Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lungta Flag Shop - and John Keats

Over two years ago during a small break to the city of Mussoorie in the northern part of India, I discovered a Buddhist village on a morning walk.

It was my first time to see prayer flags gently blowing in the wind and the site was one of amazement and beauty. I had written a blog post about the experience in which I described the meaning behind the flags, but often wondered about who and how they were made.

Check out my Blog archive written on October 19, 2009.

Several months ago, on a trip to Gangtok, in far northwest India, the answer to my question was answered.

So I thought I would give you an insiders look to the people behind the scenes.......

Gangtok is a delightful little city that is blessed with clear skies, a rarity in Delhi and in most major cities in India. While walking to my destination, I noticed a sign for the Lungta Flag Shop......with an arrow directing customers to use the stairs to the second floor.
Now keep in mind that Gangtok is in the mountainous region of the lower Himalaya's and most buildings are built on the slope of the mountains, so it was an oddity that while at street level I was actually descending a stairwell to reach the second floor of the building.
The pathway was dark and the surroundings were pitch electricity...and a stark contrast to the brightness of the day. Even after allowing my eyes time to adjust to the darkness..........there was no light in site......and I was forced to use the dim light of my mobile phone to navigate the dark corridor.

Needless to was a bit descending into the underworld......but I was up for the adventure.
I finally found the shop and made my way inside, armed only with English and not able to speak the local language...........but in such situations, a smile  breaks such barriers of communication.

The shop was lights, except from the window at the far end......using the outside light, two ladies sat behind sewing machines that required no electricity and the continued to work throughout my visit.

I have seen such sewing machines in antique shops in the US............long past their prime and cast aside decades earlier after being replaced with more modern machines that required electricity............yet hear in India, machines like these are common and many make their livelihoods pedaling away for hours upon hours.

The shop walls were filled from floor to ceiling with material printed with all colors, and were a stark contrast to the dingy walls behind.

After I took my photographs, I thanked the shopkeeper and her staff and made my way back into the dark hallway and back up to sunshine.

I have to admit, two years ago my imagination ran wild with thoughts of Buddhist monks sitting in a quiet monastery in some remote location hand sewing the flags before they were bestowed upon villagers for hanging in outside locations to put their prayers forward to be carried by the wind.

I found the following quote and I believe that it is quite fitting considering what I have written:

             “My imagination is a monastery, and I am its monk”
              ― John Keats

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