Neverness

I am sitting under a wishful sun at the Dalai Lama Temple in McLeodganj. It’s a Sunday and I am three days short of the Dalai Lama’s 70th birthday. In a remote and unworldly way, I am also celebrating my own. The mist here is busy, swaying and dancing to the tunes of a deep baritone. It’s the voice of the world’s most heard spiritual leader.

The Dalai Lama is speaking in Tibetan. His English, on the best of days, can only be described as ‘reluctant’. But to the faithfuls language is hardly an issue. To many outside the faith, it may seem nothing’s EVER an issue with the faithfuls. A lot of those at the temple square are wrinkled and graying. It’s a generation that has followed its leader to the ends of the earth. And which continues to do so, walking deeper and deeper into an abyss where logic has no place.

Today this Pied Piper generation seems resigned to a NEVERNESS. A neverness that it faces, day in and day out, without ever succumbing to its enormity or unfairness. It’s no surprise that there are perhaps more foreigners fighting to free Tibet than there are Tibetans.

Nima, who later materializes before me at the Tara Café, says he speaks Hindustani as a mark of respect for the Indian state. He even introduces himself as Suraj, a name he says is a synonym of Nima.

Chamba, his younger friend, doesn’t share Nima’s sentiments. “What did your generation get by learning Hindustani?” asks Chamba. Old Nima winces at the observation, changes the topic, and returns to talking about the goodness of Indians. “I have seen the whole country,” he says sipping chai and namkeen. “So so so much to see and so so so many lovely people.”

The conversation suddenly switches to Tibetan. Chamba reminds Nima of what seems like an unpleasant incident. Nima brushes him aside and tells him that his generation only knows how to hit, not how to take a hit. “That’s a bigger lesson learnt,” says Nima.

Chamba unlike Nima, came to India 15 years ago. Nima’s almost been here for 50. They’re both pacifists and returners to the wheel of existence. They both believe in the returnability of life.

There’s a blue-green peacock that sits on Nima’s forearm. A tattoo. “It’s my biggest regret,” he says as he tries in vain to peal the peacock off his skin. Because, it is said that those with tattoos don’t return to the wheel of existence as a human being. Nima’s lived with that curse for over two decades now. Anyways, he says, it’ll be a shorter life as an insect or an animal.

In a way he typifies the first wave of faithfuls who left home and country to stand by their god-king. I can't think of any other king or ruler being followed into exile by his people. Even the just denizens of Ayodhya couldn't dream of doing that. Which makes these Tibetans even more unique.

Life under a strange sky mustn’t have been easy. But Nima and his generation have survived, and in the process learned to be grateful for all the Nevernesses life pushes your way.

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