As mentioned in ” Why Ginnivers? Living Life Live.“, the most significant role on our trip was played by encounters.
Where should I set off in order to catch the depth deserved by each story? I hold it to be impossible and I will thus describe the most significant encounter, which is emblematic of the kind of people we met on our trip and the consequences they had on our thoughts.
My brother Andrea and me started our journey in New Delhi, where we stayed for two days. Things there were pretty messy: very noisy, many different and contrasting odours, restricted private spaces, lack of basic resources… I am not sure whether it was because we still needed to acclimatize to the new world we just arrived in, but we didn´t have the chance to speak to natives and have a first face to face encounter with them.
This was until we flew to Leh, Ladakh in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, where my brother had supposedly booked a room in a youth center called “Raku House – Flowering Dharma”. At 6am we sat foot off the airplane, we jumped – to be honest it was more like a grovelling, since oxygen scarceness was kicking our buttocks – on the first cab and attempted an Indian-accent pronunciation of Raku House´s adress. As the driver seemed to have never heard about “Raku House”, he proceeded into calling Tashi, the guy who signed the booking-confirmation email, in order to ask for further information.
Due to the exceptional telephone connection, the cab driver seemed to have some difficulties communicating with Tashi, thus passed the call to my brother who -as is well-known- unpacked his Hindi-skills and tried to get the needed information. Luckily Tashi spoke English perfectly and we were able to get to Raku House.
As you probably know, Tripadvisor provides photos to each offer listed in the system. Well, having seen the photos of the place, we didn´t really recognise it in reality, but a smiling young man with intelligent-looking glasses came in our direction and welcomed us confusedly to Raku House.
At this point, we were confused too: the host looked very sleepy and surprised by our arrival and Raku House looked pretty much under construction. Nonetheless, since the lacking oxygen made us feel like melting on the street for walking with our backpacks for less than 50m, we decided we would not aggravate the situation by using the little breath left to ask Tashi if there was any problem: after all he seemed very kind and offered us to sit in a room sipping tea and cuddle under warm blankets.
As we found out little later, Raku House had been closed for restauration (the house was a typical 150 years old Ladakhi house) and they didn´t receive any emails: apparently the confirmation-email we had received was an automatic reply. Tashi and Lobsang, a young woman from Arunachal Pradesh, both partners in crime at Raku Youth Center, offered us to sleep at Raku House, even though it was officially closed. I am not sure if it was because of the lacking oxygen obliterating our thoughts and the fact that they fed us tea and naan, or because of the friendly and welcoming attitude, that we decided to stay at Flowering Dharma.
Looking back, this has been the most meaningful encounter of our journey and by taking this decision, we cluelessly stepped into our destiny.
During the week we strolled through Ladakh, we always had our base in Raku House, we thus spent several dinners with Tashi and Lobsang, talking about anything which would pop up in our minds. It was an occasion to give insight in our different cultures and us, personally. Over the first Paneer (which I hopelessly tried to reproduce once home – a total defeat) I had the feeling that we really bonded; anything could be analysed and questioned. In fact, this was one of Tashi and Lobsang´s most peculiar feature: always asking us why.
On a sidenote, Flowering Dharma was a philosophical centre and Tashi studied philosophy (which is actually no guarantee for a maieutic attitude, since it often develops in boldness and certainty, more than love towards questions). Both Tashi and Lobsang emanated a certain serenity and patience while talking, of which I was – and truly still am- very jealous. Being both Buddhists, as most people in Ladakh, they later proceeded into explaining some buddhist beliefs and phenomena that really integrated our view of the temples and gompas (monasteries) we visited all over Ladakh.
As we all know through popular school-taught philosophy, the “why”-question is really emblematic of philosophy. “Why do I think so?”,”Which reasons account for this thesis?” When studying philosophy (and not only philosophy, I hope ;D ) one really asks oneself those questions on a regular basis. Mostly the “why questions” delineate the structure of essays about things there isn´t and probably will never be certainty about. But by having to explain the development leading to certain features of one´s own culture to someone who doesn´t know anything about it, was really something different. And if you are a good student ;P all you can think about after sketching an answer is: am I talking total crap and why do I think what I think and how can you explain our development to someone who doesn´t start from the same capitalistic thought?? *bead of sweat standing figuratively for your existential dread slowly dripping from my temples*
Talking to Tashi and Lobsang was a further underlining that I really know nothing sure about my surrounding reality, this world. And that what we all do is to somehow speculate through our lives in order to find reasons accounting for an argument of which, as soon as put into words, we are not convinced about.
The self-doubt that rose in me talking to Tashi and Lobsang is something so precious, it burned-in into my soul and made our encounter so unique. Also, it reminded me that for me personally, self-doubt is the most powerful key to new explanations and new questions to unlock this universe and paths to discover.
By staying at Raku House, we did not only get to know fragments of the culture or whatsoever, we also made friends. In buddhist culture, as far as I understood, a “dharma” is a special encounter. I directly had to think about how we barged in on Tashi and Lobsang´s at 6am, surprising them with our arrival and how they became some sort of guru of our stay in Ladakh. By hindsight the name “flowering dharma” seemed an announcement of our blow of fate and ever since we left Ladakh and our friends, I really hope this encounter would flourish and honour the name of “Flowering Dharma”.