"In-Roads", Life Positive Magazine, 2002

Initiation happens in many a mysterious way. Sometimes through touch, sometimes through gaze, sometimes through word, and did you know, sometimes through rain? Yes, when a sudden shower of rain takes you by surprise, and drenches your spirit in inexplicable bliss, know that you have been initiated by the power of a spirit higher than yours. Know that love has crossed your street, and you would never be the same again. From the height that you have been ushered into, you would never slide again! How fast was this distance covered from bondage to freedom, you fail to fathom. But then, isn’t freedom about not caring how the prison bar clicked open, and how you were set free?

This once when the road opened up, I saw myself moving towards a small dwelling in Northern India amidst towering peaks and narrow lanes, that are filled with the aroma of thukpas, sound of prayer wheels and click of rosaries. The color filled streets of McCleod Ganj piqued at me as I jumped off the bus with my luggage, and headed towards Tara Guest house. Strolling through the Tibetan bazaar tucked warmly between old town houses, my gaze continually got distracted by curio shops, baskets of freshly baked bread, bright tribal handicrafts, sacred symbols and Thankhas on display. My ear caught the echo of a million mantras that have been absorbed by the walls and bricks of this town. I finally bought one tribal wooden rosary with counters, and days rolled past smoothly in McCleod Ganj, as effortlessly as the prayer wheels rolled forth with one gentle push of a devout hand.

It rained often and much. Perhaps, the continual yearning whisked out from Tibetan hearts prompted the clouds to gather up fast. The weather is whimsical, as is the season of wait. Suddenly, the sky twists, turns and writhes in pain, pouring down tears of yearning. Suddenly the sun shines, and then the clouds gather again to drizzle with soft longing for the place called home. When the weather cleared up a wee bit, one marched forth in the direction of steaming momos and appetizing vegetable soups. Mornings meant lounging in the guesthouse over a book, and evenings meant a walk down to the Namgyal monastery to soak in the rhythmic chant of the monks. Cute children, warm houses lit up with the lamp of hope, bookstores, poetry, pain and prayers—these are some of the things that make Little Tibet, and rise up in my memory as I smile back on those few restful days.

Strangely, my mind found rest in this town that is restless for a whiff of freedom. My soul met with peace in a place where freedom sleeps, aching to be kissed awake. Yet, something about the town exudes that freedom of a different kind has indeed paid a visit to these lanes. Half the town is monk, the other is half-monk with half smiles adorning their peaceful countenance, and rosaries adorning their hands that are clutching to the beads of hope. Clicking, clicking all the while. The whole town is waiting (so patiently at that), gathering around Dalai Lama’s love, as bees gather around honey or kids gather around the father for solace in times of need. Strong currents of the Lama’s compassionate presence is palpable here.

I, too, longed for his glimpse, whose presence was like the sun to this town covered perpetually by dark clouds of receding hope. Wearing my rain cover on the morning of my last day in town, I went requesting for a dialogue with the monk who walked barefoot to McCleod Ganj through the Himalayas in the year 1952, and two lakh more pair of feet followed. It was pouring when I reached his doorstep with tiny pink flowers tucked in my palms as an offering.

Disappointed on learning that the Lama was observing silence and a meeting would not be possible, I was walking back in slow sad steps, when inspiration struck. The teaching descended from the Holy One. I curled open my palm, and in a gesture of courageous knowing, sprinkled the pink offering flowers over my head, and exclaimed Om Mane Padme Hum. I am the jewel in the lotus of the heart! I knew, then, that I had received the teaching meant for me, the teaching that freed! The earth beneath my feet swelled, the grass smiled, my gait became bouncy. I removed my rain cover, drenching completely in this rain of initiation, and like a dainty deer, leapt forth to explore the seams of this newly found consciousness. The sky suddenly cleared up just then, and the sun shone into my grateful eyes.

Dharamshala (also called Little Tibet) is a city in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. Surrounded by cedar forests on the edge of the Himalayas, this hillside city is home to the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan government-in-exile