The Italian baba

“Have you ever been in love?”, I ask the Italian baba living on the hilltop we had walked to, after debating for a while with myself if it’s the right question to ask the holy man.
“Yes, many times”, comes an easy reply with a smile.
“Have you ever loved one woman more than the others?”, I ask again
“Yes, I lived with her for 7years before I came here.”, he says, as he hands me the biography written on him by the Italian writer Falco Terzani titled, “A Piedi Nudi sulla Terra” or “Naked footsteps in the earth.” as if to say, you’ll find all the details in here curious young lady.

Mia my new German friend suddenly asks, “Is jealousy in love, just a product of the ego and the mind?”
“For sure.”, he replies falling back into the silence, never speaking more than he is asked nor supplying us with any great wisdom on life.
“Do you ask him that question because you have experienced jealousy in love?”, I ask Mia.
The Italian baba is now poised between a smile and a laugh as we women confront each other.
“Yes”, says Mia.
“I have too.”, I say.
Lini nods as if to agree while Mia says, “I suppose we all have at sometime.”

It’s the beauty of sharing emotions, not just the beautiful ones full of light, but also the dark ones we’re asked to hide. When you share them honestly, you realize that everyone feels just the same as you do.

The Italian baba doesn’t come across as an enlightened man far beyond human reach, but very unafraid to show his emotion and so all the more interesting. Interesting enough for BBC to film a documentary on him and his biography due to be translated in English soon. Although he is a recluse, people sought him out over the mountain, to know his story, which brought me to the question, “So then what are you doing here on this hilltop, in the forest?”
If he had loved, what was he doing here alone for over 58 years in India?
“I came here in the last hippie caravan from the states. We were the last hippies standing. I felt drawn here. It felt right to stay.”, he says simply as if I should have all already known this, before I came here.
“Do you miss Italy?”, I ask.
“I was just there a month back.”, he says smiling and gets up to recite effortlessly fluent Sanskrit chants for his evening puja, after having passed around and shared a strong joint of marijuana with his Shiv-bhakts.

I came back home to read contradicting statements on him such as, “He’s an amazing being and so very special.”to “He’s a fake.”,
Whatsoever be the truth, I admired that he answered my question with perfect honesty. He just was, sitting there, his lips poised between a smile, intriguing us. It was we, who were curious enough to have sought him out deep into the woods.

As the sun drowned over the hills in Hampi, we walked back before it got too dark and the conversation deepened with the girls, just by sharing one little doubt, one little question. And just like that, I understood love if only for a glimpse deeper.
I was able shed a layer of fear right there, simply by sharing what I feel.


A painting of The man.

44 01-19-2010
Igniting a light.

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