It was 2019.
I was sitting on one of the benches facing the Boudha Stupa when 3 old persons with rickety gait came by.
I made room on the bench for them. They bowed lightly, and took their places while adjusting their belongings amongst themselves.
The grandpa spoke to me in a language I didn’t understand. He had a fedora on and was bundled up in winter clothing. The two grandmas smiled. I smiled back at their weather beaten faces and gentle eyes.
Lacking the vocabularly to ask about another’s nationalities, beliefs, marital status or occupations, our exchanges were reduced to gestures of smiling, bowing and nodding. That was truly a John Lennon’s “Imagine” moment for me.
One of the grandmas handed the grandpa a small packet which he raised towards the Stupa and then placed lightly against his own forehead. After that he took out a tiny piece of reddish looking substance from the little bag. It resembled blusher that had been chipped off from a make up receptacle.
He then broke the terra cotta red bit into tinier pieces with his fingers and placed a bit of which on the open palms of each grandmas.
Turning towards me, he offered the same thing. Seeing how reverently they treated the powder, I held out my palms too.
After that, as if they had rehearsed it many times, the three of them looked up at the Stupa, placed what was on their palms into their mouths and brought both palms together in prayer.
As I stared in wonderment at their synchronised actions, the grandpa turned to me. He puffed up his chest to indicate that the powder would make me strong like them.
For added effect, he also slapped his forehead & sniffled dramatically to show that it could keep head & respiratory troubles away.
Now, I have my reservations about taking unknown substances from strangers.
But the simplicity and earnestness of the 3 sages to share health & strength with me neutralised all misgivings.
The encounter was made all the more poignant when I realised how far we had travelled to share this moment of healing under the Stupa. The following year, travel restrictions of all kinds would make it hard for me to visit Nepal.
Perhaps at the heart of all communicative intent, it is not eloquence, but kindness that causes the mind to open.