McLeod Ganj (Dharmsala), India
Wow - have I really been here since Thursday? I have been trying to blog since Friday, but there's a power cut here nearly every evening for several hours - conveniently just at the Blogging Hour.
This time all the Himachal Pradesh Tourism buses from Delhi were full, so I had to take the government bus from Kashimiri Gate. Kashmiri Gate is a really nasty station, with that particular layer of grimness and grim only Indian public places seem to have. But, the government bus is better for one reason - it arrives in McLeod later in the day (after 8am).
By arriving on the 1st, I did manage to miss the major flash-flooding rain and hail storm on the 27th. Whew. Now, the weather and views of the Dhauladhar range are stunning. When bits of cloud dust the mountain peaks, it means it's snowing. But it never snows in McLeod. We get all the beauty of seeing the not-so-distant snow peaks without the inconvenience of having to walk in it.
I didn't realize how much the pollution of Indian cities (and Kathmandu) had been affecting me, till I got out of it. The clear mountain air is a bolt from the blue.
Year of the Fire Pig
I just came from a candlelight march around the Khyilkhor (circumambulation path surrounding the Dalai Lama's house). There must have been 1000 people there, of all ages - everyone from withered grandmothers with long grey braids to red-robed monks, rock'n' roll Tibetan teens in jeans, and foreign visitors. It was the first time for me to hear the Tibetan national anthem and I started crying - these people are up against such odds.
The protest/march/vigil was in response to the events in the Tibetan capitol in the last couple weeks. The new Tibetan year is off to a bloody start in Lhasa; after an altercation instigated by police at the most sacred temple, 14 Tibetans have "been disappeared."
Tomorrow promises to be a really big day; it's my one day for camera clearance at His Holiness the Dalai Lama's teachings. The place is so crowded, all media personnel (except official Tibetan Govt. employees) are issued a camera pass for only one day each, to eliminate the mosh-pit frenzy such as I experienced at Mahabodhi Society last month (remember the Buddha relic installation?).
"HH" is in fine form, though. I try to take notes, but the amount of material he covers in a day is astounding. He essentially uses the traditional Buddhist text (in this case, Shantideva's Guide to the Bodhisattva's Way of Life) as a framework for his own commentary. Yesterday, he referred to a traditional verse that claimed it was better to be born in a male human body. "In those days, it was considered better to be male, because they were considered the most dominant," he said. "But nowadays, we don't see so much of this type of prejudice." In other words, when you come across this type of stuff in the scriptures, you can officially ignore it.
As if all this wasn't enough, I have been invited to witness a "reading" of the Nechung Oracle tomorrow morning at 6am. Geshe Dorje, the second in-charge at Nechung Monastery, says I can take photos of the oracle, only after he comes out of the trance. In through the out-trance, or out through the in-trance. It will be a real challenge to keep my battery charged tomorrow.