The lonely yogi of Gechu

Our reporter Nirmala Pokhrel meets the mysterious ascetic of Gechu and learns about her curious, lonely and regimental ways of living 

Profile: Meet Srimati Rai, 65. She has been alone for good part of her life. She doesn’t know what it means to have a companion in life.

Srimati Rai has been living alone in isolated places for last 43 years. She laughs off when asked if she was ever afraid to live on her own. She is a sadhvi (ascetic), who began living a yogi’s life since the age of 22. She went off, leaving her parents behind in Sarpangseer. Of course she never married.

“What is fear? Someone who fears is weak,” she said. “No one asks me because they fear talking to me.”

The tiny old woman doesn’t remember the last time she combed her hair. She has chopped her hair with a kitchen knife. When she smiles, you can see long, sharp incisors; the look she wears when she does this is one of dreadful innocence.

But it is easy to talk to Srimati. She is jolly and goes on talking. Yet as darkness comes she prefers not to speak to anyone.

Srimati has been living by the roadside at Gechu for almost three months now. Gechu is about 30km before Tsirang as you drive from Sarpang.  It’s a silent place, away from settlement and in middle of a forest. She has managed to build a tiny, tidy hut above the road, attached to the wall. Beside the hut, she has gathered some rocks to make a fireplace. That’s her kitchen.

Before she moved to Gechu, Srimati was living in a deep jungle in Sarpangseer, away from any kind of human settlements.

“I couldn’t live there long. Elephants chased me away,” she said. Srimati’s relatives don’t come to visit her. “It is by much peaceful here,” she added, giving away a toothy smile. And she is happy that way. She said she could not live with them because of different  food habits. Her family is non-vegetarian; she is. Let alone meat, she has not consumed a grain for last 43 years. One roti is all she eats in a day.

“I love to eat some sweets sometimes. Whenever I have that feeling, I enjoy a mixture of milk powder and sugar,” said Srimati.

During the day she goes into the forest to collect broom plants. She sells them to travellers at Nu 50 minimum a bundle.  With the money she goes Sarpang town to buy flour. That too is not all too frequent.

Sometimes, travellers give her clothes and things to eat. She accepts them, but only rarely. “One should not enjoy on others’ wealth. Their wealth is fruit of their own hard work,” said Srimati. “I don’t want to be harsh, though.”

Srimati is dressed thinly but not meanly. She is very particular with hygiene. In a pet bottle she mixes soap and sand to wash her hands and feet before and after food.

“I’ve been strict with hygiene. Probably that’s the reason I have never been sick in my life, occasional aches besides.”

Srimati is not sure how long she will be in Gechu. Of one thing she is certain, however: she will continue to live alone as long as she is able to.

Probably, after that, she will go to live in a dham (temple).

Nirmala Pokhrel, Gelephu

2 replies
  1. kapee
    kapee says:

    The lonely yogi of Sarpangseer (Menchulum)

    The people who do not know her will think she is crazy or mentally insane and the people who knew her well thinks she is pure at heart. while serving as county administrative officer of Gakiling Gewog (Hilley) i did my level best to help her, but the problem with her is she will never accept any kinds or cash. even Gups, Mangmis and Chiwog Tshogpas tried their level best to support her and make her living comfortable. she hardly accepts cash from anyone and its very rare she accepts any kinds of goods from other people. her main source of income she depends on collecting brooms from forest and collecting medicinal herbs from forest. she will be seen selling brooms in Sarpang market and sometimes in Sarpanttar and i always make sure to buy her brooms and sometimes she will offer me some medicinal herbs which i always accept.
    i always make sure she gets kerosene token when ever she visits Gewog administration office because she visits once a month and sometimes thrice. i even prepared her profile for destitute kidu but when i interviewed her and did background analysis she refused my offer why? Basically she was happy the way she was and she don’t want to receive any kinds or cash from Gewog or community. she told me its her arena and karma which she always believe. so i just like to request all, do buy brooms or any kinds from her if happen to see her selling because its her only source of living and she will never accepts free offerings.

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