MCLEOD GANJ, INDIA: MUSING OVER MY MUSE(S)
Breathless and unable to fight the temptation, I surrender. The comfort of rest offered by the rocky ledge and what lies before me is irresistible.
I am just a few minutes away from completing Kora, the circular trail around Tsuglagkhang complex. The valley stands before me with arms flung wide open, inviting me, seducing me, challenging me. I give up, take out my sketchbook and start painting. Nature turns into my muse.
Two Tibetan girls in their early teens pass by. They stop to look at my sketch. The younger one whispers something in the older one’s ears and they start giggling. They seem oblivious that their laughter is making me doubt my artistic skills. I pretend to remain unfazed but curiosity gets the better of me.
‘What are your names?’
‘I am Tsomo and she is Tashi’
‘Is there something wrong with my sketch?’
‘No, it’s very good.’
‘What is making you laugh then?’
‘My sister wonders if you can make her picture.’
‘It can take time and your family might get worried.’
In a moment their expressions change. I have hit some soft spot.
‘Mother and father could not make it to India. We were brought here by our grandma and now she is also dead. We live with our community.’
I am not an ardent fan of awkward silences and consider it a sort of moral obligation to fill any such pauses. Plus, there is a fraction of resemblance that my otherwise blessed life has with theirs. The fact that I also had lost my parents early in life, urges in me an instant need to connect with them.
‘O.K, how about I make a sketch of you both?’I find myself saying despite my dreaded incompetence as a portrait maker.
They both smile .I start making an effort to sketch them and fortunately somewhere midway , time comes to my rescue. The girls tell me that they really are getting late. Making a resolution of brushing up on my portrait making ability, I wind up and on the sisters’ request, I follow them as they want me to meet someone they are very fond of.
They introduce me to Pema, a young girl who dotes on them like an elder sister and bonds with me with equal ease. On realising how little I have seen of Mcleod Ganj in my one day stay, she decides to show me around. Over the next few days, I get to explore the opulent glory offered by this hamlet and revel in a euphoric sensory feast in her company.
Sitting by the side of the Bhagsu waterfall ,we look at sunbeams create unfathomably intricate patterns on the surface of water. I tell Pema that I need to jot down a poem before my thoughts flee. She finds me incredibly talented. It’s a blessing to be able to write and paint, she tells me .
Every day, myriad delights await us and hold us enchanted. St. John church situated in the wilderness and dotted with pristine charm of flowers, climbers and creepers stands serene with its timeless vibe. At Naddi village, clouds floating next to us are transcendental and w e laugh our way into a sublimely perfect sunset. The main market with bustling cafes is tailor-made for my flamboyant side. Chats with monks and nuns are both engaging and interesting. Shopping as usual is fun and the camaraderie I have developed with Pema is special.
Her familiarity with each nook and cranny of the town is unmistakable. She tells me that she was born and brought up here .I notice a shadow of sadness in her radiant smile. She speaks of her people’s longing to go back to Tibet and their peaceful struggle for freedom. We are in Tibet museum looking at archived evidence of suffering that human species is capable of inflicting upon their own kind .Pema gets from me a promise that I will teach painting and whatever else I can as a volunteer to exiled children during my next visit to the town. She adds sadly that she would be leaving for abroad in another three months and is not sure about her coming back. But, she is sure about me coming back.
I know that I will be back. To this place where rocks whisper songs, waterfalls chant melodies, mountains weave stories , cafes and shops pulsate with life. Where Pema’s people live, where hope lives, where love lives. Where Tsomo and Tashi found home and my creativity found a new meaning.
I will be back to this place where I am sure, each day inspiration will come to me in different avatars. As innocent children’s smiles, as youngsters’ dreams, as serene maturity of wrinkled old faces, as a friend’s uninhibited laughter and her unseen tears. As the precious satisfaction of spending my time without regrets.
About the Author: Nandita Bhargava-A vivacious personality, a heart full of compassion, a sense of childlike wonder, insane optimism , citizenship of the Zen world and the belief that to live life fully you have to love life fully, are the things that keep me headed towards new journeys. Writing ,painting and travelling are my salvation and pitching in my little bit to add to the happiness of this universe, a must-do. I do not have an iota of doubt that the world was intended to be a place without any boundaries.
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