Before I tell you about my week with K I’ll tell you bout how my relationship with L came about.
L was the the first true “romantic” love of my life – Here’s our story
In Dharamsala the custom is that once a year you can have an audience with His Holiness the Dalai Lama. So my friends told me to enlist and to see whether I could still go with them to the same audience. I tried but the answer was negative. There was only place for 108 people, and “108 people” are “108 people”. You must know this is a holy number and it was reached so there was no more enlisting possible. The man at the office told me he would put me on the list for the next time, which would be in the fall of the same year. I agreed and gave my particulars. He told me to Check with the office everyday and see whether there would be any changes. In the back of my mind I thought the whole audience was fussed about too much, I certainly wouldn’t look at the notice board everyday till the next fall, after all winter was just over. So I left it at that and went back to my normal life. Nestor, my bestest friend in Dharamsala was disappointed that I could not come with them, but I was really glad I did not have to go. I would be a nervous rack when my time would come and that I could miss like toothache.
The next day Nestor raided my room, he was so exited it took him more than a couple of minutes before he could tell me what luck had befallen me. You guessed right when you thought that I could come along after all, but now I had a bigger problem. What to wear, should I go in Western clothes?, would a Chuba be more respectful? Make up or not?, al very stupid thoughts. This man, the Dalai Lama, was the most holy and revered men of Tibet and could see right through me. What did it matter how I looked surely my mind was more important. And there I went worrying about whether or not I had the right motivation?, what I wanted from it? and what my expectations where?. I came to the conclusion that I was not yet ripe for this meeting. Nestor convinced me my thoughts where all irrelevant, as I was anyhow coming tomorrow with them and he had already told the home office that I accepted my place in the line-up and that I would never think of cancelling.
My despair began to take on a huge form. And in the back of my mind I know what my root guru would say about all this mental nonsense (namthok in tib.) So I took a deep breath and told Nestor to get out and not see me until it was time to walk to the His Holiness’s Palace the next day. I remembered that I had an appointment to make Kora around the Palace with an ordained friend of mine so I rushed to the Kora Path and luckily he was still waiting for me. My monk friend greeted me heartily and we started our daily routine by doing our evening prayers and mantras. We walked on silently and I was internally dreading the moment of tomorrow. My monk friend looked at me in a strange manner as If he wanted to ask me something and then said that I seemed very quiet. Something very rare as normally I am verbally very present. I told him about the forthcoming audience and he told me: 1) not to worry, 2) To wear a Chuba (traditional tib. dress) as I looked extremely pretty in it and I certainly would be noticed by the one whom is revered like a Buddha. It sounded plausible. You see a golden Buddhist rule is to please the field of merit in any possible way. In the light of that thought, taking care of oneself is like an offering of oneself to the Buddhas. This is considered – with the right motivation of course – to be the most valuable offering.
We walked on again, in silence and while looking out over the Kangra valley I felt very happy and content. Tomorrow would not be a problem, in fact I should count my blessings. The next morning I put on a Chuba, was picked up by my friends on their way to the palace and by reaching we queued up for the audience. Nestor was nervous and kept on laughing. Usha told him to be quiet repeatedly and I was nervous as well. Only the effect it had on my nerves was the opposite of Nestor’s expression of the same feeling. I was close to tears, and cursed my monk friend several times having advised me to put on a Chuba as I now felt very uncomfortable. No other westerner was dressed in Tibetan clothes. Besides that, everybody, Tibetans and westerners alike, stared at me and of course I assumed it was because of the way I was dressed. That they stared at me might be the natural cause of their appreciation or of their dismay, but I looked at it in the most negative way possible and felt their imaginary scorn. Usha noticed that all these worries started to live their own life inside my head and tried to diverge my attention by pointing out some of our other friends in the line-up and pointed out my monk friend amongst the monks escorting His Holiness. Every minute I became more nervous and after having seen my monk friend, I detected a slight feeling of anger because he was the one who convinced me to wear a Chuba!
A minute later my mind convinced me that I was being ridiculous and to get a firm grip on myself and I finally accepted what was happening. From that moment onward everything that took place was as if happening in a beautiful sunny dream. The sun was shining, The rain had stopped and the birds were singing their song. People all around were happy. I was flowing with the feeling when I noticed my monk friend wave at me. But he wasn’t waving, he was signing us to come towards him at the gate as the westerners were going first and he was in charge. So Usha and Nestor dragged me quickly to the front of the line with them. The moment I realised that I was pushed up front, my heart skipped a beat and started racing. Totally worried I would hyperventilate I tried to breathe deeply and relax my mind. But I was nervous like hell once again. Than all happened in a split of a second. A guard we had not seen before said to us that we should follow him closely and started walking. Though I heard what was asked of us my feet did not move . Of course he noticed nobody was following him and he looked over his shoulders right into my nervous and scared face. The smile on his face and the light in his eyes reflected on my face. the same instant the warmth of his smile reached my heart, I left my worries behind and went with the feeling of all the anticipation and luck gathered around us.
