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sardines...

I’d heard the Bhutnese are very hospitable. It sure didn’t feel that way when I hit my head on the doorframe at the airport. It seemed to be specially designed to take out the invading giants in Lilliput-land. But any annimosity that was knocked into my head with that bump, was soon knocked right back out. Its hard to stay mad at these mild-mannered people, with their expressive hands and graceful attire. (Although I will shamefully admit that I was close to administering my revenge by stealing a couple of their adorable babies. Luckily for them, the prayer flags must have influenced me to ditch the evil plans.)
Growing up in a confused, confusing and conflicted country like mine, being religious is often mixed up with being a fanatic. For the first time, I saw a very different picture up close. A country crowded with prayer wheels, every door adorned by luck symbols and monastries dotting the countryside…. And yet so modern in its outlook. A sense pride in their culture gives them the confidence to block out the ‘western negatives’. You won’t find the Bhutnese working endlessly, worrying ceaselessly about producing more. Their concept of GNH (Gross National Happiness) is so deep rooted, that even now they live in a lovely, slowed-down post modern world. For most of us, even imagining a capital city without any traffic signals is a tough task.
Theres another thing about these people- I don’t really know what to call it… respect?....humility? What is it about them that makes them jump up from their chairs at the news of an approaching lama, strain to get a look at this serene old man, yet keep a respectful distance, without any sort of police or physical barriers of any sort. Can you imagine this when there’s an Indian celeb around? A Bollywood star or a cricketer.. What makes them park their cars to the side of the road when they see their King’s car approaching? No long convoys, no sirens and road blocks, just a number plate that says BHUTAN 1, does the job much more effectively.
There’s a monastry up on a hill, called Taktsang. The climb is gauranteed to leave for breathless, but then, so is the view. When I entered this Zhong, a Lama beckoned me to sit by his side. He sat on a mat on the floor, in an inconspicous corner of the room. He was tying knots on little strings. I sat down next to him, and he started asking me about myself. He gave me some holy water and told me about himself, his experiences at Mysore, and his meeting with the Dalai Lama at Bodhgaya. When the conversation lapsed into a companiable silence, I took the chance to look around the room. I saw a huge, delicately decorated idol of Buddha, and directly opposite were 2 lovely gold thrones. Naturally, my curiosity was piqued. I asked the lama who the thrones were for. He said to me, “ 1 is for the King, and the other is for me.” Just like that. While I tried to restrain my eyes from jumping out of their sockets, he sat there, the high Lama, on the cold floor, chatting to me for over half an hour. I can’t stop myself from comparing this experience to my recent trip to Shirdi. My half second period of reverence was rudely interrupted by a rude shove in the back and a loud shout. Buffaloes have seen kinder treatment. Canned sardines have moved more freely. But to be fair, there werent 1.6 billion sardines in the can.
I suppose growing up in an environment of hills,rivers and greenery, tilts the nature-nurture argument considerably.

Comments

  1. beautifully described and so articulate! felt like i was right there with u and the High Lama!

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