Dear Mom and Dad: I just went to the McLeod Ganj post office to mail some cards to you. Email is nice but there's nothing like a letter or card you can actually hold in your hands. The post office is just a tiny grubby dimly lit room with rotary fans and Hindi bhajans (devotional hymns) playing on an old radio in the background. It was funny in this town full of Buddhists to hear the Hindu religious music I'm so familiar with from elsewhere in India. It's so dark in there I don't know how the 2 old guys actually see anything, maybe their jobs are so routine they just do them without actually looking. I sent one to you and one to Carter - total cost, about 35 cents (8 rupees per card). The stamps feature the Indian painted crane. I asked for what they call "philatelic" stamps (special picture ones, some are magnificent) and they regretted they don't get them at this branch office. Stamps here are not lick and stick; you have to affix them on the card with a bit of rubber cement or paste, usually kept on the countertop in an old jar with a daubing stick. I glued them in place, trying to wipe the excess dry round the edges. The man behind the counter cheerfully placed them in a "go" batch, but I asked him (with a combination of English and sign language) to postmark them before my eyes. This is a standard precaution here; if you don't, the postal employees may peel off the yet-unmarked stamps, keep them for their own use, and your card will get thrown in the trash. Uncle obliged me and I then asked to see the postmarks. They were half in Hindi, half English, reading "Kangra Himachal" (the district, sort of like the county; and state). When I was younger I used to cherish any international mail that came through the office, running my fingers over the postmark, picturing the far-off place and exotic locale where it had been stamped and dreaming that someday I'd be there.
My friend seemed to think we got a great deal on the room, $5.60 a night for a toilet that doesn't flush, no carpet (extra freeze factor in this region) and no TV. Today I found a room with mountain view windows on 3 sides, bathroom that works w/24-hour hot water, room service, worn-out carpet and cable TV - not to mention a balcony where I can do yoga in the morning - for the same price, so I am shifting there tonight. It has full morning sun, which makes a big difference staying warm. There is no heat to speak of in most hotels, so it's direct solar heat in the day, heap on the double blankets and thermals at night. With all this talk of cold, I should mention that it's still about high 56 in the day, low around freezing - warmer than Tennessee. I'd like to get there before sunset (5.30 pm) so I need to run.
On Christmas Eve I may attend the Caroling service at the church of St John's in the Wilderness, an historic site with stained glass windows. McLeod Ganj was once a British administrative center and hill station, and the church is one vestige of those days.
Sirensongs: Indologist At Large
Somewhere between Kangra, Kashmir and Kumbakonam, India
Sirensongs moved to India in 2002 to complete her six years' study of the ancient temple dance, Bharatanatyam. Apprenticing with a revered master in Madras, she learned a great deal; however, most of it was not about dance.
Disillusionment and childhood memories of "Tintin In Tibet" have led her to adventures as a spiritual investigative reporter throughout India, Nepal and Sri Lanka; as documented on this blogsite, her Flickr photo portfolio and various newsmedia (see sidebar).
She holds a certificate in Spoken Sanskrit from Rashtriya Samskrta Samsthan (deemed university, New Delhi) and is a lifetime member of ABHAI (Assoc. of Bharatanatyam Artists of India). Sirensongs is inordinately proud of her ability to read street signs and argue (successfully) with taxi drivers in Malayalam, Hindi, French and Nepali languages.
Her Tibetan, however, is still a total disgrace. She's working on it.
Quote: "Why do people go to India to find themselves? India is where you go to LOSE yourself."
Unless otherwise noted, every word and photograph on this website, including the phrases "Spiritual Investigative Reporter" and "Indologist at Large," is original and copyright from 2005 into perpetuity by Sirensongs (yes, I have a real name I use for legal purposes). It is not public domain. It is not there for the borrowing. If you would like to use it, write and ask nicely. Karma is a bitch. Thank you.