Asia | India | Indian Himalayas – Karma
Well, I should relate the important fact that the football championships are over. The buzz around town all week was that Darjeeling was going to win. Their team was very fast and skillful.
However, I heard a rumor that on Thursday night, the team from Bir went over to the Darjeeling dorms and threatened them. They said, ‘If you win, we’ll break your legs. We’ll kill you.’ The guys on the Bir team were really fierce and tough. They had a lot of Khampas (guys from Kham, eastern Tibet, which as you may know was the province that battled the Chinese before they entered and subdued the Tibetans).
This was a little known chapter in Tibetan history, I guess. Imagine both men and women on horseback with swords against Chinese soldiers with guns. According to a girl I met here, even today, there are remote villages in Kham where Chinese still are afraid to go.
Anyway, back to the football story. The Darjeeling team was so intimidated, they actually left. The football committee called them back, but it was too late. So it turned out that Bir would be playing Clement Town, according to my source.
I asked him, ‘Did the Bir players also threaten the Clement Town team?’
He laughed. ‘No. They wouldn’t do that. Clement Town also has a lot of Khampas. It would just end up being a big fight.’
Again, we took the long hike up into the mountains to the playing field and meandered up under the trees to find a spot to sit. I was challenged to get an uninhibited view with my camera, as I had planned to film the whole game.
When the first team emerged onto the field, the team in white (Clement Town), there were cheers and the team walked up and bowed and then did calisthentics and warmed up.
Then the blue team (Bir) came out, and nearly the entire crowd booed. Wow. I had not expected that. So it seemed the rumors were confirmed, unless we were all under the same misapprehension.
The game was wild. Both teams were really, really good. Both teams had very tough, agile, aggressive players. There were a lot of head shots and collisions. But everybody always picked themselves up and went on. Nobody got carried off the field, which I really thought was a miracle.
It looked to me as if both teams scored. I thought Bir had one goal and Clement Town two by the halftime break. I later found it that Bir had not scored at all, and Clement Town had four goals. Every time Bir tried to score, there were loud boos. Every time they had to kick, the Tibetans shouted, ‘Block that kick’ (or something to that extent in Tibetan).
It seemed to me that all the booing really must have gotten to the Bir team. I think they lost their spirit even though they were scrappy and tough and determined not to give an inch. In the end, Clement Town won with the score 6-0.
The winner got a new motorcycle. It was loud and red and shiny and beautiful. I’m not sure how they figured out who would get to ride it! I did hear them calling out the most valuable player names, but I think maybe there was also a drawing of one name for the cycle.
When I look for the news about this game, it will probably fill in all the details I missed. I was sitting with Lhamo, our temporary teacher at the center. She is a sweet young innocent who really doesn’t have much elan in the McLeod Ganj community. I like her, though. She seems more real and honest than a lot of the so-called cool people I’ve met here with their sunglasses and western manners.
In the morning, I had a damnyen lesson with Ali and learned the song ‘Aku Pema.’ Today I practiced it for about an hour. It sounds really beautiful. I have a recording of it by a Tibetan musician named Loten, so I was able to listen on my computer and jot down the words (in phonetic Tibetan which is probably going to sound like pig-Latin when I try to sing).
Anyway, I am determined to learn this song by sometime next week, so I can get a new song. I can’t remember when I’ve ever been so excited by a new art form. This instrument has captured my heart.
I also did two paintings today, just with poster paint on a pad of watercolor paper. I called them ‘Samsara’ and ‘Sky Burial.’ ‘Samsara’ is really an ugly painting, but appropriate, as it stands for the suffering that all humans endure. It just shows two people attempting to crawl out of a hole.
‘Sky Burial’ isn’t a beautiful painting – not visually – but I captured something of the sky burial I was honored to witness when I visited Drigung Til in Tibet … the birds, the sky, the wind, the trees, all one, the sound of the lama praying and the feeling that he was helping the person to overcome any fears of leaving the body behind – as if he were saying to the departing spirit, ‘Don’t worry – I’ve got you.’ It felt so transcendent seeing the human body be rendered back to nature. There was nothing gruesome about it.
Somehow I have to admit, it was incredibly beautiful to me. So it felt very good to paint this.