Following the Flock from Palampur to Chamba

The Second Song, Psalm 23

You don’t know jack shit about sheep, herds or shepherds but this song remains a perennial favorite.

The Gaddi were nomadic until they learned to drive taxis, clean and cook for the Tibetans who landed in their hill station little more than 60 years ago, and the Westerners who followed the lamas into the Dhauladhars, high foothills of the Himalayas. Here where I live Gaddi men used to graze huge flocks during the winter. Many still do.

Before monsoon and after the snow has melted, shepherds set off in search of sweet grass high up where they will stay until the snows force them once again, along with the lemurs and bears, to retreat to the lower plains where they can interfere in the lives of other wanderers.

They and their sheep cross the main road near Palampur, and head across the difficult mountains until they arrive nearly 100 kilometers north in the Chamba Valley--three weeks trekking. Their favored grasslands are near Bharmour where the oldest wooden temple in the world is found. Chaurasi is said to have been built by the descendants of Greek craftsmen who followed Alexander to the ends of the earth, that is until his army revolted and turned back at the nearby Beas River. I saw with my own eyes the traditional Greek grape motif carved above a lintel thousands of kilometers from Macedonia.

And this is where I propose to sing about the life of a shepherd, as far removed from the fifth millennium before the Savior as the psalmist’s song is removed from the Court of King James.

Following the Flock from Palampur to Chamba

I sing my sad song about a shepherd 

Who drove his sheep

Across the highway near my house 

And headed into the high mountains

In search of sweet grass.

Just two days ago

The local newspaper reports

In remote Rajgundha lightning struck.

70 sheep and goats died.

It’s monsoon. The ground soaks up the water greedily,

Fog so thick your hand disappears.

Our shepherd sought refuge under a tree.

He and his boys lived but they lost their livelihood

In a flash.

I wonder if their dogs survived.

There is a fund for compensation 

When tragedy strikes like the hand of god

And the shadow of death covers the valley.

I don’t have even a faint idea of 

A shepherd’s life 

in the time of David, 

But it wasn’t Little Bo Peep.

Psalm 23, King James

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.

He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.

He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name's sake.

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.

Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.


Popular posts from this blog

Acquainted With The Night

White Owl Flies Into and Out of the Field