Although we find that the Dalai’s away to Italy, there are plenty of other monks around his temple. Monks in sunglasses, monks comparison shopping, monks who sit in the back of the room and talk while the good monk students chant, monks wrinkled enough to rival raisins: there’s a monk for every taste here. My favorite is the ancient guy we see right after arriving, huge, jag-toothed smile on his face as he touches a flower and motions for us to appreciate its beauty.
But he’s not the coolest religious guy for the day: I actually meet a sadhu! For those as out of the know as I was before I read the right page in my “Let’s Go,” a sadhu is a wondering Hindu holy man who worships Shiva, partly by smoking a lot of hashish. They’re not permitted to work, so they survive by begging. The really cool ones make snake sandwiches, frying up a highly poisonous critter between 2 flatbreads, taking a couple of bites, and then falling into a coma. They awake every 6-8 hours, take another bite and a swig of water, then pass out again, sometimes keeping this bender up for over a week.
Although he wasn’t eating a snake, the sadhu I saw definitely was one of the cooler ones. He had some huge snake around his neck as he zigzagged down the street. I give him a few rupees, but he won’t take a picture with me; instead, he hands me this 4-foot snake! I put it on my shoulders, and it’s no big deal (except for when it looks at me like it might be hungry). Sorry, Dalai: the sadhu’s probably got you beat.
Why travel is not some wonderful magical thing that I should try and do forever: time and sickness. Time is the large amounts taken to get from place to place, to make plans work, ie how we wait several hours for our new driver because he went to the wrong parking lot and fell asleep and then sit in the car for 4 bumpy hours to get back to Nurpur. Sickness is a Taj-Mahal-sized headache, sore throat, and a puddle’s worth of snot running out of my nose, to provide you with more detail than you’d possibly want. Combined, feeling crappy and sitting in the car for a good chunk of the day make me feel not all so good, but I should quit my bitching: it’s a small sacrifice to make for a once-in-a-lifetime, snake-wielding experience.