Wednesday, September 28, 2005
Aspirin and kora
A week in Leh now , all too easy to settle in to a comfortable pace : breakfast with kombish, homemade apricot jam and Yongchens yummy spiced mint-tea.
On arrival I was fit to wrestle a yak , second day (after stopping the gingko ) I was down to a small dog. Today : maybe a donkey.
Went to Thikse monastery yesterday , on a crammed, shallow breathing only, minibus. Later I met four of the ladies ( in traditional Ladakhi gos plus Calvin Klein handbags) in the upper story of the lhakhang, where the top part of the Buddha statue projects. A monk was giving a long explanation of the paintings, statues and more , richly interspersed with the ooohs! and aaahs! from the ladies. One of them held the green personal health record book from the Men Tse Khang , the Tibetan traditional hospital , and made notes in it. Yes. Health - all aspects.
Same ooohs! and aahs! later on in the clay modelers studio, where the artists were busy making a statue depicting the yabyum sexual position , from the same ladies that probably never would dream of showing their legs.
Later I had a nice talk with a monk in the new dukhang ( assembly hall). Talked about changes since I was here : the new , glassfitted windows dukhang : warmer in the winter... but also the changes from the outside : the pressure from tourist groups that has resulted in a series of locked rooms and signs : please dont drink alcohol, curse or sit on the abbots throne...
" Not many real monks today" - competition has crept into the mindset of many Ladakhis today. A book* I recently finished argued - with a lot of convincing stories behind it - that the social qualities of the Ladakhis were as much a product of the trading that practically every ladakhi family had to engage in to make ends meet. This trading involved the need to be able to make verbal agreements that would span over long time , up to a year, and crosssed distances fro a coupe of days march to other countries : the salt plains of Tibet and the trading houses of Yarkand. The chang of todays tourist driven economy saps this fabric because the relations are much shorter , and with the increased number of tourist involved, more impersonal .
A nice talk as I said , and without the setting of the sadly necessary signs I would have asked if I could take a portrait of the monk. Now it feels uncomfortable taking photographs of anyone I've met the first day.
Back on a even more crammed minibus , where it was easy to see that Ladkhi life still works : every time new passengers were let on an intricate dance takes place to make sure that those that need a seat really gets it.
Will hopefully get a Inner Line Permit today, onwards to Nubra tomorrow.
*Janet Rizvi. Trans-Himalayan Caravans: Merchant Princes and Peasant Traders in Ladakh