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Chapter 6: The Original Face of the Child

I would say, “Anywhere will do.”

They would say, “Anywhere will do?” - and I could see the fear arising: “Is the man mad? But no, he does not look mad.” They would then say, “Are you joking?”

Once I said, “Why should I joke with you?”

In India, it is a convention that you joke only with certain relatives. Joking is very confined, to a certain relationship. You joke only with your wife’s brother, otherwise you don’t joke; only that’s acceptable to the society. I said, “But you are not my wife’s brother, why should I joke? Or are you my wife’s brother? Perhaps you are. But I don’t remember ever seeing you before.”

The man became really more shaky and I could see the trembling arising - and he had to travel with me for at least ten hours, twelve hours, or even twenty-four hours. But still he tried: “What is your name?”

I said, “The moment you asked me, it was just on the tip of my tongue. Now I am trying hard to remember. I have a name, I certainly remember.I know it is there but you will have to give me a little time. If it comes, it comes; if it does not come what can I do? What can you do? But it doesn’t matter anyway, you can call me any name. Anyway every child is born without a name and we give him one. All names are arbitrary, so it does not matter whether you call me Ram, Rahim, Ibrahim, Moses, Jesus, Christ; anything will do.”

And I said, “You please sit down, there is no need to continue to stand. Sit down, be at ease, and I will go and close the door.”

He said, “Why are you closing the door?”

I said, “The door has to be closed. Passengers are passing by, what will they think? You are trembling, perspiring, in an air-conditioned room? No, I don’t want you to look so silly and embarrassed.” I virtually forced the person to sit down. I was forcing him to sit down, and he wanted to stand up.

He said, “Can’t I stand?”

I said, “You just first relax. Do you want to go to the bathroom or have you already done it? Anyway there is no need to worry - you just sit down.”

That man looked at me and looked all around. It was just a small cabin for two persons and he was thinking, “this type of man, he can do anything.” But he tried somehow to figure me out; anyway he wanted to be acquainted. And he said “By your face you look religious.”

I said, “Yes, when I look in the mirror I also feel that this man looks religious. But I am not religious. Never go by the appearance, appearances are not always real.”

“No,” he said, “you are still trying to befool me. You are a religious man.” Now he was trying somehow to categorize me.

I said, “If you say, and if it consoles you, helps you in some way, okay, I am a religious man.”

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