In that moment I felt only a deep warmth for Khan Bhai: ever faithful, ever sincere.
Our eyes met.
“Salaam” he said, his fingers tracing his thoughts:”my mind, my breath, my heart”.
“Salaam alaikum” I said. I smiled, but wanted to cry.
He pulled me over in embrace. “Wa-Alaikum-as-Salaam.”
The memory still brings me to tears. Why? I’m not a Muslim. The farewell has no religious connotations to me. But sincerity from one of the most genuine I have ever met crosses religious boundaries.
Strangely, I am reminded of when Octavia Paz resigned his post as Mexican Ambassador to India. He could not be formerly be sent off from India because Paz had resigned in protest of his government’s oppression of protestors in his home country. Instead he was invited by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi for a meal, along with Rajiv and wife Sonia.
A poet, the former ambassador met with artist friends, and then would farewell India with a trip to Elephanta.
I have flown from Mumbai many times and Elephanta still remains one home of my deepest reflections. Like Octavia Paz, the great sculptures half lit in contrajuer remind me of my own impermanence.
The Ardhanariswara, half man half woman, reminds us of our polar opposites we to must embrace. Like Chiron we are half animal and half divine. Eve came from Adam, say the Jews, because in Adam was first both Male and female before both aspects were manifested in separate complementary forms and yet “one flesh”.
After visiting Elephanta, Paz penned a goodbye that I cannot surpass:
“Shiva and Parvati:
we worship you
not as gods
but as images of the divinity of man.
You are what makes and is not,
what man will be
when he has served the sentence of hard labour.
your four arms are four rivers,
four jets of water.
Your whole being is a fountain where the lovely Parvati bathes, where she rocks like a graceful boat.
The sea beats beneath the sun:
it is the great lips of Shiva laughing;
the sea is ablaze: it is the steps of Parvati on the waters.
Shiva and Parvati:
the woman who is my wife
ask you for nothing, nothing
that comes from the other world:
the light on the sea,
the barefoot light on the sleeping land and sea.”
“Thank you India for discovering myself ….. and thank you Octavia Paz” I wrote that night.
Discovered myself? I had done nothing o the sort.
I remain incomplete, and so I return home to India.
Like Khiron the wounds of childhood leave many of us alone, a guide comes and aids us. But the wounded healer of myth, in a form of mythical euthanasia, escaped eternal pain by giving up his immortality to release Prometheus from the talons of Zeus liver gorging eagle.
My own myth must be dissolved that I can recreate my legacy.