Commodore MB Kunte (retd)
Eileen Savdie, a Mormon from Utah, made Paris her home after marriage. In the early 1960s she spent two years with my wife Anuradha in the University of Sorbonne.
After three decades, Eileen was visiting us, enroute to Australia, and was overwhelmed with her first look at India, despite the dismal brush with the visa people and Air India. She was fascinated by the bindi and wore one all the time she was here. ‘If I had meant it as a method of contact with people, I couldn’t have done better,’ she wrote back from Perth. ‘I’ll never forget those children, the way they cracked up when they had a look at my face and yelled a ‘huloooooo’ at me. Children never smile or wave at me. They did in India. Thank you for that magical little packet. Great piece of makeup that thing!’
The Ayodhya strife was brewing that December and had exploded in the two days between Eileen’s departure and the scheduled arrival of her grand nephew. But David got stuck in Bangkok because nobody could fly into that ‘angry country of yours’, Eileen yelled at us on the phone. So agitated was she that on returning to Paris she wrote at length suggesting a French solution for Ayodhya. ‘An Indian client of mine said to me that a long time ago it was a Hindu temple. It was brought down and a mosque was built on the site. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful idea to build a combined temple-mosque in Ayodhya that would symbolise cohabitation and friendship between religions?’
Eileen added, ‘We have an ecumenical project here that will have no crosses, no paintings, no symbolism. Your building, like the multi-cultural theme enshrined in the architecture of your President’s Palace, could have both Hindu and Muslim symbolism, and that could be used by each group for three days a week and the seventh would be for maintenance by both groups working to preserve something they built jointly. I think having multi-religious symbolism would be a more dramatic message than ‘le freak’ that’s supposed to be built here in Paris without any at all.
‘What do you think? There must be money in India for such a project? Who would be financing the temple? Surely there are plenty of Muslims and Hindus that could be convinced that a massive inspiring symbol of cohabitation and the sister/brotherhood of humankind would be less costly than tearing each other’s building down and building another? And imagine the tourists it would draw!
‘And would it not remind the Indians themselves of Gandhi’s philosophy and efforts towards unity in diversity? One of his quotations could be engraved on a monument, perhaps a statue of him?
‘Do write how things develop in India. Your ever loving ancienne comrade de chamber — Eileen’.
Is it possible that, in memory of the Father of the Nation, the ‘angry people’ will bury the hatchet one day and synthesise a dream concept to soothe all passions?
Source Link: https://www.tribuneindia.com