It feels a little odd writing this now – I’ve been away from the blog for a while, so now I have to do a big update, talk about places I’ve left behind “long ago”. India is nothing if not time travel, though – Ambassador taxis, foot-pedal sewing machines and mobile phones, crumbling infrastructure, homes built into ancient ruins – indeed, the collision of different times.
So, about two weeks back we were in Lava, a tiny hill town not far from Kalimpong. Again, a gorgeous place – the small village of farmers and monks is dwarfed by the surrounding forest, and for most of the day is swathed in thick fog, waves of it rushing across the town in the morning and mid afternoon.
Being habitual Westerners, we’d forgotten that they might not have ATMs, so arrived with very little cash, just enough for two nights accommodation, plus cheap meals. We soon realised what poverty was, of course, when we went for our first meal – soup that was really just hot water with shards of vegetable and packet noodles. Lava exists on what little grows on tiny plots.
A beautiful place – we walked around the forest, such a powerful and independent presence, not a place that can belong to anyone, a spirituality loose of any language. But, as usual, a place of confounding contradictions – a huge, still expanding monastery, next to precarious poverty, shacks and destitution.
The trip back to Kalimpong was incredible. A 90 minute bus tripo along winding, thin, potholed mountain roads, packed to the rafters with yawning schoolgirls, old men spitting paan out the windows, tough weathered old women swaying with the bus as it honked its way down the hill, Hindi pop blaring optimistically through the fog.
Next time – Bhubaneswar, Puri, Hyderabad…