The day I had to stay convalescing in a temple at Sarnath, the young Japanese resident fasted and did a retreat. He recited the mantra “Nam Myoho Renge Kyo” hour after hour while hitting the drum, but not as a healing ritual for me, but because it was forty-nine days since the old monk who had founded the temple had passed away (a date with a special significance in certain Buddhist traditions). I was impressed by his sincerity.

When I regained the strength, the Japanese girl and her dog (middle size and undetermined breed, brown) accompanied me to the train station. She was a slender young hippie with an appeal that was born from within. While waiting for the train, we chatted quietly.

“The most transformative experience of my life was to complete the pilgrimage of the eighty-eight temples around Shikoku island,” she said, and her words rang as heavenly music. “That’s when I broke free of the social role of complacent Japanese woman and decided to come to India.”

Her last words were, “Freedom and happiness are the same, synonymous.”

From the window of the train, already moving, I saw how she was giving a kick to a stout  man who had dared to bother her dog.

She still could turn and say goodbye with her hand and, especially, with her smile.