I often sit in the temple across the street from my house in Mumbai. Not to pray, but just to bathe myself in the vibrations of all those that do, all those lucky ones that so easily believe in the divine power of faith …
I usually have a space in a back corner on the floor of the temple, a little hidden from sight, where I can be the observer rather than the observed. A lot of young actors frequent the temple asking for divine interventions in their careers. Imagine their surprise when they turn around and see one of India’s recognizable directors crouched in a corner. They may read too much into divine intervention !
This day someone had taken my place. A nice looking young man, his mouth whispering a silent prayer, eyes closed. He had a cloth laid across his lap as if he planned to be in meditation for a long time. I just quitely crouched on the floor next to him. A little irritated at having my secluded corner usurped.
His whispering stopped. I turned and he was staring at me. I suddenly noticed his nice looks and extremely wide broad shoulders. An actor I thought. For they spend half their lives in the Gym.
But he sounded more humble and had no self consciousness. He asked me why I had forsaken my fans in India and gone to the West. He spoke intelligently about my films and about cinema in general. He even extracted a promise from me to make my next film in India and in Hindi.
What did he do ? He was an assistant accountant in a small firm in Mumbai by day and was studying computers by night. He had come from a village from northern India and was sending home money monthly to support his parents, who were now too old to work in the fields. Saving money to do that meant certain sacrifices.
like walking to the temple every morning from his shared shelter in a slum 2 miles away. To save bus fare. And then to work.
He suddenly smiled, put a hand out to touch my feet, and said goodbye. As he removed his cloth from his lap and moved away from me, I realized why this young man had such strong shoulders. He had no legs. They were just small shrivelled useless bone and skin tucked permanently under is upper body. He moved by pushing himself along his haunches.
Two miles everyday to say a prayer.