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Thursday, 12 April 2007

Enlightenment through Osmosis, The Dalai Lama's Teachings in India - Page 4

Written by Lisa McCallum
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“My Tibetan’s a bit rusty. I’m having a hard time following what he’s talking about,” I whisper to Aisha, one of the people I came here with. She smiles and nods, but doesn’t really laugh. It’s meant to be funny. I, however, am an anomaly in this audience: I am an American backpacker who ended up traveling to McLeod-Ganj, the home of the Dalai Lama, to escape the harassment of the rest of North India.

The temple itself stood at the end of a long stretch of concrete lined on either side with plots of grass. Groups of monks and Tibetan families were picnicking on the ground and waiting patiently for the speech to begin. They were used to waiting, but they also knew something I didn’t know: the speech would be broadcast through loudspeakers, so they would be able to hear it outside as well as I would inside. I was used to not knowing things like this (including the information about the camera) when I reach my destinations, even after reading guidebooks and talking to travelers who had been to the places I went to. Traveling is like that, things change, and things are not mentioned. You deal with it or you go home. If I had known about the loudspeakers, though, I wouldn’t have been so anxious to get inside.

Aisha and I rushed to the main building of the monastery. A paper sign by the entrance said in neat handwriting, “Office: Third Floor.” The building was made entirely of concrete, with windows that looked out onto the monastery property. On the way up to the third floor, I glanced down through these windows. The lines of men and women going into the temple were stretching further and further back. Pretty soon there wouldn’t be any more spots to sit inside the temple.


The monk who holds the cameras was reluctant to take another one. “I have a few already, you see. And I can’t promise anything. I maybe will not be here to watch it. So if it gets stolen…” He put on a dejected smile to indicate his ambivalence toward doing me this favor.

“I understand. If my camera is stolen, you are not responsible. But I need to keep it here because I can’t take it in there.”

“Okay. Please give me. Write your name.” I wrote my name on a scrap of paper and thanked him. He took the paper and my camera. I felt a little funny about giving it up, but I had no choice. I had to trust that it would be here when I returned. It wasn’t the cost of the camera that bothered me; it was only a cheap film camera, but the idea of traveling without a camera until I could buy a new one gave me pause. I was in the foothills of the Himalayas. Buying a new camera would be either out of the question or extremely costly, I imagined. As we hurriedly left the office, I turned to Aisha. “It will be all right here, won’t it?”

“Sure, it will. Plus, you have nowhere else to put it, right?” She hadn’t brought her camera, but she had sympathy for me.

(Page 4 of 7)
Last modified on Sunday, 16 December 2012

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