A Lhamo at the Lake

Despite the heat and dust, we stayed a week in Delhi ending with a three day meditation retreat, which was strenuous but rewarding. The overnight semi-sleeper bus to Himachal Pradesh dropped us in Mundi at 5 am where we caught the local bus to our hideaway town in the foothills. Even though little has changed, there are signs that progress is encroaching. Otherwise why are they widening the road?

Renting the same room as last year, we were happy to see our German friends, staying next door. The four of us sat in our favorite chai shop, exchanging travel stories from the past few months.

If I’m going to talk to someone more than once, I feel the need to tell them about my hearing loss. Vijay who runs the restaurant we eat at at least once a day, immediately suggested visiting the Lhamo, a Tibetan ‘angel’ with magical healing powers, now residing here. Even the Hindus visit her, he said. After further inquiry, we were introduced to a Frenchman who was going for a second visit. Pascal is staying here teaching autistic children. He explained that by giving the Lhamo’s husband 100 rupees in advance we’d be admitted first. Neither one of us gave it much thought, and arranged to meet Pascal the following morning at 7 am when we would follow him to the Lhamo’s house. He provided us with ‘khatas’, traditional ceremonial white scarves, in which you fold another 100 rupees to place beside the Lhamo. When we reached her house, a crowd had already gathered outside. Everyone else had taken a number handed out an hour earlier. That 100 rupees we gave the husband ensured us a place at the front of the line without a number. Then we waited… The door opened, the curtain drawn and we were asked in. On a long bench covered with a Tibetan carpet sat the Lamo, cross-legged, facing an altar with numerous mysterious religious objects. She was still in the middle of her chanting, wearing an elaborate headdress and white scarf covering most of her face. The chanting became intense, high pitched and piercing, accompanied with loud bell ringing and drum. More than once, her voice reached fever pitch, causing her to cough and splutter. The only thing comparable might be voodoo or, in the Christian faith, receiving the spirit. It felt like a cleansing process for the healer. She was a large, ruddy-faced woman in her mid 30s with her teenage daughter beside her, translating.

Sitting at her feet, I gave a brief description of my sudden hearing loss and the Lhamo took a pipe wrapped with sacred cloth, flared slightly at the end. She strongly sucked through the pipe around both my ears, then spat into a bowl beside her several times. She said there was nothing more she could do for me. Eat nutritious food and visit a Tibetan doctor for health strengthening remedies. Gerard was next, asking about his restless leg syndrome. With the same pipe, she moved it around his left foot and ankle, stopping to spit out into her hand a brownish black goo, which she showed him! The procedure on the right foot wasn’t as dramatic. Her parting comment to both of us: “You’re old and your body is weak. You should seek out a Tibetan doctor.” For me, the experience was a let down. Although the doctors in Boston had assured me nothing could bring back my hearing, I had for a moment held out the hope for the miraculous.

One of the reasons we like coming here are the walks in all directions, most of which involve climbing, but the vista of the Himalayas keeps Gerard plodding along. Our legs were still adjusting to the long hike up to our rom when our German friends asked us to go for a hike. The path led through terraced wheat fields, then forest and up at the top a pink and white temple sat in a clearing.

While we sat on the grass in the shade, resting our weary legs, the caretaker offered us chai. The downhill trek back was a different strain on our legs and by the time we reached our room, they were shaky. Yes, the Lhamo was right, we are old!

That evening brought an abrupt change in the weather, so common up here. The sky darkened and heavy raindrops began falling while we ate dinner. Thunder rolled around the hills as we reached our room and continued for a long while into the night. Beside our two large windows, we lay in bed watching the lightening show silhouetting the mountains.

12 thoughts on “A Lhamo at the Lake

  1. Hi intrepid bloggers G and D
    You (and I But I cant get up at 5am ‘ may be getting older
    but your writing is getting even
    better .A well rounded and interesting description .
    Will you ever tire of India ?
    I had three crowns done in Goa and
    am back in London now
    Wisdom teeth out this week


    Sent from my iPhone


    • Gerard hopes you have better luck with your crowns than he had. The Professor made a right mess of out his mouth and needed a bridge in the end. We’ll continue to come back to India as long as we’re healthy and find it interesting. Sorry we didn’t see you this year. We’ll stay in touch. B&G


    • Gerard is withholding judgment for a little longer on the Lhamo’s treatment. My hearing remains the same. Still, it was worth the experience! And we’re having a good time here. How are you?


  2. Sounds exciting Bobby. We hope to catch up with you both in India next year. Jim and I hope to spend 5 months in India starting in January. Enjoy the mountains.


  3. Wow, sounds great! I had a terrible time in Mandi…long story. Wish I’d known about lovely places like this outside the city. At least I saw the temples in Rewalsar, my main objective. Mandi is off my list though ☹️ Have fun, carry on!


  4. Oh boy Bobby, I understand how you gave it another chance to regain your hearing. I’m glad you tried. How’s Gerard doing with his leg?
    Amazing that you’re hiking and meeting many wonderful people. Generously sharing chai in the hill side! So happy for you and Gerard to continue to explore and enjoy India 🏃‍♀️💫😊.


  5. Oh boy Bobby, I understand how you gave it another chance to regain your hearing. I’m glad you tried. How’s Gerard doing with his leg?
    Amazing that you’re hiking and meeting many wonderful people. Generously sharing chai in the hill side! So happy for you and Gerard to continue to explore and enjoy India 🏃‍♀️💫😊.


  6. Thanks for another installment in the saga with vivid descriptions and wonderful sidebars of interactions with those you know and the new acquaintances. I hope your 3 days in meditation were of comfort. Wonderful images of the landscape and I so admire your tenacity in pushing forward (and upward)…Spring flirts but remains behind the veil….Best to you…


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