Monday, August 22, 2011

Same Same but different

There has been a rather long sabbatical from the blog and suddenly out of the blue there is a desire to slow down, reflect and write. In a good way, a time to sense and feel the goodness of life and the changes that have come in the past few weeks.

Seems like the longest and the shortest month of life. There was a trip to Leh, Manali, and Dharamshala, followed by a quick dash home and followed by a quick dive into the beaches of Kerala. Spending time travelling always makes me happy and quiet and in a sense very reflective.

As the mountains of Leh submerged one, with the vast open vistas opening up from one range to the other, the silence overwhelmed you. Looking at the road workers, working on the side of the road one could not but wonder at the different lives that people lead..

It filled one with a sense of emptiness, with everything else taking a back seat. Work was not that crucial, life would figure itself out, there was a flow to it, a greater intelligence how else can one explain the intricate mountains, the old monk living in a monastery with the bells chime as a constant sound, the soldiers who had died building the roads, the other who charged up a hill to defend a nation, the brave tea stall owner who choose to come and set up shop at a conflict ridden area.

The hills charm, for the silence and the people that live there.

Ladhak – a culture a region that seemed lost. In the middle of nowhere there seems like a little town plucked out of Enid Blyton book that has been placed there. The palace, the people the houses all smart of an inborn simplicity, a race that over the years built a pact with nature and religion to live life a certain way.

Bhuddism spread itself, represented in houses that were simple from the inside, food that was wholesome yet not complicated, laughter that was there in the eye and yet something was changing. The monasteries were slowly getting deserted, prosperity was knocking on heavens door.

Ironically, the richer the nation got – yes three idiots was a cause, yes Makemytrip had taken the exotic out of leh, yes there was a traffic jam, yes the weather had changed but all this had done something for the person there. Given him a choice – a sense of liberation. Ok fine, this is debate-able, there are lots of larger corporate that are coming and making their seasonal home in leh, the waiter flits from leh and goa, the rafter from rishikesh to zanskar, a moving hybrid population comes in cashes in on the tourist and leaves.

Irrespective of the format of the eco –system, what does end up happening is that there is a sense of money that flows in. Now a smaller family and a richer family, does not feel the mental duty to send a son to the monastery, the number of lamas reduces, and there is a smaller and smaller percentage that comes into the sect.

Reading the Living in Exile by Dalai Lama and the Last Seen in Lhasa, the 2 books on the Tibetian Bhuddist way of life made me realize the vulnerability of their way of life, and how ruthlessly the Chinese invasion has destroyed a culture that was built over years.

Ladhak is not Tibet, its causes are different but its still a similar life, a similar belief system a system that is getting altered and changed. It’s a good thing – the power to choose for oneself what one wants to do. This power is seeing monks relinquish robes, and give us celibacy. It’s a sad thing, seeing the slow decline of a culture, a way of life, a prayer wheel a manner of showing all us tourist hunting, camera totting visitors that when life in your head and city gets too much to handle and do, there is someone, somewhere, whom you met, who life is being lived truly differently..

Not connected, but a visual image that I can never shake from my memories is one of a lady saint I met in the top of Tapovan a few years ago. Tapovan was above Gokmukh – the place from where the Ganges start, it’s a pass that connects Gangotri to Kedarnath – high above any reach of civilization. A south Indian, she had made a tent in that pass her home, spending her day there in solitude – contemplation.

Grinning like a school girl she looked at me straight in the eye and asked - ‘whats the hurry?’ grinned and left again to make some steaming coffee. Never been able to shrug that piercing look of hers off, and that somehow she had looked right through me.

In the end, weeks after the trip I am now remembering what it really meant for me.