Adapted from an essay written for a BYU travel writing class in 2011.
Illustrations by ViSnezh
On a normal day in McLeod Ganj, India, my host mom, Tam Kho, woke up at 6:00 a.m. to make balep—bread—for breakfast. By the time I woke up at 6:30, she was sitting on the floor of her tiny kitchen mixing flour, baking soda, and water with her hands as she repeated the Dalai Lama’s mantra of compassion: “Om mani padme hum.”
As I washed my face, Tam Kho left her balep dough and walked to the large framed photograph of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama that sat on a shelf behind bright orange curtains. She picked up the golden tiered dish beside the picture, carried it outside, and dumped yesterday’s water offering over the railing of the deck. I sat on the red velvet cushion and leaned against the side of my bed. She returned, walking slowly so as not to spill the dish that she had just filled to the brim with some of her precious, clean water. She repeated the mantra softly as she walked. When she placed the water offering carefully on the books that lined the shelf, I opened Isaiah to my maroon bookmark and started chapter forty-four. Tam Kho returned to her balep dough, the rhythm of her kneading following the cadence of the mantras.
Trisong, my host uncle, was finally waking up at ten past seven as I was flipping pages to Alma in the Book of Mormon. Tam Kho stood up and walked to His Holiness’s picture again, ticking prayer beads one by one as she went. She repeated, “Om mani padme hum,” as she slid each one. I finished reading in Alma, Tam Kho returned to the kitchen, and we all sat around the table for breakfast.