When you have been invited to be part of a 60 member birthday celebration of a larger- than -life figure, Sidhesh Kaul , you DONT SAY ‘ NO’!
But , just then , you read the fine print and discover the ‘party ‘ is in Leh , in faraway , high altitude Ladakh !
You stand back and shudder !
At this point in your life you are messed up with peculiar Medical issues . Do you want to add to that list ??
For bratty Sid and his lovely , lively wife Cherry you decide well er …er …YES !
And this decision is Unanimous too !
And so , Mid -sept 60 of us swoop down to one of the 10 most scenic airports of the world !
Surrounded by miles of barren desert mountains , skirting the winding Indus River , the valley kingdom of Leh surprises and teaches .
Lesson number one …Preparation is key !
For the first 3 days,
Diamox , a determination to rest and to have three litres of water before three ! Piece of cake , right ??!
One may be fascinated by the army presence in Leh , drawn by the Tibetan markets , in awe of motorbike 🏍 enthusiasts , , but it is the nurturing Buddhist peace that is overwhelming.
In the numerous stupas,monasteries , thangkas life’s learnings begin and end .
Huff , puff , up you trudge to the monasteries of Alchi , Hemis ,Stakna ..to name a few .
Located high atop arid hills , the steps up , get only steeper as you approach the colourful assembly halls .
So here’s Lesson number two . To get anywhere in life might appear easy but IT IS NOT ! You have to strive , keeping your goal clear in mind !
And then ,when you finally reach the shrines to the countless Boddhisattvas , you Bend !Sometimes even genuflect !
The doors to the temple chambers are small , ostensibly to protect from the cool mountain air but entering the sacred atrium coaxes a kind of humble respect !
‘Be humble!’ is lesson no 3 !
You are amazed by the Buddha embodiments of
Karuna ( compassion)
Maitreya ( friendship )
Manjushri ( wisdom )
ARM yourself with all three , my friend . That’s lesson number four !
The Mother Goddess of Longevity , Tara is here to guide and shower you her blessings .
In the beautiful monastery at Alchi , Tashi , our very knowledgeable guide , shows us a four foot diametered , intricately designed Sand Mandala .
He relates a story of how the Head Monk endeavoured to teach Detachment to his students by a swift swipe of his shawl on the hitherto painstakingly made mandala .
It must have pained the student monks to see their 6 month work destroyed in a flash !
It certainly did , us !
But detachment is the path to enlightenment .. Hey and we all want to be enlightened ! 💪
Sitting by a stream bathed by the afternoon sun at Le Mentok , a gentle breeze blowing in the azure skies , listening to the strains of an ace Ladakhi band , one could not help but experience ‘serenity’ !
It shows ,right ?!
By now , this rather special group of Sidheshs friends , born from ‘his life’s journey’ , had become each other’s friends too …
Share , Care ,Enjoy the NOW ! Lesson number 5 !
Our every meal in Leh was a treat! But Ladakhi cuisine presented by Kunzis , Chef extraordinaire in ‘the Willow’ , near Stok Palace , was a masterpiece!
Using ‘local’ ingredients , though they may have come from ‘nearby’ Tibet , Himachal , Kashmir , or Ladakh itself she wove in stories and delicate flavours to create the magical …
Especially the Yarkhandi pulao …
A shank of mutton cooked long and slow in a bed of rice with julienned carrots garnished with Afghan raisins , roasted apricot kernels .. ooh lala !
No lesson here .. Just Go ahead , Spoil yourself , soak in the ‘flavours’ , you are allowed to titillate your palate !
No religion BEGS for World Peace the way Buddhism does .
It was a pleasure meeting Ven . Gyomyo Nakamura , who came to India from Japan in 1975, embraced Buddhism and set up the magnificent Shanti Stupa in an effort to establish 🌎 peace !
Love All !
That’s Message no 6 .Include the birds animals ,the mentally challenged ,literally ALL !
In the early morning hours of our last day we visited the picturesque Thiksey monastery .
Here , young novice monks are taught logic and philosophy . The little monks scamper up and down the stairs , as sprightly as monkeys smiling as they carry heavy buckets of buckwheat and water , respectfully serve buttered tea to the senior Monks and the devotees seated in the prayerhall , recite chants !
These daily normal activities make them strong, wise , happy ! And it is this happiness which augurs an inner strength , an inner energy .
Lesson number 7 !
And thats the last of Twinnys weekly learnings ! ‘Do all your daily chores whilst-growing steadily within! ‘
I close my eyes taking in the chants of the morning prayers , rising in crescendo , the beating of the drums , the clashing of cymbals , the trumpeting of the bugle .
Every once in a while , in our lives there is an inner call , an awakening , a ‘bodhi ‘ moment ..
With my bugle, cymbals and drums
I applaud you Siddhu Baba and Cherry …
You have given us this ‘bodhi ‘ moment .
‘Life’ truly is a celebration !
A majestic one at that
Thankyou ! Thankyou !
And wish you a very happy birthday !
Hang in there folks ! A prize photo and a question follows ..
At Pangong Lake
Take a bow , Madhukar ! Oh I see ,you are doing the headstand !
Maninder and Shamila Kohli ….You are absolute stars ! But here comes the ‘question ‘
Pray , Why is your Event Management company called JUNIPER???!
And now finally Toodle loo Folks ! Bombay beckons …
Love you all !🤗❤️✨