November 5, 2013
A friend of mine wrote down this episode of our dinner together at the Fenix, formerly known as the Tiffen restaurant at the Oberoi Hotel in Mumbai. This was not the first time I had eaten there. On New Year’s Day 2011 I was staying in the Trident the business hotel that connected to the Oberoi by a long corridor. I found myself alone on that day but did not feel I was alone. I had been in Mumbai since September 2010 and was now feeling this was as much a home as I had known since my husband and daughter were killed. After reading an essay a friend had written where he described having a meal in the newly renovated Tiffen, now re-named Fenix, how he sat with his friend and drank a toast to Alan and Naomi, remembering them with love – I felt inspired to have my New Year’s day celebration in the Fenix. It was a way to honor the memory of my family by celebrating new life and to carry the love I felt for them with me into the present as I opened to a reality that included their love but not their physical forms.
There is No Mine
“Where shall we go for dinner?” I asked her.
“Let’s go to Fenix”
“Oh; OK, if you’re sure you are happy with that.”
Diwali night; fire crackers reverberating around the city to ward off evil spirits. We cannot see the flashes and flames as we walk through the bright corridors of the Oberoi Hotel, Mumbai. But we hear the loud bangs and explosions following us to dinner.
“Would a terrorist attack sound so different?” I thought, not realising I had said it out loud until she replied:
“That’s right, the survivors told me when the shooting started they just thought it was fireworks…….
until the terrorists came around the corner!”
The same corner we were rounding now as we entered Fenix.
“Are you sure you are happy eating here?” but my words floated unheard, up 28 storeys of the vast lobby atrium as she danced into the welcoming warmth of Fenix to be greeted as a long lost friend by the staff. My words a silent whisper compared to the crashing assault on humanity that the gunshots and grenades made when they reverberated around this very same atrial haven 5 years ago. A few minutes of fatal destruction creating a lifelong connection between diverse peoples from different worlds but of the same human race. I followed her, in awe of her serenity, as she turned and asked me where I would like to sit; a decision I could not make in the circumstances; but the table for 2 along the wall beckoned to us.
“Perfect” she said, “we are by the exit where the lucky few escaped and this table nearby is where Alan and Naomi were sitting.”
There can be no other response than the silence of private thought connecting to the shattering moment when the spirits of her husband and daughter were liberated from their earthly bodies by terrorists’ bullets.
A waiter bearing menus eased us seamlessly back into the elegant surroundings, immaculate service and sumptuous offerings of the present. I thought it would feel mundane to order food and wine but the memory of death and destruction dissolved with her happy smile and laughing eyes when she raised her glass of full-bodied Spanish wine asking me to “celebrate life”. I felt the full-bodied impact of a present brimming with optimism and abundance leaving no space at the table for nostalgia. I wondered silently where she had found the light to see the way through the long periods of darkness that must have accompanied her on her 5 year journey to now. Where does a mere mortal gain the strength to convert hope shattering devastation into life-fulfilling abundance?
The unasked question was answered when she told me:
“There is no mine – not my husband; not my daughter – possession is just an illusion.”
Then I understood why she did not join Alan and Naomi on their journey to Mumbai. She was not with them on that fateful day because the world still needed her to shine her light on the darkness of others.
During this Festival of Lights we light our Diya as the deaths of Alan and Naomi lit the light of Kia as witness to the abundance of forgiveness and the nourishment we find when there is no mine; only yours.
I realize that the only thing I can truthfully say is ‘mine’ is the experience of life that I am having. No one else is having this experience in this way. It is unique. Each new moment is unique unto itself. Who is experiencing? This is the experience I am having and so I call it ‘my’ experience. Is that true? I don’t know, but I do know that husbands, friends, lovers, sons and daughters can never be ‘mine’. I love them and let them go. I keep loving them when they are gone. Love itself is not ‘mine’ it is simply who I am.