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Chapter 20
He was a Sufi, a Muslim mystic. He sought fana, union withGod, and his relationship with God was personal and loving. "Ifyou take two steps towards God," he used to tell me, "Godruns to you!"He was a very plain-featured man, with nothing in his looksor in his dress that made memory cry hark. I'm not surprisedI didn't see him the first time we met. Even when I knew himvery well, encounter after encounter, I had difficulty recognizinghim. His name was Satish Kumar. These are common namesin Tamil Nadu, so the coincidence is not so remarkable. Still, itpleased me that this pious baker, as plain as a shadow and ofsolid health, and the Communist biology teacher and sciencedevotee, the walking mountain on stilts, sadly afflicted with polioin his childhood, carried the same name. Mr. and Mr. Kumartaught me biology and Islam. Mr. and Mr. Kumar led me tostudy zoology and religious studies at the University of Toronto.
Mr. and Mr. Kumar were the prophets of my Indian youth.
We prayed together and we practised dhikr, the recitation ofthe ninety-nine revealed names of God. He was a hafiz, onewho knows the Qur'an by heart, and he sang it in a slow,simple chant. My Arabic was never very good, but I loved itssound. The guttural eruptions and long flowing vowels rolledjust beneath my comprehension like a beautiful brook. I gazedinto this brook for long spells of time. It was not wide, justone man's voice, but it was as deep as the universe.
I described Mr. Kumar's place as a hovel. Yet no mosque,church or temple ever felt so sacred to me. I sometimes cameout of that bakery feeling heavy with glory. I would climb ontomy bicycle and pedal that glory through the air.
One such time I left town and on my way back, at a pointwhere the land was high and I could see the sea to my leftand down the road a long ways, I sudd............
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