Monday, October 30, 2006

McLeodganj -2-day 1

Its almost 1.30 am, India lost to Australia in cricket by more than a mile, there was a dinner and a little more than usual and a little less than needed to drink. Therefore, this is probably not the right time to be typing out all this stuff. However, lately I have found that I am getting pretty obsessive about keeping this thing updated. This post is going to be the walk from the shrine on the temple road to the temple. Its about 600 metres and there is so much to see. For instance, the picture above, a foreigner in the company of two tibetan women, they seemed to be engrossed in some discussion. I wondered what it might be.
The road is lined by shacks and wendors selling stuff like fake/real antiques, beads, jewellery and stuff. All the faces tell a story. There are many who probably came in 1959 and have seen life change right in front of their eyes. I am sure most of them cant decide whether its for the better or for the worse.

There are lots of pretty faces around, espescially at the cafes just down the fork that leads to the hotel complexes and the temple roads, here I met Leila Mead again. She probably thought I was taking her picture and we got talking. In hindsight, I think she was very quiet and very modest. Anyways, she told me that the Dalai lama would be giving an audience the next morning at 7AM. 7AM???????!!!!!!!!
SO I walked on......

The other thing that struck me was the absolute love and doting that parents shed on their children. I mean, sure all parents love their children. But here, wherever I saw, children were the center of attention, someone fawning on them all the time. And all the kids are really sweet.

On the other hand are the common people, the unemployed and the poor. They are here too, and no matter what people think, and I dont know whether there is Nirvana, peace, direction to life to be found over here or not; people need to earn and live in respect everywhere. And if peddling peace is the way to it, then so be it.

Just outside the main temple, I saw this old man dancing and singing an old Raj Kapoor song. He seemed to be alone, and his song had a poignancy that made me weep. Seeing me take a picture, some other tourists also started to film him, and seeing that he stopped. Some part of him realised his folly but soon enough he started again. I left there feeling a mixture of a parasite, a vulture and a voyuer. not a good feeling to have.

Later that day, I visited the Dolma memorial Tibetan hospital and asked the lady doctor there about mental illness in the Tibetan community. She looked at me a little dubiously but when I introduced myself and told her that I am a psychiatrist myself, she said that everyone was quite "normal", and there was only one crazy fellow around and he is quite harmless and roams about only "occasionally".
Thereafter crossing the mani stones lining the road below the temple, I walked into the narrow passageway that leads to the temple complex proper.
More on that tomorrow...

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..


Saw Hansraj Hans in the Upper cafeteria. Got a pic with him, I love some of his songs. Was here to get someone treated probably. And to the anonymous who left a comment, Thanks for the kind words.

Friday, October 27, 2006

Journey-3, Forsythganj

Between Upper Dharamshala and Mcleodganj is Forsythganj. The wonderful thing about Forsythganj is an old church, the Church of St John of the wilderness and a settlement of monks nearby. The area opposite the church is a bus stand. The church is known for its wonderful stained glass windows. When I reached, everything was bolted and there was no one around. It was very quiet, and the light was playing ever so often. Beautiful place to be. Mcleodganj had its heyday after the conquest of Maharaja Ranjeet Singh's Punjab by the British. True to form, McLeod founded Mcleodgunj and it had its moments too. After an earthquake in 1905, they decided it was too dangerous to be and shifted down to Dharamshala. The churchyard has some gravestones, most of them have been vandalized over the years.

The tomb of another high ranking British official who died in Dharamshala some time in 1858. Forgot his name. There was a beautiful flower next to the tomb, I sat there for sometime and imagined how it may have been. All of these people lived through history, some of them actually made it. All to die in faraway lands. I dont believe in god, the body after all is just that, a body but then I did think it might be nice to end up in the midst of known people.

There is a graveyard next to the church, most of the names can still be read and there are so many children buried here. India probably wasnt good for English babies, born in Jullundur and other places, dies in Dharamsala. Particularly poignant were two siblings laid out next to one another. The graves are mostly from 1870's, does anyone remember them any longer. Do their descendants even know??

The light played beautiful tricks, it was lovely, directional and golden. The only problem was that with a camera without a meter, it takes an awful lot of guesswork to get it right each time. Backlit leaves always attract me.

Lost in my thoughts, I was roaming about in the graveyard when I saw these two guys rolling a cheroot. Talk about getting stoned in the middle of headstones!!!

