I thought this blog would be about our successful unpacking of our well-traveled crates filled with art, how everything arrived intact and about our experiences beginning to install the exhibit.
But that will have to wait until tomorrow.
We had wondered whether, 4 trips into India, we had exhausted our quota of remarkable and unexpected experiences, that the Serendipity Gods might have turned their attention to other worthy souls. Not a chance. Things happen to us here that are hard to explain and that leave us smiling at the ever-expanding nature of existence.
We were just finishing our work installing the exhibit, progressing nicely by the way, when we started talking to Anil Verma, one of the art conservators at the Indira Gandhi Center whose office is in our gallery space. We mentioned that we were steeling ourselves for a likely confrontation with a more than likely avaricious autorickshaw driver (a “tuck-tuck”) when he offered to drive us back to our B and B in the Para Ganj neighborhood. He then asked if we might like to join him for dinner, a home-cooked meal at his uncle’s house in that same neighborhood. We readily agreed…and got far more than dinner.
Anil drove us to a cramped side street in Old Delhi, where we carefully maneuvered past tiny stalls and street vendors, children, bicycles, motorbikes and assorted animals until we reached a building under renovation. We walked upstairs and found ourselves in a newly constructed Sikh research center, the Rashtriya Sikh Sangat. Anil’s uncle, Avinash Jaiswal, was the national secretary of the group.
We were offered tea and sweets and began a conversation about Sikhism, Hinduism, religion versus politics, the nature of God. It was one of those memorable conversations that reinforce a belief that indeed we are really one, that differences are exacerbated by circumstance or manipulated by others, that brotherhood and sisterhood is indeed possible, that neither ISIS nor Donald Trump represent the future. We were then introduced to Sardor Chiranjeev Singh, the 85 year-old highly respected founder of the group, who has devoted his life to India and to creating a better world. We seem to find people like this…or they seem to find us.
Sardor Chiranjeev Singh
Anil then told us that they were so honored that we joined them, so pleased with the work we are doing, that they wanted to perform a special ceremony in our honor. We were given orange shawls and makeshift head coverings. They sang some brief songs, said things that of course we could not understand but intuited the meaning nonetheless, and took out their iPhones to photograph the event. We the sat down to an absolutely delicious vegetarian meal.
We invited all of then to the exhibit opening. We will no doubt see this group again. As we left, the power in the entire neighborhood went out and we walked carefully downstairs, passing people using their phones as flashlights. It was very dark. A thin, speckled cow led the way, foraging in mounds of garbage strewn in the narrow alley. We made it back to Anil’s car and he drove us home.
It looks as though this adventure is just beginning.