50 Rupees exchanged for shared compassion.

As I walk the morning kora I marvel at the older women. I love their dignity: long hair in braids, often woven with brightly coloured thread, ‘uniform’ of long skirts with sneakers, multi coloured striped sashes as symbols of marriage, and the ubiquitous left hand swinging their mala beads as they chant ‘om mani padme hum’. They depict a life where walking is a ritual in every single day, from birth to death.

Walking is social too. Although its a fair distance to walk 3 times around the great stupa, each morning and night the sight of thousands of elderly women and men walking 3 times around brings a smile. A community event enacted twice a day. No need for elderly folks to be locked in their houses in isolation here. If one gets tired, simply sit on a bench with all the other oldies and chat. I vow if I am ever elderly and cast off by the west, I will live here, where elderly women have a place in the open.

Walking is life here, like breathing in a community. I wonder, “What is the real price we have paid for our cars?”

Along the kora there are various folks seeking alms. My favourite is an elderly nun (ani in Tibetan). She sits on the cold path and radiates warmth. She is always there. Every year. Sometimes I hand her a few rupees, 10 or 20 is the common rate, and she gives me a smile and a warm Namaste.

Today I only have a 50 rupee note, so I hand her this; it’s just 50 cents afterall. Her smile of delight is so beautiful it brings me to instant tears. I am taken aback at my response. Tears at her warmth and kindness toward me. A tiny gift on my part, and she returns a glow of kindness and compassion that reverberates still.

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