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.