hello baba

While chatting with a ‘work friend’ recently, he shared a wonderful anecdote…

One day, while filming a documentary in a small Indian town he was interrupted by the arrival of a Brahmin (a holy man or priest). ‘Baba has come!’ the Brahmin announced, and then to my friend he said, ‘Come! You must come to the temple!’

While my friend wasn’t fluent in the local dialect, he understood enough to know that ‘baba’ meant father and that you don’t argue with a Brahmin. So, he dropped everything and followed.

When he got to the temple, though, my ‘city boy’ friend was shocked to discover that ‘baba’ was a thin, black, and likely poisonous snake that’d climbed out of a temple statue.

Apparently, the Brahmin thought that my friend’s presence in their village had occasioned this auspicious event and insisted he perform a ‘puja’ (offering or prayer of gratitude) to the snake.

As my friend held his hands out in a pantomime of offering and confessed to wondering whether snakes really liked milk and flowers, his face was a mirror of the fear he’d felt those long years ago.

Mine, however, was filled with wonder. ‘They called the snake ‘baba’?’ I asked, amazed.

How wonderful, I thought, to live in a world where the holy can creep in to your garden and be greeted joyfully and with respect like a returning elder. How amazing that one might meet an animal and see no distinction between one of Nature’s creatures and the family of man or even that of the Gods!

Of course, in the Western world, any snake that pops up – poisonous or not – is greeted with fear and rejection. Any person that sees God in an animal is to be scoffed at or called ‘primitive’. People that claim to experience the holy are to be doubted or pitied. But what a different world ours would be if we all saw things as the Brahmin did.

No, I don’t expect anyone to jump on that band wagon, least of all my poor friend who shared this story, but the next time I’m lucky enough to meet a snake or a bird on my path I’ll smile and say ‘Hello baba.’

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