December 4, 2014

The Dalai Lama, His Holiness, The Himalayas, and McLeod Ganj

 The view from our hotel. I miss waking up to this.
 The gangsters of himalayas
I never thought the day would come where I would be 'trekking in the himalayas'.
Tibetan monks
The himalayas is even more beautiful in person. This picture does not do it justice!
Chicken momos. I loved Tibetan food.

McLeod Ganj is where the Tibetan government in exile and the 14th Dalai Lama, his holiness, currently reside. We took a 12 hour over night bus ride there from New Deli. The homes we passed were made of bricks and straws, the washrooms we used on the way was essentially a hole in the ground. At one point it was just 'cleaner' to pee in the bushes on the side of the road. "Oh God, I've turned into one of them." I mumbled, as I squat down hoping that I wasn't in the way of some reptile in the pitch dark farm field. After visually judging people I see urinating on the side of the streets in India for two weeks, I have actually became them.

We were in asshole mode when we got to McLeod Ganj. It's a side effect from being in India cities. When people talked to us, we immediately said NO. No, we don't want a taxi, NO, we don't want what you are selling, NO, we won't give you money. At temples that required us to take off our shoes, we refused to enter unless we can put our shoes in our backpacks or lock them up. On TV, when you get your stuff stolen, you eventually get it back. In India, if you're in luck, the old fat security guard will ask you what type of shoes you lost. And chances are he's asking only because he wished he would have taken those Nike runners for himself. 

But Mcleod Ganj is a completely different. It's calm, it's peaceful, and even the stray animals look healthier and happier. The streets are filled with Tibetan Monks, and Tibetans and Indians coexisting peacefully. After shrugging off a few hellos, we realized that these people were genuine with their 'hello' and unlike others in India, they actually do wish you a 'hello' without wanting something from you.

At a cafe we sat beside two Tibetan Monks. One of the monks was eating pasta and reading on his iPad. "Monks have iPads?!" I thought, "And they eat at restaurants?!"I then thought. At another table we saw a monk talking on his iPhone. They were new-age monks.

"How do monks get that stuff?" I asked the server.
"How do we get most things?" she answered.
"We... buy them?"

I guess I answered my own question.

We wondered around the streets and eventually came across the Bhagsunath Temple. There was what looked like a swimming pool that men were dumping water to. Beside the pool there was a store that offered to dress you like a native for you to take photographs. Across from the pools, there was a building with signs that indicate you must take off your shoes to enter. "Ah, I guess we aren't going in" I said.

"I can watch your shoes for you" an Indian with his kid said to me. He must have understood my shoe dilemma.
"No, it's okay. Thank you." I politely said.
"Please let me watch your shoes for you! You should go see!"

We reluctantly agreed. From there we walked up the stairs, passing the idols onto a large deck where we overlooked men continuously dumping water into the pool. The water in the pool had a dull sheen, and its surface reflected nothing. Wild goats were peacefully walking down the street passing a few monks. Everyone were minding their own business. No one was pestering anyone. There was no sound of car horns or the smell of exhaust. This was when my familiarity of India slipped away, and McLeod Ganj seemed like its own separate world.

The guy watching our shoes was there when we got back down the stairs. I tried to give him some money but he refused to accept it, "I just wanted to show you that it's safe here! You don't have to worry!"

I think that was when I fell in love with McLeod Ganj.

The next morning we got up early and hiked in the Himalayas. Then we stopped by an internet cafe for brunch. The view was of local apartments with Tibetan prayer flags on their ceilings, the background were the Himalaya mountains. As always in these trendy cafes, I asked for the wifi password.

"WHAT THE F-K! WHY IS MY PHONE BILL SO HIGH?!" I said, as I checked my bills.
"Uhm, can you keep it clean? We are at the home of the Dalai Lama... And there's a child behind you." Eric said.

Suddenly I realized that I was sipping on organic tea in a city with people of exile and there I was cursing at my mother-fucking cellphone provider. All I could say was whoops.

Later we visited the Dalai Lama temple and the Tibetan museum. The history and how the Chinese government treated Tibetans is so sad that I couldn't get through the whole museum. I left McLeod Ganj with an appreciation for the Indian government for letting them reside and I had deep respect for the Tibetans. In the market, Eric and and I bought ourselves a Solidarity with Tibet hoodie.

"How much is this?" I asked.
"500 rupees" the Tibetan lady said.
"If we buy two, can you make it 900 rupees?" Eric asked.
"No sorry."
"Reeeeally?" Eric asked again.
"This is for Tibet charity. Set price."
"Wow, haggling with Tibetan charity. You might as well go drown a crate of blind kittens while you're at it." I joked.

We each bought one. We felt that the people in McLeod Ganj treated us with such friendliness we had to give something back, at least show our support.

After the Chinese military took over Tibet, the Chinese government force Tibetans to speak, read and write in Chinese and heavily discourage them to use their own language. The Chinese government use some of Tibetan's most sacred ground for dumping their chemical waste and chemical testing, and their sacred temples as military storage. They also punish anyone who practice their religion and torture those who have a photo of the Dalai Lama.

Even though I am not Tibetan, this hurt my feelings. Whether you believe in someone's religion or agree with their way of life, everyone deserve to be happy and to live the life they want as long as they aren't disrupting anyone else. Who is to say that one way of life is more right than the other? If someone is peacefully practicing their religion, what gives you the moral right to stop them? But I guess some only care about power and control, and somehow can sleep peacefully at night knowing they are slowly wiping out a nation that have never showed any violence or militarily resistance to anyone. The world is cruel and unfair indeed.