The questions that came out of the conversation were natural and easy.
“You say that you spent part of your childhood in Bangalore.”
“Yes, Whitefield then DeCosta Layout near ITC.”
“Really? Where in DeCosta Layout?”
“If you were to go just beyond the end of the cigarette factory, as the road turns to the right, keep going straight. First house on the left.”
“Why are you asking?”
“I live two houses away.”
I had started my answers with an internal sense of defensiveness. It did not help that this was the umpteenth time that I had answered the question in recent days. Even as I write the number of times, I realize that my words were and are defensive.
There are times where we stand accused. There are other times where we feel accused. In both situations, I find myself naturally trying to protect whatever I feel is being threatened. The challenge lies in what I am saying and how others hear it.
When an accused man was on the stand, he felt accused. His response carries of tone of innocent denial. “Nobody can say they saw me arguing in the Temple or working up a crowd in the streets. Not one of their charges can be backed up with evidence or witnesses.” (Acts 24.13)
I am not sure my “why” question was any different. I felt I was being accused. I wondered at the time about the motives. Did he doubt me? Was this a test? Whatever the answer, I was under an interrogation light.
As our conversation unfolded, we talked of the factory and how it had changed. It was now an office park housing one of India’s largest IT companies. We spoke of the neighborhood and the enduring role the school that continued within a stone’s throw of the house. He talked of the house and how he admired it as he went past it daily. He had wondered about its history. Now he had a unique piece of it.
A conversation that started with a sense of fear ended in friendship.