When the rain comes…
The Monsoon has arrived in Mussoorie. During these past few days, the temperatures have been quite cooler in the daytime and there has been an accumulation of fog throughout the day in the highest parts of this mile high Hill Station. I have been told the Monsoon is about two weeks late this year, however residents are still hopeful for a full two and half months of much needed rain.
It’s quite spectacular to be walking up through Char Dukan, towards the Language School, and have fog swirling all around. There is a certain sense of contradiction in the land here; one of both excitement at the coming Monsoon and there is also this easily felt sense of calm and serenity that has now washed over this community.
This morning, I ventured up the hill to Prakash’s market for a much talked about cinnamon roll. I was pleasantly surprised and soon forgot about the 20 minute uphill trek that was needed to fulfill this desire. After a lemon ginger tea, I headed back down the hill and deep into the bazaar to purchase more cotton fabric for some clothes I’m having made. It’s pretty cool to walk into a clothing store, have the owner kindly help you pick your heart’s desire and then ring a trusted tailor who comes rushing over to take your measurements and negotiate the price with you. I will be picking up my hand stitched clothes in one week’s time.
Beautiful sunset in Landour
My Hindi is coming along slowly but with great enthusiasm and understanding of the culture and history that are both so deeply rooted in her words. It’s hard to believe that my time in Mussoorie is nearly half- over now. In July, I will be wrapping up my Hindi studies and continuing my discovery of this great country.
Women carrying goods along the road in Landour Cantt.
Disappearing into the fog
The fog swirls around the area in early morning
The heat is on. It was nearly 100 degrees in Mussoorie today and I think everyone is awaiting the first rains of the monsoon and the cooler temps that follow. After returning from Dharamsala I jumped back into my Hindi language studies and wrapped up my third full week of study here. It’s a difficult language, especially the placement of prepositions; however I am making good progress and continue to work very hard at perfecting my speech.
Walked down to the bazaar today and picked up some Khadi cotton fabric for my first pair of kurta pajamas, a traditional loose pant and shirt set commonly worn by Indian men. Looks promising in the hot weather and I should probably stand out even more now.
Sleep has been a short commodity this week as I have been working both ends of the fire; trying to wrap up all my notes from last week’s research in Dharamsala and my return to Hindi language study this week. Hard to believe I have already been in India for one month! Five more weeks of Hindi study and then my research and exploration of India continue, starting with a short trip over to Amritsar in the Punjab and then onward to Varanasi and into the footsteps of the Buddha, including Sarnath, Bodh Gaya, and Patna.
Signing off from Mussoorie, India whilst listening to The Spinners; needed my small dose of America today.
Sunset in Mussoorie
Delhi airport art piece
Buddhist monk “surfing the web” on his cell phone in Dharamsala. Not an unusual site there.
After 9 unforgettable days in Dharamsala, it was with a very heavy heart that I bid farewell to this most amazing city and home to His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama. Kelsang Chukie, the proprietor of the Pema Thang Guest House saw me off and presented me with Kata scarf, the traditional arrival / departure gift among friends, which made my eyes swell with both joy and sadness at the same time.
As my cab slowly pulled away and we began our downward journey back to Kangra Airport, my head was swimming the week’s many activities, the people I have met, and the sights and sounds of the city that so quickly and openly pulled me into its arms and has refused to let me go.
This week brought forth a lifetime of memories and afforded me the opportunity to attend 3 days of Buddhist teachings by H.H. in the Main Temple; the opportunity to meet so very many wonderful people that I can now sincerely call my friends and to create relationships that will indeed span this lifetime; the immense amount of progress I have made towards my Honors thesis topic of investigating the role and impact of new social media on the Tibetan diaspora living in exile, which to my utter amazement, included conversations with the executive director of a local NGO (The Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy), Tenzin Geyche Tethong – the husband of Kelsang Chukie and former secretary to H.H. for nearly 40 years, and my friend Yonten – who came to Dharamsala from Tibet, on foot, nearly 12 years ago and now owns and operates 2 small cafes, speaks decent English, and great Hindi. Each of these people made for an incredible week and were paramount in helping me answer, and ask, the right questions regarding my research. I am proud to call each of them my friend. I also took in the sights of Dharamkot, a small hippy type town about a half hour’s walk from McLeod Ganj and ended up bumping in to H.H. personal interpreter, Chhime, who somewhat remembered meeting me 2 years prior when H.H. presented a lecture on the power of education at the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls. I won’t mention the Sufi Qawali music concert I took in or the incredible restaurants and coffee shops that permeate this mile high city.
