THE SAINT OF
Treading Where the Buddha Trod
“You should come with us to Lumbini, Lord Buddha’s birthplace,” said the Saint of Kathmandu as she swept by me after evening devotions in the nunnery. Pausing at the bottom of the stairway to her quarters, she turned and, bright black eyes locking with mine, added, “Will we meet tomorrow? The buses leave at six”—an order, not an invitation, I realized, and so, putting my life on hold, next morning I returned to the nunnery. By the light of a twenty-five-watt bulb strung up over a shuttered shop beside the gate I noted a sleeping cow, a pack of mangy brindled dogs hunting through rubbish in the gutter, and three women in ragged cardigans and faded cotton saris sweeping the crumbling sidewalk with stick brooms. No buses, not a single pilgrim. I was wondering how to proceed when two nuns in long pink dresses showing strips of orange underskirt slipped by. They wore brown knitted hats and gloves, pink shawls wrapped tightly round their shoulders, thick brown socks, and canvas shoes and, with blood-red Singapore Airlines zippered bags in hand, were heading purposefully south. Heaving on my backpack, I hurried after them.
“Are you going to Lumbini?” I asked as I caught up.
“Where else would we be going this early in the morning?” the older of the two replied briskly.