The full moon is rising on the roof top of the Imperial Hotel, Thamel. Did I tell you we have our old rooms, with Gunilla sleeping in your room? Like you she enjoys sitting out the sun on the flower potted terrace. She has your long legs!
Our day is altogether peaceful. You would have liked it.
In his comfortable way, Giri shepherds us to the ashram of the Shiva Puri Baba. The quiet richness of the forest is always surprising after the hustle of the streets and the nervousness of five army check points we must cross around the back of the airport.
Arriving I invite Giri to unfold some of the story for Gunillas benefit. She asks no questions. He is very kind to her. We sit as we used to in silence for a while, in front of Shiva Puri’s swing. Gunilla recognizes it from one of your photographs.
After lunch, (Gunilla eating only the curd, she is not well after our Fire and Ice safe food), we sit under the shade of the trees and I ask Giri a question Gunilla had asked me last night:
‘How can Sugata following the Buddhist teaching, yet cause suffering to people during his lifetime?’
Giri answers with the teaching of the Shivapuri – it is not clear where the question applies in the answer at first.
’All action gives reaction. When you make an action consider only if it is the right action. Whatever consequences come you must accept. If it is not possible to do this then you will carry a deep grudge, although you may speak with a smooth tongue.
Listening to some of Giris words this thought settles on me: It is no longer Sugata that matters, after all he is no longer matter, but us who carry on the baton into the web of life. Look not to the fault lines of others, but to thyself.
‘He was on the right path’, said Giri. ‘His vision was there, but so was his conditioning.’
I am reminded of Rameshes classic story of the three tourists in a Mumbai rickshaw:
Some beggar kids come running up asking for money. All three have different reactions. Mr Angry shouts ‘Go away. You should be in school. Piss off.’
Mrs Frightened clutches her rucksack, asking the rickshaw to move on quickly, fearful of the children steeling.
Miss Magnanimous says ‘Oh these poor beggar boys, let us give them some of our money, what a terrible life they have.’
Which one is enlightened, asks Ramesh.
All have the possibility, is the answer. Mrs Nervous could run away in fear, then may turn around and laugh at her action, seeing her fear as part of her conditioning, seeing it for what it is. She is the witness.’
We move to the place of death, Pashupathinath. Three men wade knee high in the weak flowing Bhagvati river, slowly racking and sweeping it clean of the debris of life and death: marigolds, plastic bottles, old clothes. As we stand watching a boy throws with gusto a bundle of old clothes into the water. It is such a surprising action for us. Sex and death, so linked, with Shiva’s linga proud and red, erotic carvings of sexual intercourse in yogic positions carved around the temple rafters. Down in the ghat a new body arrives, and is placed on the wood pile, while the son, masked in dark glasses, paces around with a mobile phone glued to his ear. Gunilla is silent, taking photographs. Unsually it is allowed here.
Returning to Thamel, looking for a cup of tea, we unexpectedly decide to explore the Garden of Dreams, recently opened. As the LP review writes: ‘In, but a million miles away from, Thamel, is this green peaceful oasis.’ It was, as Fr Greg recommended, a good place to unwind and talk openly.
You know the place. It was the once the library where you came to learn English and the history of Nepal. Yes, Shamshers library!
We are both doing our own deconstructing.
‘You see Sweden had a difficult relationship with Germany – it had raw materials that Germany wanted. To avoid war, they entered into a pact with Germany. When Hitler called all Aryans to return, Sweden upheld this, and so Sugata was sent back to Germany. And amid all this high politics, Sugata writes to the Swedish authorities, demanding to be allowed to stay. Yes, demanding. It is almost like blackmail: ‘If you do not let me stay, I will not pay a penny to my child’, he wrote to the authorities’! He said that. It is written down. Really, who is he compared to the world politics at the time’.
Do you remember that time? Do you remember those letters that the authorities kept, that caught you up aged 95? The letters that Ebba found. Your anger then, come back to greet you now. I imagine you feeling like a pawn in this huge game whose machinations were out of your orbit, and you were shouting to be heard.