By Leona Thomas
In 2008 I moved in with a friend for a few months in Baluwataar, Kathmandu. The apartment was lovely - my friend had furnished everything very tastefully. But the Landlord was a bit of a shocking horror!
For example, we were allowed to use the washing machine on Sunday while his family had full access on the other 6 days. And this was fine except that my friend had gone off on her trek and when I went down to do my laundry, the Landlord and his wife arrived and began shouting at me (and it was a very small space so this was echoing seriously loudly). When I reminded them it was Sunday they were suddenly embarrassed and left me in peace. But it was not a great welcome to my new home...
I soon discovered that Prem often had things to complain about.
We would hear the doorbell ringing and we knew it was him because the bell was unhelpfully right beside our front door. The gate to our garden was always locked and there was no bell by that gate. Our friends and visitors had to either bang on the metal gate or phone us to say they had arrived. So when our doorbell rang it could only mean trouble!
Each time we heard that doorbell I would tell my friend, "I'll go!" and I would set off down the stairs.
I might not be Nepali but I had a master plan and it worked to pure perfection. Prem WAS a Nepali and a Hindu.
And I was ready for him.
I would open the door to find him standing on our step, fuming and ready for a fight. But, before he could open his mouth to speak, I would smile and say, "Good afternoon, Prem. Namaste!"
I would watch as his anger and irritation battled with the Namaste. The Namaste always won. It would interrupt the flow of whatever fight he had concocted in his head. He would attempt to speak but silence would descend upon him and within seconds he would reply, "Namaste!"
Then I would continue, "What can I do for you today?" and he would calmly tell me what was wrong.
That bell rang many times during my 2 month stay and all of our interactions were remarkably similar.
Until one fateful day...
My friend was away again on another trek in the Himalayas. And I was in a foul mood. I don't remember now what was wrong but I was so angry that the only thing that could express the energy properly was to violently slam doors shut everywhere I went! I was shouting and banging doors and still the anger was flowing.
And then the doorbell rang.
My friend was away, and anyway, it was my job to pacify Prem. But I stormed down those stairs with my rage still alive inside of me. I opened the door to find Prem standing on our doorstep.
"Yes?" I snarled.
And he let rip. "What's all that banging?" he yelled.
Then I discovered that not only was I exceedingly angry but I also could tell lies! I listened in wonder as I heard myself yell, "The windows don't fit properly! When the wind blows there's no way to stop them banging. You should fit stays!" (Technically it was true, but that was definitely not what was banging upstairs. There was no wind. And all the windows still had glass in them!).
Prem barged past me and began to climb the stairs that led to our apartment. I followed him with more anger, "And you should fit insect screens to those windows too! It's terrible! We can't leave them open without getting mosquitos in the room!" He screamed back at me...
We were stood halfway up that flight of stairs raging at each other when suddenly my anger evaporated and I found myself standing in the energy of the Namaste. Prem was still yelling. In my head I said quietly to whoever or whatever might be listening, "Please help me.."
Prem got to the end of his angry sentence and stopped abruptly. Silence descended upon the stairwell.. and we stood just looking at each other. The energy of the Namaste was palpable although neither of us had consciously invoked it.
Then Prem spoke.
"Would you like a cup of tea?"
We sat on the front door step drinking tea and chatting together for nearly 2 hours. It was wonderful. I discovered the real Prem and he was a delightful companion.
But much more than that, I had been privileged to experience a live demonstration of life with and without the Namaste.
To all beings everywhere, Hindu or not, may you be blessed to feel the power of the Namaste in your life. If you ever get the chance to come and visit Nepal you will encounter a land of many contrasts and colours and flavours. And the Namaste will be weaving its way through it all.
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