The atheist interpreter

Amol Gokhale
Sunday, 1 July 2018

It happened that last week on two days (Thursday and Friday) I worked from hostel till late afternoon and happened to have my afternoon coffee with my roomies and the hostel staff. Besides me, there was another Indian guy, Ankush, and three guys from Senegal. One of them was Yusuf. The other two were little shy and didn’t reveal their names.

It happened that last week on two days (Thursday and Friday) I worked from hostel till late afternoon and happened to have my afternoon coffee with my roomies and the hostel staff. Besides me, there was another Indian guy, Ankush, and three guys from Senegal. One of them was Yusuf. The other two were little shy and didn’t reveal their names.

On Thursday afternoon, while having coffee, Elsa, the lady who looks after the hostel’s day-to-day affairs, joined us in our conversation and was curious about the copper bracelet and threads that Ankush was wearing on his wrist. She asked him if he was spiritual, to which he answered affirmatively. She told us that she too was religious and practised Buddhism, and was surprised when I said that I was an atheist.  
What surprised her more was that I still knew one of the Tibetan prayers Aum Mani Padme Hum, and told me the following: “If you believe in doing good deeds, that’s where your god lies.” So our high tea chat concluded on a spiritual note.

The chain of events wouldn’t come to an end just yet. As I left the premises of Luzhniki Stadium after getting the evening off, I came across a group of around 10 Russians,  who were singing prayers of ‘Krishna’ in their accent. As they continued singing, I looked for someone whom I could talk to and I came across one of the girls from the group, who was informing passersby about International Krishna Practitioner Society. She told me that they are a group of 20-30 people who perform at this very spot outside Sportivnaya Metro Station every Thursday for 3 hours, seeking answers about god and existence.

My little knowledge of French came in handy the next day, as my friends from Senegal wanted to offer prayers (Namaz) and I was the translator in helping them find the East in our room. What delighted them more was that I accepted their invitation for joining them for lunch, as they prepared an African dish with potatoes, tomatoes and eggs. As Elsa too was around, I became the interpreter for another conversation over afternoon coffee.

(The writer shares his travel and tour experiences, and also catches the fun and revelry during the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.)

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