III. Loving KindnessBack on planet Big Apple, I had an Indian epiphany. My dear friend (from Delhi) invited us to her home for an afternoon celebration of no occasion in particular. That would have been enough, but the day was spectacularly lovely after weeks of monsoon rains, and her Hudson Valley home enhanced the glow of the sparkling sun.
Almost everyone there was from India. Most were doctors or in the medical community. How would my husband and I fit in with this crowd, I wondered? We love Indian food, which was served in abundance, and Indian culture, but was that enough to fit in among the flowing saris and medical shoptalk? Were sex, politics and religion taboo in this crowd?
Conversation was surprisingly facile, despite the ubiquitous Hindi. Since most guests were immigrants and Health Care was making headlines, everyone was interested in discussing Obama and his policies. Immigration. Health care. So far, so good. Satisfied bellies and ears make for a contented crowd. My friend sensed the time was right.
What happened next was a shock to my system. Now, I’ve been to parties where people bring out instruments and spontaneously start singing and dancing, but this was so different. “It’s time to sing,” our hostess announced. The guests arranged themselves on chairs and sofas around the living room. I felt like a tsetse on the wall. One by one the doctors took turns singing folk tunes in their native language. No instruments, no accompanist. Just individual grown-up people singing from the heart to the group. They looked like happy children. I imagined they grew up with this wonderful tradition. No judgement, no shame. No competition. No Grammys. No Tonys. Just songs. It was so intimate. So simple. So from the heart.
I remember a teacher who repeatedly asked our class, “Why do we sing?”