One of the interesting thing about traveling alone is the quest to find people to talk to. The monotonicity of riding alone acts as a magnet towards those whom we meet on the highway. And invariably the self often finds characters with similar disposition.
These are the stories of some of those people I met on a semi-solo trip to Ladakh last year.
This blog entry is part of a three part series on the people I met during my Leh ride in 2015
Part 1: Lost in Punjab
Part 2: The Bearded Lama
Part 3: Peace on Pangong Tso
Lama G was the odd one out. In my years of wandering the monasteries of Karnataka, Mcleodganj and Gangtok, I had never seen a young lama with a beard. He was also the one who could talk at my level. The others focussed on spirituality and religion.
When asked, G laughed at my question. The beard being the result of two weeks on the road, driving the group around. The group was on a tour of all the monasteries in the area, personally inviting the heads of each to a function at their monastery in Leh.
To prove otherwise he fished out a photo of himself show a dashing young man in aviators and yellow/red monk’s dress.
Yet the connection has been made and we spent the evening on the cold plains of Rangdum, Zanskar making each other understand the idiosyncrasies of each other’s life.
It was early evening when we had reached Rangdum. The valley was beautiful. I was in no mood to proceed towards Padum and decided to camp there for the night. Choice of stay was limited – a run down tourist bungalow or a set of rooms above a shop cum restaurant. A roaring fire at the back of the shop, for it was cold even in summer, decided it for me.
Having decided to stay the night, I made an even more surprising decision to stay the next day too. I intended to hang around taking in the beauty of the place and maybe ride around some short distances. After all this was not a race to complete an itinerary. It was wandering to heart’s content.
G was enrolled into the monk’s school at a very early age at the behest of his father’s brother. While the reasoning was that he showed spiritual inclination, G himself felt that it was because his parents found it difficult to feed the growing family. Having one less mouth to feed would always be welcome.
Initially he did like the life at the monastery. But as G grew up, the masters to be realized that he was quite skilled with tools and machinery. So he was entrusted the task of the general handyman of the monastery, slowing down his education and thus the growth in the order of the monastery.
Frustration has crept in. G was at the verge of quitting the monastery. He had made his decision, yet did not knew what to do next. Going back to his parents home was an options. He would no longer be a burden, for as a strong grown up youth, he could work in the fields or even run a shop. Yet the shame on the family was to managed. He and his family would be looked down at by the villagers. Though leaving a monastery was not unheard of, it was not considered a good thing.
So there I was, on the plains of Rangdum, entrusted with the burdens of a fellow human. I did not claim to be his savior. Yet I, being one of analytic mind, laid down his options in front of him. For each I played the devil’s advocate – at times scaring him and at others encouraging him.
The cold evening forced us inside in the company of others. The fire was the refuse of all. G avoided me at the fire and over the dinner of Tingmo (steamed bread). Just before I went up to sleep, I caught up with him on the stairs. A firm handshake and good wishes ended my acquaintance with G.
The group would be long gone when I woke up next morning.