Sunday, June 26, 2011
The Everlasting Arms
Nearly a decade ago, Somebody gave Somebody (both shall remain nameless) a particularly Lurid Souvenir, acquired on a trip to Brazil. Second Somebody didn't want the gift, but unable to bring herself to toss it, left it behind in my tender care. I transported it carefully over three separate house moves, each time thinking that Second Somebody would demand to know where it was when she returned.
A few days ago, five years after the last house move, I decided we had reached the end of the statute of limitations for statues. Feeling both brave and reckless, I put said Lurid Souvenir in the trash, firmly, finally and, like I said, bravely and recklessly.
Also stupidly. Did I not know? No one throws anything away in India. When we lived in Delhi, I once tossed a collection of unflattering photographs of me, Ravi, our children, my parents and a few friends. Some weeks later, visiting a family living in a slum outside our flat, I came fact-to-face with a picture of me, eyes closed, mouth open, looking drop-dead ugly, yet, for all that, still pinned up on their wall. Next to the picture of me was a photo of my parents, laughing with the Hornsbys - old friends who had never been to India and whom none of the slum family knew or would ever know. No worries! How can you throw away a photograph?
So I should have known that the statue of Jesus, Christ the Redeemer, a replica of one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, after all, would not stay long in a dust bin. And indeed, it was Vijay, Vikram's son, who first spotted him and, disapproving and perhaps even horrified, rescued him from oblivion.
Look at that expression. What was I thinking? There was no way I was going to convince this child that I didn't need or want such a glistening white statue.
Lovingly, carefully, respectfully, Vijay placed this version of Christ the Redeemer up on our wall. Beside the gatepost lamp, next to the flowering vine. I took it down that evening and put it into the mailbox where it could only be seen from inside the house. The next morning, it was back up on the wall. "EVERYONE can see it if it's up here," he said solemnly.
So now I'm getting used to it. I try to be secular and tolerant, respectful of all religions and wary of pushing my own. But this little boy and his genuine tolerance have taught me a thing or two. In the circle of respect and true religion he has drawn for me, I find I can now look out the kitchen window at my friend Jesus and feel not only enveloped but restored.
"The eternal God shall be thy dwelling place," the Good Book says. "And underneath are the everlasting arms." Vijay, in his simplicity, has led me by the hand back to my true home.