| Sarjit Kaur | Roti for the Soul | Asia Samachar | 13 April 2015 |
You think you own whatever land you land on;
The earth is just a dead thing you can claim;
But I know every rock and tree and creature;
Has a life, has a spirit, has a name.
The theme song from Disney’s movie Pocahontas echoed in my ears. I gazed in awe at the jet black rock and rugged terrains. It seemed so near, like we were on the ground. The view was breath taking. I felt on top of the world, connecting to His magnificent formation, at the highest peak on earth!
Soft white snow coated its terrain surface, forming a lighted path. The terrains were uneven; mainly ascending, others descending and the rest flat. The snow is there for a reason. To provide perspective to the black rocks for a trail, to facilitate a mountaineer’s scaling. Divinity lies where contrasting thresholds are present. Dark and light. Yin and yang. We saw the convergence of Mother Nature in black and white; the white snow against the black rocks. It was a mystical sight and we soaked in her beauty!
We were in Pokhara, an 8-hour road drive from Kathmandu. We took a mountain flight via Simrik Airlines over the pristine Himalayan range at 6,000 meters above sea level. There were 16 of us in this tour group; alumni classmates from CHIJ School Seremban and 3 invited guests, which included me. Everyone had a window seat which promised a spectacular view. During the hovering of the range, we saw replicas of the highest mountain. Mount Everest stood majestically at 8,848 meters, visible afar from the cockpit. We noticed a ring of cloud enveloping its peak. So angelic! This Himalayan range, spreads from Tibet to Nepal with the final range finishing in India.
Three countries house this wonder of the world. The same countries that assisted Tibet when China invaded its territories in 1959 resulting in Dalai Lama, its monks and people of Tibet to flee the country. Mother Nature connected them in ways they never dreamt of! Refugee camps and schools were built in Nepal to home the Tibetans.
Purity is found in the filthiest of conditions, just as a pure lotus flower emerges from a murky pond. Nepal was never colonialised. It is a place back in time, we contemporary architects would say. Rustic, dusty and ancient. It lacks modern and centralised transportation system and organised town planning, unlike the colonies under the British or Dutch rule. But all for a reason – to preserve its values. People are so devoted to God. We saw it in the Hindu and Buddhist temples. Young and old were kneeling in prayer and chanting. We hear their lifestyle stories. We have lost it in our modern civilization. There is a natural and magical connection in Nepal. The spiritual energy permeates within yourself and you feel its subtle vibration externally.
Some may look at the Nepalese community with empathy and sympathy. That’s because our parameters for success are: x number of cars, x number of properties and the list of worldly possessions go on. When in actual fact, these down to earth and blessed people should be feeling sorry for us. We have all the money in the world but suffer emptiness in our hearts. It’s all about perspectives… They are joyful and fulfilled. And that matters most. Remember that in the final analysis, we don’t bring possessions with us, only our nourished soul.
My late Dad, Tara Singh, greeted us everywhere. From Tara Airlines to Tara Apartments to Tara Hotel, he was with us and smiling away. Tara means ‘star’ in Punjabi. My friend asked if Dad had made those ‘star’ investments in Nepal, which we have no knowledge of. Well, we sure would be millionaires, if he did. Guess, that was not written in our destiny…
My spiritual teacher sent me a message to silently pray, for God to bless and free the spiritual souls roaming and embedded within the rocks, mountains, trees and creatures; as beautiful and magical as they seem. The spirit in these living beings as sung by Pocahontas, I thought. He explained, “They have been waiting all these time for a soul to bless them with a prayer. They want to be liberated as mortals and sing the praises of God, as we do. So, they’d be able to spread virtuousness and merge with God infinitely.” I couldn’t help control my tears. Pray, I did.
Human is the highest form of God’s creation. We have a direct path to liberate eternally, as compared to plants and animals. Hence, we must give it our best shot and not get lost in this worldly world. We must find ourselves, our souls, our divinity. The Sri Guru Granth Sahib (SGGS) explains it clearly and beautifully: He himself created the 8.4 million species of beings, only in this human life is devotional worship to the Guru, implanted within.
We visited the Tibetan refugee camp. A lady in her 70’s was busy at work. With her palms pressed together, she greeted us with a warm “Namaste”. She is a pioneer member of the camp, having lived there for 50 years! She patiently wrapped the remnants of Yak fur – their wild goat, from a pail, to form a thread bale. These threads are colored and weaved into material or pashmina shawls. They form their finest yet lightest wraps that keep you warm from the chill.
