Friday, September 24, 2010

Darjeeling Unlimited

40 hours of traveling, 3 flights, a bus ride and a jeep trip courtesy of a 14 year old driver is all it took to get your boy from New Jersey to Darjeeling.  Day turned to night turned to day turned to night turned to day which had nearly faded to night before I finally got to my hotel room.  OMG, but the tea has made it all worth it!

I hadn't forgotten what a wild gal India could be, but I was nonetheless a bit ruffled during the first few hours of our reunion.  But after a few days of her familiar embrace I think I have my travel legs back under me and am feeling good.

This morning I took a hike down to an out-of-the way gompa that houses the original copy of the Tibetan Book of the Dead.  As I'm spinning prayer wheels and doing my gompa thing, a portly Tibetan monk comes waddling down the path, followed by an entourage of followers.  It was clear from his posse that this was no ordinary monk, and sure enough, one of the admirers told me he was "the powerful master, Something Something Rinpoche".  ("Rinpoche", pronounced rin-po-shay, is an honorary title meaning "precious one".  "Something", pronounced sum-thing, is a place holder I use when I can't remember the name of a Rinpoche.)  The flowing robes, the grace, bald... striking.

As the locals did not hesitate to let me know, it was an extraordinary stroke of luck that I (the only foreigner) happened to be at the gompa when Rinpoche came to visit.  The lama went about doing his gompa thing, which apparently was much more interesting than mine, since all the local people watched and admired as he did his prostrations and paid homage to the photographs of the Dalai Lama and the Karmapa which adorn the gompa.  Some members of his entourage were very interested in me obtaining the Rinpoche's blessing, going so far as to provide the traditional scarf for me to offer to the lama.  I went before the monk and offered the white scarf, and in return he waived his jedi hands over my head and muttered some words.  If I get nothing else from this trip of mine, at the least I will be walking away with a little strand of red string evidencing that I was blessed by a vajrayana buddhist master.  In the words of Bill Murray, "So I got that going for me, which is nice."

This afternoon I was eating an insanely delicious lunch of navratan korma when a Hindi version of Culture Club's "Karma Chameleon" started playing over the restaurant's radio.  I'm not yet fluent in Hindi, so I couldn't tell, but I can only hope that Boy George's ancient wisdom about karma ("Loving would be easy if your colors were like my dreams... red, gold and green") was accurately translated.

Tomorrow I leave Darjeeling for Sikkim to do a 5 day trek.  So I'm offline for a few days, but I will be back to tell you all about MOUNTAINS.

Gunga galunga, gunga-gunga lagunga.

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