Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Take off your shoes..

The place is so surreal sitting as it does in Malibu, California, that I don't mind the broad expanse of blistering marble on my bare feet in the August heat, though I was grateful for the cool water I used to clean my feet before I put them back in my shoes.  I can't imagine it being any cooler in the heat of Mumbai, or Agra, unless it is by moon light.  

Malibu Hindu Temple
1600 Las Virgenes Canyon Rd.
Calabasas, CA
I don't realize it at the time, but my traveling companion and I unknowing crash a ceremony of some sort. We enter a small building in the center of the complex where a young Hindu couple are holding their days old baby in one corner and in a very different corner an Indian grandmother scowls at the interlopers. I didn't see her, because I was so determined to absorb the experience of it all.  My traveling companion told me we'd been given the "stink eye", my words, not hers.  I use the expression because I suspect the grandmother was giving us the Hindi equivalent.  For all my heartfelt intent to show only the respect I felt, I made a mistake of oversight. I lay in bed that night and I feel bad, but only for a moment.  I've been clumsy. I've offended her in the place where she and her family mark birth, life and death, but I also realize I really have traveled and have committed the unintentional offenses one makes when one is out of place.  I forgive myself, hope the grandmother will and think,  "Namaste,"  in her direction, in the direction of her grandchild, and in the direction of all the other people who at least tolerated us for the afternoon we spent trying to see the world through their eyes

I've often quoted E.B. Browning's take on "seeing".  Those who see take off their shoes in reverence for all that is.  The rest sit round the common bush that is afire and pluck blackberries. I should have paid more attention at breakfast because the blackberry syrup I poured on to my pancakes that morning was trying to give me a heads up. 

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