When I visited Majnu Ka Teela in February this year, the little Tibetan enclave in Delhi left me with lot of questions than answers. My curiosity to know a little more about Buddhism and the Buddhist culture broke into multiple pieces of unpalatable impressions. The experience was far removed from what I had fondly envisioned.
May be the incomplete experience was the pull that drew me to the Little Tibet in Mecleodganj, instead of my plans for Ladakh or Spiti Valley. Understanding the world view of the second generation of the Tibetan Diaspora engaged my thoughts.
The trip happened in the first week of October. Where the entire country was engrossed in celebrating Durga Puja I was happily in the folds of the snow-clad mountains of Dharmshala. This was the 9 th trip of the year and I was at the striking distance of my resolution of completing 12 escapes even though I was reminded of the short time I had before the year ends.
After I boarded the Garib Rath train at Jaipur Railway Station, I immediately felt that it was not going to a rich experience. The compartment looked depressing and my thoughts fixated on how to spend the next seven hours in the train before reaching Chandigarh. The ambiance, the seats, and the dingy lights reminded me why it is called Garib Rath, a chariot for the poor. The only solace was it was night and I could sleep over the foul mood.
It was early morning, 6:47 am to be precise, when both the train and I reached our final destination, Chandigarh. Eager to reach Mecleadganj, I took a bus without wasting much time. Though I love hills but I have had enough of the serpentine roads amid the hills.
At times, the journey was becoming tiring but thinking of my destination and must-to-try food always kept me excited and happy. I had calculated the estimated travel time of five hours but the ride exceeded by a good two and half hours.
The first visit happened to be the cricket stadium, a recently developed attraction that is worth visiting. The stadium is surrounded with silvery mountains. Sitting there I soaked in the silence as the stadium appeared be an open monastery of nature. As I was a little exhausted and did not feel like roaming around the place and chose to sat over a bench in the afternoon while admiring the majestic view of the Dhauladhar range.
My next stop was not far from the first halt and it happened to be a church commonly named as St. John Church of Wilderness. Though the church was closed but taking a walk amid the pine trees itself was the justification of the name "St. John Church of Wilderness". The old architect of the church stirred a few thoughts of admiration and amazement. There were graves beside the church which I felt belonged to Britishers.
While heading towards the next destination I was crossing the main market of Mecleodganj. It was the Dalai Lama temple. Situated at the most chaotic of the lanes of Mecleodganj I paid a visit to the temple.
The sun was setting in and it was getting dark. After reaching the temple I found monks sitting on the floor and were continuously chanting mantras which I felt difficult to pronounce and impossible to understand. I wanted to take part in the prayer but got to know that ladies and people from other religion are prohibited to join them.
I firmly believe that Tibetans are a highly cocooned people and the current experience strengthened that belief. I tried to connect with one of the monks but luckily he turned out to be a very cute chap. He did answer a few of my questions.
While returning I was trying to get a slice of their culture. As was walking in the bazaar, which was composed of the city road and stalls on both sides, I found shops selling Buddhist insignia. It was surprising to find that most of the sellers were not Tibetans but people from others parts of the country like Bihar and Rajasthan.
It was evening the and there I got a chance to see the beautiful sunset. From the market, one can see the horizon and for it was the sunset. The setting Sun had painted the sky with bright glistening golden hue which I could witness sitting on a bench in the market.
After hanging around in the market, I set out for my Zostel at about 5.30 and but the way to my night stay was ardous. It was two km from the market. After failing to find an auto, I took the help of a person who was with his Ecosport car. A helpful fellow, he heeded my request and then we drove up the narrow lane. But the journey of about 2 km turned out to be harrowing. The car slipped into the drain in the darkness and looking back I thank my stars to have escaped unhurt. After help of the passerbys the car was rescued to the road but as it impossible for the car to drive in the narrow lane up, I had to get down. Luckly, I found a young boy of about 22 years age and he was also going to Zostel. With his help, in the darkness, we negotiated the potholed narrow lane to Zostel. The experience in the Zostel was quite comforting as I found girl who became an instant friend.
As I woke up next morning, I was fresh and new with new places awaiting to be explored. I was walking down from the upper Dharamkot but fortunately one uncle gave me a ride on his Scooty. Once in Mecleaodganj, I moved around a little as it was not a big town. There I had Maggie and while having it, I made a few quittances with a couple of Buddhist girls who were working there but were originally from Sikkim. There also, I came across a monk who obliged to have selfie with me. After this, I went to the Bhagsunag waterfall in a taxi which charged me Rs 150.
