To sing to the mountains

by Gabriella Sonabend

A few weeks before I came to India I performed at a festival. Amongst the crowd was a group of Tibetans who were running a food stall at the festival. They were all living in UK and had left Tibet and McLeod Ganj at various points over the past ten to twenty years. After I performed a Tibetan man ran up to me and told me that if I was going to India then I must take my guitar to the Himalayas and sing to the mountains. He told me that I must carry him in my voice, and only when surrounded by the mountains and the mist would I learn to understand my own song. It was a slightly unexpected instruction but I am a great believer in following the impulsive requests of strangers, (providing that they will not endanger or harm me or others), and so last night I found myself making a painful decision. I could not take the responsibility of taking both my camera gear and my guitar on the long journey to the mountains. Last time I went to McLeod Ganj I took a film camera with me and the film I shot there was ruined in the developing process. Despite this, and maybe even because of this, my memories of McLeod Ganj are the most vivid from that whole trip and I even remember the distinct taste of the Tibetan tsumpa porridge, which I have been craving ever since. The sounds of chanting nuns and monks resounded in my ears for years after. So I have decided to abandon my camera. Some places simply can’t be captured in photographs. I will take my cumbersome guitar case, I will sing to mountains. I’ll probably feel like a fool but at least I will be fulfilling the request of the Tibetan man who instructed me so urgently as he longed for his homeland.