Saturday, October 28, 2006

McLeodganj -1

I reached Mcleodganj about 1.30 pm. The weather was great and I was hungry. Wondered where to stay, have often wanted to be a politically correct traveller and stay at a place run by Tibetans (lots of em), but then the temptation of a clean bed and hot water was tool great and I walked down to the Chinar lodge, a fancy place opposite to the Bhagsunag hotel. Sure, its expensive, but when its just one day, it doesnt pinch too much. The guy at the counter recognised me and seemed to be really pleased to see me. It was Diwali and there were decorations being put up, and so I asked him what was all that for. Sure enough, he said that it was diwali and there would be a celebration that night. He seemed a little crestfallen when i told him that I had come to Mcleodganj to get away from Diwali. I am sure he didnt quite get the drift then.

After this, I walked down to the hotel Tibet for lunch, love that place. Plus there are always lots of interesting people around, and the service is good. The best part is that the beer is always chilled and they get it in the restaurant, right under the nose of HH's picture.

The walls have beautiful prints depicting tibetan nomadic life. There always locals, monks and foreigners around. And there were a couple of Tibetans who obviously had a taste for alcohol. Each time I go to Mcleodganj, I come back with this impression that all the foreign attention that HH has brought to them may actually be a double edged sword. I always get the impression that under the surface, there is drug addiction, HIV and other such stuff. Tibetan kids go into paratha shops to buy cigarettes, and all lay people seem to smoke.
The other thing that never fails to irk me is the snootiness that some shopkeepers will display to Indians, and whats even more galling is that I have had this experience more often with Indian shopkeepers. Espescially if there are foreigners around. A Canadian woman I talked with the next day also had a similar impression. She told me of an NRI who was on his first visit to India at the age of 30+ and was amazed at the sort of subtle discrimination he faced in his own country at the hands of his own countrymen. I wonder if we will ever get over our need to be servile to white skinned people.
Getting out of the Hotel Tibet, one is assaulted by posters and bills pasted indiscriminately all over all available places.

These extol the virtues everything from painting, meditation, astrology, yoga to massage, cookery classes and other such stuff. Talk about hard selling Nirvana!!!! One particularly interesting one dealt with Thai massage in Himachal Pradesh India taught by some practitioner who had decades of experience in Amdo.

Walking back to the Dalai lama temple, came across the building that has the prayer wheels. There was Mr Big playing in there somewhere, so I walked over and this boy was painting a mural on the wall of Marpa (I think) and the stereo was his. Upstairs there were Indian/local men painting some more murals. Its all about adaptation everywhere.

This when I met Leila Mead, but more of that later. There were people going about their work everywhere. And a circumambulation of the wheels i probably a part of the daily routine.

I get beads from whenever and where ever I go, sort of an obsession with me. Walking out I stopped at a roadside stall and brought a rosary, slipped it around my wrist. Mcleodganj is a portrait photographers paradise, the faces are fantastic.

More tomorrow..

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