Next stop Mcleodaganj, Diwali.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Journey-2

I am hungry, I am tired, the Indian cricket team is getting a hiding yet again from the West Indies, and I have a seminar on the genetics of addiction to present tomorrow. I suppose no better reason to write this post then the above. I am like the light bulb above, wanna switch off.

The best thing about travelling alone is the freedom it affords. There were things I always wanted to do while on the road from Chandigarh to McLeodganj, and this time I indulged myself.

Once I reached close to Kangra, rhesus monkeys, loads of them started to make their appearence on both sides of the road. There are whole families and they haunt the road for handouts by passing drivers. there are boards everywhere advising people not to do so and not change the behavior of the monkeys but to no avail. Interestingly enough, even the locals sell bread for this purpose and make a quick buck themselves.

A view of the temple next to the Kangra fort. Its an amazingly beautiful plave and really did not have the lens to do it justice. The kangra fort overhangs the place, and ther is a confluence of two streams.

Boys on the river bank with their ponies. As is pervasive in all hills nowadays, there is construction everywhere. In a few years, they will be no longer the same.

The road is very narrow and steep, and one carelessness or selfishness by any one driver can lead to massive traffic jams, like the one above. I think the juxtaposition of the ponies and the vehicles makes for an interesting picture.

Stopped for tea in the Kangra town market. There was a diwali crowd in their best. This fellow was selling flowers and was happy to have his picture taken. The main road through Kangra is awesome, it has such magnificient views of the Dhauladhars. Unfortunately, this time it was all cloudy and shrouded. Each time I go there, the first sight of the mountains is the most awe inspiring spectacle ever. Some day I am going to take some pictures of that too.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006


After my last rant about diwali and my need to get away. I finally did move out early morning on 21st october, 2006. But before we get on to the real stuff, lets see what we do need to be a successful traveller.
1. The traveller: Alone, in a group, man, woman, child whatever. Doesnt matter much. Fitness of mind and body helps, and money is useful but not absolutely essential.

2. The road: The worse, the better. An occasional tunnel is always welcome.

3. Eyes, senses:Over here, eyes, ears, touch, smell, Om-1, manual SLR with a light meter that doesnt work, ISO 100 film, mostly fuji and lots of trigger happy fingers, not to forget the nokia 6680 cameraphone.

So alone, unsung, unsinging and grim, I set out to where the world is still Ok, and it doesnt matter anymore. After a half hour or so of fairly smooth sailing, was beset by a traffic jam the size of a hippo's butt. And that wasnt all, there were more holes, potholes, animals, and other stray flora, fauna and miscellany to spice up the road. Coming back to the first traffic jam, it was to let a goods train go through. It eventually arrived after 40 minutes by which time the traffic jam resembled a very big hippos butt. But no matter, peace.

The man at the railway crossing, patience is taught not learnt.

Whats the hurry mate?? This bovine seems to ask, ask me about my life too. Isnt that what travel is all about. I tried, genuinely but I am poor at languages.

Murphy's law isnt always true....I am still alive. The light at the end of this tunnel was just sunlight.
More tomorrow.

Little Lhasa

I am back from McLeodganj, hopefullhy by tomorrow, I will start with my pictures and commentaries. Bear with me please.

Pizza Party

Who will make up if we are both angry together??

Today being the last effective day of Dr Zoe in the department, a pizza party was organised. Helpfully enough, Dr Zoe was kind enough to do the organizing and the paying for it too. may she be back many many times. But seriously, I hope she will soon write some stuff for this blog. True to form, i was there to take part in the last pizza party.

Without further we go.

The pizzas when they were untouched, unfelt, innocent and full of zest for life.

But good times never last even when good people do......

And soon, there was keen non verbal competition for the last piece of pizza of the last pizza party.

Some pics after

Thoughtful me, others look appreciatively on......

the smile that launched a thousand ........dunno this pic though.

Saturday, October 21, 2006


Ok!!! Yes, so I said that I would not post again until I am back from the hills but I could not resist this. So, Sue Me!!!!

Jurassic Park!!!Thats what some uncharitable folkis called me in medical college. May they be ridden with lice forever.

Now we too have the "STAR" and the "Stripes". If we just had a maple leaf...everything would be just fine.

I dont care what everyone says....Naresh offered Mithai to me.....too. And I must inform everyone that Naresh and Madhusmita have one big Mithai Ka dabba please do help them finish it. Happy Diwali says Naresh.
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