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'Live Young and Free'

INDIA | Sunday, 27 December 2015 | Views [320]

Live Young and Free is just one of many 'slogans' you can see around here stuck to the top of the windscreens of lorries, jeeps and the small people carriers that are so popular. Others read like 'Jai Ganesh', 'Om Mani Padme Hum', 'Siddartha' and so forth. Travelling on the back of Sagar's bike, as the roads wound up and down in various states of completeness, I was more drawn to the Christian banners, 'Jesus' or 'Lord', mostly with my own 'sweet' or 'oh' prefixing them.

In fairness, that's not fair as Sagar is a responsible and good motorbike rider. I just thought it was funny. I did truthfully very much enjoy riding pillion through the hills between Kalimpong and Lava. The air was generally clear and fresh, I felt very much a part of the environment and noticed more than I had, even when I'd walked the same stretches. At one point I was considering combining a new hobby of paragliding with learning to ride a motorbike. After half a day 'in the saddle' the idea had worn a bit thin (but it's still a possibility..)

I had got up earlier than normal to meet with Sagar who had said he would pick me up at 8.30 sharp. Not knowing Sagar I was unsure how sharp 'sharp' was for him and thankfully it was more on the blunt side, this time at least. This allowed me to extract some money before being picked up and being ridden to his home, where his beautiful wife Aasha made me a tradtional breakfast and a nice cup of tea. Sagar's home is just a little down the road to where Sangharakshita had his vihara and with a good view and perfect weather conditions I was finally able to share in the sight of Mount Kanchenjunga.

From Sagar's home and in tandem with Sagar's broher, Sandip, and cousin, Roshan, we set out on our trip to Lava, about 40 kilometres away through roads already partially described. We stopped near the top of Deolho Hill, to catch another spectacular view of Kanchenjunga and to see a huge Padmasambhava rupa, and several times more before reaching Lava. 

Lava has a spectacular monastery (see pictures) with the most beautiful views of Mount Kanchenjunga and the surrounding hills and montailns. This is probably true for some of the other monasteries I visited but only today was the weather good enough for me to appreciate it. 

From Lava, after a traditional lunch whose name I have forgotten (of course), we made our way back home via the farm of Roshan's in laws which is situated just off the main road and down steep stone steps sruck in the hillside. The farm is also at a steep incline/decline and is luxuriant in marrows, bananas, and other fruit and vegetables I no longer remember, as well as having cow, goats, chickens, dogs, kittens and snakes. I asked about the snakes (I'm terrified of them) and the grandmother of the farm mimed a cobra fairly effectively. Fortunately it was not the season for them although we were shown quite a number of shed snake skins. 

I was treated to such genuine warmth, friendliness and generosity (fresh eggs were boilded for me, a local alcoholic drink prepared - this involving the continual squeezing of a fruit (I think) in water - and a really tasty pork dish cooked) that I felt genuinely sad to leave the family, grandfather, gandmother, daughters, granddaughters, as Sagar, Sandip, Roshan and I made the steep ascent back to our bikes past cows, chickens and rap music (of course) coming from a higher up farmstead. 

Sagar dropped me off at the hotel for a quick nap, having also helped me locate a 'thok' (the bit that goes on top of a prayer flagpole) of which I bought two. About an hour and a half later I made my way down to the town to pick up a Buddhist Thanka (painting) I had paid for earlier in the day. Once again my powers of communication had let me down as the rather dubious looking and barterproof shop owner had not extracted the thanka from the frame as I'd thought I'd clearly requested (I'm sure he speaks perfect English too). So we had to go through the painstaking rigmarole of pulling out the 30 or so little nails that held the backing board in place before being able to remove the tanka and then wrap it up securely in newspaper, secured with sellotape equally painfully removed at great length from a ragged bundle. I am having to learn patience.

Thanka wrapped and secured I called Sagar who once again picked me up and took me to his home for a delicious meal of home made momos courtesy of Aasha and some traditional singing courtesy of the boys. Thank you Sagar, Aasha, Sardika, Sandip and Roshan for according me such warm and generous Gurkha hospitality. I had been given a truly memorable day and, Sagar once again dropping me off, gratefully made my way to bed.

Tags: hospitality, momos, monasteries, mountains

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