Krishna and friends

Somewhere along the line I stopped buying things. Friends back home were accustomed to my travel and didn’t need more stuff, but when some of my dearest folks found challenges early in 2017, I wanted to them back a hug made manifest.

Dharamsala street with monkey

Monsoon morning in Dharamshala. Think they’d like a monkey?


So I walked the warm monsoon mornings, scouring my brain and Dharamsala both for what they might like. Does anybody need more keychains? Or really want to dress in “…and all I got was this T-shirt”? And style is just too personal for me to pick their wall hangings. So…what? The answer came. But which one?


“Looking for a gift for friends?” Maybe the kid knew my demographics or maybe he could read me, but his wide open smile stretched across the street like a net. I paused to look at his stall, pretending interest in necklaces before asking about what I was really interested in. They were good examples, but some piece of it all was missing.


The neighboring stall sold chai so I sat with another shopkeeper whose glittering array of kitsch was uninteresting to us both, and we watched the youngster work. His net was particularly adept at snaring young females. My shopkeeper buddy and I waited until a cluster had left, then ribbed him about it. He sat next to me, blushing, and soon the three of us were swapping stories of adolescence, letting Krishna talk about “when I was a kid.”


Dharamsala rain

Thank goodness for the dedication of Indian chai vendors

Salesmanship was none of it, we parted as friends, and as I explored the Dalai Lama’s temple just down the street I realized what had kept me from buying. I didn’t want just a thing, I wanted it with a vibe. A gift from me to them, but with a third part too. Now that I counted Krishna a friend, I realized he was that third pillar.


That afternoon I wandered back by Krishna’s stall, had another cup of tea, then perused his singing bowls until I found the very best one. The one we kept grabbing out of each other’s hands to play, sonorous tone ringing into the street where motorcycles hurried and slow-eyed oxen did not.


Krishna and me

He insisted we take a selfie

A month later I took the bowl I bought from a new friend I’ll probably never see again and passed it along to the dear friends I’ve known for decades and hope to see for many more. And it felt good.


One can play a singing bowl with a tap of the wand, a short-lived spike of sound, or begin with the slow ringing rub that coaxes out the reverberations to last as long as you keep them going. I find the greatest beauty in a combination of the two, both the finite and the lasting, and am grateful to live a life with space for both.