I requested my postmaster friend who is fluent in Dzongkha and Tibetan to accompany me to the Lamas abode. One fine day early in a misty morning I packed my jeep with essentials, a bottle of fruit juice for the lama and I drove off with my friend, the postmaster.
It wasn't long when we had to stop, and Mr. Tshering suggested that we take a shortcut through the woods taking a walk instead. It was a difficult walk for me being more used to the finer pleasures. The flying leeches kept on jumping on to us and I was wondering what I was doing here instead of my comfortable home "The Dzong" (A Fortress). Mr. Tshering understood my discomfort and urged me with anecdotes of the lama.
One goes like this: A young man traveled a long distance from a far off village in the mountains to pay his respects to the Lama. He was carrying a packet of homemade cheese that his mother had packed it as an offering for the holiness. This is the same wood where he was treading to reach the lama's place. He had a long and an arduous journey. Suddenly he felt that the packet of cheese was getting too heavy to carry on with him. At that moment he decided that he should rather divide the cheese into half and hide that piece in the bushes and carry the other half for the Lama. He believed that the Lama being alone would not need such a big piece of cheese. He arrived at the Lama's cottage in the afternoon to find that the Lama was waiting for him at his doorstep. He welcomed him, gave him some biscuits to eat and told him, "My son it's going to be evening soon, you have a long walk back home, please go quickly as the birds are eating away the cheese you left in the bushes."
Such were the "tales" Mr. Tshering related during our walk accompanied by my constant Ha's and Oh's, utterances of a mixed reaction due to the pain of stuck leeches and the utter wonder of his narration.
We finally reached a glade on the top of a small hill at about 2 pm. The sun was still shining but not with its entire splendor. There were small makeshift huts; sick people were staying there with their relatives. I recognized some of them as they had visited me in the hospital. They all waved at us, children, elderly people running to greet and shouting Kuzo Zambola Dasho a typical Bhutanese salutation. I felt at home again.
Mr Tshering pointed to me a small rustic cottage in the centre of the clearing. It was the Lama’s residence. The people around us told that he is inside and that he comes out only in the early hours of the morning to distribute medicine to his patients. I knocked at his door. The door was opened by a smiling man with mongoloid features typical of that region wearing a straw hat, very rotund and of indeterminate age. I would put him at around fifties but he may have been older. The cottage interior was just enough for him to sit at the corner as the place was piled up with canned items, fruit juices and so on that people had given him as an offering. I bowed and gave him the bottle of fruit juice. Kadrinche la, Thanks uttered the lama, always smiling, his eyes twinkling as he looked at me.
Mr. Tshering introduced us and we all sat on mats on the floor, a bit cramped while he sat in front of us in a semi-reclining position.
There was no way he could sleep in that room as there was no space nor was there any other room. There was only one door in that cottage.
I looked at him.
I felt so different, very calm and so full of happiness.
He asked me in Dzongkha that Mr. Tshering interpreted,
"What do I need?"
Nothing, I said.
He asked me to expose my navel
He pulled out a hollow bamboo and placed its one end on my navel.
And then he blew, thrice
Hoo, Hoo, Hoo.
I felt his breath, felt connected.
He was smiling.
He handed me a packet of biscuits.
I stood up to open the door, and then I looked back at him.
His straw hat was floating about 2 feet above his bald head.
He was smiling.
A humble gesture towards a great healer.
James Hilton’s last paragraph in Lost Horizon –
We sat for a long time in silence, and then talked again of Conway as I remembered him, boyish and gifted and full of charm, and of the war that had altered him, and of so many mysteries of time and age and of the mind, and of the little Manchu who had been ‘most old’ and of the strange ultimate dream of Blue Moon.
Shangri – La exists and so does Glory Conway.
February 19, 2006
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