The Silent Whispers …

In the December of 2010, I got this wonderful opportunity to visit the ‘beauuuutiful‘ hill-station town of Manali. Manali is a small town in the Northern part of India, in the Indian state of Himachal Pradesh. It’s a famous tourist place and a hill station with really peaceful and beautiful people. I call them ‘beautiful’ especially because, apart from having very warm hearts, most of the people there have these appealing ‘rosy cheeks’ ๐Ÿ˜€ Don’t get me wrong, but maybe its because of the climate, or their cheeky genes! Or maybe because they chew on a lot of apples all fresh from their orchards there ๐Ÿ˜€ (Would be wrong to make it a generalization, though)ย  And, I am sure everyone will be mesmerized by their helping and down-to-earth attitude.

Talking about climate, I bet you India has a lot of extremes all around. You maybe shivering {or, maybe also on the verge of dying ๐Ÿ˜€ } when you’re in Kashmir. It hits -30 degs below zero sometimes. And, in the same day at the same time your friend down in South India might be ‘sweating’ profusely, like a pig ๐Ÿ˜€ย  And, I am telling you, I have an experience of both. So its always better to do some research before going to places.

Back to Manali now. You will find a lot many Buddhist monasteries, and also some ancient temples. One day, while walking on the street for about an hour, I stopped inside a makeshift restaurant. The chilly wind, did little to keep me warm and so I ordered a cup of Chai. Chai is the Indian name for Tea. I stroke up a conversation with a man sitting across me. I got to know from him that Manali was also known as the ‘Valley of Gods‘. According to Indian mythology, there was a sage named Manu who had stepped from his ship into Manali after whole of the Human race was destroyed due to the Great floods. It was after the sage that this place was named. His story sounded similar to the Hollywood movie 2012. I was pretty confused as to whether this man was mocking me with his own made-up story ๐Ÿ˜€ I couldn’t stop myself from asking him,ย  “Hey man, are you kiddin’ me? You must be talking about the movie, right? and cooking up this story. Also, I believe 2012 has surely inspired you way too much” ๐Ÿ˜€ He gave me a gentle smile, and then said “Son! That’s the story of Manali. We heard it from our fathers and fore-fathers and that’s how it passes from one generation to the next”. He gave this innocent look, and I could do little to not believe him. At times, I really feel so foolish, either Hollywood is making a mockery of the mythological stories or the locals are ๐Ÿ˜€ But, naah I had to agree to what he said. He seemed to be a good man. And thus we chatted for about half an hour more.

Finally, when I thought it was time, and stood up to leave, I could hear the gongs of bells coming from somewhere nearby. I sat again and asked him, what these sounds were. He told me that just 100 metres from here, there was a Buddhist monastery. The smell of the incense sticks livened up the atmosphere. Wow! what more can you expect apart from a cup of hot tea in this chilly atmosphere and the smell of the fresh incense sticks. The feeling was awesome. I thanked him for his time and started walking. I was pretty excited as I could feel the hymns as I came nearer. Finally, I entered the huge gates. Just outside the pagoda, there was a woman sitting alone. I was curious what she was doing.

I went to her and saw her holding a Buddhist Mala or a rosary. A mala or a rosary is used to keep count of the number of times you recite the hymn or the chant, the mantra. The most commonly used mala contains 108 beads made of Tulsi wood, although malas made of many different materials can also be found. Some of the malas also contain more or less beads, but normally are in multiples of 9. I didn’t know why it was only “108”, and so a quick Google search tells me this as the reason . Now, you might be wondering how I know so much about these rosary beads. I have a funny story here.

When I was a really small kid, I was sitting on my mom’s lap in one of the store-rooms. She was delicately cleaning some stuff that she thought, she would put in the living room as ornamental decoration. She opened a box, and inside it were about 7-8 malas that others had gifted her. While she was cleaning, I picked up one with bigger beads and put it in my pocket, without her noticing. I still kept sitting there, and my mom told me how and when these delicate things were used. Earlier the previous day, I had actually lost my ball in the gutter, so I had nothing to play with ๐Ÿ˜‰ Finally, when I was alone, I pulled the mala from my pocket and kept on staring at it for about 5 minutes. The innocent mind in me started thinking, “Wow! I had lost just one ball. Now, I have 108 balls to play with (literally speaking so as to say) ๐Ÿ˜€ And BOOM !! I pulled apart the string, and one by one all the beads started falling. Fact is, after almost 16 years from when it happened, I still have one bead as a prized possession that reminds me of that innocent and naughty childhood, haha PS ~ I just hope my mom isn’t reading this !! ๐Ÿ˜€

Okay, so back to the monastery now. I watched as the lady continued her prayers and then she picked up the rosary bead and started with her soft hymns (which I couldn’t hear BTW!) I walked up to her, and asked her what she was doing. She didn’t reply. At first, I thought I was disturbing her. And so I waited for another 2 minutes. As I slowly grew impatient and irritated that she didn’t answer me for so long, I was about to go. Just at that moment, I found what it really was. There are some Buddhist monks and nuns that take their vows very, very seriously! They don’t speak at all!! ๐Ÿ˜ฎ All of you who must have watched the movie “Hangover Part 2” will surely know what I am talking about. Immediately, I turned back and she was smiling. Maybe, I had made the connect, or maybe she did ๐Ÿ˜‰ And it was then that I realized that at times, we humans are so full of our own thoughts that we completely forget, that there’s also another side of the story. I signaled to her that I was taking her picture. She didn’t mind. I clicked. Then, I bowed and thanked her. She smiled. I left this beautiful, spiritual lady in her zen world and felt good that she had taught me a lesson for the day. And then, I walked from there hoping that a new story awaited.

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