We were the water people at the yajna in Rikhia, washing the hands of everyone before and after they ate. Like water nymphs we stood proudly, one hand holding our water jug just at the heart, the other cradling it from beneath, ready to respond to the call of outstretched hands.
But is wasnt like this from the start: we had to learn it. At first we poured water too fast or too slow or all over the place: we were restless, self-absorbed, gossiping, disconnected. Swami Sivananda, they told us, said that it was a great honour to wash the hands of another. We only half heard it: our molecules were still lobbing in from other lands and we had important things to do and places to be. Mostly we wanted to be somewhere else, like on the other side at the program.
Then it happened: the people whose hands we were washing started to teach us. How could we maintain our separateness when the hands of tiny babies were lifted up to us by their Indian mothers, how could we not respond when old people with bent or broken bodies looked up to us for help, how could we resist when someone trustingly held out their false teeth for washing? How could we not give a hand to the westerners whose backpacks and mugs kept sliding off their shoulders and whose socks were always wet?
At last water pourer and receiver were united in the flow of the water mudra just enough water into the asking hands, wait for the washing, again some water for rinsing and then be ready to give water for drinking into the funnel of the hands without the jug touching the hands or mouth. We stopped worrying about missing the program. We had become perfect taps.