מרקו פולו

Marco Pola's Adventures and The Tibetan Monk

Pathankot, 24 April 08

I am in the end of my journey. To reach Delhi I need to take a bus from Mcleod Ganj to Pathankot – a ruff ride of 5 hours, only 130 Km, than a night train to Delhi. I booked a seat at the sleepers compartment – the most exciting part, and checked the time table for the bus. 

I checked-out from the Guest House, which was clean with a nice view, but I didn't like the attitude and the coldness of the people; every thing was exact but cold. It's a family Guest House, the family and the extended family lives there; from the in-lows to kids of all ages. Most probably they do not want the influence and close contact with the foreign guests, but for me – an average Israeli, that likes some kind of human contact, it's too distant; if I wanted that kind of Customer – Guest relationship I would book a room the Ritz Hotel!

They didn't even 'manage' to get me a boy to help me with the bags to the station…. I just left their door step and a few smiley boys offered me to polish my shoes, to curry my begs etc. – just anything to earn a few rupees.

I set in the bus, all packed and ready for the journey. At the front there was a Buddhist Monk with a nice open face organizing his luggage, with him another woman monk and a Westerner. He enquired about my journey and was happy to hear that my destination was to Delhi too.

I looked at my ticket to see and check all the destinations and connections I have in front of me, when I realized that I am on the right bus, but just a day earlier!! I expressed my surprise loudly, and the Monk asked: What Happened?

I had a busy morning: Seeing Dr. Yeshi Dhonden – The Famous Tibetan Doctor, packing my stuff, going to the post office to send home the extended luggage, but I didn't recheck the schedule…

Quickly I realized I have to make a quick decision, as the bus was going to leave in a few minuets.

What you want to do? Asked me the Monk after I explained him the 'Balagan'. (disorder in affairs.)

I did not feel it's right for me to go back, I am ready to move forwards, I said. Is there anything interesting to see around Pathankot? I asked the Monk. Anywhere descent to stay the night?

He actually answered only to the second question ( I realized latter): We ourselves are going to a Tibetan Retreat, they'll prepare for us nice food, we'll rest and refresh until the late train. You can come with us, and stay the night, he said.

Tibetan Retreat! I imagined a monastery with a Guest House, library, heem of Monks praying heard in the corridors, just like the Tibetan monasteries I have seen around. With that picture in my mind, I confidently stayed in the bus.

The ride was long, it was extremely hot, sitting in discomfort with loud passengers coming and going. At dark, around 20.00 we arrived. The Monk took the lead; he took a simple Rickshaw (not a car Rickshaw) and the luggage of the four of us was put on top. We'll walk! Not far! He was heading first and we – 3 women followed his quick steps.

We arrived at the chubbiest livable house I have ever seen. There were lots of steep steps to go up. The rickshaw-man was extremely obedient to the Monk's orders and he took all the bags upstairs. Than the Monk gave him 20 rupees. Off you go! he closed the deal! the rickshaw-man stood there a while longer astonished, but didn't dare say a word and moved on.

We entered a large room, few plastic chairs were scattered around, few beds and two big plain tables. A smiling Tibetan looking woman greeted us with warmth. A large photo of the Dalai Lama was positioned in the centre of the room, and an orange cabinet with artificial flowers on top was housing the Dalai Lana's photos as young. On top, with great respect a large photo of Golden Buddha was placed.

There were other people eating in the room, the atmosphere was relaxed and pleasant. Cold water was offered immediately and than our request for food to be prepared. The Monk and me ordered Tibetan veg. soup with noodles = Topa. The Polish woman and the Tibetan Monk craved for meat and ordered a meat dish. The Monk felt pretty at home went for a wash, and the food arrived quickly; the two young boys served us with efficiency. 

Don't ask about the toilet and washrooms, said to me the Polish women in a quiet voice.

I was at the Tibetan Retreat! Every thing was plain but I felt at ease, the hospitality was greater than any luxury. The Monk asked me if I want to move to a better Guest House, but I decided to stay. Soon enough all the guests left, one was heading to Nepal, another to Ladakh's area, and I was given the large bed. I was woken up at 06.00 AM as the boys started cleaning the room for the new day. At 08.00 o'clock a Tibetan cooked breakfast was served to 5 Tibetan passengers, all men.

The two Indian boys age 11, ageless, were all over the place cleaning and serving the guests. They did not speak English, and hardly spoke at all, in mostly men's environment. They do not go to school, nor read or write. Their only knowledge they enquire is trough watching Indian agressive movies at the guests requirement. I do not know their story, but they have at the woman's Tibetan Retreat hot food, clean beds, and good treatment. The Cook is a young woman from Ladakh, she slept at the other side of the room, hardly noticable.

