Read “Heart pain, i” here.
One afternoon, the secondary school boys entertained us (and themselves) by pouring water over their heads and spiking their hair into fauxhawks, which they deemed “American.”
I told Pavi how much I liked his hairstyle. “Will they let you wear it like this every day?”
He shook his head. “No… I’ll try!”
I told him that I have a brother his age who also spikes his hair and wants be an engineer.
“Will he come to India?”
“He should sometime.”
“Will you come back next year?”
At this point, I could already sense that I would be unable to stay away from this haven of love and simplicity for long. But I tried not to make unstable promises.
“I hope so. I’ll try hard.”
He shook his head emphatically.
“No. Not try. Must you will come back.”
And the question was no longer how or when or whether I could return, because I knew as well as he did that I must.
The question was how I could leave.
Because availability of power is limited in some parts of India, “current” outages were an expected occurrence twice daily in our village. (If you’ve never been in the middle of a crowded street and watched an entire town black out at once, it’s strangely enchanting.) These outages temporarily halt you wherever you are, especially in rural areas where generators are not waiting to be switched on. So our last evening before leaving Semmandakuppam found me in the middle of a handful of secondary school boys, faces outlined by blueish cell phone light. The sun had set long ago, and stars shone above the coconut trees like dust shaken off celestial sandals.
“Count the stars,” Pavi urged, as he had several times that week.
“Good exercise for the eyes!” There was an echo of affirming voices.
“Okay.” I started counting, then quit like a typical American. “You count, Pavi! I cannot count all those stars!”
He laughed and began tracing a trail.
“It is all like, grace of God.”
The current came back on.
In that village, that moment, that life, when the lights went out too soon, plans were set aside for heaven-knows-how-long, and expectations couldn’t bring the current back, he looked at the stars and saw the grace of God.
Maybe we understand when we no longer know.
Maybe we find strength when we start being weak.
Maybe we enter the kingdom of heaven when we become like children.
Maybe we behold glory when we stop shielding our eyes from the least of these.
Maybe we see light in the absence of current.