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The Day After the Day Before

INDIA | Monday, 4 January 2016 | Views [305]

I've just reread my previous blog and even I got bored. Too much navel gazing, so apologies to those who went through that.

Today I shall, despite the title, recapitulate the last few days as I've got behind. So, right now I am listening to what sounds like James Blunt ('So long Jimmy?) in the Coffee Cafe on MG Marg (not Mart) and chilling (sort of). All my new friends have now left the hotel so I am back on my own. On the one hand this brings a certain sadness, on the other it is an opportunity for me to recuperate from various excesses. 

So this morning I slept in, picked up my laundry from Him Kumar at Deepak's, did a good session of chi gung and made my way to the market for some further shopping. Some warm items for me and gifts for others (not as nice of course!). Thence, up the steep steps (a recurrent motif) of the market and to The Cofee Cafe.

Yesterday I had got up earlier to drop my laundry off at Deepak's before heading to the Motor Stand with Elin and Fred to take the one hour journey in a shared jeep to Rumtek, the main monastery of the Kagyu sect of Tibetan Buddhism (I'm not 100% sure of my facts here). The Kagyu are a pretty weallthy branch of Tibetan Buddhism with a disputed succession currently. One Kagyapa (?), or head lama, being with the Dalai Lama in Daram Sala, the other in Kalimpong.

ANYWAY, we were all pretty tired but still enjoyed the monastery, which is set high in the hills where the air is fresh and the flowers, grass and trees vibrant. When we arrived a puja was in progress so we sat and listened to the deep heart beats of the drums and piercing cries of the 'trumpets' for some time. We also, along with a number of Indian tourists, played toss the coin onto the plinth of a column in the centre of the monastery courtyard. This felt pretty irreligious to me, which might account for my missing my multiple throws. Elin, annoyingly, managed to land her coin on her first throw to appreciative applause (not from me of course).

From the main temple we climbed yet more steps to visit the Golden Stupa and the main school institute where young monks were playing, not football this time but badminton, with evident enjoyment. Now that I can consider badminton an official Buddhist sport Karen and I, who invisted in a badminton set together, can start to play it with impunity in the London Budhist Centre courtyard.

From Rumtek, post a cup of coffee that Fred, a chef, would not touch, we made our way back to Gangtok via two shared taxis. Fred and Elin taught me something by refusing to pay over the odds for the second cab, finding one that would take us to Gangtok for the price we had been quoted in Rumtek. 

The evening was spent buying some warm socks and gloves for me, dining on BuddhaLlama's (the lovely caretaker of the NMC Hotel) fine Nepales soup, meeting Young, a 22 year old man from South Korea spending a month travelling in India fulfilling a dream having seen a programme on telly, and playing snooker with Buddhalama, Young, Elin and Fred. Elin, once again, having never played snooker, was too good (as they say here)..

The previous day had started with an earlyish rise, Chi Gung and meditation, breakfast of omelette and toast and an open and heartwarming conversation with Dia, who has sensitivity, warmth and wisdom that belies her 20 years. The youth of today! I wish her well on her life journey. 

I then said my good byes to her, Karma and Gotham, who gave me a world class hug. Gotham's a man of few words (in English anyway) but that hug spoke volumes. My heart went out to him. Goodbyes and sentiments over, and armed with instructions from BuddhaLLama, I finally cracked the shared taxi thing and wound the streets downhill (this time) to the the Foreign Registry Office to extend my visa until February. Mission accomplished without drama and with some kindness, I built on my shared taxi success and, with the help of a kind Gangtokian, made my way back to the Tibetan Institute to buy a few more presents for disappointed-to-be friends and relatives and to browse once more their collection of Buddhist items. I did not think that I would stay long as it was my second visit (in fact at first I only stayed a while so as not to embarrass myself in front of the guard by exiting too quickly) but slowly became absorbed particularly in the thankas (paintings ) and scrolls depicting the life of the Buddha and various forms of Padmasambhava.

Satisfied, I eventually left and made my way to the MG Marg, to hear my name being shouted by Elin, leaning out of the same Coffee Shop I now grace.This led to an evening spent with Elin at first (Fred was recovering from a night of vomiting and diarhoea combined with no running water - imagine that, you have to have sympathy) booking their train tickets to Calcutta from the Batman Travel Agency (don't think this would work in the UK) as we had not been able to find the equally filmic Matrix Travel Agency. 

Once done, Batman TA rep was handsome, honest and helpful, back to the hotel for the long awaited game of Monopoly - Indian version. Here I worked off a substantial amount of bad karma I hope, landing in jail on numerous occasions, and was treated to an education in kindness, strategy and bartering by Elin and Fred, who unfortunatey won. When I say unfortunately he, of course, would hardly agree.

During the day and evening I also met my first 'wild' back packers, dreadlocked, extrovert and playing loud music in the common area and then their bedroom, which was situated just opposite mine. It seems one of the great, if not always enjoyable, things about travelling is the meeting of so many different people from many different countries, the rubbing up against them, learning from them and having to confront my prejudices and awkwardnesses in relation to them. MORE navel gazing.

Loads of love to you all. I miss my friends and family hugely.

Davidxx

Tags: farewells, monasteries, monopoly, parties, snooker

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