I am off to go about town to look around; the main and only attraction is the main train station that was newly build!!! so I will spent my time in the Internet shop = Thank God, for that invention!

For me the main attraction was meeting this people that managed to survive in odd jobs and ruff situations, meeting the Tibetan woman that runs her business firmly with care, pride and love.

Late Addition:

1. The brother-in-law of the Tibetan Woman came later for a visit, he told me that the Tibetan Retreat was opened on 1968 by an uncle for the Tibetan refugees that fled from China to India. The house had ups and downs and even was going to be closed after the death of the old uncle.

2. Rinzi – The Tibetan Woman insisted to curry on her shoulders my two heavy bags to the station. She was so full of love to me. At the station we hugged like we knew each other ages ago.

3. The Pathankot Market happened to be a nice lively friendly market.

soon …pictures

מרקו פולו

A Private Visit at The Karma-pa

22th April 08, McLeod Ganj, Dharmashala

I am going to meet the Karma-pa in half an hour time.

I do not know what drove me so urgently to meet The Karma-pa, but it looked right and immediate for me to meet him, at the end of my journey. I was more than happy that it happened!

On Sarurday I went to the Gyuto Monastery were Karma-pa's home is permanently located. He is second of importance after the Dalai Lama. He is 23 years old now, and was chosen at the age of 3. Until the age of 21 he studied and got prepared for the high position in the Tibetan world. He is the 17th Gyalwa Karma-pa, and now he is taken the full responsibilities as the spiritual Karma Kagyan lineage of Tibetan Buddhism. He was smuggled to India at the age of 14.

The young Buddhist priest that sets the meetings, asked me about the reasons and needs of me to meet the Karma-pa. He questioned me of the importance of that meeting for me, looking deep into my eyes, watching at my body language. Than he asked me: You are not a Buddhist, aren't you? Not too many questions! he added.

At the end he was convinced. But than he asked me: What are Your questions? that you are going to ask him? I stopped breathing and stopped thinking! I didn't know what to answer him. What were my questions???

I was with another Israeli woman, that hesitated about the all thing, and he quickly noticed it, and pushed her aside.

He did not waist time, and started talking to the next guy queuing after me.

I had to focus and give quickly my questions!

Two questions!! I said with great confidence. I am going to ask The Karma-pa two important questions, one personal and one collective!

He looked at me again with some interest. Give me your passport. He said. He's very busy, he sees just very few people a day.
I had to tell the Buddhist monk my questions, before signing me in!

The meeting was set in 2 days time, as I told him that I am leaving India. Thank God I convinced him.

I was extremely excited before the meeting with the Karma-pa. Already in the bus I felt on the edge of cry.

I felt clean and pure as Cristal in the talk with Karma-pa!

No doubt, today was one of the most wonderful days in my journey. (I said that before… I think.) After the meeting I had Tibetan soup with a Chines guy called Lixuan, and than I went to Norbulinka Institute.

Norbulinka – is a place preserving Tibetan Culture. I saw artists painting the Thangka paintings which are in use as a basis for meditative practicing. It was great sitting in the Japanese gardens and listening to the dream-like waterfalls.

מרקו פולו

Ho Indian Women! 2

Jayalalithaa'a Poster, Chennai 3

Jayalalithaa'a Poster, Chennai 1 Jayalalithaa'a Poster, Chennai 2

Laxman Jhula, Rishikesh 11/4/08

Ms. Jayalalithaa drew my attention since the first day I landed in India. Huge posters of a woman's face were looking at me all the way from the Chennai's Air Port. In a city of 7++ million people, that kind of a large poster makes a remarkable statement, soon enough I realized that she is of great importance.

The next days I learned that she is a powerful politician, and she just celebrated her 60th birthday. She was a member in the Indian Parliament for many years and was the chief minister of Tamil Nadu – a big county that included Chennai. She was an actress as young, but than she moved to politics with great success, never married.

It happened to be that my Guest House that I stayed in Chennai, was a walking distance from her home. I wouldn't know about it other wise, but the Police closed all the roads around her house on regular basis. On one day they were some 50-60 very posh cars in the near-by streets, and a line of chauffeurs were waiting for their bosses.

In some days, people from all over the country came to greet Jayalalithaa, as they saw her a Healer, a Holy Amma etc.

On her posters it's written: AMMA IS GOD!

Jayalalithaa has a lot of power as she have the support and admiration of the masses; she attracts a lot of attention; most probably she have enemies too; she is on regular basis in the news, keeping always a high profile.

I met a woman in a the bus on the way to Bangalore, she spoke very highly of her, she said to me in an excellent English: Jayalalithaa gave a lot of confidence to the Indian women with her courage and powerful performance in politics – it was her new stage!!

