Sunday, June 1, 2014

My First Indian Adventure

   I haven't lived in India as an adult before. In fact, I've spent almost all of my life outside of my native country and I've always hated the idea of living here. I've always hated the crowds, the pollution, the dirt, the traffic, the lack of elbow space, the nosy neighbours, Holi, etc.

   But providence - because it's always so much easier to blame it on providence, finally brought me back, and reminded me of an entry I made in my journal some years ago- that I had, for better or worse, decided that I should be in India for time time- mainly to be closer to my father and try to re-establish some familial roots.

   The difficult part of my transition- leaving Mozambique - a place that I had considered my home for almost 10 years, was over, thanks to my stint at the Sitka Center of Art and Ecology. I needed to leave, and Sitka had provided me with a place for that transition.
   Standing at the top of the Cascade Head, overlooking the Pacific Ocean, I knew that that I was where I wanted to be, right there and then. And the future itself  was a blank slate. I had no plans.
   And so I ended up back in India- Delhi in particular. I had lived in Delhi before, during my college years, at that cusp of adulthood when I was most uncomfortable with myself, with my life, with the world. And now I was back, more than a decade later, to a different Delhi. I'd even venture to say a cleaner and better Delhi. I've even found people to be fairly nice, and decent.

   But perhaps that is because I, myself, am a nicer person than I used to be (or so I'd like to think).

   I still have no plans, by the way.

Anyway, none of this self reflection is relevant because this journal is primarily visual.

I've just recently come back from a wonderful trip to Dharamsala with a friend who has just had the "can do trips with" box checked on my list of friends.

Let's start with the mountains. We were close to a very tiny part of the Himalayan mountain range. There is just something about sitting on a hill, and looking at even bigger formations, some so high that they're capped with snow.  The majesty of it doesn't make one feel insignificant - it makes one feel like a part of something far grander than we can possibly imagine.
View from the Galu Shrine

Ladies on their way to the shrine

Pee with a view. If you need to on the trail, one might as well enjoy the view, right?

Being in that part of the world, of course, meant one has to do the touristy things - like visiting McLeod Ganj. I can't say it was my favourite part of the trip, because it really wasn't. McLeod Ganj is a cramped little town with no municipal services like garbage disposal and a sewage system- though to be fair, that could apply to any other cramped little town (and big cities) in India

McLeod Ganj during the day
McLeod Ganj during the night
"Center" of the town. 
McLeod Ganj gets more than its fair share of visitors from all over, including the occasional Hare Krishna!

Mantras for the road. You need 'em to drive through the treacherous, winding roads.

Too many cars for so little road. 

Our mission in McLeod Ganj comprised of a visit to a world famous Tibetan doctor (whose specialty was determining the cure by  looking at patients' urine) and more randomly, a visit to a tarot card reader, because why not?

But first, to get an appointment with the aforementioned doctor, one has to stand in line to get a coupon. Because the appointment is virtually free (well, 10) and the old fossil can see "only" about 45 patients a day, there is a long queue to get the appointment. We stood (and sat) in line for about 5 hours - mind you, this is not counting the other 6 hours that one of our host's worker had been standing in place for us.

The clinic is in a small, tight, dingy alley, that also serves all manner of beasts. 
After a five hour wait, the coupons are given out
at 2 in the afternoon.  We are then told to com
back the following day. 

A nervous Maya, standing  next to a sink where
the kindly doctor swirls and examines urine
samples in a cup. We wait for 45 minutes. 

After a five minute consultation with the doctor,
Maya finally gets  a package of what looks
like an assortment goat poop. 

We had our religious moments too:
"Turn wheels," said a random old man, "and you will
get many husbands".
At Norbulingka, which is kind of touristy.

Metalsmiths at the foundry

Creating Gods

Face of the perfect Buddha
 There was, of course, some socialisation.  We were introduced to a lovely group of people that liked cooking and playing music. They were all adorable, and I had the best home made pizza ever. Thanks to  Anton, Abhishek, Sena and KP! And Garfield!

One of my favourite parts of the trip was, however, getting lost on a hike through the terraced hills, streams and forests. When we were feeling tired, lost and kind of faint, Providence introduced us to a kindly couple who offered us their chairs and cups of chai- of which they had just happened to brew exactly two cups extra that afternoon. Providence, for sure!

The kindly farmer and his wife
A Special thanks to Kunal Singh for hosting myself and Maya for the week. We had a blast!
A path that looks like it leads to the mountains. Eventually. 


teixap said...

Lovely! Both text and images!

teixap said...

Lovely! Both the text and the images!

jerome morreton said...

Wahou, that's a really nice reading, congrats for the guts you had to live such experience, hope you can enjoy it for a long time! Your photos are also beautiful. Thanks! :)