Meeting the Bon monks of Menri Monastery in India
Note: This is part one of a series that highlights my time in India. I travelled there solo in the summer of 2010. Things have changed a lot, as have I, but here we go…
“Denny. Denny is easy to say. It’s the name of a Bollywood star. But Danae?” The monk sitting behind me shakes his head, smiling and tsking a bit. “Different.”
We’re riding along one of Delhi’s rushed roads, where cars and bikes, rickshaws and three-wheelers, jostle one another for minimal space. Horns blare – as they should, considering the number of “Horns, Please!” signs on the back of bumpers. A couple lorries roll past, stacked with bags of grain and casually reclining dark skinned men.
“Deeeeny.” Muses the quieter Geshe, Soonum, with a wrinkle of his brow. “Dennny?”
“Don’t worry about it. It’s a weird name even in English.”
So began my trip to Delhi. I’m staying with the Geshes at the Majnu Ka Tille Tibetan refugee center, perched in the northern edge of the city amid flies and old buildings.
My room has air conditioning, provided by a noisy box blowing cold air through the window (“Good for keeping away mosquitos,” Geshe Samdup told me, prompting my non-Malaria-vaccinated self to deliberately freeze the entire night); and a shower consisting of a bucket. It works.
Leaving early this morning, I braved Delhi by traveling down to the Red Fort. The Red Fort, unfortunately, was closed. So I did the next best thing: I got lost.
This involved wandering through the city, past markets and street vendors. The flies are everywhere. Small booths offer crushed limes with ice, others dates, others still bits of meat covered in thin sheets of plastic and black flickering bugs. Every step brings a new smell: cumin, spice, sweet, dirt, garbage, rot. The heat pushes down oppressively, and bodies bumble past, always framed by the loud chaos of honking horns.
A young boy sprinted by on my left. Running beside him, about equal height, was a goat. He reached out and patted the goat’s neck as they hurried forward, quickly lost in the crowd. Then there are chickens in cages, their wings like bits of straw; and baby chicks, fluffy and yellow. Food, sounds, noise. Chaos.
“Hello, ma’am. Good day ma’am.” Mixing in with the sounds of horns and bartering were the charming calls of would-be suitors.
Now, after barely a few hours, I have returned to the much quieter corner of Delhi that is the Tibetan refugee center. I will drink tea and probably eat dinner again with the Geshes (who help me pick from plates with foreign names, ordering steamed bread and spicy dishes of noodles and sauce).
Tomorrow we make the eight hour drive up to Menri. There is flooding in the Northern part of India right now, but hopefully all will go well.
Until then, I’m going to go enjoy the chaos of this big city – or at least the chai tea it has to offer.