Going Home from India – or The Generous Monk


My last day in India should have been a morning flight from massively rainy monsoon Panaji, Goa, to 50 centigrade dry heat in New Delhi. As it were, the rain flew in front of us, leaving a pleasantly dry, fresh, greening Goa, and New Delhi cooled down below 30 centigrade, poodles still at the pavement.


At Indira Gandhi Airport, I was probably still remembered as the tall, Nordic guy who wasn’t fooled by the “no-bus –between-the-terminals-but-I-can-fix-it-for-a-little-baksheesh”-scam, and in company with a TV camera crew, I arrived at the International airport many hours too early. There the phone didn’t connect to Norway, and I waited silently while Indian families with children and loads of luggage came and went.


I would have liked food, but at that moment I didn’t want any more Indian hassle. Nearing nine in the evening I put my backpack on, and walked the short distance in heavily polluted Indian air to the International Departures doors. No Aeroflot for Moscow booking yet, so I sat down near a large Sikh family and a fellow backpacker in his mid forties. As it turned out, he was Swedish, called Olle, and was slowly getting drunk from a metal jar. He longed for home even more than me, if that was possible at that moment. While he was still reasonably sober, we were exchanging India stories of the “I’ll Never Do It Again” kind. Later he started to hit on the ladies, and getting too drunk for pleasant communication.


As the younger girls shunned him, he turned to the elderly Sikh ladies, inviting them to sex in frank words – in Swedish though. I thought: “Glad they don’t understand what he says.” But their body language did show they didn’t appreciate his advances. Then the AEROFLOT for Moscow check in sign appeared, and I felt it would be a good thing to get him away from the Sikh family and onto the airplane.


It all went well until there was just one too many of those Indian bureaucrazy forms to fill in.


Olle refused. “They have no rights to know this!” he said”, and then started to chat up two young backpacker girls, who joked back, not knowing what he said in Swedish. It was very rude and explicit what he wanted to do when they came on the plane. “Look, you will sit just between us,” the blonde of them said, and he smiled shyly. Then he started another quarrel with the airport official, trying to force his way through the gates without permission.


For a while I tried to reason with him, help him fill in the form, but then the official got really angry, and called for the guards. “You want to go or not?” he said to me.


Oh yes, I desperately wanted to go home, so I left Olle.


“Shouldn’t we really try helping him?” the blonde girl said. “Now he will not get on the plane!”


“You should be glad!” I said, “Not having him sit between you two.”


“But he was just nice and a little drunk!” the brunette said.


“Oh, well.” I said, “You don’t understand Swedish, do you?”


“What did he say?”


“I’d better not translate. Let’s just say, he might have started groping at you …”




Then we were in the international world. Slowly approaching midnight and boarding, for a while I sat in the bar, having a final couple of Kingfisher beers. Then into the last lounge, where we sat waiting one more of the inevitable Indian delays.


A small young Tibetan looking monk in maroon robes looked at me: “This plane Moscow?” he said. “Yes, I sincerely hope so!”


“Ok,” he said with a smile, “I go home in Russia after three years Sera Je.”


“So you are a lama now?”


He smiled, “I will home Lama.”


“Then,” I said, “You most probably are Burjat or Kalmyk. He smiled: “You know Burjat?”


“Yes,” I searched my memory, who was near the Caspipian Sea, and who was living on the Mongol border? I chanced: “You live in Russia, near the Mongols?”


He smiled, and we made great friends just there. For a while we chatted, and then he started to practice generosity.


I had nothing to give back. He gave me a red thread with the knot made by His Holiness the Dalai Lama himself. Then a monocle-like hologram of a Buddha statue; a small plastic bag filled with seeds, and a woven structure looking like a Native American piece. I tried to say: “Really, this is too much, you can’t give me all this!” But he insisted, and I felt more and more embarrassed. The old Viking code is clear: It is better to be the one who gives than to be the receiver; and deep down I’m still a Viking.


Then he gave me his Tibetan calendar. For a while we looked at it. It was filled with notes, and I said: “I really can’t take this, you need it.”


At last he did agree: “Yes you right. I go Lama, so need.” We exchanged addresses, and chatted on Buddhism for the rest of the time before departure.


Nest morning we said goodbye at the Moscow Airport, as we both had to hurry for the next plane.


Then, at home, I asked our local lama Changchub: “I met this monk, going home, giving me all this presents, and I had nothing for him. What should I do?”


“Well,” lama Changchub said, “he really doesn’t expect anything! He was just practicing generosity.”


“Yes, I know,” I said, “but nevertheless, I want to give him something.”


Lama Changcub, who though being Tibetan, grew up in India, did think a little, then he said: “You know, this place he lives, it is rather cold?”


I did agree; Burjat is cold.


“Then I think, like when I came to Norway, he will freeze a lot, being a lama. You can give him something warm, like a pair or socks or something like that. It will be of help for him.”


Half a year later the maroon padded suit I sent him to his Ulan Ude address came back; the return label saying he had disappeared. I gave the suit to a charity, to extend his generosity.


But if anyone ever meets Zorjito Dorjiev a young Burjat monk who used to live in Ulan Ude, please tell him this story.


Btw. at Oslo Airport I saw the Sikh family once more. While I was waved through passport and customs control with a smile, they silently lined up, answering the questions.


In Norwegian. They had understood the rudeness of Olle. Maybe it was more charitable not to help him aboard the plane, after all?