Tapping onto my Heart
One of the many reasons I love to travel is it allows for unique, positive human connections, if even for fleeting moments. Vastly different lives intersect for a minute, maybe three, five… just enough time for a magical travel moment to happen and you are forever impacted. Just maybe, the other person is too.
It happened again in Nepal, at the magnificent Boudhanath Stupa*. Jen and I are perusing the shops filled with prayer bowls and incense and flags and Buddha statues. Just before stepping up into another store, I notice the four women.
I’m drawn to faraway places. I long to see how people live, how they dress, what/who they revere, what they eat, how they worship, what they do with ‘free’ time (what are their passions, what makes them laugh). Wherever I travel, in the eyes I seek out kindness.
These four faces, with their beautifully lined caramel skin turn toward me. I gesture toward them.
May I join you?
Yes yes is the reply.
I sit down on the curb. We look at each other. Then this beauty with the crinkly twinkly eyes grabs my cheek with her right hand. Her left fingers hold her mala beads (108 prayer beads that come on a string, which people use to recite prayer, chants or mantras). She slaps my knees and my shoulder and my face, rapidly with intention—not hurting at all. This is a show of affection; she’s conveying ancient grandmotherly love. It reminds me of some of the Jewish and Italian mothers I grew up around.
Using only gestures, smiles and laughter, we are curious about one another. I wonder, is she a mother, grandmother, a great-grandmother? I am without my own mother and grandmother now; can she sense this? She’s slap slapping me with vigorous intention and a grin that takes up her whole face. Incense smoke wafts out of the store, musky and rich.
I love every second.
The women don’t ask for coins or bills or food. What they want is to inspect each photograph that I take of them. They pass my camera down the line and back again and we laugh and nod and squeeze each other’s hands.
It’s both the intimacy and the universality of this moment that stays with me. This particular elder Nepalese woman is tapping her way onto my heart with gentle fierceness, as if to say See? You’re okay. Keep moving.
*If you’ve ever looked at photos of Nepal, surely a photograph of this UNESCO World Heritage Site was one of them. It’s magnificent, and has a fascinating history, too. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Boudhanath