Donkey Art


When I started working as director of communication for Mission India in 1982, it was felt that for my writing I needed to experience India as soon as possible; so by mid-autumn that year, I found myself in that fascinating land for two weeks.  I know it’s a cliché to say the trip was “life-changing,” but that’s the best way to describe it.  It was an adventure from beginning to end, and since I was also the photographer/videographer, what I saw and experienced remains vivid in my memory.

Being the cameraman, I sat in the front of the bus with the driver and got to ask him all sorts of questions: Q: “Why do taxis have lemons hanging  from their front bumpers and shoes hanging from rear bumpers?”  A: “Those are religious symbols for good luck.”  Q: “Why are there swastikas on vendor carts and booths?”  A: “It’s an old Sanskrit symbol asking the gods for financial success.”  So the questioning went—for the whole trip.  And our Sikh driver seemed to enjoy educating me on the religious significance of everything we saw.

When we got to the city of Agra, of Taj Mahal fame, and were approaching the famous structure, I saw that several hawking vendors had spray-painted their donkeys: crimson, purple, lime green, fuchsia—a whole palette of eye-catching neon colors.  So, of course, I had to ask him what the religious significance was of that.

His answer: “It’s not religious; what a man loves he decorates.”

“What a man loves he decorates”!  It struck me then and strikes me now that such would be an awesome theme for a coffee-table book.  And from that time on during our trip, my eyes kept catching loved things made lovely: children in the churches we visited dressed in beautiful, frilly, white dresses, wives and mothers in stunning silk saris (some even with gold thread), trucks with gaudy designs and Christmas-like ornaments strung from front to back, multi-colored chalk designs artfully sifted into intricate patterns on newly swept, hard-packed dirt in front of primitive homes and temples, and the very icon of India: the breathtaking Taj Mahal—perhaps the world’s best-known, most lavishly decorated monument to love.

IMG_1186The bus driver’s comment explained a lot of things I saw in India—and lots of things I see in creation.  In a previous post I commented on how the Bible tells us that the creation fresh from the hand of God was not only good, but also pleasing to the eye: it was beautiful.  In so many ways it remains beautiful.  Every time you see a beautiful butterfly, a bird with stunning plumage (or even a sparrow), a regal tree, a blazing sunrise, a spectacular mountain range, flaming flowers, towering clouds illuminated by raw electricity, or a newborn baby with “skin so soft,” remember also that what our Creator loves He decorates.

LORD is good to all; he has compassion on all he has made. All your works praise you, LORD; your faithful people extol you. They tell of the glory of your kingdom and speak of your might (Psalm 145:9-11).