I had started walking without even noticing and followed His Holiness guard without any further hold up. We walked up the pavement, which tilted a slight bit up and around a wall. Around the wall the first thing one saw was His Holiness standing in front of a small group of monks and guards under a huge rain of bougainville. It was a beautiful and mesmerising sight and it felt truly very holy. I was pushed by Nestor to step forward and hand over my Khata and a small offering. His Holiness took the Khata from me and put it around my neck after blessing my head and then he looked me up and down and called me beautiful in Tibetan. He said to his following that I must have been a Tibetan in a previous life and then thanked me whereafter I was ushered away from his being. It was a truly wonderful dream like experience which I will never forget. The guard who had lead us to the Dalai Lama was no where to be found and I guess I was a little disappointed I didn’t see him again. I walked through the gate into the monastery courtyard and waited for my friends who all seemed very happy. We stood still for a moment to decide what we should do now.
In my heart I knew I did not want to leave this place as I wanted to see that guard with the beautiful smile again. My friends noticed my hesitation and before they could hear me out, my monk friend and the guard in question stepped out of the gate and towards us. Nestor was very happy to see them and asked them to come along to have lunch with us up in Mcleod Ganj but they declined. My monk friend introduced us al to one another and all the while I kept looking at this beautiful man. His name was L. My friend asked me if I would join him as usual in the evening for our walk around the wall of the palace and he and his friend said goodbye. Usha, Nestor and me started walking towards Mcleod Ganj. In my mind I could only think about the guard with his mesmerising smile whose name was L. We decided we should eat at friend’s corner and spend the rest of the afternoon together. We talked about all kinds of things except about our new friend. Somehow everyone avoided the topic of our new acquaintance, and I suspect Nestor and Usha both had a fair idea of the feelings I would spend denying for a very long time to come.
Days and weeks went by in a very normal way, but I noticed that when I went for my circumambulations I looked at the gate to see if L was there. Instead of going for lunch at Mcleod Ganj I went to the Namgyal Monastery café where he might go. I simply wasn’t lucky and I eventually, give or take one or two months, gave up the thought of L and forgot all about him. But you know when you stops grasping for the things desired for, they might just start appearing. And exactly that is what happened.
So over the next few months, I stopped thinking about L altogether. I went on with my life in my usual manner and studied hard. Mastering the Tibetan language wasn’t very easy and I made the utmost effort to make this exotic language my own. To be able to speak and read I attended classes at the Tibetan Library of works and Archives a bit below Mcleod Ganj. This place is called Gangchen Kiyshong and the Tibetan Government in exile is seated there, that is between the Village of Mcleod Gang and Upper Dharamsala. Daily I went down Jogiwara road to the library to attend the classes and afterwards I walked back up the road again. Normally I would go and have lunch in Friends Corner but sometimes in another restaurant where I knew the owners or their guests. The point was of course to talk Tibetan to them, but sometimes this was impossible, as many Tibetans wanted to learn English.
With a few of my Tibetan friends, some of which were restaurant owners, I had an arrangement that we would speak one or the other language every other day. On one of these occasions, when it was my turn to speak Tibetan, some Tibetans walked in and sat at a table behind me. My Tibetan friend Y became very excited and said that she now had to stop and take care of their lunch. So I let her go, I did not see who they were, but I thought that they must be pretty important that Y wanted to serve them herself. Y told me that we would continue tomorrow with Tibetan and went on about her business. I started rehearsing what I had learnt this morning when this company, so revered by Y, tapped on my shoulder. I was surprised to see it was P, another guard and also a Tibetan friend of mine. He asked me if he and his friend could join me. I of course could not refuse and thought that I could continue trying to better my Tibetan. He sat next to me and gestured his friend to sit opposite of me. And there he was. I blanked out and the first few seconds I did not hear anything of what they said to me, but then I reminded myself that I had nothing to fear, nothing to hope for and no desires with regard to this man, and relaxed.
