Notes on Antique Textiles, Folk Art & Timeless Traditions – Jaina Mishra
2007. Tibet – at a location just outside Lhasa. A short climb up a hill to a monastery. Quiet place – left alone by tourists. After many stops along the way to catch my breath, I reached the building. Spent time watching the few mnonks, and enjoying the architecture and the colors everywhere. Bought a drink and decided to rest for awhile – just absorbing the atmosphere.
And that’s when I saw 2 caucasian gentlemen sitting on a backless bench in the courtyard and decided to join them for a conversation. That was my first encounter with bicycle tourism. Both were from western Europe, friends from neighboring countries. Both more than 50 years old. And on a cycling trip they had just begun, from Lhasa to the Everest Base Camp. The wildness of this combination – still has me awed. My naive mind had believed that the advetnure quotient of one’s life decreases with advancing age. But here these men, more than a decade older than me were indulging in adventure that I found way beyond the limits of what normal people ought to be doing! Then they revealed that they were not professional cyclists. This was journey. Maybe they saw the Lhasa- EBC route as the easiest? Anyway – its not over yet……
The men sat on the bench across me as we chatted. Soon a monk walks up to us. Bent over. Maybe he had a walking stick that extended well beyond his height. The brilliant colors of his robes, attracted all our eyes and we watched him as he approached wordlessly, with a friendly smile. He ignored me but began a sign language conversation with the men. And immediately tapped on one of the legs of the man sitting to the left. The man smiled and gestured in explanation. The monk smiled and went on, leaving us. I had no clue what had just happened but was sure that this was just friendly interaction – where no one really knew what was being said. And soon, I understood I was wrong.
The monk, from a distance had noticed what I had failed to see inspite of engaging with the men in conversation for over 5 minutes. The man on the left had a wooden leg. The monk tapped that leg as if to ask a question. And the man had tried to explain it. And the monk had blessed him and moved on. All this within a few seconds. And me, sitting there for mintues, had not seen this at all.
I was in awe of their story even before I knew this fact. And after this last bit, I felt like I was in a motivational reader’s digest story…
We spent the next 2 minutes chatting about his accident 15 years ago and then recovery and then the wooden prosthetic leg. And then we went our ways – I don’t know their names and they don’t know mine.
Post facto – I wish I had gotten over my shock and awe and had accosted this team of two with a million more questions about their lives, their project and their thinking …..un-ashamedly. I should have attacked them with questions! Its too rare to find a story like this – and when it does happen – it is a shame to have lost the insights of their story – simply for the lack of asking!
The ‘different-ness’ of lives and minds that we encounter along the journey introduces and validates unexplored thoughts and life models – very very necessary for personal growth and personal humility.
p.s. watching foreign films – italian, french, iranian – has a similar effect …destruction of life axioms …destruction of the rule book of life about what can and cannot be done
http://www.wovensouls.com – A web Gallery of Antique, Tribal, Nomadic & Ethnic textiles from endangered cultures
http://www. jewelsofthepeacock.com – A web Gallery of Antique Silver Jewellery