FAR away in the past, somewhere in France, a great
seaport in an animated street....
near the quays where anchor
the big mail steamers from Asia, a modest little shop of
curios from the Far East. Among a crowd of exotic
objects, an eight-year-old boy is standing alone while his
parents on the threshold of the shop bargain with the
merchant for some precious souvenirs. In the dim light,
the child's eyes wander around and hardly distinguish
the faded gold of Buddhas plunged in metaphysical meditation,
the worn stuffs and shawls which doubtless at one
time enveloped the beautiful body of some far-away princess
in an Eastern palace, the grimacing dragons of jade
and ivory, the copper vessels, the ebony tables inlaid with
mother-of-pearl, the tiger skins...
The boy's eyes stray thoughtfully from one object
to another. Suddenly, they fasten upon a casket of carved
wood. He approaches it and gently opens it. A per-
fume of indescribable sweetness exhales from the box.
On the lid is carved a tree with spreading branches in the
shade of which people are sitting in an attitude of medi-
tation. The boy does not know why but he is mysteri-
ously drawn toward this casket. He gazes at it, touches
it, opens and closes it, and inhales its penetrating odour.
All at once, he hears the merchant saying to his parents,
indicating to them at the same time the object of his con-
templation: "There is a treasure box made of sandal wood
India! He remembers but this one word, India!
The boy's parents, attracted by other objets d'art.
leave him to his reverie. India! "The man said India,"
he thinks. His soul, without his being conscious of it,
is filled with deep and strange feelings. This word, so
striking for him, captures his imagination. It seems to
him that this treasure casket contains the whole of India
which he believes to know well from having read many
strange stories about that country of mystery. Now
India is before him, he touches it, he breathes its perfume
through the box which he holds in his hands. He is so
happy, without knowing why.
Inexpressible reminiscences! "To learn is to remember," Plato.
May it be that his child's soul remembers a time in the far past ?
It is for his inner life to respond, but the child himself is
plunged in a profound dream. He lives an intense hour.
He is not aware of it but he lives one of those hours the memory of
which can never be forgotten. He does not know that, the Indian
treasure box will remain in the recesses of his memory and
will very often emerge to haunt his youthful mind as well
as his matured life of a man.
. . . .There was a silence one of those silences experienced during
his years of adolescence. The soul needs
time to adapt itself to the body.
One day, while on a boat taking him to Algeria,
the youth, who is now sixteen years of age, sees in th?
distance a huge vessel. "It is the Mail from India'' the
captain tells him. India! Again this evoking word which
stirs his mind. He thinks that later on he also will steer
toward India, toward her shores. He had learned that
she was also named Aryavarta, the country of the Wise
. . . .Again some years fly swiftly past. Years of
struggle, of work, of suffering, of hopes. A man's years.
ThT, count. But the soul of India watches over him.
She took possession of all his being in that little
curiosity shop buffeted by the wild sea wind and which smelled
so good of the East. His study of Hindu philosophy
only strengthened his belief in and reverence for India.
If he could not possess the famous treasure box of his
childhood, he received, instead, from a very dear being,
his son, "residing in India whom we will designate by the
letter C, a wonderful Indian treasure casket all inlaid
with ivory, silver, and turquoise.
It was the herald of a great event.