Symbols of the world's religions



Charmian Knowles

The genteel Rubens Hotel seemed far removed from any battlefields, but I had my own minor skirmish there. In my Chinese apparel and a mood I would describe as earnest, I stationed myself before Baba's door to protect his quiet. When Baba rested, complete silence was vital because he awakened very easily. The slightest creak of a board would disturb him.

I sat cross-legged in the hallway near his door, quite sure it would be a simple task to watch over him for one hour. Fate had other designs. First a stream of people began traipsing down the hallway, talking and laughing loudly. I whispered, "Sh-h-h-h," and my peculiar costume and posture drew quizzical stares.

This group followed by more and more people; this parade seemed endless. The coup de grace came when I heard a loud rattling coming up the stairs. I couldn't imagine what it was. Suddenly, a brisk, efficient delivery man emerged from the stairwell carrying a large wicker commode chair that creaked with every step he took. Inside it was an enamel basin, and inside that was an entire china tea set with cups, saucers, and plates, a tea kettle, and a couple of pots.

The man was fully prepared to burst into Baba's room when I blocked his way and persuaded him to leave his package in the hall with me. After he left, I resumed my seat, but now I had this wicker commode by my side and became the uncomfortable target of even stranger looks!

I think Baba was lovingly playing with me that day in the hall. And I, distracted by the "urgency" of my task, lost the lightness and whimsy of the moment. How much greater would be his fun if we could only join him in it.


2004 © Sufism Reoriented


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