All these posts are thumbed on my iPod Touch - they are a reaction to the visits I make whilst filming abroad for different organisations and are a working traveller's view of the world. Bless up the organisations who helped me.
Tuesday, 4 October 2011
Three times blessed
Three times blessed
The stubble on my chin is longer than the hair on any of the heads of the young girls sat praying in the room around me. They are uniformly shaved and the difference in their head shapes is astounding, they are as different as hairstyles can be. In their Tibetan monks robes they are uniformly androgynous It is only in their voices and movements that the female in them is revealed. They are chanting a mantra
“Oum ah oum bazra guru padma siginghi om”.
Not together but each in their own rhythm, cyclic and weaving in and out of sync with each other, occasionally in unison like windscreen wipers moving in time with music in a car. Its effect is hypnotic and as I sit cross;legged at the back of the hall I begin to forget my physical ailments and just exist in the now
The now is perfect. Drum Amitabha mountain nunnery which crowns one on the many peaks that surround Kathmandu is the vision of the Twelth reincarnation of the Anmitaba guru Gyalwang Drukpa and I have walked up here with Ravindra the CEO of Restless development and a group of his friends. The walk itself was an awakening we made our way up through the outskirts of the city into the pure morning air it was like coming out from under the covers when you are kid and being able to breathe again.
Just twenty minutes hike up a gently sloping road and we were in rural Nepal, past wooden houses , cattle, paddy fields and temples we emerged into a gilded timeless world that looked down on Kathmandu and its smog.
We stopped for a breakfast of doughnuts, sweet miky tea, eggs and spicy chick peas.
Sat on the concrete roof of the Chai house, I felt blessed, such a fine moment spent with relative strangers transformed us into good friends.
Beautiful as it looks Kathmandou has made me ill, the pollution from hundreds of thousands of untuned engines has given me a cough and sickness that is hard to shake,I feel sullied and abused and as if I am inhabiting and older frailer version of my own body. The rain that has been flooding the city for days has meant that it is marinading in its own juices and now it gently simmers as the the sun has come out. I am constantly assaulted by my pity for those thousands of poor soils who inhabit temporary housing on the dumps on the banks of the rivers and wastelands where no one else can live. With no door to close to remove themselves from the foul outside.
The only refuge is up any small incline way from running water's destiny, the air is marginally clearer and there is a distance between me and the real world. This is where my hotel is and of course it is no accident that this is where most the foreign NGOs are based and the people that work them. There are purportedly 33,000 NGOs registered in Nepal so there are a lot of people doing some fantastic work there and about as many not I guess. It's a whole industry and and a career choice for many Nepalis.
The Summit hotel is aptly named and is popular for eating meetings and rendezvous pre field trip. Confident Westerners greet local partners in an over friendly faux jocular manner, patting their backs and dropping the odd word of Nepali in their conversations. Others bury their heads in their lap tops looking up as I pass but rarely returning my smile. I have been here a week and have not had a conversation with anyone. There is a pool that expats come to. Distracted dads neglect their kids as they work in the shade, whist their trailing spouses try and find something in common with each other.
Their children meanwhile run riot splashing guest with their poolside war games.
"Leon took a head shot"
Boys can take time to ratify their fathers' policies.
Even on the streets around the hotel whilst dodging the NGO vehicles as they splash through potholes my eyes are avoided, I smile or nod but no reaction. I go into busy bars but am excluded , in restaurants I eat alone and am unnoticed. I spend alot of time travelling alone but in this ex-pat enclave I feel like a dog at a gate wagging it's tail expectantly.
I just get the feeling that most these people have created their own reality in a foreign environment and that they don't want to relate to the world outside of that.
It is very similar in the BBC a kind of pious smugness but a fear of anything out the ordinary or not a la carte. Scared deep down but aren't we all ?
But in this prayer room, temple I don't know what to call it. I feel completely detached from everything earthly. We walk clockwise around the praying nuns, I am amused to see sweet wrappers, bowls of food and empty crisp packets scattered around their discarded socks a. Little patterns and lacy tops on some. So normal and prosaic.
It feels cool and echoes like a church but is so much more colourful and less formal. There are 1008 buddahs in small glass cases surrounding the walls. The ceiling and pillars supporting it are moulded with symbols and figures all painted in bright colours. We pass between groups of praying monks too who look up and over their shoulders at us are ushered towards the highest part of the hall and behind what can only be described as a throne and there in front of the mantra chanting room stood in my sweaty shorts and no longer clean shirt I am faced with the Twelth reincarnation of the Anmitaba guru Gyalwang Drukpa..He is youngish for a Guru (I'm sure they're meant to be old) with dyed black hair and black rimmed glasses, he looks more like a music promoter than spiritual leader, though they are not without their similarities.
Ravindra says we are lucky as he only leads prayers once or twice ayear and we can be blessed. Fair enough I felt blessed at breakfast so twice before lunch is a bonus. I watch him and his friends approach in turn with hands together fingers touching chin, Namaste style and the the Twelth reincarnation of the Anmitaba guru Gyalwang Drukpa gently places a bell on the back of their heads and inaudibly makes a blessing
.I don't think I was expecting a tingly sensation or a rush to the head but the banality of my blessing experience can be summed up by my memory of looking at an old AA battery and a couple of biros as I bow my head before him.
We file off and sit down at the back of the temple. A young girl brings us some cushions and we all retreat into ourselves for a while.
There on top of that mountain from that one space it is a beautiful thing that happens. 200 or so people meditating on love and peace for no other reason than to generate it and so it goes on everyday in similar monasteries worldwide. Who can say if it makes any difference but I know I wouldn't like it if I knew there were groups of people sitting somewhere meditating on hate and pain.
We leave the room wordlessly and when we exit all are excited and thanking me for being the reason that they came. None have been blessed in this way and though atheist with a few dashes of Hindu they can't but be really happy.
We exit via the giftshop and I am touched to see at this point of interface with the outside word there is a radio playing and some young nuns are slouching over the counter reading a magazine, chewing gum and giggling they give
Bringing it down to the practical, one of Ravindras friend says of the Nunery
"It's all about contraception really, there is another Nunery like this on that hill over there and over there. Think about it that's about 600 girls that will not be having babies Its a way of keeping the population down "
We set off down the hill in the glorious mid morning sun with our peace and blessings. Then auspiciously I feel my stomach lurch and rumble and I have that unmistakable effervescent first belch of my having been blessed a third time that morning, by smallest of creations a bacterium.It must have been that blessed breakfast