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India - More McLeod Ganj

INDIA | Saturday, 4 September 2010 | Views [547]

Tibet Flag

Tibet is not allowed to fly its flag in Tibet; therefore it is stuck on just about every conceivable surface in McLeod Ganj.  The Chinese are doing their very best to kill the Tibetan way of life, culture, traditions and language.  I do mean “kill” in the most literal way.  The Dalai Lama fled to McLeod Ganj in 1959, which accounts for the large number of Tibetans fleeing here as well.  There is a Tibetan Children Village which teaches Tibetan language and culture to the refugee children, as well as your regular educational fare.  It is all paid for by the Tibetan exiled government – and foreign donations.  McLeod Ganj is more Tibetan than Tibet, as the Indian government pretty much leaves them alone. India really doesn't like China, so harboring the Tibetans is one way of thumbing their noses at China.

Of course it is also a Buddhist community, and they follow the guidance of the Dalai Lama’s teaching.  The main philosophy of Buddhism is compassion.  Having sat through 2 five hour days of his teaching, I can attest to how strenuously he drives this point home.  Therefore the entire town is loving and compassionate.  The smiles are not fake, the shopkeepers honest (a bit of haggling still takes place, but good naturedly and no hard feelings if you don’t buy), and the atmosphere is tranquil.  One friend of Len & Michaela’s was telling us that she didn’t have the correct change for a restaurant one day (small change always seems to be a problem)  and the shop owner just waved his hand and said, “Pay me tomorrow”.   We needed FM radios to listen to the translator; one shop owner lent us two radios.  Try that in North America!!  Trying to pull one over on these people or speaking a harsh word or even scowling at them would be like kicking a puppy.  Len went to the ATM one day and it was being serviced.  Not knowing this, he went to enter only to have the security guard force the door shut while giving him a nasty look.  The Tibetan lady behind Len was horrified!!

One would think that catching the night bus to Delhi would be pretty straight forward.  Think again.  First of all the 6:30 bus left at 7:15.  Just getting out of the bus terminal was an ordeal.  First let me explain the bus terminal.  They started building a new terminal a few years ago and never really finished it..... so it is basically an open parking garage with a roof that is at the bottom of a BIG hill – during the monsoon.  It was a Greyhound sort of bus with designated seats.   The bus goes to turn around; as it was easier to just pull in than to try to pull into a stall and this other bus decides he’s going to pull ahead of ours.  There is no one on the other bus, he just decides that he is going to pull up and stop, totally blocking the only way out of the parkade.  There was all kinds of yelling “Chello, chello, chello” (let’s go, let’s go, let’s go) and arm waving from both parties, as well as the ceaseless number of men who just hang around and watch and do nothing.  Finally the other bus relented and backed up just enough that our bus could squeak by.   I was waiting for the screech of metal.

It was just getting dark and the shops and houses had lights on already.  It was terribly foggy, as well. As the bus rounded the first switch back, I looked back out the bus window and saw the town glowing through the mist.  The beautiful little Lhasa on the mountain top looking like the beacon of hope for Tibet.  As we rounded the second switch back, only a few lights could be seen.  As we rounded the third switch back the town was totally obscured in the clouds, as though it was only a dream that I had spent the last 10 days in what arguably could be called Paradise.

The ‘express bus’ to Delhi stopped 4 times in the first hour, to let people off and on.  One stop was simply a smoke break.  The driver, his ticket collector and baggage handler (3 guys = 3 jobs) were simply standing outside the bus having a smoke with some other guys, for about ½ hour....  Finally it started to rain, and that put an end to the smoke party and we finally got underway.  Bizarre....  The ticket collector sat on a water container beside the bus driver and the baggage boy threw a blanket on the floor, in the aisle and went to sleep. 

We stopped for supper at an outdoor eating place, seemingly in the middle of nowhere.It was a kind of lean-to with one fellow in a wife-beater shirt (sorry, the 'air-shirt' as it is called in India) making chapati’s over an open fire, another guy selling pastries, a stall selling chips & pop, etc and a few tables and chairs (plastic) scattered about.  The toilets were way behind, down a dark dirt path, to some extremely smelly and dirty squat toilets.  Thank you Mom & Dad for raising me on a farm, as going in the bushes was a much nicer option than the toilets.  Ed, if you thought the bus stops in Laos were nasty, this beats the hell out of those.  We were very glad we bought some fruit and granola back in McLeod Ganj, so we munched on that.

After this stop, the bus drove straight on through, stopping only for diesel.  Amazingly we all slept reasonably well.   We arrived in Delhi at about 6:30 AM.  The route we came in on must be a truck route, as there were hundreds of big trucks pulled over to the side of the 8 lane (4 and 4) with the drivers sleeping on top of their loads.  I guess that is one way to make sure it is secure.

More on Delhi later.....


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