Karma and Soni from Pin village believe that their duty in this life is to help others. ‘People do not have time for the elders and the old people are lonely. We want to keep them busy and healthy. By staying together they have company of one another and do not feel lonely. We want to create a community of old people so that the young can learn from them and listen to their stories. They should not be forgotten or made to suffer during their old age, ’ says Soni.
In winter Soni and Karma take the elders from Pin valley to Rewalsar near Mandi where they are more comfortable.
In Rewalsar they keep themselves busy by taking koras of the lake and visiting the monastery. Soni and Karma rely on donations and you can meet them in Sagnam (Pin valley) to know more about their project. They are open to new ideas and welcome volunteers. They have plans to start a homestay to fund their project.
The enlightened monk
Lama Gobind has been living in different retreats in upper Kinnaur for over fifteen years spending about years years at a time in a retreat. Having studied in Chandigarh lama Gobind gave up the worldly life and went to his first retreat in Malling, near Nako.
Believed to be a reincarnated Tulku, he says, ‘When I see others I feel we are all the same – inside and outside. Because of my meditation people think I am special. Meditation has made me compassionate and when I touch/bless others I feel I am sharing my compassion.’ ‘In meditation there are many hurdles and these obstacles help us. It is possible for everyone to attain realization if we work at it’. ‘We talk about the mind but we cannot show the mind. For that we have to try the Dharma way. Millarepa way is of mantryanna – of mantras. It is very easy to say that god is like this or that. But to feel and experience god you need to practice meditation.’ ‘I have no connection with the body. I am not scared of death, this is a big achievement for me.’ ‘ If you control the mind then everything is possible’.
His mother says that at the time of his birth two or three lamas possibly from Ladakh came looking for a boy who was supposed to be the reincarnation of their guru. HOwever at that time there was a shortage of boys in their family she lied to the visiting lamas and said that no boy was born in her house.
Currently lama gobind lives in Pooh in Kinnaur
Helping the old and young
Norbu and Nawang are the driving force behind the Kachen Dugyal Memorial girl’s hostel and old age home in Spiti. From administration and funding, to the daily running of the project, Norbu and Nawang’s selfless work has positively impacted lives of girls within their community.
‘We hope our work inspires others to think about those who need our help’, says Nawang. The old age home takes care of the neglected and poor from the local community and the girls hostel provides an opportunity for girls to finish their high school who otherwise would not be able do so because of financial reasons. There are about forty elders staying in the old age home and between ten to fifteen girls every year who benefit from the hostel.
Michael joined the two in 2011 by teaching computers at the hostel. He brings in money from Canada from his family and friends and also puts in his own. Because of the scholarships that Michael provides the girls from Spiti get an opportunity to pursue college in Shimla and Kangra. He also employs them when needed for his archaeological work.
Michael and Norbu are also responsible for Spiti’s first museum. For the last 4 years both of them have been exploring Spiti for petroglyphs (rock art) which has helped local people better understand their own history. This project is funded from their own money and has broken lots of myths associated with the area.
You can meet the 3 of them at the Girls hostel in Kaza to understand more about their work.
The 100 year old nun
Evi Pomo has been living a solitary life in the cave at Gangchumik for more than 35 years. She moved to the cave after the death of her husband . In 2016 Evi was said to have turned 100 years. When her husband was alive she had a strong desire for spiritual practice though she continued performing her household duties. After the death of her husband Evi gave her land away to her family and to the villagers of Pooh , retaining only a fraction of it. Nuns from different nunneries take care of Evi and her needs. She spends most of her time in meditation and sometimes meets devotees as well.
Evi Pomo believes that by leading a solitary life the mind is drawn inwards and made quiet by the repetition of mantras while by living amongst people the mind is drawn outwards and towards materialistic things. In 2016 Evi’s health deteriorated and she now lives in Pooh village where the villagers take care of her.