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  • Writer's pictureVoita

Outskirts of Gangtok

"Are you traveling alone?

A blank stare.

"If you had taken your wife, it would have been much more enjoyable here!"

... "next time," I nod.

morning tea

The man did/not meet my expectations. I wasn't asked to take a picture of his whole family. Instead, he lined me up with the kids and wife. Priorities. But it was a sunny morning in a little local botanical garden, and he was the first one today to (indirectly) accuse me of being anti-social. So I smiled into the camera.

Flower Exhibition Centre

I'm essentially staying above the town, away from the central streets, just a stone's throw from the highest viewpoints. Which, for me, is an irresistible temptation, especially when it's a nice morning. The sun even peeked out occasionally. About a billion Indian families had the same idea, although they take taxis. The hilltops here, like in many places, are dedicated to religion. I sat by an entrance of a Hindu temple, reading and waiting for the rain to stop when someone's offering landed in my lap; a paper bag of fruits and sweets. Maybe I have a future as a beggar?

moments en route

topside views

"Wanna ride?

A taxi pulled up next to me as I was making my way down the winding road down from the hill with an older American smiling at me from the inside. Born in California, converted and graduated Buddhist, he was visiting local deities. Sensing an interesting story I pushed aside other plan's for the day and took the ride.

Ganesh Tok

Hanuman Tok

We rode through the whole town into another Tibetan temple complex. My new companion was going to wait there for his Bhutanese friend; an advantage of years spent studying in the location. In his heart forever a hippie, with few remaining hair in a hairband, his face dominated by a board smile broadened by the absence of all teeth. Following a heavy accident in the US doctors put him on the strongest pills available and as a saxophonist, his teeth... fell out.

He underwent second clinical death as he decided to ditch all the prescriptions. Partially due to the loss of his teeth, but also mostly to clear up the cloud of numbness that always covered his mind. The lack of choice it forced upon him.

Along with the medical aid he gave up his life in the US and now skirts between India and Nepal, living off of American pension. But he has his freedom leading to the knowledge that once he dies, he'll be free of decisions he couldn't have made. And he might be able to have his last wish fulfilled, too.

"Buddhism has been the most precious gift to me. When I die, I'd like to give them [to Tibet] back a little present."

staring out of the window

We talked well into the night; selection of the most interesting ideas is summed up in the Extra post for Business Class.

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