Wednesday, January 13, 2010

The Naked Heart

In one of my trips to distant India, south of Cuttak and west of the Chandi Temple, I lost my way and stumbled after days upon a strange little town at the banks of the Kathjodi river.  It was a town where all inhabitants wore their hearts around their necks.

I was amazed by the variety of hearts. There were those rosy and innocent hanging from elaborate golden necklaces and some old, covered with the scars of a thousand battles.  Some hearts were tiny and could barely be seen, and some were so large their owners were bent over, pulled by their massive weight.  I remember one heart that bled profusely from recent wounds that could not be cured and one so charred and disfigured that it was difficult to look at.

The monsoon storms forced me to seek refuge in this bizarre town and I was allowed to stay only on the condition that I too, wear my heart around my neck.  And for the first time I saw my dear friend in absence of deceit and visible to the naked eye.  It was large and heavy, and had one large and ugly scar that crossed it from end to end, as well as many little scars clustered around it.  But it was beautiful and strange and hung proudly around my neck on a smooth carved leather strap that felt like silk around my neck.

And in this strange town, I saw her heart. It was perfect and strong and beautiful and made my heart inch towards her. I danced with her until early dawn.  Drank spirits and rejoiced, especially because she was a traveler like me.

But come morning a great flood came rushing with the monsoon rains, and washed us all away, scattering the town’s inhabitants and throwing me far, far out into the river where I was spared my life by the divine graces of the Chandi goddess, who sent me a crudely built raft where I lay dazed and barely alive for days until I came to shore and was nursed back to health by the monks of the Chandi Temple.

Since then, after coming home, I have discovered that in the West, when you gaze into a person’s eyes you can see a little of their hearts.  So, please forgive me if I stare, as I am still looking for that lost heart, which I know will complete me for eternity.

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