They say a picture is worth a thousand words – it can be a means of expression, a way of preserving a moment, a method of story-telling, and so on. However, sometimes we can’t truly appreciate a picture until we know the story behind it.
For this reason, I decided to create a subsection in my blog called, “The Story Behind the Picture”. Here, I will take some of my favorite travel pictures and turn them into short stories. These moments and interactions, for me, are what make traveling so enriching: they open your heart, broaden your mind, and ignite your soul.
Thanks for allowing me to share my stories with you! xo
She walks with such rigidity as she carries a bucket of candles throughout the Buddhist stupa. There’s something about her that instantly catches my eye. She’s clearly not a tourist; however, she’s also not like the other locals who come here to either pray or to desperately try to sell items to tourists. She humbly walks about the temple, past the shrines and prayer wheels, throwing grains for the pigeons. She has shiny, black hair which is slicked back into a partial pony tail. She dresses in multiple layers of tattered, worn clothing. She has a teal blue dress hidden under a pink cardigan and loose black and beige pants with geometrical patterns on them. Around her neck, she wears a couple of wooden Tibetan prayer beads, which coincides with her Bindi – a colored dot in the centre of her forehead.
I watch from afar as she reaches into her orange satchel, and, with her knobby, arthritic fingers, pulls out a banana to feed to a monkey. Properly named the Swayambhunath Stupa, it’s now more commonly referred to as the ‘Monkey Temple’ since this ancient place of worship is infested with monkeys … and likely because most of the tourists struggle to pronounce ‘Swayambhunath’.
Amongst the commotion of praying monks, begging children, and tourists snapping selfies, I remain captivated by this woman who continues on with her business paying no attention to anyone else. She shoos away greedy monkeys to feed the ones who didn’t receive a banana yet. I admire her sincere respect for all living beings. So zen. So pure. So selfless. Seemingly having so little, she still manages to give. She gives without asking for praise, recognition, or anything in return. She gives simply because she is truly a good person.
I notice a few candles fall out of her heaping bucket. I rush over and pick up the one which has rolled away and offer it back to her. As I smile and extend my hand out to return it to her – I can tell that she doesn’t speak a word of English. She looks at me with one lazy eye; her timeworn face crinkles as she returns the smile. Her eyes carry such wisdom and experience – I can’t help but wonder what those eyes have seen. She signals for me to keep it. She points to an area where locals are placing candles as offerings and chanting a Buddhist prayer. I listen to the low, humming of “om ah hum” – which I believe is a mantra to symbolize the body, speech, and mind.
Although appearing worn and tattered on the outside, this woman’s soul was absolutely radiant. She reminded me of the importance of humanity. Dalai Lama once said, love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries. Without them, humanity cannot survive. In a world divided between beliefs, religion, culture, nationality, language – we can still choose to make a connection with one another through the universal language of kindness.