Tuesday, January 03, 2006

High Alert in Hyderabad

The public bus from McLeod Ganj got to Delhi 2 hours early, but my plane arrived in Hyderabad an hour late - possibly delayed because of the terror threat in "Cyberabad." The 12-hour bus ride found me in the "cabin" - the bus's equivalent of a cockpit, a last-minute seat sold out of desperation. I shared the front driving compartment with the beedi-puffing driver, his sidekick, an accountant from Delhi and three members of a Tibetan family who slept piled up on one another like puppies. During the tedious hairpin descent from McLeod, the bus slammed to a near full-stop (and when an Indian driver actually employs the brakes, you know it's serious).

It was a female deer who'd wandered out of the woods into the headlights. Unanimously, my fellow passengers and I emitted "ooooooh!" - not out of fear, but combined admiration for the animal, the driver's skill, and relief that she was unharmed. "Beauty-full! Beauty-full!" enthused the accountant beside me, nodding with reverence. Several people congratulated the driver on avoiding the deer ("Shah baaz!" - "well done"). This is the kind of thing I love about India - I was trained in the States to never, ever risk my life for that of an animal ("what if you swerve and go off the road?") and that it was better to hit a stray dog or cat than swerve. (Remember, we were in an enormous, lumbering bus so that any collision with a slow-moving deer would definitely have come out in the bus's favour.)

We arrived so early in Majnu Ka Tilla, nothing was open and there was not a room to be had. So I piled up my luggage on an empty wooden fruit cart and slept there till 8am when the restaurant opened. You can feel safe doing that in Tibet Colony; you are surrounded by 85% monks and nuns in maroon robes, some of whom are doing the same thing (sitting on the wooden cart, sipping an early tea and trying to wake up).

I got to Hyderabad just in time to find the city on high alert following Muslim fundamentalist bomb threats to the National Science Convention. The plot was successfully foiled just yesterday afternoon. The airport was full of white official Ambassadors with Indian flags and flashing lights ("Dept. of Protocol") awaiting arrival of both the Prime Minister and President who will be attending the Science Convention. Officials suspect the threatening group may have ties to those who shot up Bangalore's Indian Inst. of Science last week and threatened another New Year's attack there.

Andhra security forces really have their hands full between the anti-progress, anti-technology bomb threats and the Naxalite Communist threats on the life of the Dalai Lama. And I have my hands full trying to get to the Amaravati site before His Holiness arrives. Conventional Tib wisdom seems to be that this is the last Kalachakra event ever, at least from the current incarnation. Don't want to wait another lifetime for this experience.

I am still facinated by the story of what happens to the newcomers and their personal meeting here with his Holiness. Unfortunately, as soon as I
got well, it was time to leave McLeod Ganj for Amaravati. My plan is to return there
in March for the Dalai Lama's annual teachings. This is the biggest
ho-down all year there except maybe his birthday, July 6. Then the weather
will be better, and there will be loads of people (Tibetan, newcomers, foreign volunteers).

The Economist was here 2 weeks ago and did a report. Evidently all the newcomers phone home if possible after the reception, and the first thing they say (before even enquiring about family) is "His Holiness looks only 40!" and they break into tears because they got to see Him.

Beauty-full! Beauty-full!

1 comment:

Amod said...

Wow! What an experience it must have been. And with your trademark lively description of it, for a moment I felt like I was teleported straight to the Kalachakra grounds. Thank you dear Sirensongs, and keep up the great work!