Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dancing With Shiva, Part 4

Two Indians led us through that vibrating mass of humanity that was Bombay: one by arrangement, the other by chance.
Mahendra Singhal had been a fellow passenger on our flight from Bombay and was also staying at our hotel. He had witnessed our frustrations at the airport concerning our lost luggage, eavesdropped on our conversations in the hotel restaurant, and eventually approached us and offered to help us get our bags back, or, failing that, at least show us around the city. "I have nothing better to do today. I must return to the U.S., but my flight does not leave until 3 a.m."

Mahendra had his own sorry tale to tell. He had lived abroad most of his adult life and returned to India infrequently on business. He didn't enjoy the trips to his native country because as an ex-patriot he was regarded with disdain by many Indians. And although he still had family in India, visiting them was out of the question.
"I studied the Hindu religion in university, but the more I studied, the more convinced I became of its irrelevancy," he said. Later, he converted to Christianity, an act his family considered unforgivable.
"I returned to India when my father died, but my brothers would not permit me to enter the house. So you see, I really have no more family here.

Mahendra continued his education in the U.S., eventually earning a Ph.D. in psychology. His business was running seminars in relaxation and stress management, which had brought him to Bombay.
"But I've come all the way from Chicago and must turn around and go home," he said cheerily. "The fellow who arranged the seminar I came to lead cannot be found. No one answers his telephone, and his address does not exist. I'm afraid I've been duped." His contact had apparently collected the seminar fee from a couple hundred people and skipped town. Now Mahendra was obliged to do the same.

We were grateful for Mahendra's help, and for his company and for his example, handling his own stress and adversity with such calm. We invited him to spend the day with us, even though his services as a guide were unnecessary. For that we had Soonie.

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