Dharamsala, Monday 9th February 1998

Waiting for the Dalai Lama, Dharamsala, India


I am showing quite a loyalty to the restaurant called Ashoka, as I write today’s entry in the journal. I woke up at a leisurely hour and was informed that the Dalai Lama would appear in the streets this morning. I rushed out and waited with the expectant crowd. I rehearsed a quick camera action and winding the film on. In practice I only had time for one camera shot as the Dalai Lama sat in the front seat of an enclosed jeep. I had a five second glimpse. Auto-focus and motor wind would have allowed perhaps three shots. Then I had a plan to do a circuit of Bhagsu and Dharamkot after breakfast. I had not planned on being accompanied by a schoolteacher who wanted to improve his finer points of English. All sentences that he required clarification for (that they were colloquial enough) appeared to be from an English literature textbook but taken as a whole after consideration, it sounded as if he was bride hunting for an English-speaking wife. Anyway, whatever his motive, I helped the bloke and he helped by confirming I was going in the right direction and following the correct path. I saw young ladies carrying a large bulk of cattle feed leaves on their backs. I then followed the path straight down to the Tibetan library which had an English receptionist. I visited the museum upstairs, then on to a Computer Resource Centre to send five emails to people. What a great place to send an email from! I hope people will appreciate the messages. I then went down to lower Dharamsala for a quick juice and back up on the bus. It was too early for the restaurant because the Tandoori Nan oven had not warmed up. I was hanging around by the bus stand like a local. I looked at a shop and an incredibly expensive carpet. Attitude to handmade carpet: to pay for a handmade carpet seems to be paying extra for an inefficient method of production (with a marginally better result) but I believe it is good to regard it as supporting the Tibetan cause. I had chicken Korma, but did not finish it (a rare event). I seem to be going off meat here, but there is still room for dessert. A real bonus today was having a glimpse of the Dalai Lama. My only plan tomorrow is to perhaps do some shopping and visit the temple near the Om guesthouse (great name). I need to catch the 6.00pm to Delhi tomorrow – I hope that I survive the journey. I might watch another video like I did last night (Empire Strikes Back), which I had not seen before. Some time during travel one has to just relax in front of some videos, something culturally familiar (i.e. American films); I am so glad I have not watched TV for a while. Hopefully I will be selective in my viewing when I return. I might become an exotic tea person when I return. In my email I warned Stuart of my imminent arrival in Bangkok. If I spent months in India I would probably turn into a vegetarian. A large plate of apple fritters has arrived! I need to grab a couple of surplus pages for loo paper again. The usual benefit one achieves by a conventional holiday break (e.g. a week in the sun) is multiplied ten fold on a long trip: Rest, a new cultural perspective on the situation back home, health improvement just by being outdoors and walking which improves muscle tone and colour. It is so unnatural to be indoors all the time. I will have to get myself an outdoor hobby. Continuing the list: Appreciation of the things back home, the people, family, comforts, trivial worries that did not appear trivial before, shedding an old skin and getting rid of any mental garbage, mental cleansing (no I have not started chanting mantras), generally so many good things. I can not think of anything bad. A trip like this is a great investment of time and resources. It is a reaffirmation of personal values and rejection of negative qualities, a more polarised viewpoint based on the cultural diversity and perspectives experienced in a positive sense – I imagine better than any injection. Just how many of these things can I do in my normal lifestyle involving work – I am not sure. The two modes of work and travel seem quite incompatible. As soon as one tries to combine the two modes, one degrades the other because travel implies freedom which is contrary to most concepts of work unless one is in an extremely high position or very rich (controversial?). This might sound like rubbish when I read it back in the future but it is an accurate picture of what is going through my mind at the moment. It would be nice to have the eloquence, charm and intelligence of the Dalai Lama (it would!). I have one more day in Dharamsala. It sounds like a type of salad (trivial comment). My stomach appears to be back up to 100% efficiency, helped by the walking I did today. The photos and this journal are the most precious possessions I have while travelling. Other things are replaceable. A big decision for tomorrow: should I buy a carpet? – Quite a sad comment, for the kitchen or a present. I plan to relax a bit at the hotel and watch another video, probably at the other place because I have seen “Return of the Jedi” quite recently. I do enjoy travelling by plane. Looking at my busy schedule one might feel that I would have got tired of it but I still find it quite an enjoyable activity, almost being pampered and still marvelling at the technical aspects of flight and aeronautical engineering. I believe most of the people (no supporting evidence) that are afraid of flying are non-engineering type people with little scientific background or an aversion to mathematical or technical matters. Email is such a great way for travellers to communicate. As soon as there is cheap global mobile coverage it will be amazing, and in the future people will say that they went on an adventurous trip and even wildly switched off their mobile communication. How long before Dharamsala becomes as clean and developed as I imagine Singapore to be? Using up the Rupees has not been as difficult as I imagined when I received them on arrival. I have eaten quite a few egg things over the last few days and am feeling better. I am curious to know what Bangkok has got in store for me. I need to do some research and find out some of the things that I missed last time. I am looking forward to being looked after. It will seem strange going back to work but I am sure I will get back into the swing of things after a couple of weeks. I believe I will approach work with more dedication as a result of this trip. In fact I am privileged to have an excellent and interesting job to go back to and a flat. I believe it is safe to describe the flat as “De Luxe”. It is probably the first time in my life where I have had difficulty in identifying the next improvement step up.

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