Friday, May 11, 2007


...the password is....
Dharamsala, Himachal Pradesh

FINALLY. After nearly 2 weeks of getting the Log-in runaround on my new, "improved" Blogger account, I can actually log in.

Had to try all kinds of weird combos of my old and new user name, as well as old and new passwords... and eventually came up with the right two at the right time.

Whew. Got a lot of catching up to do. Last week there was damn-near a race riot (between Tibetans and Indians) here in Dharamsala. And yesterday Belgium (nice, neutral, EU-founding Belgium) dissed the Dalai Lama, and kowtowed to Chinese pressure by asking him not to come and address the conference in Brussels he'd been planning to visit for months. Talk about a Belgian waffle.
Taxi driver
If you're coming to Dharamsala, don't plan on taking any taxis, at least not if you're Tibetan. There's a gang of Tibetan guys going round telling all Tibetans (or anyone who looks kind of Tibetan, like my Nepali friends) not to take taxis or autorickshaws. It's effectively an unofficial boycott. This, despite an official show of reconciliation between the Tibetan govt. and representatives of the local Indian community. It's all because of the crazy brawl between some Tibetan youths and an Indian auto driver last week.

It's been really hard to get any unbiased or reliable information about the inciden
t. The English-language papers were largely completely silent, while the Hindi language dailies wrote one-sided stories accusing the Tibetans of "bullying" the Indians. Every single person, Tibetan, Indian or western, that I spoke to had a different version of the story. An opinion piece sympathetic to the Tibetans went live on last week, but was promptly pulled after protests and pressure from the Indian community.

Trouble in paradise
In the understandable rush to restore order in the small town, some crucial issues have been swept
under the rug, and it's evidently not the first time. The Tibetans are here as refugees with very few rights; however, their presence and that of the Dalai Lama brings in the vast numbers of tourists, around which the local economy is completely based. The Tibetans draw a great deal of international attention (read: money, sympathy and sponsorship). Jealousy and resentment manifest from time to time between the communities, alongside a great deal of mutual tolerance and cooperation.

On good days, which is most of the time, everyone is united by a common interest: making money from the "spiritual tourists." Ironically, all this comes just a few weeks after the Indian community had arranged a beautiful Hindu "long-life puja" for His Holiness, which entailed lots of Gayatri Mantra and some beautiful speeches about the mutual ties (commercial and cultural) between the two groups.

Another factor: the vulnerable position of many Tibetan refugees (in terms of immigration legalities) leaves them prime targets for harassment and blackmail from certain unscrupulous members of Indian law enforcement. Young Tibetan men are routinely stopped after dark with police demands to show their RC (registration card).

However, no one wants to talk about this, it seems. So once again, like the dysfunctional family we are, India and people living in India pretend "no problem, everything is fine." Until the next blow-up, of course. This time, total disaster was averted because there were no fatalities ("only" hospitalizations). I wonder how long the soothing statements about "unity" can cover up the glaring need for honest dialogue.

Curiouser and curiouser....