"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

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Kailash 2010 Day 14 : Back at Nyalam, Thursday July 08, 2010

We started at 9 from Saga - Swamiji asked me to sit in the ambulance, so-called because of the two doctors who sit in that car. I sat shotgun for the first time in this trip - the best seat for taking pictures and falling asleep, while the doctors fussed over me. I greatly appreciated their TLC that I was dying for the night before. Both of them have done immense sewa, - service, on this trip by cheerfully taking care of all the people who fell sick and making the rounds in each room every day. 80% of the people have needed medical attention at one time or another during this trip.

Exquisitely beautiful Peiko Tso lake
The world was more beautiful today than it was yesterday. The Peiko lake was more tranquil and breathtakingly beautiful than I remembered seeing on the way into the Tibetan plateau. There were birds flying over the lake, and sheep grazing near by. There was a light breeze and a gentle sunshine. It felt like Nature had decided to scale up its beauty every day now since we crossed Paryang. Everyone in the car noticed the spectacular view, and the driver stopped without being asked to, so we could take pictures. The sheer bliss of that day had to be experienced, no photograph can capture it.
Nature unleashes a more beautiful version every day

I have seen everything now
It was a day of few pictures because I could barely keep my eyes open and slept after taking the antibiotics. The doctors constantly gave me Ricola, Vicks, etc on top of medication, and constantly asked if I needed to eat, and kept reminding me to drink water. I would be up and about by the end of the day. Tomorrow, we would be in Kathmandu. If there was a day I had to be sick on, this was a good one - life was perfect.

Our car is stuck
I woke up from my nap thinking that our car was swimming. I think we were in deep sand then, and then suddenly we appeared to float. We were stuck. The driver tried accelerating and reversing to no effect other than creating little sandstorms around the wheels. We asked him if we should get out of the car, he asked us to stay in and tried to muscle the car back or forth. Finally, he gave up and allowed us to get out of the car while he kept trying on his own.

The car behind us is trying to pull our car in reverse
In ten minutes or so while I photographed our stuck car and hapless driver, one of our other cars from the cavalcade show up. Our car was tied to it, and it reversed to pull our car out, we got into the car and off to Nyalam once more.

This is a reason why small groups cannot make this trek. We needed the support from the rest of the cars. The one driver who was technically the best was in the last car so that he would stop for everyone and anyone who needed help.

Lunch at a mud-house
Lunch was at a beautiful mudhouse, painted elaborately in primary colors. My lunch was again two spoons of rice and the dal water for flavor and the Frooti, but Seeta Devi will not let me live on that little. I told her I will have my Fruit & Nut bar. But she asked around for a second Frooti, one of the Sherpas offered his own. She would not hear my protests that I can't drink the Sherpa's share, she insisted that I needed the fluids. She reminds me of Priti-ben, Anish's cousin, who constantly battles against our unhealthy habits, and makes sure we stay healthy.

Usha-ji, Gopikrishna-ji and Yoga, Pushpendrabhai at the back

Now I had two Frootis bulging out of my jacket pocket and a couple of locals who had gathered to watch us eat, pointed to my pocket and asked for the drink with hand gestures.

I looked at Sita Devi, she told him in English :) - she is sick, and told me - you drink them. Seema gave her Frooti to the man while I took Seeta Devi's advice, ignored the pleading eyes, and gulped my Frooti.

Dance of the sherpas
Swarn had planned with the Swamijis to have a musical interlude and have the Tibetan car drivers and the Nepali Sherpas sing and dance. But at the right moment, the music that we had tried out earlier did not play well in the car and somebody has to play it loud from the mobile. That did not faze Swarn as she tried to infect people with masti - fun, while the rest of us stood in a circle and clapped. The Sherpas and the drivers joined in.

As we drove on to Nyalam, I felt pretty well-rested, I could stay awake, and I could now fully appreciate the beauty of the countryside. 3 days in a row now, Tibet has evolved into a more beautiful version each day. When the heart is happy, the world glows around you.

Still on earth

Heaven on earth
Pure heaven

Back through the gateway through which we entered the Tibetan plateau nine days ago

As we approached Nyalam, I was struck by how large a town it is. It was a small remote town when I had come here twelve days ago. With the refined perspective from the Tibetan heartland, Nyalam appeared to be a metroplex. I still had quite a bit of medication inside me. Seema went off to walk by the river banks, I could not go with her, I would have slowed her down or even worse, come back after half the distance. Our room was right next to the multi-storeyed toilets, I cannot say things could be worse, I am not sure what could be worse. But someone had to sleep in that room, and Rajeev had decided that it was us. It appeared that some maintenance work had been done since we left this guesthouse ten days ago. The walls had been whitewashed, there was now crown moulding in the rooms, the linen had been washed, there were new blankets and comforters. The room actually looked quite decent if you forgot the restroom next door for a moment.

I dumped my backpacks on the bed, and spent my time loitering in the little compound and then tagged behind Swami Shivyogananda and Rajeev to drink tea, actual chai, at a little place across the street. I would have loved Texas-sized servings, but we were in Tibet. We were served tea in tiny cups meant for little girls' tea parties for which Rajeev ended up paying a fortune. I had barely had one cup when the car with the other Swamijis showed up, and it was time to go back to the guesthouse. The little bit of warm liquid did do wonders and I felt much better. My eyelids were burning a little and I thought I would drink the soup that should be coming soon, and sleep after the appreciation fest at 8.

Appreciation fest, Nyalam
The appreciation fest was an hour-long event to honor the taxi drivers and the Sherpas and the Chinese guides. Swarn had bought traditional white silk scarves and envelopes for our collective contribution for each person. Each person was called by name and honored. We had a live translator for the notes of acknowledgment from Swamiji, and the thank-you comments from the recipients. There were three photographers taking pictures - I am glad we made all this fuss and brought smiles on the faces of people who worked very hard to make this trip happen. Their contribution cannot be measured in $$$. They were there to help us fulfill our prarabhdha - destiny, and they did it with a smile. I was woozed out with medication, but I remember each person's name followed by enthusiastic applause and even more enthusiastic sharp whistles from Rajeev and Yogananda. Swamiji thanked all the volunteers as well, and the "drug-pusher" Sriniji without whose daily dispensing of medication, we would have had larger numbers of people sick at high altitudes.

Dinner was three hours away. After the tea and the soup, I had the strength to walk, and went to the local market with Seema, Swarn, Pratibha and Gaurav to buy anything at all for Anish and Ash from Tibet. Swarn has a 15-month old and there was plenty of cute stuff to be purchased for the baby. She is consumed now with the thought of her baby's first reaction when she sees her after such a long time. I bought a cap and a scarf for Ash, there is nothing for Anish - Nyalam is hardly the Galleria.

Swarn was in a great mood today, and so was her staff whom she asked to make chawal-ki-kheer, - rice pudding after the appreciation fest. The food tasted good, the labor of love from a happy team. I broke my rule of no-dessert since Kathmandu and tasted the kheer, my twin-separated-at-birth Seema's favorite as well but she was fasting, and instead munched on fruit that she had bought on her lone walk to the river.

Tomorrow, we leave for Kathmandu to the same hotel with the pre-sweetened yogurt. I would gladly trade in all my yuans for good old dahi-chawal, - steamed rice and plain yogurt, right now. Not sure if I have said this enough, I am hankering for plain yogurt.

Aum Namah Shivaaya!!

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