Before reaching Bhagsunag waterfall, there is a temple where the taxis drop passengers. There is small market as well which is filled with foreigners. But I decided to experience the waterfall first and walked up the stairs. The place was quite a serene place with great vistas of nature. From the top of the waterfall one can see Buddhist monks taking bath down far below. Once I was at the waterfall, to refresh myself I had a tea there. The beautiful skies, the murmuring music of the waters and the scenic setting around have me one of the high points of my experience.
After a 10-miute walk up the road beside the fall, there is Shiva Cafe couched in a natural paradise giving one the views of the wonderful views below and the skies with the distant sound of the waterfall. I had a sandwich and a cold coffee but the taste of the sandwich was not in keeping with the great location of the place. What is unique about the cafe is that on the stone boulders around the cafe, the painting was very attractive. May be, very rarely one can come across such paintings on stones.
Near the café, there was a pool of water on the way to the waterfall which was one of the most serene places. It was lonely and one can be completely relaxed. I was not feeling to leave the place. Most of the crowd in Macleadganj, one can find in the Bhagsunath water fall as it also one the main ways for mountain trekking.
After this I came down and went to Kalingpong restaurant for lunch. But instead I had mutton momo which was unique in taste, very juicy at the core. After this my plan was to go Naddi village but the weather was very cloudy even at 3 pm. So I decided otherwise and loitered about the place trying to find some unique items for shopping. In fact, I bought a singing bowl and came back to Zostel by walking even it was walk but I enjoyed the walk.
Now it was getting dark and was the time to return back to my two days home. I started heading to zostel amid the dark and open sky.
I did interact with monks and had a little snacks with them. But my cellphone reminded me of the time and I realized to bid an adieu..............
It was very memorable but not without taxing times.
It is not necessary that one can find serenity and tranquility only in the mountains, lonely beaches, or temples. Even in the chaotic and crowded narrow lanes of Benaras, cutting cow dung cakes with your new branded footwear, Ghats swarming with devotees, Pundits performing their daily rituals, you can discover your inner being and connect to the super sou. The sound of flute in the air in pre-dawn moments, though priceless. A visit to the oldest living city and a city of myth, a land of tradition and culture, home to lakhs of devotees of Lord Shiva has given me some unforgettable memories during my short visit to the city of life and death.After landing at the holy city, I headed to my destination Zostel, booked for three nights costing me about Rs 1000. The journey from airport to Zostel in a local bus and shared tuk-tuk made me wonder that I was no more the same as I was four years ago. The accent, the culture, the never ending and funny gossips were not mine now. I was not a forei...
The hills of the Himalayas in Himachal awe struck me early this year. The towering snow-gilded peaks were grandiosely beautiful, overpowering in their influence and made me surrender to their superiority. I came back as a vanquished skeleton to my mundane and drab world. But in June something different happened during my over a weeklong sojourn at Shillong. They take pride in calling Meghalaya the Scotland of the North East but my experience elevated me to something beyond symbolism. The hills were small and undulating, appeared more human and part of your life. More than enchanting, they drew me into an intimacy, which was not exactly spellbinding but rather an embrace where you feel your own being getting lifted to their abode. The troupes of clouds rolling over the low-lying, curvaceous mountain horizon spread an exhibition of romance under a transparent blue sky that can only be seen in Meghalaya. The mumming sound of the streams, crystal clean in their colour to the bottom of the...
Spiritual Pushkar and its material magic
Apart from the barren and dusty desert, amidst the hilly and mountainous region of Rajasthan, there is a hidden gem surrounded by hills and sandy plains. Often thronged by foreigners, some with colourful Bandej turban, a visit to the holy village Pushkar during the chilly winter was something unplanned and sudden. I had a plan to explore the Punjabi tadka and was set to go to Amritsar but I think that was not to be. Being only 146 km from Jaipur, it was an easy escape, and being on Sakrat, it made all the sense ultimately. At Pushkar GhatI reached Pushkar early morning and headed to the Brahma Ghat. I sat on the edge of the holy lake as I always liked to see ripples across a vast stretch of waters particularly when ducks and other winged wonders relish and revel in the undisturbed waters. I could also see some devout ladies on the ghats almost naked and taking bath in the sacred lake while others trying to recite the mantras that pundits urged t...