Posts Tagged ‘india travel’

I walk slowly while moving the prayer wheels, large metal-plated cylinders containing sacred mantras,  clockwise. Behind me, shuffling feet. An old Tibetan man barefoot, muttering prayers, a rosary running through his fingers. Soon he is past me. With every turn of the prayer wheel, karma is meant to be burned and good karma created, someone had said. I don’t know if that is true but why miss the chance?


© Anuradha Prasad 2019

My friend, the Buddhist, has brought me here, what is my second visit. Her happiness to be in a place she considers home is contagious. The first time that I was here, I was battling choices made, good and bad, and what in retrospect I see as a spiritual wake-me-up which was none too pretty, no halos, no hallelujahs. The second time, I am wary of what losses the visit will bring, forgetting the gains that are on the other side of every loss.

I stop to take in the open fields with occasional trees held together by strings of colorful prayer flags. It is a different world. Just four hours out of Bangalore. It is a world of the displaced. I am here in Bylakuppe, en route to Mysore and Coorg, the largest Tibetan settlement in India after Dharamsala where the Dalai Lama has found a home after the Chinese occupation of Tibet. A country uprooted that has laid roots here, made a home. Only the old perhaps still remember a home of another name, of mountains, of leopards, of snow, of earth where they may have scraped a knee.


© Anuradha Prasad 2019

At another turn, there is the window of a monk’s room. On the sill, a pot of money plant with lush heart-shaped leaves creeping up the grills. One more turn, monks are playing football. There is a smattering of tourists. Seekers of sights or spirituality, who knows. The path has taken me around the Namdroling Monastery. It ends and we enter a surreal silence. Unlike the main areas of the monastery, here it is quiet. A row of white stupas and one that stands apart.


© Anuradha Prasad 2019

My friend, the Buddhist, tells me that the stupa possesses healing energy. Dainty tea cups are placed around it and bottles of pills. I rest at the gazebo. Large black bowls that are placed in the hand of the Buddha are drying in the sun. An old Tibetan woman gives me a toothless smile. Some monks are teasing a kitten, purring and rubbing itself against ankles beneath maroon robes. Their laughter is easy.


© Anuradha Prasad 2019

I walk past the Tara temple, the replica of the Palyul Monastery in Tibet, the turkey strutting on the lawns, monks debating, and the Dharma Wheel and the portrait of His Holiness Pema Norbu Rinpoche. I walk past the highlight of the monastery, the Golden Temple. Where three Buddha avatars – Buddha Amitayus, Sakyamuni Buddha, and Guru Padmasambhava – rise up to sixty feet. Where they stand resplendent in copper with gold plating, from within them emanating, the energy of relics and scriptures. Where snow lions stand guard. Where deities of peace and wrath war. Where dragons twine around pillars. I walk past the temple that rung with the vibrations of gongs and chants, now in silence in the late afternoon of a high sun and a wheeling hawk.


© Anuradha Prasad 2019

There is a strange kind of feeling in my heart. The past and future are hushed. The heart is still, still but aware, still but alive. I realize it could be peace. On the other side lies wrath.

As we drive away, past a nunnery, past slender trees arranged uniformly and cutting space into narrow bars of sky, I turn back. Up in the green canopy, I see a white crane, hunched, in contemplation.

© Anuradha Prasad 2019

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walking a trail through a coffee plantation at the break of dawn © Anuradha Prasad 2018

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the golden temple, namdroling monastery, byleguppe © Anuradha Prasad, 2017

“The eagle perched above her empty nest
can go now. Because settling in and listening
to what remains of her fading sorrow
is becoming less important
than surfacing elsewhere,
breathing in new air
of a nurturing current
as she regally soars.”

  – Susan Frybort via My VividLife

My father and I would walk up the monolith. At the top, looking out at the other side – an expanse of trees that emanated a frail, lonely, abandoned air – he would tell me about the tiger who lived there. As my eyes searched for the tiger both apprehension and anticipation would grip me. That was thirty years ago.

I stand here once again, alone. I look for the rock sliding into a tree copse. Ah, but memory is fickle. The scene exists only in the child who believed in the tiger lurking among trees. And she is still in there waiting for the sinewy cat to show itself.


LB 1

The Lal Bagh Botanical Garden is an ornamental garden. The monolith that has been classified as a Peninsular Gneiss is 3000 years old. It is 7am, the sun is still choosing the day’s colour for the sky, and the place is already crawling with people and a few dogs.

LB 2

Atop this rock, sits one of the watch towers erected by Kempegowda I to mark the limits of Bangalore. The city outgrew these limits a long time ago.

LB 3

A child runs down the hillock barefoot just as we did as children. It is easier with your shoes off, and the rock feels both firm and cool against the feet.

LB 4

There are morning walkers who are catching up on gossip post-walk. Groups of tourists are guided by tour operators.

LB 5

Some are trying to meditate. Like this man who sat away from the crowd. A plumeria tree with buttery blooms stood a little distance from him.

LB 6

Vidhana Soudha, which could once be seen from a certain point, is no longer visible. Instead there are hazy, nondescript buildings rising up in the distance.

LB 7

Solitude does not wrap you here. How then will the tiger appear? It is time to go.

© Anuradha Prasad, 2016

So there I was heartbroken and just shy of my 30th birthday. The question was where do I arrive and depart from here?

