I first met Chamba in the PG, where I used to stay 3 years back. She was always draped in a maroon robe, had a close shaved head, and wore an innocent smile. Chamba is a Buddhist monk. If you enquire something to her, pat comes the reply "Yes Yes" in a queer accent. Because, "Yes" was the only English word she knew for a long time. She is a Tibetan monk, who lives in a monastery near Hubli and had come to Bangalore to learn English.

She stayed in our PG for a month. Initially we had a tough time, rather fun time, communicating using sign language like cave men. Once when she was back from her English coaching class, flaunting my great acting skills, I enquired "So what did you learn today?". Her blank face suddenly lit up, she smiled her toothy smile and replied "Chappathi". Gosh!! She thought I had asked her about what she ate. She had a note book, scribbled with English words and basic sentences. It resembled a first standard kids notebook. Every night, I and N used to read out to her from the book and ask her questions. After a few weeks, she was able to decently communicate to us through broken sentences and sign language.

Sometimes,I feel she acts like a school girl, who has just broken a few rules. She explains to me in a hushed tone, how she and her friends occasionally used to sneak out of the monastery to devour some delicious chicken fry. Who said monks are supposed to be vegetarians?? She is the most happy soul, when they serve egg and chicken once in a week in our PG. I and N loves taking her out, just to see the sheer joy on her face. She has never came out of the enclosed walls of her monastery since the last 30 years and gets excited and happy when she comes out with us to a nearby bakery to snack on egg puffs or for our occasional junk-jewellery shopping. But the only problem is that people out on the streets stare seeing a monk . But she seems quite unaware. I have never seen anybody feeling so happy to just come out of the house except maybe for my niece. But absolutely no grownups. And that's exactly why I love taking her out and I feel like I am taking her out on a special date.

She had left her home in Tibet as a teenager, to join the monastery. And that was 30 years back and she has never once gone back home since then. She gets letters from her brothers once in a blue moon and that's the only ties with the family who lives thousands of miles away. I listened in awe and finally asked her, "So do you love India? Don't you miss Tibet?" She replies, "India peace peace... Tibet no peace" She breaks away without getting the right words to continue and then started using her sign language. She explains that Chinese people come, fight and kill innocent Tibetans and hence it's very unsafe living out there. I really don't know whether the situation is same now, but maybe 30 years back this was Tibetan way of life. "India peace peace" was the proudest and most patriotic thing I have ever heard about India.

She went back to her monastery after a month, promising to come back next year. A year later, I had already moved out of that place. N called me up one day and told that Chamba was back and wanted to see me. I was getting engaged the next weekend. I came and broke the news of my engagement to Chamba. She was happy and asked me "He good?" I laughed and replied, "Yeah, he very good". She pressed a brown cover into my palm telling that it's a small gift. There were a few colourful ginger candies, sacred thread and a small craft work. She told me, "Tie the the sacred thread on his hands." She doesn't have any money, all the things I got were handmade by her. It felt so precious...

This year, she called me from a public phone booth. I wonder where she got the money from. But I was out of Bangalore that month. I don't know if I can ever see her again.. Maybe she will come next year too.. Maybe she will have money to call from a phone booth too..

Hope too see you sometime Chamba. And this Christmas season, I am remembering you, your innocent toothy smile, the good will and the cheer you brought.


Really nice story!! Makes me miss her as well! I hope you get to see her some time soon.

ohhh it was so lovely reading about chamba. like aths said, your writeup makes us miss her too. hope you have more wonderful moments with her. i can feel the smile radiating from her face.


really nice. im sure she thinks of u like u do. and now i feel like i know her too...hope she calls or meets u very soon :)

Anonymous said... 3:47 PM  


world is such a small place :) u guys wud surely meet again!

nicely written

@ ALL: yep..hope to meet her some time again & take her out just to see the sheer joy on her face