Hola! Hope you're smiling :)
Winters are beautiful in McLeodganj, a tiny town of many personalities but predominantly of a resilient fighter whose only ammunition is prayer. It was around half past six that December evening and I had just returned from the Tibetan Government in Exile. Exhausted after a long walk back to the hotel, I hit the cafe straightaway only to find it beautifully empty and devoid of the usual humdrum of travelers talking to each other and making trekking plans or volunteers discussing Tibet. However, the cafe wasn’t all that empty, thanks to one unassuming young man who was loyally observing every little thing in the cafe, the silhouette of the mighty mountains outside the window, little Nobo playing the cards with his waiter uncle, the currency board on the wall, the book shelf and me. He observed and had a very subtle yet fixed smile on his face. How a smile wonderfully illuminated the poorly-lit cafe.
I don’t know if it would do the same to you, but a huge slice of carrot cake at the Green Cafe makes me feel very warm and nice. I got my cake and that inevitably brought me some happiness. Infected with the stranger’s smile, it was only natural for me to walk up to his table, take the chair right across his and share my cake with him even while he was having his Thupa.
The conversation that started with discussing Tibetan autonomy, went back into Tibetan history, world history and our personal histories dating back to the time when we were both around ten years old. The serendipity took us on to a path where we could so easily talk to each other like long lost friends and this guy was a total stranger. After the initial breaking of ice, the rest of my conversation with this warm soul did not include anything about travel, friendships or people. It was two hours of talking about ‘how we looked at ourselves,’ as mere players of our roles, and if we are doing ourselves injustice by limiting our thought and underestimating our abilities.
Little did I know then that the conversation would lead up to a question that I never asked myself and perhaps was the root-cause of my inherent suffering as a young adult. One question was enough to rid me slowly of my fears and apprehension. Rob will never know what favour his curiosity has done to me. He asked me this question and disappeared before I could answer him.
As I thought of the answer I got a call on my phone and that’s exactly when Rob also got the call he was waiting for on his phone, from one of the most important leaders of Tibetan autonomy. I was still on the call when Rob signaled he had to leave and scribbled a note on a tissue paper that said ‘Thank you so much. Great Talking. I MUST leave.’ He left with a pat on my shoulder giving me a thumbs up and I nodded in agreement. As I spoke on the phone, I saw him fade into the thick winter darkness on the loneliest street in McLeodganj.
I know this volunteer from Ohio only as Rob.
Rob, a friend I am unsure of meeting again. A friend of two hours who made a world of a difference to the way I look at myself. I neither tried nor do I intend to make inquiries about him because some meetings are best remembered only when there is a chimerical fantasy attached to them.
And the question Rob asked me… (maybe you’d ask the same to yourself) – do you sometimes imagine what you can accomplish if only you didn’t judge yourself too much and too critically? Imagine what it is like to have no fear of ‘not being good enough’?