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.