"Full many a ray of purest ray serene the dark unfathomed caves of ocean bear:
Full many a flower is born to blush unseen, and waste its sweetness to the desert air."
from "Elegy Written in a Country Churchyard" by Thomas Gray

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 13 : Back at Saga, Wednesday July 07, 2010

We started at 3am and reached Saga by 8 am.

I felt a serenity of spirit that appeared to reflect everywhere. The road to Saga was peaceful like all was well in the world. It is difficult to describe the sheer joy that had consumed me - every moment was magical.

I had been requesting Swamiji for some one-on-one and finally I had that opportunity today when I got to sit in his car. Where is the reference to Everest/Sagarmatha in the scriptures? Why did ...Swamiji answered despite his own ill health, and promised to research more and get back. One of the big things I have realized on this trip is that Swamiji is my personal guru not because he heads the Chinmaya Mission at Dallas, but because of my own comfort level with him. He has knowledge, the thirst for knowledge and the understanding of people with a thirst of knowledge, and is able to guide not just the devout unquestioning people, but also those like me who do not have much of a foundation in Sanatana Dharma.

Tibet or England or New Zealand?

Swamiji took this picture from the car - reminds me of North Island in New Zealand - soft slopes, soft grass, soft sunshine and ... the sheep, oh, the sheep that grazes all over the place. :)
We are back in Saga, will take a bucket bath after 8 days
At Hotel Saga at Saga, again I paid up the deposit of 100 yuan that they will hold back if the room is damaged or all the towels are not in the room when we leave. No water, but god forbid someone should take the towels. They perform a quick room check when guests check out before returning the deposit. I got my cell phone back from the hotel - I had forgotten it in the room 10 days ago. The phone that I was so happy to purchase in India did not work in Nepal or Tibet, except as an alarm clock.

We had to wait for an hour for the rooms. Everyone was in a hurry to get to the hot water that only comes at 8-12 noon and 7-10pm.

The promised hot water did not come. The phone lines were already cut off in case anyone thought of complaining to the front desk. No biggie, my roomies did some out-of-the-box thinking, and poured boiling water from the electric kettle into the cold water bucket to make it lukewarm. Hormonal cycles are unexpectedly altered at high altitudes - not easy in a hotel with no running water. It is almost better to be in a mud-house with holes in the ground. I had my lukewarm bucket bath. Did not use the hotel soap and shampoo today, finally used the branded cleanser and shampoo and conditioner that I had not had the opportunity to use so far - there is brown liquid on the bathroom floor as layers of dust and sand get washed off. Not everyone was so lucky, many people did not get this creative, and waited till the evening for hot water that did not come, and finally ended up going to the public bathhouses in the market. Other than a dip in the lake, or two dips that some of us have taken, this is the first cleaning ritual since being at Saga a week ago. Again in Saga, as on the way in, a squeaky clean body to match my razor sharp intellect!!! :)

The next step was to look at a mirror - the first one we had seen since we left Saga ten days ago. My face was multi-colored and my nose was peeling off. Apparently, I had not applied sufficient sunblock, or did not re-apply it sufficiently through the day. No amount of lotions and foundations could make my skin tone even. Good thing I didn't have to look at myself.

A friend of mine had been severely under the weather for a week now. She had survived the trek with her willpower, the selfless service by Pallavi and Gaurav, and the personal care of the doctors who were fellow travelers. I checked in her room, she was lying in bed with wet hair - taking a shower had exhausted her already. She stretched her head to the edge of the bed so I could brush it while she lay down. This was mind-numbingly shocking - every day I had seen her when the cars stopped somewhere, and I knew she was not eating much but then I was not eating either. I had no idea she was this weak. I brushed her hair and tied it into a ponytail - she closed her eyes and lay in bed. I wished from the bottom of my heart then that she would get better soon. We had met at a party just days before leaving Dallas, she had told me to definitely do pranayam - yogic breathing exercises, every morning. We were so excited about this trip - it was very difficult to see her like this.

In the room, we watched soap operas in Chinese, and tried to figure what was going on by the expression on the faces. We visited the shops on the street for things to buy but found nothing. The stores are meant for travelers who have forgotten things, and not for take-home gifts. I wanted to buy some CDs with Buddhist chants that the drivers had played in the cars, but we were not able to locate them. After Seema and I had walked the length of every market street in Saga, we came back to find a group of people gathered to sing and play antakshari in Swamiji's room with Bollywood songs. I would have loved to escape but I could not have gone very far - my room was next door. Seema, Swarn, Gaurav and I sat around for a short while, and then went out to take long walks up and down the roads, aided by my handy-dandy flashlight headband.

We walked past one of the "discotheques" that Swarn had described - body-shaking, hip-grinding Bollywood songs could be heard on the street from gigantic speakers attached to the outside of windows. Swarn had told us that fully-dressed Tibetan women dance in the beginning, before the floor opens up to the crowd. Wonder how they dance to "item songs" performed by extremely talented, flexible and scantily-clad Bollywood actresses. While walking in the dark down the market streets, Swarn asked us a couple of times if we wanted to go in, but the rest of us are practically a generation older and had no interest. Instead, Gaurav had philosophical questions - life, death, contentment, attachment, happiness... we discussed our life experiences and where we thought we stood in our journey while Kajrare Kajrare... played on the speakers. We could have talked all night except I think I was falling sick.

The lukewarm bath and the air-drying of hair was taking its toll and I was quite sick by night. I was very fortunate to be in a room with Seema, Swarn and Pratibha - people I did not know two weeks ago and whose warmth and affection carried me through my misery. For the three nights that we have shared a room so far, we have laughed hysterically as we shared our experiences - all of us sit in different cars and have many stories to tell at the end of the day. Today, I sat up in bed at night for hours - I had a head cold, an aching throat and fever. As I sat in the dark, unable to sleep, unable to breathe if I lay down, smelling camphor to alleviate the discomfort, my life of two weeks ago with more beds and baths than people in the house, and running hot and cold water, and heat cushions and massage chairs was a distant memory. The mind was in a state of ecstatic joy but I needed my tired body to sleep and rest before we left for Nyalam in the morning.

One of the windows in the room was open for ventilation and the incessant patriotic music from the Chinese military base and the ceaseless howling of the street dogs could be heard continuously like the vuvuzelas. Hope they have been banned from FIFA by now, it has been a long time since I watched soccer.

Tomorrow, Shesh Bamba hotel in Nyalam with the multi-storeyed bathrooms.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

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