Chile recently suffered from massive earthquakes. Twice, in the space of 24 hours, their northern port city, Iquique, endured earthquakes that were 7.8 or higher on the Richter scale. As if this was not enough, the aftershocks have been seemingly unending. One count has them at 300. Another at 400. The loss, damage and destruction is immense and it is going to take Chileans a long time to recover. Emotionally, physically and financially.
I spent seven of the best years of my life in Chile. My daughters were born there. And I made some wonderful friends. Chileans are a family oriented people. They love children and treat pregnant women like they are fragile china. It is no wonder then, that even after so many years, I still miss my life there. I really felt like I belonged. The lyrics from one of their popular anthems, “Si vas para Chile,” (If you visit Chile) can still bring tears to my eyes.
Sometimes I cannot help but wonder. Does this connection that I feel have a deeper significance?
Many Hindus believe that the earth is holy. Indeed, Mother Earth, or Dharti Mata, is a crucial component in many ritual practices. Prayers and sacrifices are offered to the earth. The earth is sanctified and purified before any large religious ceremony. It is an element that is treated with the utmost reverence.
Of course, this is not an idea that is exclusively Hindu. For example, the earth has been a central force in Pagan worship since antiquity. And the honor and respect with which Native Americans treat their land is legendary.
The truth is that this bond goes even deeper than the relationship between cultures and their land. It is between humans and the earth we live on. We are inherently connected to it. The earth nourishes us. It shelters us. It provides us with sustenance. It always has. It is only recently, with the advent of high rises and supermarkets, that this connection has been weakened.
As a Hindu, who believes in reincarnation, I do not think that these bonds will disappear when I die. They will remain in my subconscious memory. A memory that I may not be able to tap into, but which will, nonetheless, influence me. No doubt, I have formed this connection with the earth in many places over many lifetimes. Perhaps one of those places was Chile.
Whatever the reason for this bond however, the bottom line is that my heart aches for the Chileans. This wonderful, family oriented people are suffering the wrath of Mother Nature. Their homes have been destroyed. Their businesses have been shut down. They cannot sleep at night out of fear. But, they are a resilient people and I know they will rise from this disaster with a sense of determination. And that this land, that I love, will once again resound with the voices and laughter of it’s beautiful children.