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A Backpacker dream
I would like to tell you my experiences while backpacking through Bhutan north of
India. I had heard from the local people about a secret valley with a convent which
had an oracle who could tell your future. So very much interested, following the
directions I was given, a few days later I found myself outside the front door of the
When opened to me, I entered encountering a large room filled with incense with
several young women in white gowns chanting in a circle. A woman with distinguished
robes and jewelery approached, introducing herself as the high priestess of the convent
and beckoned me to sit down.
After taking my place in a hand woven bamboo chair, the highpriestess clicked her
fingers twice and the young women arose passing through a curtain and returning a
short time later carrying a bamboo structure.
I couldn't believe my eyes what I saw, because in the middle of a small platform on
top of the bamboo was a beautiful young contortionist probably in her late teens in a
tight triple fold, apparently completely in the nude. The structure was placed in the middle of the room, and then
candles were lit around her and as the priestess was returning to her seat, I took the
time to study the contortionist more closely.
She had a lovely serene face though completely expressionless and I could see that the
girl was in no ordinary triple fold but her head and shoulders were completely passed
through in front of her thighs with the back of her head resting up against her crotch
and her arms folded in front of her thighs, with her hands in a prayer position. In
fact I presume it is the position sometimes called a quadfold. Her bottom appeared to
be resting firmly against her back behind her head, with her tummy expanding and
contracting allowing her to breathe. The lady had said she had been fasting for
several weeks, and she certainly appeared badly undernourished, and I could indeed see
her well defined ribs below her tiny wasplike waist resting on the bambo platform.
The high priestess interupted his thoughts saying solemny.
"What is your request of the oracle?"
I was actually embarrassed to admit my real reasons for coming to Bhutan, but decided
to be honest and stated that I was travelling the world looking for a wife, so that if
they could tell me in which country she was to be found in I would be very grateful.
With this, the young women sitting in cross legged position around the contortionist
began chanting though the contortionst herself retained her passive expression.
After about 10 minutes the girls got up and began circling the contortionist waving
their incense sticks and returning to their seats while continuing their chanting.
This happened several more times, but he could see now that the contortionist was
starting to move her lips slightly. Surely it must be taking a considerable effort to
hold this position, and I could indeed now see beads of sweat forming on her brow.
After the fourth time of circling with incense her body started to vibrate and her
breathing became more rapid and she appeared to be about to come out of her triple
The highpriestess barked a quick order, and the young women moved over to the bamboo
frame and using thick twine tied her back down into her quadfold, the twine over her
pelvis pushing her bottom even harder into her back so she couldn't possibly escape
from her position even if she wanted to and also tied her head back hard against her
crutch. After this her vibrations and attempts to escape from her bonds became more
and more desperate but to no avail, until all of a sudden she became calm and her
breathing reverted to a steady rythm. She was now completely lathered in sweat with
the effort, her body still bound tightly into a tight little bundle with the cords but
when finally her blank expression returned she started to speak slowly and deeply...
"You must remain in Bhutan."
Wow, that was for me I realized, feeling my heart begin to race, I also noticed now
that the chanting was getting more intense. Sitting on the edge of my seat, looking
intently at the face of the contortionist. Seeing her helplessly bound in front of
me with her head pulled back mercilessly hard against her crutch, straining with the
effort her tummy moving rythmically in and out, he felt pity for her delicate little
body being so cruelly punished, but he also wanted her to give him an answer, so he
willed her on to continue, and after a few more seconds which seemd like hours, she
"You search is not in vain."
Yes, that is what I wanted to hear!
The chanting was now reaching a fever pitch, with the poor little contortionist in the
middle, lathered in sweat.
The voice of the contortionist now became urgent, imploring me
"You must remain....you must remain...." repeating it seveal times before trailing of.
With the last pronouncement I could see with her frantic breathing and closing her
eyes she was obviously completely exhausted and the session was over.
The high priestess motioned to the women and they ceremoniously moved over picked up
the bamboo frame and carried the contortionist out through the curtains, still bound
The women then returned and sat down continuing with their meditation looking straight
"Well, that took a little longer than normal," the highpristess interrupted
my thoughts, "but I hope you got the answer you were looking for."
"Please join me for tea so we can discuss it further if you like."
We enjoyed a nice cup of tea for over half an hour, before I noticed through a gap in
the curtain, that the contortionist was still bound on her bamboo platform. Commenting
on this to the highpriestess she casually replied,
"oh she is fine like that, its the job she was trained for, she will just be happy now
that she has helped you, that is all that matters to her. Besides we have another
client coming soon, and so we might as well leave her like that ready for him.
It seems to be more difficult for her to channel the spirit today so in these cases we
need to bind her in more extreme positions in order to help her."
"She is coming to the end of her three weeks of her work with meditation and fasting
and so she is probably tired."
There was a knock at the door, "excuse me a moment the highpriestess" shot back at
him, hurrying for the front door.
While she was leaving, I quickly slipped through the curtain to see the contortionist.
She was still bound as before and lathered in sweat, but breathing steadily.
"Hello," I offered to her, but her blank expression didn't change.
"Wouldn't it be more comfortable in a chair," I commented attempting a bit of humour,
"surely it must be a bit uncomfortable like that? Aren't you suffering in that
"As my highpriestess wishes," she intoned without expression.
"Where are your clothes to put on" I asked trying to think of something to say.
"I don't need clothes here in the convent" she intoned simply, "and it interferes with
my training in extreme positions".
"But what if it gets cold at night?" I asked perplexed.
"They have taught me how to control my body temperature", she responded simply, "Also
I have my sleeping box if necessary" she added.
I looked across at a small box, no bigger than 40cm square sitting on the floor in the
corner of the room. So she slept in that, I couldnt believe it.
"Isnt that too small for you" I asked incredulous.
"Its what is provided for me," she replied simply.
"Have you ever thought of leaving?", I asked finally.
"They have given me everything, food, shelter, training, purpose in life, how could I
ever leave?", she asked perplexed.
I knew life could be hard in Bhutan so I commented simply
"You must be hungry."
"There can be no food during my three weeks of work," she responded flatly.
"During my three weeks of rest, they let me eat all the fruit and berries I can
find out in the orchard,", she enthused quietly.
"Are you happy here then?" I asked. "Yes very happy," she replied, "my highpriestess
looks after my every need."
The highpriestess suddenly entered the room and interupted, you have been told not to
talk to clients she castigated the girl sharpyly.
"You know you must be punished for this" she said, rebuking her.
"Yes, as you wish, thankyou highpriestess", the girl reponded reverently without
changing her expression.
"I am sorry, I must ask you to leave so she can be ready for the next session.", she
"Thanks" I said, leaving through the back door, but I took one more look at her slim little body from
behind this time, still cruelly contorted in the tight quadfold on the rough bambo
structure, the back of her head protruding over her pelvis still tighly bound up
against her back with her ribs protruding so unaturally, I was already forming a plan
to return. I think I now knew why the contortionist had told me to remain in Bhutan
to find my wife! But that is another story. To be contd.