A DAY, A PLACE,FAR FAR AWAY…

My usual morning visit to the temple was extra special that day. September 2nd was Tibetan Democratic Republic Day.

It was a beautiful carnival like atmosphere in the temple premises. Tibetan children from different schools were dressed up in traditional costumes based on their region, their tribe ready to perform, dance, sing, play traditional instruments.

The main shrine was really quiet with most of them below in the premises. As I walked up, I was pushing the thought away this would be my last night in Macleodganj..

I was told there were places to see in Dharamshala – 10 kms from Macleodganj. Lakes, temples and institutes. I really didn’t want to get in a bus or auto and get out of Macleodganj. I wanted to be in this place only. Dharamshala can wait till another trip.

The shrine was quiet, beautiful and as I went around rotating the Tibetan Prayer Wheels around the temple and hearing soft chants of Om Mani Padme Hum, I could feel a lump in my throat. I was going to miss all this, every bit of it…

From Ladakh to Macleodganj, it felt like a dream.. Though I tried hard to get to the present and enjoy, I was but an ordinary person who would keep on thinking about tomorrow and how I would get back to a life I left..A life I loved in most ways and not so much in some ways..

Sitting and watching the Buddha Shrine and hearing the soft chants of a lovely lady in front of me, I was sobbing hard..My heart felt like it would explode. The friends whom I traveled with in Ladakh and the people whom I met throughout this journey flashed in front of me like images. I felt the life I had back at home was not as real as the one I was in right now..

As I went down, I saw the ceremony had just started. There was the Tibetan National Anthem and all of us stood up in reverence and I heard something right after it. Each and every Tibetan in the ceremony sang Jana Gana Mana – Our Indian Anthem respectfully saluting and standing as they hoisted the Indian Flag next to the Tibetan Flag. I was so touched by it.

Here we have our own so called countrymen who do not respect the land we are in and refuse to acknowledge or appreciate anything in the country they were born in and I see this..

Tibetans valued the country that gave them asylum. A forcibly occupied land and it’s people stripped of their rights, their religion, their right to live freely. They knew the value of having a country, a land that one could call their own.We take all this for granted..

It was my last day so I decided to walk all the way up to Dharamkot. The secluded steep level way up there. If Macleodganj had it’s seclusion even with the tourists coming from all over the world, Dharamkot was even more so. Way up and above.

What a walk it was… Words fail me.. Spectacular visuals, drizzling now and then, fog,mist and as I looked back I saw a monk walking up with a stick for support. Something made me stop for him and as he came nearer, I asked him if I could join him till we reached the top, he smiled and said Yes.

He said he was from Bangalore. He came from Leh monastery to attend the teachings. It was a nice quiet meditative walk. Somehow all the tiredness went away walking with him. As we saw a troop of monkeys, I was panicking a bit knowing how some of them can come up to you. He looked at me and said don’t worry, he softly chanted Om Mani Padme Hum as we crossed them.. It was surreal..

He asked me which country I was from. I smiled and said India. He was so surprised and asked really? From here? and you are alone? traveling and walking like this? Then he asked me, did you live in India all your life? When I said, No, I lived in New York for 8 years, he said Ah, No wonder you are not afraid to explore alone. Indians usually travel in big or small groups, rarely alone on their own 🙂

As I bid him goodbye at the top, I saw Dharamkot at it’s prettiest. I had no clue where to go and what to do from here. So I just walked and walked aimlessly and it was a wonderful feeling.

Raw patches of pathways, up and up and sometimes no roads at all, my fear of heights just went away at that time. The feeling was exhilarating. To walk without any purpose. You walk because you want to, because it makes you happy.

I walked crossing small villages and in some of them I didn’t see a single tourist. The pathways were used mostly by locals. I stopped at a point where i could get a view of this spectacular visual. There was a solitary bench on top and I asked a small shop across it if they could make Maggie Noodles.

I started chatting with the man and he explained about the weather  and how cold it gets by January, all pathways are closed and they are stuck in the village and home, so they stock up for sometime as much as they can afford to.

I walked around Dharamkot and literally at one point I thought I was in Israel ! A whole village was filled with them with signboards in Hebrew.The food menu was written in their language and am sure the dishes were also Israeli 🙂

I checked around and found out that most of them stayed here at least for 4-5 months. Some would come for Yoga /Meditation  courses as so many of them were around here and some of them were exploring and it was way cheaper up here. A room as cheap as 200 Rs.

I was walking around for  3-4 hours taking it all in. I reached a point where it was just another 7 kms to Triund, a famous trekking trail all the way up in the mountains. But I was running out of time and I had to head back.I didn’t want to be alone doing this so I  walked back and explored a new path to other villages.

Again the thought crept up, the temptation to change my tickets and go later. But.. how much is too much? No, this was good. I will come again, no doubt about it…

I asked around and came to know there was a longer route to go back to Macleodganj and am telling you am so glad I took that one.

It was paradise. Walking in the mist and fog, fresh air, a little drizzle  now and then with no one in sight.. I saw locals taking their tiny tots home from school, some of them being carried on their shoulders.. Take a look at a pic I clicked as I saw this visual in front of me. No enhancement, no filters in the picture, it is truly the wonder of nature.

At one point, I stood in the middle of nowhere and spread my arms wide and looked up for sometime. Yes it was that perfect, like a picture. I was so lucky, so so lucky to be right here, in this life and experience all this.

When does one ever give themself a chance to be as free as this?

I walked right back to Pancake Crepe cafe again. Yup, the same cafe I visited last night. I had to complete that book I left midway and it was time to plonk myself, settle in and just be there.Within 10 minutes of walking inside, it poured cats and dogs for 3 hours. I sat by the window this time, hearing the pounding rain, feeling the bliss and sitting there…

The present, the present moment, so precious, each second, each minute of it..

I quote a quote from  a movie I love, Kung Fu Panda.’Yesterday is history, tomorrow is mystery, But today is a Gift, that’s why it’s called the Present’.

 

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