I am sitting in the Delhi airport waiting for my connecting flight to Dehradun and my return to the Landour Language School in Mussoorie for another 6 weeks of intensive Hindi language study.
Ahhhh, Dharamsala…These last 9 days have left a deep and never fading imprint on my heart and soul and I anxiously await the next time we may cross paths again.
Outside the residence of His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on the Temple grounds
Inside the Main Temple in Dharamsala
With Tenzin Geyche Tethong and his wife, Kelsang Chukie
Back side of the Main Temple, Dharamsala
On the main “chowk” in McLeod Ganj
My registration badge for the teachings.
At night, the city is vibrantly alive and astonishes the senses.
Put a word in with His Holiness for me tomorrow…
Its Wednesday here in Dharamsala and I have finally hit my groove in regards to making contacts for my research topic. I have met 4 amazingly knowledgeable people whom I have already spoken with and have offered me their continued support and input. Grace abounds.
One gentleman is a Tibetan refugee and restaurant owner here in town, another is also a Tibetan refugee who works at the guest house I’m staying in, a third is the manager of the Central Tibetan Administration Office store, and the most recent contact I have made, and perhaps the best, is a Tibetan woman who is the executive director of the Tibetan Center for Human Rights and Democracy. Most serendipitous indeed.
Tsering Tsomo, the director of TCHRD, presented a discussion today at the Tibetan Museum about the current human rights situation in Tibet. I was able to introduce myself and visit with her after the presentation and learned an invaluable amount in our short visit. My research project has picked up tremendous steam and I am becoming more excited with every conversation I become engaged.
Tomorrow I will be attending Day 1 of a 3 day teaching by His Holiness the 14th Dalai Lama on the topic of Buddhism and meditation located at the Main Temple. With that said, I am keeping this one short as I will be up at 5:00am tomorrow morning in order to secure a decent place in the first come first line for the first teaching which begins at 9:30am.
The food and coffee shops here are out of this world….
As always, I’m posting a few pictures for your enjoyment J
A group of beggars pining for a small donation
A seemingly endless row of beggars line the path leading up to the Main Temple during Kora in Dharamsala, India
Spinning the wheels of the Dharma Chakra
Namaste from Dharamsala, India,
Arrived yesterday afternoon after a full day of traveling to the secluded, yet thriving, Tibetan community and government in exile. Words cannot fully, nor accurately, express the sea of humanity that I encountered last night in this small, mountain side, community perched below the Himalaya Mountains.
A vast difference from the sheltered, quiet surroundings of Mussoorie, Dharamsala instantly grabbed me and pulled me into its arms. I awoke this morning, met a friend for coffee and local, Tibetan style bread with jam and then decided to take advantage of the special once a year happening overtaking this community yesterday and today.
An event that takes place here once a year and is built around the celebration of the full moon and its auspiciousness, called Kora, was an eye opening and mind blowing experience. Kora is an ancient and revered pilgrimage and a type of meditation in the Tibetan Buddhist tradition and is carried out by making a circumambulation around a holy site, in this case the Tsuglkhang Complex in the very center of Dharamsala.
The traditional event begins with the ritualistic spinning of prayer wheels, chanting of mantras, and the counting of mala beads while circling the complex clockwise, however today was a special occasion that was marked by a Tibetan custom that I have not yet fully understood. Apparently, coinciding with the auspiciousness of the full moon, Tibetans, who already have so very little money to give, receive a thousand fold in return for the giving of small amounts of Rupees to beggars. Thus begins the very strange and delicate dance of give and take between local Tibetan Buddhist monks and the “visiting” Punjabi pilgrims who make the trek every year to be on their end of the receiving line.
Our trek began with a ½ mile walk along a very narrow and dusty trail lined with beggars of the most extreme magnitude on either side, each clamoring for a small piece of hope from the passersby. We must have passed 1,000 extremely destitute souls before reaching the Main Temple, each one reaching out from the altar of the dark star with a heart wrenching stare and utterances of “money” and “hello, please”. The sight brought me to tears within minutes and most certainly has impacted me forever. There are only so many Rupees I can carry at one time. The trek ended at the entrance of the Main Temple and H.H.’s residence with monks sitting in prayer and chanting inside the main room and scores of people in line to enter the Main Temple and pay their respects to a statue of Avalokiteshvara, the manifestation of compassion of all Buddhas.
As I exited the Temple I was reeling in the thought that this is just my first day here. Tomorrow morning at 9am I am registering with H.H.’s office for His lecture on Buddhism this Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. I also begin my volunteer effort of teaching conversational English to Buddhist monks tomorrow at 4pm with an N.G.O. named LHA.
Here are some pictures I captured earlier this morning, enjoy…