery designer, and her husband, who works for Standard Chartered Bank, moved into their flat in Juhu, Archana immediately sensed they had company. ‘There was a distinct presence. Just things like a constant feeling of someone shuffling along after you. One night as I waited for my husband, I turned off all the lights save one and sat on the bed. The other side of the bed creaked and pressed down as if someone had sat on it. Imagine my fright!’
But soon Archana grew accustomed to the presence, especially as it didn’t seem to intend any harm. In fact at times she was even glad for it. One afternoon, less than a year ago, this happened:
Archana had resolved to try her hand at cooking. Carefully, she’d gathered the ingredients for pav bhaji and begun cooking, consulting her recipe all the while. Her cell phone rang in the bedroom. Archana hurried to answer it. It took her a while to find it and in the process she missed the call.
Suddenly, the acrid smell of burnt Teflon reached her nose. Archana almost dropped the phone when she remembered that she’d forgotten to turn off the gas. ‘Oh my god! The pav bhaji!’ she shrieked and rushed to the kitchen.
The gas was turned off. A half burnt ladle rested on the side.
Archana has preserved her half scorched ladle in gratitude to the angel in her house.
In February this year, an ailing uncle passed away. The body was being kept in the morgue till Archana and her husband could join the rest of the family gathered for the funeral.
The couple were to take the 6:10 am flight to Ahmedabad. The previous night after completing hasty preparations to leave early the next day, they set the alarm for four a.m. and fell into an exhausted slumber.
The next morning they slept through the alarm.
At 4:30, the incessant ringing of the doorbell woke them up. ‘What the..?’ Archana leapt out of bed and went to open the door. There was no one. And who could be visiting anyway at this unearthly hour? 4:30 a.m.! Realizing they were late, the couple rushed for the airport and made it in the nick of time just as the departure gates were being closed. Archana remembered to mutter a thanks as soon as she caught her breath.
Three a.m. one night, Roxan Marker woke up choking. Her throat felt frozen. It was her allergy acting up again. Gasping for breath she got out of bed and woke up her daughter Esther.
At that late hour, mother and daughter flagged down a cab. ‘Bombay hospital, chalo,’ instructed Esther. The roads were lonely and they made it to the hospital quickly enough.
After examining Roxan the doctor turned to Esther and asked her to buy a cortisone injection quickly. Once administered it would definitely ease her mother’s strained breathing he told her. Roxan, through the haze of her discomfort, held Esther’s hand.
‘Too late, you can’t go alone,’ she gasped. ‘I’ll be okay, Mama,’ Esther tried to assure her. ‘Really, I’ll be back soon.’ Roxan lay back and closed her eyes. Her worry now escalated, hardly on behalf of herself but for her young daughter. Where would the girl go looking for the drug at this late hour? Please, please protect my child, the mother appealed. In a few minutes Esther was back. The medicine administered, Roxan was finally able to breathe easy and thanked God for Esther’s safety. ‘Some night this has been,’ she said putting her arm around her daughter. ‘Let’s go home.’
At the gate, Roxan protested when Esther insisted on generously tipping the old cab driver. ‘Mama,’ Esther later told her, ‘He accompanied me to the medical store and waited with me while I got the medicines and even brought me back to the hospital. He was such a kind man.’
Roxan was quiet. ‘That was an angel,’ she said to her daughter.
Open your Heart
‘I was never the kind to ask for help,’ Archana Tanna confesses. ‘In fact I refused to share my feelings.’ After the ladle incident when psychic Rohini Gupta identified the spirit as Archana’s grandfather, Archana felt tears of gratitude welling up in her eyes. ‘Knowing that I’m being watched over, provided for, I feel so secure…enough to share myself, make me open to giving and accepting help.’
‘Open your mind and heart and see how much you receive,’ Rohini believes. The more you fear, are guilty or angry, the more you block things for yourself. Most of us believe we are undeserving of grace and this only stops us from inviting angels into our lives. When we keep our hearts open and surrender in the belief that we shall be helped, we invite grace. The universe will arrange for us to be taken care of by sending these divine emissaries our way in the form of wisdom, a really strong premonition or a sign.
‘Angels are speaking to us all the time,’ assures Rohini. ‘Every intuition, every hunch, that’s your angel guide whispering to you. After all, they are really inside you, they are part of your highest self. All you need to do is connect.’
For three weeks, I’d walked around trying to see angels. I’d carried my copy of Joan Wester Anderson’s Where Angels Walk everywhere, poring over it every chance I got, utterly fascinated that angels were all around, hovering over us perpetually. ‘Where are you?’ I’d call out, expecting to feel feathers against my cheek, to hear the rustling of white angel wings.
‘Your angels,’ Rohini Gupta said to me, ‘are lurking close. But you don’t seem to be connected.’
My heart sank. ‘But you know, they are watching over you,’ she continued. ‘Know that you are protected.’
I stepped into the rain feeling warm inside. The grey sea was in tumult. Traffic milled around me. I walked through it, my book under my arm, again wishing desperately for a sign. ‘I know why you won’t show yourself,’ I continued my conversation with my angel. ‘It’s because I don’t believe, isn’t it?’
I felt guilty. How could I in my imperfection dare ask, I thought, ashamed of my own unworthiness. Perhaps, angels only showed themselves to the good. I opened my book. The words came at me in a gust –
I’m not especially holy. I’m only a poor sinner…why should an angel do anything to help me?
Angels work for anyone who has faith. We ought not to second-guess these blessed helpers. After all if their job is to minister to humankind to bring us closer and closer to God, why would anyone be exempt?
It was like thunderbolt. It was my sign.
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