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Sadhu-You

NEPAL | Thursday, 12 April 2007 | Views [2305]

Hindu holy men, called Sadhu's, roam the city here dressed in yellow or orangy gold robes, skin clad in body paint, with long dread-lock hair. They hand out blessings like they're on a mission to nail every white person's head with a tika (range from a small dot to a big dab of yogurt, rice and sindur-red powder, smeared on the forehead). The tika is supposed to be a blessing, or a symbol of good luck, as the Sadhu's say. It's supposed to represent the third eye, signifying all knowing, all seeing energy point, and is supposed to protect those who receive it. However, they hand these out like touts selling tiger balm on the streets. Once you're "tika'ed" you then owe a sum of cash for your blessing. The Sadhu's have purged their world of material belongings and survive merely on handouts from others, especially tourists. We had read in Sarah MacDonald's book "Holy Cow," to look out for their random planting of blessings, as they sometimes demand a hefty payment in return. The Sadhu's were out in force today at Durbar Square. Two were hanging out on the steps of one temple, posing and attempting to entice tourists with eye contact to take a snap for cash. Way too staged. These men are more like holy entrepreneurs, making $ at no cost for them. They continued to head wobble and make eye movements at us, which we successfully avoided. The square was quite crowded around the market stall area, and out of nowhere appeared a Sadhu, planting a fat red smear on my forehead. I was hot, exhausted, and a bit overwhelmed with the crowds, and had no energy to do the "pump-fake" dodge to avoid the whole incident. So we also purposely don't carry much cash on us, as we've been relying on credit cards, and leery of getting pick pocketed in such public market forums. I told him I had no rupees- Darrin is cash man on the trip, and one of us holding all the money keeps us from loosing it, or misallocating the budget. So I point him to Darrin who hands him some gold coins. He looks at us in disgust. "I want more," he said. "This is so little!" We signaled to him we had no more to give, and swiftly moved down the street, ducking into the mob of people, hoping he wouldn't see us again and cast a bad spell upon me. Durbar Square was an interesting mix of old architecture and tradition. Temples with ornate and erotic carvings interspersed with market stalls selling fresh produce and dried fish. Rabie-laiden dogs lined the pavement, searching for a cool slab of concrete to rest their weary bodies. Heading north back up to Thamel was similar to walking the streets of India. Dirty, rocky, and needing focus and concentration not to step into anything nasty. Something brushed my arm, and I turned quickly, startled. It was Deepen, from the art gallery, walking to work from his home. We walked and talked with him, still fascinated with his vast knowledge of art and religion, and his willingness to share so freely with us. We followed him back to Thamel. It's amazing how just a quarter kilometer out of the tourist district, the town is laden with pollutants and life coexisting amongst the dirt strips of road. After a long day of seeing the city and searching for some final trekking items, we made it back to the hotel for a disgusting meal that I thought was spaghetti w/ meat sauce - what I considered to be a safe option. I'm not sure what the meat was, but it wasn't beef or chicken.

Tags: I should have known better!

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