|The rock that Deb brought me after her trip in 2000|
My friend Deborah worked with me at the new Berkeley Sur La Table when it opened in 1996. Sur La Table was founded by Shirley Collins in 1972 and had a single retail location in Seattle's Pike Place Market until Seattle power COUPLE Renee and Carl Behnke bought it in 1995. We heard rumors that Ms. Collins had overextended the store's budget by buying too many pieces of French Copper and was forced to sell. In any case, the new owners wanted to expand and decided to open a second store in the developing 4th Street area of Berkeley. All the French copper cookware found its way to the Berkeley store, adding to its allure. I was hired to curate the extensive cookbook collection and Deb came along shortly after we opened. It was an exciting time to be working on booming 4th Street and in the energized Sur La Table spinoff. The company was later sold to an international corporation based in Bahrain and is no longer the fun store we opened.
Four years years after the Berkeley store opened, Deb decided to travel to Ladakh, the mountainous region in Indian-administered Kashmir which borders on China. It's known as "little Tibet" and is home to thousands of Tibetan Buddhist refugees. I thought the trip was a crazy idea, but I did enjoy following her altitude training and itinerary, which had her arriving and departing from New Delhi.
|Tibetan characters on a small rock that I keep on my dresser|
After she left there were of course no emails, no instagram posts or cellphone photo exchanges, and we didn't hear about the trip until she got home. I remember Deb looking fit, thin and tan when she returned to work, and she had many stories to relate in her inimitable fashion. One included the story behind the souvenir she so kindly brought back for me:
She had picked up several rocks in New Delhi en route to her trek in Ladakh and then when she arrived she told me, "she paid a Tibetan monk personally to engrave the mantra 'keep moving' on one side and the date, 8/5/00, on the other." Since the Buddhist monk spoke no english, we were never sure of the exact translation.
I have kept this prized possession on my dresser as she advised and have glanced at it now and then. The other day I picked it up and was shocked to see that 22 years had passed. Then I wondered what that scrawled blue message actually said; I had always thought it was in Hindi. Luckily Sherab, a close friend of my sister's in CT, got his PhD in Sanskrit at Berkeley, lived on the subcontinent for many years and is fluent in a number of its languages. I sent him a picture of the rock and waited for his reply.
Sherab came up with all the information we could possibly want! First, he confirmed the language as Tibetan. He said that Tibetans are famous for writing on rocks. All over Tibet one sees prayer stones and other messages scrawled on rocks, so these small souvenirs made sense.
Now for the translation: Sherab pointed out that Tibetans were not likely to say "keep moving" and without even consulting his dictionary he pieced together a poetic rendition true to the Tibetan spirit and a fitting memento of my friend's trip to Ladakh.
From the path, a beautiful way