When you travel, do you feel that you are a different person? That all your idiosyncrasies get enhanced a bit? Your craziness touches new heights? You feel a sense of freedom so great that nothing embarrasses you or scares you?
It happens to me to the extent that on one of my trips, I had no qualms about sitting all night with dhaba owners in Himachal over Hindi songs and chatter and drinking up all their liquor! (Woke up the following morning with a nasty hangover, while they pulled my leg mercilessly.)
My travelling life is full of stories; of my escapades, my madness and most of all, of incidences that are a reminder of how enriching your travels can be as long as you are open and uninhibited.
Well, call me bat crazy but one of the most memorable moments on my travel is the time when I was almost disrobed (all thanks to my own foolishness) inside a monastery in Bhutan. The year was 2016 and I was with a group of guests leading my company’s signature trip called Blissful Bhutan.
Before I begin this story I must give you a background on what I was wearing.
I was wearing Bhutan’s traditional dress for women, which is also its National dress, the Kira (skirt) with a Tego (blouse).
The Kira is like a wrap around skirt held in place at the waist with a long piece of cloth that doubles up as a belt. Since the Kira is rectangular, it is draped in a particular style, which the Bhutanese women are adept at. It needs careful handling like when we wear a saree, the similarity being that the saree is tucked into a petticoat and held in place there, and the Kira is tightened at the waist with a belt.
*Wonderful trivia about the traditional dress of Bhutan: Everyone wears the National dress to school, colleges (as uniform) and when visiting monasteries and government institutions. It is worn as a mark of respect to the place you’re visiting. The dress is made even more formal when a scarf is worn with it. It is a heartening sight to see the locals wear their national dress with pride.
Going back to that day – it was the day we were attending the Paro Tshechu (or festival) a cultural extravaganza celebrated in Bhutan which has a spiritual significance. My guests and I were all decked up in the National Dress, feeling pretty and very Bhutanese. After we attended the festival, my guests wanted to get to the hotel and change before we stepped out to see a monastery, one of the oldest in Bhutan, called Kichyu Lhakhang.
But I decided not to.
Feeling overconfident that I’d be able to carry it off, I decided to continue wearing it for the rest of the evening.
We entered the main temple inside the Lhakhang and after I completed the three prostrations before the idols (like the Bhutanese), I realised that the Kira had come loose because I nearly stepped on one flap.
“That wasn’t supposed to happen! The Kira’s edges were tightly tucked into the belt!” I thought to myself.
But, by the time I got out of the temple, two guests pointed out to me that it was coming off. So I wore my shoes and came down to the courtyard adjoining the temple in an attempt to tuck it back into the belt. By this time, my guest and friend Jyoti began helping me too but the style is a bit complicated (just like a saree’s drape would seem like to anyone who doesn’t wear it) and she was concerned about it coming off fully.
I wasn’t scared because I was wearing thermal leggings under the Kira, but the leggings did look like an ‘undergarment’ and the thought “I will have to walk back to the bus and then to the hotel room looking like this!” crossed my mind. Briefly.
Meanwhile, unbeknownst to us, a monk came out of his quarters in the courtyard and quickly began helping me. For a moment, I didn’t realise what was happening! Who was this person helping me???
He asked my friend to step aside and began speaking to me calmly in Hindi, asking me where I was from, all the while deftly working on the Kira. While he was helping me, my friend was busy taking photos as we chatted about how stupid it was of me to continue wearing the Kira! Every one was very amused to see this monk tying the Kira of an Indian woman inside a monastery! And the monk? Well, he had a serene smile playing on his lips all the time!
In a matter of minutes, he’d expertly draped it back to the way it is meant to be worn. He patted it in place and said in Hindi, “It looks good on you.”
I thanked him profusely and we began walking out when our guide told me, “Madam you are very lucky. He is the head monk of this temple and no one meets him usually.”
Did I start this post by saying I am blessed? No? Well, indeed I am!