The Inconvenience of Peace




Arms crossed, lips pursed and an adamance in his eyes that I found amusing and disturbing at the same time, I watched my barely three year old cousin refuse to apologise to someone he had just been rude to. Sheesh! Egos develop early. 

As we grow, some of us learn our lessons and are able to keep our egos a small size - most of the time; while the rest of us let it balloon and usually have it pricked and deflated very quickly by the world. Thats why, seeking peace becomes a very important thing. 

I know that now. But, a couple of decades ago, after going for four days without speaking to my brother (post some silly squabble) I was feeling quite the victor - as a kid, being the sweetheart that he was, he would buckle and give in within a day, but the years added a lot of sense to him and, worse, diminished the efficacy of my vampish strategy. Four days of empty victory later, along came Sunday! 

So, we go to church - maintaining status quo - and though we would have loved to sit on opposite ends of the church, we had to sit together as a family ("get, set, go inconvenience!") Half way through the mass the priest said, “Let’s now offer each other a sign of peace”. Now, sitting beside each other made things extremely inconvenient for me; however, surrounded by the hawk like eyes of our parents, we had no choice but to look at each other with folded hands and say, “Peace be with you.” It sucked the air out of both our ego-balloons; but deflated as they were now, the inconvenience of peace suddenly became a bridge to truce. 

One thing I’ve noticed is that the inconvenience of peace is a global phenomenon. In Edinburgh, I’ve seen at least a couple of people, every Sunday, who suddenly just HAD TO find something in their purses or cough vigorously when it was time to say peace! In India, I’ve seen fellow church goers stand immobile, their necks straining as they stared straight ahead while those on their left and right looked expectantly - almost longingly - at them! I’ve even seen some family members prod their loved ones who were refusing said peace and offer it to them persuasively! 


But, my best ‘peace’ experience was in Shanghai. Despite the mass being entirely in Mandarin, by sheer habit I knew what prayer was going on when; so when it was time for peace, I was all set to say peace to my Chinese brothers and sisters. The Chinese offer peace pretty much like us Indians - folded palms - and I did the same. It was a few moments before I realised that a very, very old Chinese lady (did I mention how ancient she was?!) who had been sitting a couple of benches ahead of me was completely enthralled with the only Indian face in that entire, huge church. She did a complete 180 degrees turn and continued to offer me peace with folded palms for a very long time! 

Inconvenient? Not really. Amusing and a just a tiny bit embarrassing - to me and everyone else in between me and cute old lady? Very much! 

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