In the Tibetan school, kids are brought up in a happy environment. They ran to greet us and gave endless kisses on our cheeks filled with sweet lollies. Sticky and nice! They were beaming with love. Dalai Lama placed a solid foundation. He liberated them from being prisoners of their own country. They walked past freezing temperatures, frosty Himalayan ranges and avalanches to break free. Some did not make it through the journey. We see their sacrifices in these kids. The future Dalai Lamas of the world. Their smiles reveal it all. They have found their temple. The temple within their souls…
Nepal is an intricate and beautiful tapestry formed by interweaving Hinduism, Buddhism and other beliefs. We travelled to Manakamana Devi temple, located at the peak of a mountain via cable car. Mana means heart while Kamana infers wish. It is believed that Goddess Bhagwati fulfills the wishes of devotees who come here.
We visited the holy Boudhanath Buddhist Temple, one of the largest stupa in Nepal, a centre of pilgrimage and meditation for Tibetan Buddhists. It contains relics and remains of Kassapa Buddha, the third of the five Buddhas. The five elements of earth, water, fire, air and ether are represented in the stupa’s architecture. We went around the temple in a clock wise motion. A contrasting scene captured my eye. I saw an elderly Tibetan monk in a saffron robe chanting and a young western lady in her yoga prayer pose, sharing the same meditative space, one behind of another. There was no generation gap. No gender nor ethnic gap. There was only one race in spiritual solitude. The human race.
The van ride from Kathmandu to the Pokhara valley offered country views. We saw the transition from hills, to mountains, to rivers. It was a bonding journey for us. We became Carpenters, John Denver, Anne Murray, all in one, singing and reminiscing the meaning of the lyrics which so aptly described our situation.
We further explored caves and rivers. Mahendra Cave was full of lime stones in the form of stalagmites and stalactites that fall to the ground. The ground and natural formation of rocks within its enclave were moist and damp. A temple with a statue of Lord Shiva was inside. The canal is completely dark with continuous sounds of dripping of water overhead. We held hands to lend support each other in negotiating its challenging track. At the end of the cave, we saw a white spark of light amidst all darkness. We basked in His light. As in life, there’s always light at the end of the tunnel. Faith, effort and determination takes us there.
Seti River Gorge passes through Pokhara but you won’t see it until you go looking as it is mostly located underground. The river has carved a deep, narrow chasm through the middle of the town, turning the water milky green. It streams from the Himalayan range. So pure and clear. Our tour guide scooped a bucket-filled. I drank from my palms and splash its freshness on my face and head, like a cleansing ritual. I felt rejuvenated.
Nepal borders China and India on opposite sides. Hence, the food comprise a unique combo of Chinese and Indian cuisine. They are not so bland and not so spicy. Dhall or their soup of lenthils with spices is a mandatory dish. Thali which means plate are meals served on brass round tray with small bowls. The vegetarian thalis come with dhall, vegetable curry, yoghurt, pickles, papad and basmati rice and naans. Momos which is the Tibetan or Shanghai style dumplings with Nepali sauce is a popular food. They are filled with goat or chicken meat or vegetarian stuffing.
After a long and arduous road journey from Pokhara back to Kathmandu, our hotel owner, Sudarshan decided to get his hands dirty and whip us a sumptuous dinner comprising chicken curry, mixed vegetables, yoghurt, naan and freshly grated pomegranate juice. The food was on the house! We were spell bound at his generosity. So big at heart. The ‘poor’ are kinder and always richer.
I came home and was met with concrete, brick and mortar jungles. I felt a disconnect. Like the movie ‘PK’ by Amir Khan, I felt like an alien landing in Kuala Lumpur. In Nepal, we were feasting on our senses on Mother Nature, everywhere we step foot. There was a continuous flow of connectedness with our surrounding.
It was a humbling journey. An unplanned bucket list, as it turned out. I learnt that Mother Nature not only provides a gateway and passage to achieve that connectedness, but she is – The connection herself. The truth is – we are all spiritually connected to one another, in a circle, in a hoop that never ends. We must seek. And find, we will. God will light up our path. And darkness will fade.
Roti for the Soul is a column on life and its quirks. Sarjit Kaur is a wife, mother and an official at the Malaysian stock exchange.
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