As I walked back from the view point to the Chowk (junction),it was almost 6 pm in the evening and I remembered an institute I saw in the morning. It was a school on Tibetan Buddhism studies exclusively for women and there was a cafe above called the Pancake Crepe Hut.
It was very close to where I was staying so I went up to the cafe. I could see Tibetan women teaching their kids and the kitchen and cafe was run by them .
We had to remove our slippers outside before entering the cafe. It was really beautiful. A complete wooden finish to the place, almost like stepping into a small tiny prayer room of a monastery. Low seating to some tables, an open library filled with books on Tibet, Buddhism, Dalai Lama, it’s history, it was so calming.
The whole cafe had such serenity and silence. Other guests were talking yet the energy of the place was calm. I felt I was in a secluded monastery, somewhere, a world apart from everything and everyone else.
I took a low seated space in a corner and made myself comfortable. As I searched for a book, a title caught my eye. It was ‘The Noodle Maker of Kalimpong’ by Gyalo Thondup, the older brother of the Dalai Lama.
His brother was known as the Noodle Maker of Kalimpong, Sikkim where he still resided. It tells from his point of view,the history, politics of Tibet, the occupation of Tibet by China and the asylum to India. It was very fascinating. I was so engrossed, I was lost in time until the lady politely told me I had another 20 minutes before they close the place.
I looked up and saw no one around except for a Buddhist Monk. He was very friendly and he smiled at me. I responded back and we started talking about the Dalai Lama teachings. he said he remembered seeing me at the teaching because he saw me crying, I shyly smiled and said yes that must be me .
Dalai Lama believed in questioning blind faith in religion, in Buddhism, to not just criticize but do constructive criticism and to ask questions. Thanks to his persistence, monasteries were including Maths and Science along with Buddhist studies.
He also said that the younger generations were not attuned to blind faith like their parents, they would ask questions, they would want answers and any religion had to move on with the times. Take the present and discover, explore and dissect.
He recommended two books for me to read, ‘Universe in a Single Atom’ by Dalai Lama and the great Buddhist teacher Shanti Deva’s Bodhichitta.
We exchanged our contacts and he invited me to visit his monastery. It was in Hubli in Karnataka. It was named after the famous Drepung Monastery in China Occupied Tibet. He mentioned that there were more monks there than anywhere else in India. Currently 4000 monks were residing there.
With a promise that I will definitely visit the monastery with some friends, I walked out of the institute filled with energy.I promised myself that I would come back to this cafe again before I leave.
It was an invigorating day ending at this beautiful quiet cafe and meeting a Geshe-La – an esteemed teacher and realizing how open he was to discussing and debating on Buddhism and it’s principles.
In fact, debate was fundamental and rooted in Buddhist teachings and before the initiation to becoming a monk, a wide debate would be held to test their skills and knowledge on it. It was all so refreshing.
It was almost 9.30 pm, the streets were dark with shops closing except the restaurants, dhabas and other food places. Yet I kept on walking, I was feeling so attached to Macleodganj and it’s streets, it’s people. I wished, I so wished I could live here. Seriously, the thought was so strong.
Forget all the exotic places I traveled around the world, the feeling there was to escape, escape from the life I was leading. But in Macleodganj I felt I belonged here, like I wanted to end up here. The remaining part of my life.
I came back to the hostel and didn’t feel like going back to the room, so I went to the rooftop terrace cafe and sat for a couple of hours. Such Silence, I needed it.
After being surrounded by so much noise in us, around us, with us, this was like giving fresh water to someone dying of thirst.
No complications, no relationships, no attachments nothing in the present moment.