650 year old Monk & stories – Part VIII

It was a beautiful morning, we had Chai and breakfast and were enjoying the quietness of the village. With no tourists stopping here, it was very peaceful. Usually the bus from Reckong Peo would stop for lunch or just riders/vehicles checking in as to how far it was to Tabo.

Swamiji excitedly told us to get ready to go to the temple which we did but Bengalan Aunty was taking her own sweet time to put on her make up and be picture perfect ready. I didn’t want to tag along with another make up and click sessions kind of ladies. Spiti was anything but that.

Aunty walked out still grumpy, dressed like the brightest morning sun that would hurt your eyes and plonked herself comfortably in the front seat with the driver, no questions asked. It was a small car and Bhim with his long legs struggled with the two of us in the back seat and off we went.

While Aunty became louder by the minute, the Swamiji was asking questions every second to the driver. What does he do? What happens here? What is the food he eats? What is this? What is that? And in between were us two 😊

The driver was softly repeating that this was a heavy landslide area, the road was pretty rough, too narrow, one slip of concentration and it would be fatal but the two didn’t care nonetheless. In the end we zoned out and looked out at the scenery. Oh well if we had to go what better way than in a breathtaking landscape?

To go to Gue temple was to go back from Hurling, it was 12 kms away. The landscape was magnificent. It felt out of this world, you wouldn’t know it until you saw it with your own eyes.

And like every civilisation from time immemorial, wherever there was a green patch, there was a small village. There was a big doorway like a pillar entrance that led to Gue village and in midst of the barrenness was this sudden bursts of lush greenery and small homes. From the village was another 2 kms up to the temple. Besides a motorable Road, there were steps to walk up to the temple.

There was a biker in front of us with a flag stating Solo Rider – Kolkata to Ladakh. Seeing that Aunty’s eyes brightened, she stopped him, made a long conversation in Bengali. Bhim quipped, ‘Now please translate that for us non Bengalis.’

We reached the temple and saw there was  construction and renovation happening in the monastery while the Monk was respectfully placed in a small shrine next to the monastery. We went there and offered our respects before Aunty could go click click click and voice her opinions out loud.

The position of the monk was how it was usually placed in Buddhist burial rituals, in a squatting position. We went to the monastery and found out it followed the Nyingma path. Tibetan Buddhism had 4 schools- Nyingma,Gelug,Kagyu and Sakya. I had learned about this when I was in Ladakh. His Holiness Dalai Lama was the prominent figure head of Gelug school.

Meanwhile ‘Question Swamiji’ found out about the Lama Mummy. The villagers revered the holy Lama as apparently he had given up his life for the sake of the village. His tomb was enshrined a little below the monastery and was found by the army. But it was finally given it’s new shrine and preservation by a group of American archaeologists team who funded it initially. Now there were so many travellers visiting this place just to see ‘The Mummy’, in fact the only mummy in India.

We saw a mix of travellers. One of them stood out, A very good looking Sardarji wearing a traditional ‘Chola’ – this was a traditional spiritual attire in Sikhs. He was truly standing out with that blue vest, flared bottom and a beautiful dagger tied to his waist and nonchalantly playing with a basketball with his friends who were Sardarjis too.

I guess like energies connect because he approached us with a big smile and started talking. He was from Chandigarh, he was a budding documentary film maker and his first time to Spiti. When I told him I was from Hyderabad, he said he had been there and took a tour of Ramoji Rao film studios and how bored he was, I told him Hyderabad was more than that, he could have seen better ruins! He and his friends had a vehicle and they were going directly to Kaza. We wished them all the best.

Bhim and I decided to walk down from the temple. Being at the top we took in the entire view of the village and the region. It was drizzling and was beautiful. The prayer flags which you will see everywhere you travel across Spiti, were dancing with the breeze.

The steps were slippery with the rain so I took off my slippers and walked barefoot. As we kept walking down we passed the old Gompas where the monks could have meditated hundreds of years ago. It amazes me how they could make it here during those times seeing how Spiti was still so raw and wild. There truly was a higher power.

We passed by green patches of cultivation, flowers that were still blooming, people going about their daily tasks. There were sheep skins used to cover the machines, construction happening. Aunty and Question Swamiji were busy clicking every nook and corner of the place and asking questions left,right and centre  so we walked ahead.

You greet people of Spiti with ‘Juley’ and out comes a big smile from everyone there. We saw an older lady walking, chanting and spinning her prayer wheel, we greeted her and she gave a big toothless smile.

Aunty engaged her in a conversation and I must say this, the lady was very witty.  When she asked her as to what she does with the prayer wheel, she cackled ‘ I am praying hard so I can get my teeth back to eat good food’ 😁 She said she was homeless, sleeping here and there until one of the workers said she was a prominent lady of the village, owned many lands, she laughed that lovely laugh knowing she pulled a fast one on us!

Aunty took a pic with her from different angles – yep the kind of pics you want to show off to your friends that you mingled with the locals. I remember Bhim laughing about it, whenever Aunty posed and pouted in front of flowers, he would say please please you pose for a picture like that too, just to get me irritated 😁

We got into the car and came back to the village. We had a quick lunch and there was still time for the bus to come. We thought it would be better to hitchhike but with these two attaching themselves to us, who would give us a lift?Imagine us four and 10 pieces of their baggage, no one would stop and there was no way we could escape them for now so bus it was.

Finally the only bus that would go to Tabo came in. It had stopped for lunch and it was a full house. Should we or shouldn’t we get in? Rules in government buses travelling this side meant no passenger could stand, everyone had to sit. It was mandatory, but this was India and it depended on the discretion of the conductor.

Aunty and Swamiji already stuffed their baggages in the luggage compartment of the bus, we asked the conductor and he said it’s ok as long as we didn’t mind standing. It was a 1 hour journey only so why not?

What we didn’t realise was there was no space for standing either. Luggage,sacks, iron trunks, egg boxes, you name it everything was stuffed everywhere. I stood with my legs apart with a sack of rice in between with my arms wide holding the handles. Bhim somehow managed to stand at the back with Aunty behind me and Swamiji in the front.

Until then I never knew the body could contort and twist in so many ways in a moving bus 😊 Sideways to front to diagonal turns, that’s how I managed with Bhim nonchalantly playing Jim Morrison and Beatles at the back. It was fun!

After an hour, we were finally there. Tabo!




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