He’s my god
Last winter I attended a short ski camp in the Japanese Alps. Boarding at an inn for a few days, I was in a Japanese tatami mat room with a group of 6-year-old Korean and Indian boys to supervise and watch over. They were an energetic bunch that predictably needed assistance doing everything that their mothers usually do for them at home: closing the door; getting dressed/undressed; finding lost clothes; setting inside-out clothes aright; replacing kicked-off blankets in the middle of the night; fixing stuck zippers; and just arranging their suitcases and all their possessions in general to keep things in their place. It never fails that many things get misplaced and ‘lost’ though, only to turn up at the last minute, seconds before we were to board charter buses for the return trip to Tokyo.
I remember helping one Indian boy arrange his things on the final evening. While we were picking up and shifting through all the detritus of boys’ lives littering the floor of the room like a barn I picked up his pocket book which fell open at some pictures. Immediately I thought these must be family pictures, like many Western (adults) carry around with them. This quick conclusion was reinforced by a clear view of an elderly Indian man seated and in traditional attire.
“Is this your grandfather?”
“No. That’s my god.” And he was completely serious.
“How convenient,” I thought. Instead of praying to him and hoping that he will hear your prayers you can just go round his house and tell him yourself.
I wanted to make some argumentative rebuttal, because as a Christian this idea of this man being his god struck me as a self-evidently ridiculous understanding of deity. But gave it up because he was a Hindu boy from one of those weird foreignbackgrounds. I supposed that in India this old man is his god, and the boy was not mis-speaking.
When I was growing up in my medium-size Canadian hometown I think it would have been unthinkable to hear such conversation. Well, maybe not, but that is my feeling anyway, looking back on it. One thing I get from living in Japan, and especially from living in such a large city as Tokyo, is that I meet people I never would have or even been able to in my provincial hometown. It’s probably still true today, despite Canada’s much-touted record of immigration and “inclusive” multicultural policies.