When I returned to my senses they were looking at me in a quizzical manner. Luckily they didn’t ask me about it, as I wouldn’t have known what to say. P asked me what I was reading and I put my books away. I simply did not dare to tell them I was studying Tibetan in fear of having to speak it. Luckily P wasn’t interested too much and called our restaurateur friend to give our orders. I noticed that L was looking at me and I tried not to stare at him. Instead I talked to P about his family in South India, his life in Dharamsala and other trivial things. I knew P through some common friend of us and P was easy going and warm hearted. On the other hand he was trying to hear me out and asked me all kind of things to see whether or not I had a boyfriend or what I was doing with my life, how my studies were coming forth and I tried to violently distract them by talking about Dharamsala current affairs and gossip. I won.
After the lunch we had together, I met L everywhere or so it seemed. On the street, when I went for my evening walk, I met him when I went picking up the mail at the post office etc etc. He always said hello, and gradually we started to make small talk too. It always felt awkward, never easy like there was much at stake and we couldn’t make mistakes. This went on for many months but slowly the small talk changed into advice on how a young woman, I, should live and behave in this society. So it changed into an exchange of culture and before I knew it we were truer friends, L and I.
We had lots of tea together and made appointments to go for circumambulations, or in the evening to dine together with some common friends. On his rare nights off we would go to some cultural performances at TIPA. We talked and laughed and we were regularly seen in each others company of course also always in the company of other friends never just the two of us alone. Spring was developing rapidly and we would see more and more of one another. We never touched but the tension building up between us was tangible for friends and total strangers, we however were blissfully unaware of what others were seeing. And therefore the feeling was allowed to grow. In a way we came to depend on one another for advice and for the feeling of being complete as a person. Some kind of strong feeling of co-dependency. I remember I used to totally yearn for the next time we’d meet. And when we met I felt so happy and light.
L was a person who spoke his mind but at the same time was very respectful, extremely humble which earned him lot’s of respect. He also was a stern teacher and helped me to practice my Tibetan. He perfected the skill of being patient when with me, as I was and still am a very demanding person. Probably much too western to his traditional taste, but later, once we were in a romantic relationship, when I asked him whether he would prefer a tibetan or western wife, he would only say that he preferred me because I was me and we clicked and that was all.
I must say I never ever felt this ever before or after in my life. It was so intense and so it physically sometimes hurt. And that, so said Usha one day, was love. A yearning for togetherness in the fullest sense possible for two minds to be connected. I never guessed this was possible but it was so pure, so nice. I wanted it to last forever. But love?, did it had to be love? From the moment she had said it, I could not sleep anymore and lay crying for many nights when I saw the reality of what it truly meant for my friendship with L. It either meant it had to grow from friendship to Love or it had to stop, especially as I woke up to the insight that I wanted more. I wanted to wake up next to him, be held by him, I wanted him to miss me and share his life with me. For him to stand up against his parents because of me. Defending a cross cultural marriage in society and I wanted even more, much more. The sheer magnitude of it overwhelmed me even more, It was as if a bomb had exploded and everything was shattered beyond repair.
I didn’t know where to go from there and I kept my routine but simply tried to avoid him at all cost. One day avoiding him he showed up at the road walking toward me during midday – he was on his way to my house he said – and told me his dad was sick and he had to go help him on the land with the harvest in a village not too far of, but still almost a days travel by bus. He touched my hand as I wouldn’t look at him and he said he had felt very difficult as he realised we had a bond beyond friendship and whilst I was trying to avoid him, and yes he did notice i was avoiding him, he hardly managed to keep sane as to not rush over to convince me of the fact that I was mistaken by doing so.I looked up and saw nothing but pain and love and hope and desire.
He near to begged me to come and visit him in a weeks time as he otherwise couldn’t manage life without me of fear of further insanity and worry and I felt exactly the same. He stroked my hand one more time, looked at me intent, turned his back on me and rushed back to his duty to start his journey the next day early morning.
That week was the longest of my life and the shortest at the same time. The weather in Dharamsala was perfect. Not too hot yet, sometimes a light and welcome breeze passed through at exactly the right time. I was able to wash all the clothes I wanted to take for my weekend break whilst visiting him and I think I never spoke a word that whole week leading up to my visit of his village, I rather sang all words. I wasn’t walking, I felt like my feet never touched the ground as from his small gestures and his words, I knew he felt exactly the same way about me as I felt about him. We were in serious trouble, we were in love.
Next week I’ll post about my weekend break and how L and me transformed from friends, into lovers, into a steady couple.
Much love and courage, Radia, The Unusual Yogini