Friday, October 17, 2008

Rahul Chandra and Omara

We got to Sacatar and I wanted to crawl up a rabbit hole. I ran through some email, splashed water on my face and changed my shirt before we split for the Capoeira de Roda-Rahul show. Everyone else was far ahead of us. I couldn’t make it happen quickly. We had been up late for a few nights consecutively. I was not my own master right now. I also did not need to see the youngsters that perform. Three to nine year olds always play Capoeira between 5:30 and 7:30 PM.

We arrived just as Omara was announcing Rahul. As she introduced him, she and an assistant brought out first two, then three, then four more votive candles, mostly all already burning. They set them down in clusters, somehow random and intended. The lights were dimmed just as Rahul started his Tambour, the “Instant Karma” machine as Augusto called it. It set out a measured beat and pitch common to aid Sitar and Raga players who need to insure that they stay in tune and in time. The sleigh bell cuffs clanked as Rahul fastened them to his calves in the dark.

He began to speak, asking me to translate. I was burnt, not the time for me to think clearly in Portuguese. This had become our pattern, so I obliged him. He explained that Bangladesh was a country of rivers. Many, many songs were boatmen’s songs written and sung while working the waters. He picked up his flute, quickly found his stride with a haunting melody. Several songs later he put down his flute and sang acapella.

One of his first pieces was his caged bird song. Our ribs are a metaphor for a cage holding the bird of our soul. Do we hold it, controlling it with our will power? Or, are we a slave to its wants, fooling ourselves with fantasies of mindfulness? In the end, if the bird cannot live freely it, and our soul dies. He ended with a somber song of Chandra, a love story of unrequited; no a love of the soul not carnal desires. Periodically he stamped his feet adding the bell chimes as the story ebbed and ran forward, resolving itself in a tender and oblique way.

Now, Rahul’s chest was heaving and he was sobbing uncontrollably. Across the room, Omara the thoughtful, tender and disciplined teacher/coach was quietly crying herself. Three times they embraced, before he removed his anklets and strapped them to her legs. He stopped singing briefly to indicate that now she would join him on his road of passion and introspection. It was all more than many of the teens were prepared for. They had really come to see the tweens and late teenagers perform. A few hissed and giggled with adolescent emotions, misplaced and confused.

They were not any less caught up in their raging hormones than Omara and Rahul who had made a profound connection without having a shared verbal language. Inadvertently they had fallen into some kind of sacred love with each other. When the lights came up, the students passed out popcorn and Rahul quickly gathered his things and quickly went back to Sacatar. Now his emotions seemed less angelic, more down to earth and definitely outside of his cultural orientation. It seemed like he was not prepared for the reality he had unleashed on himself and Omara.

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