מרקו פולו

White Rock Shines

McLeod Ganj, wiew from my window

Dharamsala, Mcleod Ganj, 17/4/08

McLeod Ganj, wiew from my window

Smiley sunny rays woke me up this morning.

The green valley sparking (opposite me), shiny dew, birds singing, raven raved joyfully full blast from height to the valley and loud cocks announced proudly – I am happy, the summer is here!

Above, powerful, peaceful, white, ever snow rock shines still, just like nature can be. Blue endless sky smiles all over.

Good Morning! It's all so beautiful!

מרקו פולו

Goodbye Rishikesh, Hello Dharamshala

Raining is not the problem... 2  


It's all to do with the Israelites leaving Egypt

Rishikesh 12/4/08

Saying goodbye to Kishikesh it's like on a very special day, when we do not want a wonderful day to end, but than, the next day – the sun is up again and a new wonderful day is waiting smiling.

Don't be afraid to look with a smile and courage at a new place, at a new day! I said to myself.



The Monkeys rule Laxman Jhula's Bridge, Rishikesh 1I want to cry. Why? I do not know. Is it because of leaving Rishikesh today? or, is it leaving the sense of freedom that I feel here? Feeling of freedom that I would like to carry with me every where.

In Rishiskesh every day is like any other day: Holy people and pilgrimages are coming and going, loud singing and prying are heard every where, colorful people, happy cows, wonderful different scents and smells – all together a happy place.

Today there is some kind of festival – I wouldn't know that, as it's like any other day, just like yesterday – another happy day – but the post office was closed!!

I have to take the feeling of freedom and easiness with me
everywhere. The knowledge that there is a special place for every one, and each one goes by his rhythm in his stream.

Is my mood reflecting the Ganga's colours? 4

My favorite place is Ganga View, of course it's located by the Ganga, also the food is fresh and the kitchen is clean. One meets there a variety of people, reading the daily news paper – is part of the event. It's of interest of every one, even the guys with the long rastas – surprisingly, they like to read the papers too. Each day the headlines on most Indian's papers is SPORT! Not the news about HighTec, nor the starving people, not the inflation that started to raise up in India, nor the rises voices of the Tibetans – sport is the subject that makes people happy, so it stands up first, politics & the rest is second.


Dharamshala, Mcleod Ganj, 16/4/08

Each time I arrive to a new place I feel ill. It takes a lot of energy to move with the bags, the long train journey, the buses, and than to find a new location to stay etc. On top of all my stomach was asking for rescue, after the farewell lovely party we had at the Pyramid in Rishikesh – that didn't suit my delicate stomach. To add the cream on that cake – I lost my glasses…

Only now, at last, I understand why the the Jewish people crossed the desert from Egypt to Israel in 40 years – not that it takes such a long time, but each time they settled down for a while, they wanted to stay there for ever! it was bloody (sorry) hard work for Moses to move that big heavy tribe again!!! … And than a woman gave just birth to a new born baby, and someone got married… etc.

I can feel-see it by my own actions – each time I arrive to a new place, I think it's wonderful, exciting and I reached The Most Place! – all that's only out of convenience!!!! That's way the Israelites complained – every new place they arrived – we like it here! They said. Of course, they even wanted to go back to Egypt, to be slaves again!!! No doubt, I am part of my tribe.

I am staying in a nice clean place with view to the valley in a village called Mcleod Ganj, it's 1770 high. 60 years ago the 14th Dalai Lama fled here with his people after the occupation of Tibet by the Chinese. On the edges of the village white mountains are looking at us from above.

The atmosphere is very different; it's colder, even that it's summer here, every one wears warm cloths, most faces looks Tibetan, solid type of faces. It a quiet place.

I am sitting in a Tibetan vegetarian restaurant eating just brown rice & veg, to clean my stomach… Every few minuets a beggar enters the restaurant, and the waiter asks him/her to leave, one by one. A young child enters to beg. Next to me there are 3 French people sitting and a child, she was mingling with her fork the noodles she did not like to eat. One of the French man invited the beggaer-boy to have tea with them. The kid immediately agreed and set done next to the French girl. They set together next to each other – the young blond girl and the Indian looking boy – both the same age, 6-8. The boy drank the tea with great pleasure, and than I saw him eating of the girl's noodles with delight, no doubt he was shay but he enjoyed the meal! The girl was looking at him closely with great interest.

Did the French man wanted to show his little girl how valuable the noddles are to an hungry child? Maybe he wanted to treat the young boy with something different of what he's accustomed, or both?

After the boy finished his noddles thoroughly, he looked deep into his pockets, than he put a small white stone at the table, looking at the French man with gratitude. All that happened with not a word said.