While walking through Boudha one morning, Lama S.T. turned to me and asked, "Have you ever seen a Lama Dance?" With a raised eyebrow and a grin, I declared that I had not.
"Come. We go." He flipped his crimson robe over his shoulder, and quickly dashed off. I struggled to keep up with him, trying to shade us both from the unforgiving sun with my tacky red floral umbrella. We wove through the rush of people and motorbikes to a small alleyway with a modest gompa at the end of it.
The dance hadn't started yet, so Lama led me to the shrine room. We kicked off our shoes at the door, and went inside— the coolness on my arms was immediate. Rice had been thrown on the floor and stuck to my bare feet, a wonderful sensation as Lama explained who the golden statues were behind the glass. The fierce eyes of Guru Rinpoche, with his curved moustache followed us from behind that immaculate glass as we moved on to watch the other lamas prepare their costumes for the dance.
Then, it was time.
Whirling colours, crashing cymbals and low, guttural chants washed over me. I studied the faces of the people around me, watching intently as the masked monks swayed and leapt. The overall seriousness was broken by the occasional smile from the young monks and nuns in the audience, who shuffled this way and that, trying to film the dance on their phones and cameras.
"People believe when they watch this dance, their obstacles go away for one year." Lama explained quietly.
"I hope so."