Asia | India | Indian Himalayas – By Candlelight
We had no class today, because there was a special prayer celebration for the Dalai Lamas long life at the main temple. It was supposed to start at 7:30 a.m. and since Ive been here a whole month and havent even seen the inside of the temple yet, I thought Id like to go.
I wake up every morning at 6:00 a.m. because there are so many birds outside my window, and it is my alarm clock. Then I usually just go back to sleep off and on until 7:00. But this morning, I really got up early, did my prayers and got dressed, and went upstairs. I had a quick glass of juice, and then followed the others down Temple Road until we reached the main gate.
There was quite a line, but it was moving, and eventually we got inside, and I walked up the stairs and stood on tiptoe to see the motion picture screen where they projected the image of His Holiness praying. Actually the sound of the other monks could be heard, but the Dalai Lama was just swaying back and forth with his eyes half closed. Then they showed the Karmapa.
There were two or three children hanging from the ledge over which I was trying to peer, and we all held onto each other. Finally, my feet were tired, and I followed some other people up another stairway and onto a porch where we could sit and listen. I stayed there about an hour.
I had made a previous date to meet my Belgian friend Yelle at the French Café, so I left to go and meet her. We had a fine time drinking coffee. The French Café wasnt open, so we just went to Lhamo Tsos, which suited me fine, as I still had to make an appointment to interview her for the film. I was in luck. Her husband and son were both there and her husband in particular was very interested, so I made appointments with both of them.
As I was coming up the hill, some of my students from the Reception Center came running down to fight over who would get to grab my hand, shouting Gela Gela (teacher). It was quite sweet. I told them, Zinda mindu. (No class.)
I did some shopping for new pants, new sunglasses (both my other pairs had broken by my carelessness), and a new notebook to keep track of everything. Ive been my usual sloppy self with three notebooks with drawings, schedule, lists of interviews, Tibetan lessons, notes, email addresses, and more sketches and ideas. Theres just got to be a better way!
I also went around looking for some cinnamon sticks, and somehow never found them. At a roadside chai stand, I asked the man if he could recommend a shop, and he promised to get me some cinnamon if I would come back in half an hour. I walked around a bit and a little boy who had been at the Om a week ago came walking up with his mother.
She recognized me and said, Shanti, shanti! I smiled and said, Shanti.
The little boy, who is quite bold and cute, and maybe five years old said, Youre wearing sunglasses.
I said, Yes.
He said, Take them off. I dont remember you.
So I did. He said, Oh, now, I know who you are.
His mother said, Yes, at the Om, when you were dancing.
He gave me an impish grin. He had been doing Bollywood dancing for the other guests and it was a lot of fun.
I came back to the chai stand, but the owner had been unsuccessful in finding any cinnamon, so I just sat down to rest, and watched him cooking.
I asked him, What are you making?
He said, Aloo paranthas. You should try some.
I happen to love those, so I said, Are you a good cook? Are they the best ones in McLeod Ganj?
And he said, You try.
So I ordered some chai, as well. He set out a plate and slid a hot potato pancake onto it. He poured some curd into a little bowl with a spoon, and then made me the chai. We sat down and both ate. It was quite delicious, and I told him so.
He would not let me pay him anything for the lunch because he said he had promised me the cinnamon and failed to get it. So I said, That means I have to bring another friend back for lunch one day.
And so we introduced ourselves and said goodbye.
Somewhere in the afternoon, I decided to nap, and then it poured rain for about two hours, which made for some nice, cozy sleeping. When I woke up, we had no power, and there was a magnificent sunset turning orange and red over the balcony, so I took a few snapshots.
I went upstairs and my Tibetan friends were all sitting around talking and smiling because without lights, cooking was minimal and they had a bit of rest. Some of us lit candles, and I went down and brought up my damnyen so we would have some music. I practiced a bit, and two Tibetan girls Yangzoms sister Khandro visiting from Dehradun and another girl named Dechen, sat across from me. I played my one song that Ive been practicing and then just tapped out some other tunes as I went along. A couple of monks sitting in the café smiled at me, enjoying the music.
Then Dechen confided that Khandro was very good on the damnyen, and I handed it to her. She really played well. She taught me two new songs, one of which I have on a recording called Aku Pema. Its quite lovely, and not too hard. So I wrote down the notes for both songs, and I will practice them tomorrow.
We talked and ate. I had lemon cake and then when the lights came back on, I had rosti and hot lemon with honey. Dorjes little 4-year old girl came in wearing a new chupa, with her hair neatly put into two ponytails. She looked quite beautiful and she had a mhendi design in black on the back of one of her hands, of which she was quite proud. I photographed that too, which delighted her. We have become great friends now, ever since I made her a little cootie-catcher at breakfast yesterday. I guess with my silly smattering of Tibetan, she thinks of me as one of the family.
Even the older members of the family are starting to greet me now, so I am glad I decided not to move from here. I really like my room, too. Its quiet and dry and a good sanctuary.