Friday, December 23, 2005


Diary of a wannabe Bodhisattva
(Still no photos. We are not amused.)

My new room at the ominously named Hunted Hill House was unusually silent this morning, and not just because it's at the end of a dirt road. A quick check with the light switch showed the power was off. This meant I couldn't take a shower (it's an electric hot water heater - no showers in freezing weather with cold water, I've already got a sore throat and crusty nostrils). It's so cold I sleep fully clothed(t-shirt, blouse, 2 pairs of cotton pants, and toe-socks - those Asian socks with an articulated toe so you can wear them with sandals)under 2 heavy blankets and a sheet. The Tibetan habits of bathing rarely, if ever, and heavy clothing that's seldom changed began to make sense.

Actually, temperature-wise, it's nothing compared to the cold of the States at this time - but here there is nothing like a heater in any building, and structures are not properly insulated (that is to say, not at all). I rolled out of bed and pulled open the nylon curtains. The Dhauladhar mountaintops were hidden beneath dark navy-blue clouds. Rain? At this time of year? "Not possible madam."

Fortunately, most restaurants use butane stoves, so even though there's no electricity I could at least get a cup of tea. I zipped up my cheap fleece jacket and trudged up the hill. This steep rutted hill always seems muddy, despite the lack of rain, thanks to a troubling foul-smelling trickle that constantly runs down the center. In a week or so I expect it will be frozen; at least it won't smell anymore. Power was out everywhere, so I sat in the India House restaurant and began reading the local free community newsletter, Contact ("McLeod Ganj's religious diversity means an opportunity for peace and tolerance"). Two pots of tea later, still "no current."

I started the Kalachakra initiation book. There are two ways to participate in this teaching, as an interested observer or actual initiate. To be initiated into this teaching involves promising to think of other people first for the rest of your life (part of becoming a Bodhisattva). I wonder whether it's better to make such a promise with noble intent, and surely fail sometimes, or just be a bystander. The book said, "Technically, the correct term for this initiation is 'empowerment.'" I selfishly thought that all of McLeod could use some empowerment, electrically speaking.

When we finally became "empowered" three hours later at about 12.30, the servers were still down everywhere. Electricity, but no internet yet.

I decided to hurry back down the muddy hill and get a hot shower, maybe even a hair-washing, before the power disappeared again. I switched on the geyser (pronounced "geezer") and waited for the red light to appear, signalling the hot water's readiness. While waiting for the "geezer" I watched a TV show of folk dances from Assam state. This was followed by a news show in Hindi I couldn't follow, so I switched to Oprah(!) who was interviewing Kurt Russell about being a "cool dad" and grandfather for their Father's Day edition of the show. I guess there's a bit of a delay between these shows' original air date and the time they hit the air in India. Watching them talk about how much they loved their offspring, it reminded me of Amma's teaching that even the love of a parent for their child is selfish; they only love it because it's their own child. True love, she says, would be to love all children, everyone's children, equally.

The craggy peaks were now visible - with a dusting of snow. Those had been snow clouds, not rain. That's actually perfect; snow where I can see it, but not on the ground where I have to deal with it. (Besides, I haven't owned any shoes but sandals in 3 years.) So it's a snowy Himalayan Christmas for me, Stirling and her Tibetan friend at the St John's Carolling service tomorrow night. "Bring your own candles and show up early, the church fills up fast!" admonished the photocopied poster. "All faiths and creeds are welcome. Service conducted by Rev. Kunjamon," which I recognized as a Malayalee name. Maybe Shinu will teach me how to say "Merry Christmas and God Bless You" to him in Malayalam. It might bring a smile to the Rev's face, to hear his mother tongue from sunny Kerala in these frigid hills. If I'm going to be a Bodhisattva, I guess I have to think of these things.

Now the servers are back up and I'm typing here in Gu-Chu-Sum internet, a cybercafe run by the association of former Tibetan political prisoners. My fingers are freezing, and the sky is turning solid white. We may have snow on the ground here before the night is through. At least we're "empowered" again. I'd hate to miss the season finale of Desperate Housewives. I think the main characters represent the 7 deadly sins. Trouble is, there's only 5 of them. Some of them are so hateful they could comprise 2 sins in 1 persona. Actually, I'm pretty sure this season finale here in India is last season's season finale from America; so please, nobody ruin the suspense for me. That would truly not be bodhisattvic.


miriam said...

You bring back such fabulous memories Caroline! I think the reason they don't do much about the winter there is that it only lasts three or four months. It is still freezing though - I suppose one reason there are no electric heaters is that the electricity can't be counted on in the first place. While I was there I bought a lovely tibetan wool coat that kept me quite warm but didn't wash well.

byron said...

Your misery is becoming, you make it sound almost inviting. Here's wishing you hours of ininterrupted "empowerment", at least long enough to take you through prime time.

I checked out the Kalachakra inititation site. WOW awesome event. Thanks for that link, I may link it to my journal. I think attempting something and and actually being conscious of "failing sometimes" is part of getting there...

Have a Merry Christmas on top of the world.

tnks for the comment on my LJ.

Shinu Mathew said...

"Santhoshakaramaya Christmas Aasamsikunnu" That's how you wish a keralite on Christmas in Malayalam!! :D
Thanks for the link:D