Friday, 3 August 2007

across the sea and back in time

I thought I would take you to another continent today. This is a letter I sent to Q from Northern India.

June 2000

I have spent the majority of the past two weeks "up north". Snow and rocks was the theme, and plenty of both to be had. The rains have arrived south bringing blessed coolness and sending the majority of Westerners, visiting Indians, and beggars onto other locals. The monsoon is useful for so many things.

His Holiness is to arrive sometime this week in time for all His birthday celebrations. It should prove to be quite the gathering. I am the worst when it comes to pictures but I will try to capture the flavor of the festivities. There will be special services at the Temple, pageants, songs and general frivolity at the Tibetan Children’s Village (TCV).

I need you for editing services upon my return; I must begin writing all this down. I have been the subject of various forms of verbal coercion; shy toadying to my ego, and allusions to possible good to be accomplished and duty, among other tommyrot. It has been proposed by those I have known for decades and a body of strangers whose numbers continue to rise as if by design that my writing is valuable to others. When the Universe hands me order by decree She seems to, in my case, use a sledgehammer to the skull as opposed to a divine whisper to the ear.

The trip to Delhi was long but uneventful which is the best one could hope for. I still cannot believe I had no jet lag, but India got me the next day with the heat in the plains on the way up. I had not forgotten how awful some Indian men can be with the leers and the lewd suggestions; however I thought with my advanced age and dressed from head to foot this trip would be different in that aspect. WRONG. From a 22-year-old encountered yesterday on the way up the ridge to Triund (9000 feet straight. up) to the old men in the streets of Delhi and McLeod Ganj it is amazing. I carry one of my hiking poles at all times and adapt a bristling demeanor. I have yet to be physically accosted, just verbally. It is a trying test of my compassion here in the home of the most compassionate man in the world today.

My audience with His Holiness on Saturday was brief (he had over 900 people lined up outside for a public address and greeting) but illuminating. I will tell you all about it when I see you. I have hopes of seeing Him again before I leave; but He is in and out of town and so am I.

The Tibetan people remain wonderful, warm, and amazing. I am treated by all except the children as a child myself. Several of the mothers have decided they need to redress me every time they see me. I am of course in proper chuba and blouse, somewhat at odds with the hiking boots I'll grant you; but I am not stepping foot on these streets without them. The outfits are a bit like playing dress up every day; and I always receive so much verbal, as well as glances, of approval. You know me, the approval junkie.

I am teaching some of the monks English. The children are on holiday from school until 12 June. I met with the Principal and I shall do some lecturing on science and politics; but we cannot make me too much of their schedule because it would not do to have them become used to me and then have me leave so soon. Most of these children have had more loss in their young lives already than seems possible to bear.

I huffed and puffed up the mountain to Triund yesterday with a full pack; but I did make it. That was the easy part. Getting down is ALWAYS the difficult part. I limped into my hotel 11 hours later battered (I hit my head on a rock, of course), bruised (a rock fell on me), blistered (but only one toe, and not badly), with my knees screaming, "Have you lost your mind!."

I met two groups on the way up, then met them again at the ridge. One a group of Israelis and the other Aussies, delightful people. They did beat me going up and then again coming down, but were carrying no packs and only taking the trail to the ridge. I kept repeating to my ego I was the one carrying the extra thirty years- it is a toss as to whether that made me feel worse or better.

I shall spend the next few days resting for the big climb and watching Wimbledon as any civilized person.

I love you my darling. Keep safe and well,


Maude Lynn said...

Am I understanding this correctly? Did you get to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama?

Just when I think that I can't possibly be in any more awe of you . . .

The Good Woman said...

Wow. How long were you there for? Sounds like a very special time.

jmb said...

Lovely letter Lady Mac, which I'm sure Q was very happy to receive and we are very happy to be sharing.
It made me think of a young woman in my book club,an ESL teacher here, who spent 3 months teaching English to Tibetans in a refugee camp in Northern India. She talked about it when we read Sky Burial by Xinran earlier this year. She brought photos with her and spoke so movingly about her time there and she still keeps in touch with some of them.

lady macleod said...

mama zen

Yes, but don't be in awe of me; be in awe of Him. He is amazing and so funny. I have known Him most of my life as I spent much of my youth in that part of the world.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

good woman

this was a two and half month visit. It was the year I turned 50, and to celebrate I returned to climbing for the first time since Q's birth. It was brilliant.

thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...


wonderful. what is her name? I'm sure we must know some of the same people, the McLeod Ganj is a small town.

thank you for coming by.

I Beatrice said...

What a fascinating post - and to think it's seven years old!

I assumed at first that it was the Pope who was coming! But somehow the Dalai Lama (sorry if, like the animal of that name, he also has two l's)... the DL was very much more thrilling. Did you feel the holiness when you stood near him (and please believe me, I mean no levity there!)? He is someone I truly respect, and I'd love to know what he said to you - though don't expect I ever shall (and wouldn't dream of asking.)

I was intrigued to see that you refer to him with a capital H for Him... I had thought it was only God who was accorded that honour? But then, what would I know about such things?

My brother was in Tibet recently too. But to study the perma frost levels, not to meet the Dalai... He later went to Siberia for the same purpose; these two places apparently being among the last on earth to have preserved the frost. The survival of which, I gather, is essential to the earth's own survival..

At least I THINK that's what he told me - though I may very well be wrong. My brother tells me things like that, but I don't always hear him properly.. It being his fate to deal in matters so far beyond the grasp of most ordinary mortals that he is seldom heard properly, much less understood.

(This is not Bill, btw, but my real brother in the real world. Who is just a little like Bill, when I come to think of it...)

Thank you so much for delighting us all again.

lady macleod said...

i beatrice

your brother sounds an interesting chap indeed. i believe there remains some permafrost on Alaska's north slope as well. the geologist on duty at Prudhoe Bay gave us a short tour there in 2004; the area is in danger of losing the permafrost both to tourists and global warming.

His Holiness is not a god, it is just habit I suppose as He is indeed Holy. It is not any sense of holiness I always carry away from His presence but a sense of peace and laughter. He is very funny. I remember as a child I thought He must amuse the gods very much.

Thanks to the Chinese, His Holiness is not in Tibet, but in Northern India. The Chinese having failed to kill all the Tibetans are now in the process of breeding them out, the new rail road from China to Tibet will help speed that up along with the ruin of the Tibetan Plain.

thank you for coming by.

Welshcakes Limoncello said...

Lucky Q, to have received such a letter. I am sure she will treasure it all her life. I just adore the bit about your "bristling demeanour" and can picture it!

I Beatrice said...

Thank you for your long and considered reply, Lady M. I think my sister-in-law will be alarmed to hear about the Alaskan perma-frost. These surveys seem to involve small charter planes going at some peril to inaccessible places - and her heart is in her mouth for her man, every time!

I love to hear about your experiences with His Holiness though. How very fortunate you were to have that experience so early in life - he must have seemed wonderful indeed to a little girl!

And though I did know a little about the sad history of Tibet's suffering at the hands of China, you have brought it back into my mind very sharply, and I am appalled and angered and saddened all over again!

lady macleod said...


thank you, and thank you for coming by.

lady macleod said...

i beatrice

for an update on the continuing horrors inflicted on Tibet read the article above in today's London Times.

thank you for coming by.

Sparx said...

another wonderful post with a view into another world - thanks for these. I'd indeed read a collection of tales from your wonderful life.

lady macleod said...


thank you and thank you for coming by.