Well, it’s been a whirlwind week. In the past eight or nine days I’ve found a publisher for The Narrow Way, spent a wonderful week with my niece in San Diego, then, before I even had time to blink, found myself on a British Airways flight back to India!
Thirty hours and three airplanes later I made it to Dharamsala, India, the home of His Holiness the Dalai Lama and my home away from home for the next six months. There’s a great Tibetan language school here and by the time I leave in December, I hope to be able to write at least one post in Tibetan! ཨེ་མ་ཧོ༔ (That means, Amazing!)
My first week has been everything I hoped for and more. I came in on Sunday, greeted at the airport by my wonderful sweetheart, Miguel (more on him later…). I had never flown in to the local airport before so I was glad to have someone there to pick me up. It was smoldering hot on the tarmac of the tiny airstrip and I poured sweat inside the “terminal” (a single concrete block building with one exit and entrance) as I waited for my one checked bag. Turns out the bag never made it onto the plane. Weight restrictions that I’m glad they followed on a plane that looked like it was a prop in a 1970′s disaster movie.
After braving the mob around the two airline reps that were assigned a crappy job, I finally filled out a claim form. I was skeptical about ever seeing my luggage again but later that night I got a call (cell phones in India are now essential!) from the delivery driver. He was just up the road and with the help of a Hindi-speaking neighbor who guided him down to my house, I had my bag safe and sound. No problem!
After a short bout of jet-lag, I’ve pretty much hit the ground running. Went down to the school (Library of Tibetan Works and Archives) first thing Monday morning to register for the current semester. They were only a week into it so I didn’t miss all that much. It’s basically a review of the material I covered before having to cut the semester short in April. It’s fine, though. In a couple of weeks (or less) I’ll been wading out into new material and deeper waters.
I had a wonderful meeting with my new landlord the other day. His name’s Mr. Singh. He’s in his sixties now and he and his family have been living here in Jogiwara Village since the 80′s. His sons run a small laundry business while he works on little projects around the complex of apartments that he’s built up over the years.
He shared some amazing stories from his life while his wife and daughter-in-law, with typical Indian graciousness and hospitality, brought out cups of sweet, spicy chai and heaping plates of fried potatoes and pokhara.
As a young man, he lived in Delhi. He worked hard for a clothing manufacturer and marveled at how easy it was to fall into the trap of materialism. His co-workers worked day and night to the point that he wondered if they ever slept. As a result they were never truly happy, just running on the treadmill of earning more and more money that was never enough.
That all changed when Indira Gandhi was assassinated in 1984. The violent backlash against the Sikhs caused him to flee Delhi. The Hindus destroyed everything: the factory where he worked, his home, all of his possessions. He and his wife returned to his family home in Dharamsala with nothing.
Since then, they’ve built a wonderful life for themselves here. They had a chai shop for years that was the only game in town on the busy road from the Library up to the hill station of McLeod Ganj. They sold the wonderful fried potatoes I was munching on as he shared his life’s story. He tried other business ventures over the years but always felt that spending time with family and practicing his faith (he gets up every morning at 5 to pray) were more important than making lots of money.
“As long as we have, food to eat, a room to sleep in, family to love and God to pray to, what more do you need?” he said.
It’s a simple formula. One could easily say that it’s too simple. Maybe even naive. But the smile that he wears on his face day and night tells me it’s not.
Anyway, that’s it for now. It’s the weekend. No classes today (though that doesn’t mean I don’t have a ton of homework…). Still, going to take a day trip to Tilopa’s cave later this morning. A little pilgrimage that I wonder and marvel at even as I take it almost for granted. I’ll keep you posted.
In the mean time, thank you so much for reading. I hope you are well, happy and at ease. If not, take a deep breath, look around at all you have, challenges, difficulties and all, and let your worries go.