Thursday, July 21, 2022

Appa Tells Us About Love and Loyalty

 An Appa Story Notebook dated 1985

One day I took a rickshaw home to Sumeru from the city because it was raining really hard. I negotiated the fee with the driver amiably taking into account the hardship and he was eager for the fare. I was carrying a huge bundle of fruit and stuff, otherwise I'da' walked.

Anyways we get home and the rickshaw driver demands an unusually high fee. I pay him what we agreed and added some but not all of his (genuinely unfair) demand. He shouted an obscenity at me in Tamil and this brought Appa from the house. He was irate that such language be used at his doorstep, in front of his mother and children. He then said to the fellow, "How dare you speak to that man with such lanugage. Do you know who he is?" And I was, well, nobody really, just a guy in his 20s living in India. When the rickshaw fellow used bad language towards Appa I came running out of the house in a rage befitting Bhairava and his dog. Appa turned abruptly to me and pointed to the third floor. He was arguing vociferously with this fellow but turned to me in his usual wonderful eerily calm voice: "Go into the house." I could do nothing else.

Later we had a bit of a talk about the incident and I apologized for the matter wholly. He assured me that I did the right thing. "If we let him cheat you then he will cheat anyone. And he will cheat more vulnerable foreigners. No one should be cheated. You already paid him much more than the fare. You did the right thing because you can afford that, it is a generous act. But how he behaved we may not excuse so easily." This was all very Appa.

But then he made me cry, 'cause I could not help it. He wanted to make a point, so he told a story. He said, "You love me and want to protect me too. I know you are loyal to me and I am loyal to you. Do you know why? Loyalty is a true friend to love but they are companions and they are not the same. Love is Varuna, who is Sovereign. But loyalty is like Mitra, the Friend who is always at his side. Mitra knows that loyalty is always being challenged, not like their love. Now, this is not a bad thing. Loyalty is something that will be tested and because it is earned and then it is re-earned; loyalty never turns an eye from the truth. That is why Lord Varuna keeps Mitra so close. He loves him but he welcomes these test. They have earned each others' hard won loyalties. Their love, well, that they can't help."

I sad and worried for those whose loyalty is blind, whether it is gurus or politics or whatever it is. Loyalty is best with your eyes open. You can close your eyes sometimes when you're in love. That can feel right too.