Recently in San Diego, before taking in the performance of a troupe of blind Indian dancers, I dined at a Vietnamese restaurant. There slurping noodles sat a table of men pretending not to be watching a cheesy Chinese kung fu film.
Like most exemplars of this genre, it had one oft-repeated, but unspoken message: c’hi (qi; ‘life force’) exists! Later, as I watched the Indian dancers I wondered how a script impelled by the Indian notion of prana (the Indian equivalent of ch’i) would read.
The Hundred-Foot Journey is a foodie romance with just that in mind. “Cuisine is not a tired old marriage, it is a passionate affair of the heart,” emerged the film’s most potent dictum, from the lips of a master chef holding up a piece of limp asparagus. “Limp,” can be rendered as “chi-depleted” or “prana-depleted.” Thus, underlying all the Indo-Franco intercultural, cuisine-sans-frontiers, and romantic interplay vibrates the film’s unspoken message: prana exists!
On the narrative level, a displaced family of Indian restaurateurs decides to sink down new roots in a French village rather than London or Paris, because of the vibrancy of the rural produce (and later on the romance), where they are reminded of an ageless Indian truth: that without prana, there is no life. All the gods we worship and chase after are nothing without it.
from the Pransa Upanishad.
Vaidarbhi asked Pippalada: Sir, how many gods support the body of the created being? How many of these manifest their power through it? And which one, furthermore, is paramount?
To the disciple he said: Space, akasa, verily is that god—the wind, fire, water, earth, speech, mind, eye and ear, as well. These, having manifested their glory, said boastfully: “We support this body and uphold it.”
To them prana, the chiefmost said: “Do not fall into delusion. I alone, dividing myself into five parts, support this body and uphold it.” But they were incredulous.
Prana, out of pride, rose upward, as it were, from the body. Now, when it rose upward all the others rose upward also and when it settled down they all settled down with it. As bees go out when their queen goes out and return when she returns, even so did speech, mind, eye and ear. They, being satisfied, praised prana.