Losar decoration, kept at the entranceBut what the structure lacks in charm, the residents more than compensate for! I was received by a group of nuns who sat in the sun warming themselves in the March chill, with their yellow and maroon robes. They wore their hair short - like a crew cut - and large abundant smiles that displayed their souls on their faces. A young 20-year-old, came up to greet me and led the way into the main prayer hall. After a little chit-chat, she decided to invite me to her living quarters - the inner rooms...and offered me salted tea. Snacks that they had made themselves followed. These were no ordinary snacks - they were Losar offerings created with love and dedication. They were artistic forms of a popular Indian snack called Mathri - flowers, shells and other abstract shapes created out of spiced dough and then deep-fried. Art in food! These privileges were unexpected and I was totally delighted to be invited into the intimate aspects of their lives. One of the two sweet nuns who were attending to me, then offered me Chaang - a rice wine drink and warned me that after that I could go a little crazy - that I would talk a lot or behave strangely :) ! I tried it - it tasted very different from the rice-wine from Nagaland...this one tasted like rice in buttermilk...but unfortunately did not have the promised effect! In the meanwhile, a group of other young nuns had gathered in the balcony and had put on some music. Bhutanese lyrics combined with rock compositions. Against the backdrop of the hills and the prayer flags fluttering loudly in the wind and the gorgeous oriental features of my young hostesses, this music seemed totally appropriate. And then two or three of the girls began dancing in the narrow balcony. I stood at a distance taking pictures trying to capture the moment. They were not dancing for a 'performance' to show others. They were dancing for themselves. There was no emulation of pop stars or bollywood and they had no rules of dancing that needed to be followed. They made up their own steps and own hand movements and danced as their own souls commanded them to. Everyone participated on an equal footing - without anyone trying to outdo the other. Their innocent spontaneity and naive style was completely endearing and their heartfelt joy was infectious! Soon I was invited in, and I had a wonderful time dancing with the nuns. What a fun way to celebrate Losar! After a hour of merrymaking - I left, promising myself that I would come back someday and spend a week here, living the life they do. As I said my goodbyes and began to leave the other nun who had attended to me ... came running out and gave me a huge kiss on my cheeks ... just like a child would. Abundant open-heartedness. Abundant warmth. The gifts that I received from the nuns at Phendzong Nunnery, will remain with me forever! Back to Sikkim Diaries jm March 2011
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