Forty-five minutes later I was rooting for the auto driver as he dodged traffic to get to the bus stand and then before I took stock of things I was on the bus en route to Gokarna with S.

It is funny how our weakest moment can set us free to live more bravely and truthfully. I hope Gokarna will take my mind off things but I take my mind along. A rookie mistake.

I don’t remember much of the bus journey except for the amourous exchanges between the couple in the berth across mine.

Day 1

We get off the bus in Gokarna. We trudge along lost and all we know is we have to head to Gokarna International. One look at it and then at each other’s faces, we are back on the street. An auto driver agrees to take us to Om Beach, named so as the beach seems to spell out Om the way it is written in Sanskrit. Soon we are on the hills zigzagging; these are the Ghats.

Higher and higher and I get my first glimpse of the sea. It is green and brown and green and then there’s shimmering blue gazing up at me. That turn where I first catch sight of it – I forget everything and know I did the right thing coming here to this town named after the cows that are everywhere.


We arrive at the Namaste Café and get a cottage. We sit in the café for a while sea gazing. There are guests sunning themselves or smoking on the porches. But otherwise, it is quiet and deserted. We slather on Nutella on the toast. That was mostly what we ate during our stay.

The town is sweltering. But the shops beckon. There are adorable bandannas, dresses, stoles, harem pants and other hippie-ish clothes that soon help us blend in with the crowd. A young boy sells books in many languages, left behind by tourists and he speaks many languages too – Italian, French, Russian…and they are more than a smattering. Yet another invites us into his shop filled with drums, xylophones and more. He shows us how to hold the African drum pressed between our thighs and how to slap its goat-skin surface with our palms to build a rhythm. He plays and plays until sweat drips down his hair and he is completely lost in the beats.

At a juice shop, we take a break to cool off. The heat is unbearable. A woman, a blonde and older version of Zeenat Aman crooning Dum Maro Dum, sits across the table. A big tikka on her forehead, huge sunglasses, a saffron kurta. She is met by a bald and tattoo-ed man and he asks us where we are from. She is heading to Bangalore, taking a train from there. He says we Indian women are beautiful and the woman swats his arm and laughs. I want to ask them where they are from, where is the train taking them to next, what did Gokarna bring to them…but I don’t.

We stop for a beer at a shack on Kudle beach and the decision is unanimous. We are trading Om Beach for Kudle. We also find the other Gokarna International. We trudge up a hill, the bendy soft grasses brushing our legs and at High Point the views stops us.

Day 2

The next morning, we pack our bags and make our move to Kudle. The descent is steep. We exchange hellos with other tourists. It is friendly and non-intrusive. It feels like we are looking at them and with our hellos we are really agreeing ‘isn’t this wonderful? Aren’t we glad to be here?’ These steep climbs turn into mini waterfalls during the monsoons we are told. The shacks are closed down, not the best time to visit Gokarna. But it is November and just the right time to be here and the clouds have long since cleared.

A man is practicing meditation. Barefoot, he is paying attention to every step he takes, feeling his feet press down into the stones and red earth. We don’t exist as he communes with the earth and his soul.

Day 3

We wake up to the sea. A few boats are bobbing on the waves. There are mostly families with children early in the morning. Children with pails playing in the pools between rocks the sea forgot to take back. The rocks have black crabs crawling on them. A woman in a neon bikini claims the rocks have changed positions, the sea goddess has moved them, she says.

Shells peek out of the sand, some broken and some whole. There are ridges drawn by the sea waves by swirling and pulling at the sand. We trace a circle around a dead starfish, the circle of life. There are sand mounds, castles decked with shells. A bunch of red flowers float by. A pentacle is enclosed in a circle. 369 it says.


Later an older crowd starts coming out. Some spread out the blankets and lay down to tan. Others occasionally run into the water to cool off. A couple exchanges a long kiss, the waves dancing around them. A man with dreadlocks collects shells to put in his hair. At night, it is pitch black and one can’t take a step forward without a long range torch. Only the shacks are alive.

We sit at the shack. More nutella and toast, interrupted by falafel and hummus (lots of Israelis around) and bonafie pie. And Somerset Maugham’s Of Human Bondage while not gazing at the sea.

The Grand Finale

As evening nears, crowds of people sit out on the beach. Cows wander in. There are men selling beaded necklaces. Frisbees in the air. A woman with tassled sticks does her thing. Some just lie back with a book. Slowly, as if by an unspoken agreement, the sea is clear of swimmers and everyone is out on the beach. The cows disappear. The chatter dies down. The clamor of a dog is brought to a halt as an old bearded man with chillum, roars out ‘Shanka!’ We watch the show. Now, there is only the sound of the sea.


A lone lithe woman with wispy blonde hair looks like a sylph thrown out of water. The evening was so heavy with magic, I would not have been surprised if her legs, as they teased the waves with light kicks, had turned into a shimmery green mermaid’s tail and the wave had whisked her away. She seemed to be doing a tango with the sea, taking a step forward as the wave receded and stepping back as it approached. Her boyfriend walked in, a wooden staff in hand, twirling it deftly.

Watching the long drawn out sunset with no promise of an encore, the sky splashed in neon pink, orange like a dragon’s breath and purple, the sun – a great orange ball –  sliding down into the sea, I was restored and I made peace with the world. And then all was dark.

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