Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Mcleodganj and Dharamshala

The weather was wonderful. It rained a little, but there had been an IPL match in Dharamshala which I did not know about...I tend to skip sports news, which now run to three pages in daily newspapers, and its usually about money and potato chips. I always feel a little anxious when I go to hill towns and find that the people have no fruit to eat, and potato chips are the mandate of the day. The nationstate promotes potato cultivation because it is good commerce: they sell it to the multinational chips companies.  Fruit ofcourse reaches our towns and is pulped for urban dwellers.Fruit was wholly absent in Dharmshala, (some anaemic looking safedas sat in baskets, but no plums or apricots!) but I did manage to buy an excellent bottle of apricot preserve made by the Tibetan women's cooperative. The other aspect of the match was that there were immense traffic jams as the tourists just blocked up the little town with metal.
Dalai Lama's monastery is peaceful and overlooks lovely peaks of snow covered mountains. He is such a holy man he does not notice the drabness of the PWD architecture of the buildings... I was quite startled at how governmental it looked, that famous yellow paint, the cement and the stairs and the terraces really like those government schools we remember from the 1960s. The peace is palpable, like a steady heartbeat, and the monks go about busily with their work, and the pilgrims and tourists find what they are looking for. Outside the monastery two women sell momos to the hungry and the local hill men put out their wares of green leaf vegetables (Chinese spinach) of which there is a great deal of demand in the small eateries. The Tibetan jewellery is exquisite and there are lots of stalls, not competing, but communicating that a craft does not die when it has merchants and buyers. Ofcourse the merchants are the makers of these lovely things, (men and women beading and polishing as they wait) the colours of pearl and lapis and turquoise and amber gleam in the bright hot sun. When the rain is gone, the light is very clear, and the snow glints far away.
The temple of BhagsuNag is on the other hill. Aeons ago, a king called Bhagsu lived in Rajasthan. His people told him they were leaving his villages because they did not have water, and he was always lost in meditation so had never noticed.  He then travelled to the himalayas, and meditating all the while, filled his container with an entire lake. However on his return he fell asleep, near a Shiva temple. The King of snakes bit him,  killing him, and the water he was carrying toppled, and so emerged the waterfall one can still see today.
I went to the little church, where Lord Elgin of the Elgin marbles lies buried, courtesy of his loving wife, who left an epitaph saying her husband Bruce still speaks. There were lilies all around and a peaceful cemetry with other now forgotten and once loved humans marked by stones with words about their character. Unmarked graves are the best, because they allow the earth to rejuvenate.
Ritu Sarin and Tenzing Sonam, both gifted  and celebrated film makers were wonderful to spend time with, and the nunnery where I stayed, adjacent to their house had the most magical views and gardens. The nuns live quietly, doing their tasks with great and amazing joy...studying, debating, farming, dairying and supporting the crafts of their people.
When I returned to Delhi, the dust haze was incredible, and everything outside of the city was clothed in greyness: the sky, the cemented houses, the lack of trees in the border areas including Majnu Ka Tila (where the diaspora Tibetans live) were so desolate it shocked me. I saw a dead man in leafy New Delhi who had died from hunger and the heat. I crossed the privileged green bowers of MPs Quarters and then on to our own protected little planet of JNU where the laburnums were out, the research students moving around with dissertation deadlines, and then I was home again, ready to read Paolo Freire, where the intellegentsia of the people always recover and win.

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