Category: Traveling at Home

Two Short Travel Stories

June 29, 2020

In addition to reading my old travel journals and blogs, I’ve written two short stories for a contest by an upscale hotel chain. One of them has been I singled out for publication. See if you can figure out which.

Guiding Lights

By Arnie Kanter

I met the King of Bastar.

My guide, Japreet, said the king was an acquaintance. His company had made travel arrangements for the royal family.  Though the king was the central figure in the four-day festival, the Bastar Durshea, that I was in India to see, starting that evening, Jaspreet called the king on his cell. The king invited us to come over to the palace to see him.

Jaspreet and I spent forty-five minutes with the king, a young man of about thirty, who clearly believed that he was fully entitled to be king. Jaspreet conversed comfortably with the king, who spoke of the festival and how his participation and approval would be required for every aspect of the festivities.  He made a point of telling us that he would be riding in on the new horse he’d just bought in Mumbai for many millions of rupees.  His manner in greeting us and ordering tea from his servants, while not unkind, was aloof and privileged.  Clearly, it was good to be king.

Afterwards, alone again with Japreet, I said that, although he had described the king as an acquaintance, from my observation of their interactions he might well have described him as a friend.  Without hesitation, Japreet replied, “No, you have only a few friends.” His tone suggested that not only was the king not a friend now, he never would be.  And that would be Jaspreet’s decision.

Over the years, many excellent guides have shed light for me on animals, birds, a country’s history and its culture.  Jaspreet shed light for me on the meaning of friendship.  Long after I’ve forgotten the King of Bastar, I’ll remember Japreet.

Suffering’s End

By Arnie Kanter

In 2009, on a mountaintop near Paro, Bhutan, I met His Eminence Neyphug Trulka, a 29-year old Rinpoche, now in his tenth life.

Rinpoche’s smile is radiant, his manner calm, unhurried. The half hour he’d allotted for tea stretches to five hours. Discussion topics include his discovery as a reincarnate, the school he’s established for Bhutan’s orphan boys, and his studies with a master in India. 

I pose one burning question. Since Buddhism teaches that life is suffering, what advice would Rinpoche have for Chicago Cubs fans, who have not won a World Series in over a century? He pauses. “Well…you should not be too sad. Think of the joy you have brought to other teams.” 

This is decidedly notthe wisdom I sought. Here on a mountaintop, thousands of miles from Wrigley Field, should I take heart from the joy I’d brought the teams who had caused my suffering? Way too Buddhist for me. I gave Rinpoche my Hebrew Cubs hat, converting him into a Cubs fan. Now he would know true suffering. 

Rinpoche comfortably inhabits two worlds, the monastic and the modern. His monastery houses fifty-one disadvantaged boys. Rinpoche teaches them Buddhism, but also computer skills and languages to prepare them for secular life, should they decide not to remain monks. He’s downloaded What’s App for me, so we can communicate more easily. 

Back home, I accept Rinpoche’s request to friend him on Facebook, thus making him my only openly-reincarnated friend. I have met with him twice more, once as his guest at his monastery’s annual festival, once in Singapore, where he teaches. 

As I’d hoped, this friendship ended my suffering with the Cubs. At my request, Rinpoche conducted a puja (special prayer) for our team. Attending the seventh game of the 2016 World Series, I What’s App-ed with Rinpoche, as the Cubs finally won the championship.

Leave a Reply

You can use these HTML tags

<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>