I sat on a large stage with another hundred, perilously aloft on rickety, narrow trunks and wooden planks - white cloth-ed stage, floodlit, sharing this space with white robed Kabir Panthis, their enthroned Mahant, and a large queue of felicitations for the local lords, singers, artists, and international visitors. I shared the stage also with the members of right wing political party, the BJP, who were part of the local hosting committee. It would previously have been unthinkable that I might be on any common platform with a party, that has as part of its central agenda - a systematic, persistent, corrosive policy to undermine the fabric of secular India; a hindutva based propaganda of religion based, divisive, hate politics.
I sat on the stage thinking all this, unstable person on an unstable stage, pondering politics, analysing, critiquing, even while wondering, "will this stage hold so many", and posing the same question internally, " will this stage (me)hold so many?" Yet, I watched me sitting there, with a clear heart, goofy smile, in sync. with my enemy - all also sporting clear, open, goofy smiles. I was resisting the 'othering' of all my familiar enemies, and surprisingly - it was easy! All I was doing, was not labelling, judging, walling myself into my own notions, my own boundaries. It was the mood of the moment that made this easy...
Is this common platform, with those I oppose, the answer? Not in strife and conflict, but in sharing and oneness of a common joy, a recognition and space for a common shared Kabir - within us all? A shared recognition of the voice seeking inside - a lover " prem ka pyala hai bharpoor - ghatk, ghatak, ghatak..." resounding all around in the voice of Hemant Chauhan, engulfing us all, exactly the same. Maybe this is less difficult than I imagined, to expand this recognition, to cover all humanity?
And so, this day, all these people with tilaks and saffron, were my friends, and soul mates - on this platform, I embraced them with a smile, in choreographed swaying of my head with theirs, clapping hands to their chorus.. A crowd of twenty thousand sit spellbound, silent, receptive, permeated - stretching as far as the eye could see - as lights faded into distant darkness of the night.
Now Shivji's Tandav - fast, fleeting, heady, rose petal showers fragrance the air, overwhelming us on the bright stage - we are stuck here, on this stage, same way as those moths beat around the shells of light bulbs - yearning towards an inner lover in a drunken trance - to the tandava nritya of Shiva, wild, destructive, powerful...drums going wild, the stage shaking in resonance, worlds coming crashing down, carefully constructed inner palaces, selves, egos, Kabir in tandava inside, the Kabir panthis in skirts, top knots and white turbans, breaking out of their inner grimaces - for once smiling also, accepting and participating - drunk on this song!
I have now returned - grounded, and resumed old fights, battles - political, righteous - yet there is a distinction. I have less hurt, hate, animosity for people-on-the-other-side. My war is now no longer against people, only wrong policies, wrong actions wrong politics ...I now occasionally hope that their battle is also drawn along the same lines.