My thoughts and activities in Dharamsala

Saturday, April 01, 2006

Mo la Ganji via Majnu ka tilla

Well everyone, I am currently in the Tibetan settlement of Majnu ka tilla in Smelly Delhi on my way back to McLeod Ganj. And I tell you, the smell of Delhi is indescribable. I left Dharamsala for Nepal two weeks ago and I fell in love with Nepal despite some problems. To start of with, I had a two day bus ride, broken up in two buses. One from McLeod Ganj to Delhi and another from Delhi to Kathmandu. On the bus to Kathmandu, which took over thirty-five hours I was placed in the back of the bus since my long legs won't fit in the other seats. The only draw back to that was that in the back of the bus all the bumps were multipliedd ten-fold. The bus-driver took a bumpy ass road, thus I and my the other friends were josseled pretty badly. In fact, through out the whole ride we were josseled. I had banged my head on the roof of the bus several times during the ride. At the India-Nepal border I was charged $40 for being a week over my six month visa period. I was not too happy about that but at least they did not kick out the of country. On the Nepal side it was the first day of Holi (Major spring Hindu Holiday) and the first day of Maoist imposed road blockades throughout the entire country. As the bus made its way into Nepal one notices that there were not many other vehicles on the road. There was many road obstructions to be found, from Nepali army checkposts to carrier trucks that had been shelled by the Maoist as a warning for breaking the road block. You could say that I was a weeeee bit nervous. As I said it was the first day of Holi, and the main activity of this celebration is to throw handsful of colored power on people. As the bus traveled into Nepal I saw tons of people covered in rainbow colors from the power and also as the bus zoomed down the road, kids threw water-bags filled with the power at our bus. I and a few others where splashed with the colored goodness. Our bus was moving pretty fast and then all of a sudden the bus just brakes super fast. There was a Tibetan guy sitting next to me and I asked him what was the matter. Everyone gets of the bus to find out that the front window of the bus was totally shattered. Our bus had no front window no more. Luckily no one was hurt, but we had a big problem. I was thinking that we were screwed, with the road blockade there will not be any other replacement buses to pick us up, especially since we were a day and half bus ride from Delhi. Shankarnagar was the name of the town where this went down. The bus driver and a few people went searching for the culprits. With our scenario we had amassed a hefty crowd of onlookers all covered it in the lovely power that had done our bus in. The buswala started to clean up the glassy mess, and the Nepali Army showed up and we explained to them had what happened. They too looked for the little jits but of course they were not found. They were a bunch of kids, they could not of known that their bag of Holi water had the power to hurt a lot of people. Well, the sergeant told our driver to keep going without a window. We have been in Nepal for only half an hour and now we ain't got no window. Sweet! There was a long road of little jits waiting for a vehicle at which they could bless it with Holi water. Not a good first impression of Nepal but this country grew on me. We passed many more kids but with no problems. We passed more checkposts of machine gun carrying soldiers. Many more shelled out trucks on the road. Nepal had a feeling desperation We were the only vehicle on the road, but we had no more problems. The Tibetan fellows who were sitting around me were pretty cool, and once they noticed that I spoke some Tibetan they hooked me up in Kathmandu. Once we had arrived in Kathmandu that night the bus driver was going to kick me out in some far unknown part of Kathmandu, but my new friends fended for me and got me to Boudanath. One young man in general truly helped me out. He was on his way back to Lhasa, Tibet after leaving in 1984. He was a security guard for HHDL and it was time for him to go back and see his family. He even gave me a invite to Lhasa. There is a bus that runs from Kathmandu to Lhasa. It takes two days to get there. My friend spoke very little English but we were able to communicate with my ugly Tibetan. He told me that the Tibetans have to pay 200 to 400 rupees in baksheesh to get into Nepal since they don't have passports. This I witnessed, for the buswala came several times to ask for money from the Tibetans on the bus. It is the same when they head into Tibet. Anyways, he put me up in his hotel room, and fed me. And he helped me find a way to get out of Kathmandu. My original plan was to take a bus from Kathmandu to Pokhara which was my original destination but that highway to Pokhara from Kathmandu was suffering from some serious Maoist attacks, thus no buses were going to Pokhara. I had to take a plane, which I was not too happy about, for I knew that I will have to pay many times over what local Nepalis pay. I was charged $76 for a ticket that usually runs for 2500 Nepal rupees. I was not stoked. But I left the next day to fly to Pokhara. I do have to say that it was a beautiful flight. Most of Nepal is mountains and many of the villages are filled out with terraced fields that stretch as far as the eye could see. The flight took twenty five minutes. Once in Pokhara I meet a Mr. Tsering Dhondup the father of Tenzin Khandoe BC student. He totally hooked me up. I had already met his wife in Dharamsala during HHDL's teachings in which she gave me the invite to stay with them in Pokhara. Tsering Dhondup is the principal of a Tibetan high school there. And I say, their schools are quite fantastic. SOS schools are filled with quality education, it seems that US public schools could learn a lot from such institutions. Tsering showed me around campus, they were in their testing seasons, these kids, who are mostly Tibetans with a few Nepalis, are ran through various National exams that range from Chemistry to English. These students learn to master three languages Nepali, Tibetan and English, and various academic skills. I was quite impressed with this school. The students did not know what to think of me, a tall goofy looking black man speaking their language in a horrible fashion. Most of my time in Pokhara was spent inside my host's house, since we were a good distance from the main part of town. I did get to check out a mountaineering museum that was behind the school and the main tourist spot called Lakeside. From the lake on the hill opposites it one sees a Japaness stupa or peace pagoda built by Japanese Buddhist, maybe even followers of Nichiren Buddhism, it's quite big. Lakeside was pretty empty due to the blockades. One could tell that the whole country was suffering with no source of income allowed to enter the town. Prices on fruits and vegetables were raising and very night on the news we heard of truckers being killed for braking the blockade. Oh by the way, mountain view from Pokhara is like something that I have never seen. It puts the Colorado Rockies to shame. They could only be spotted early in the morning because by noon they were covered by clouds. I also saw a little person, he was 2ft tall weighted 14lbs and was claimed to be 14 years old at a shop. Zangpo, a friend of Tsering took me to see him. I am not sure if I believe if the boy was 14 years old but the boy acted a lot older than a 5 year old. For the most part, folks were trying to get him to do tricks. I felt bad for the kid. What kind of future was being laid for him? One of beggary mostly likely. So, I spent about six days in Pokhara, and luckily the Maoist had cancelled the blockade. I had a wonderful time with Tsering and Namgyal and their cute little dog. They treated me extremely well and showed me around town. And they spoke to me in Tibetan, and to me that is big deal. Many Tibetans who speak good English would not of done so. At least that has been my most frustrating experience. It was a six hour bus ride back to Kathmandu where I met up with the father of Dagmo Kusho la a BC alum. He was home alone (His wife was in Dehra Dun visiting Dagmo Kusho la) so he put me up in a nice Hotel room in Bouda and took me out to dinner every night. He was way cool. He was the kind of guy who knows everyone. He has a kind of hip style that suited his nature. I totally fell in love with Boudanath the center of Tibetan life in Kathmandu. Unlike Dharamsala, the link to Tibetans and Buddhism goes back for centuries and it is felt strongly. In fact, Nepal has had Buddhist in it presence continously for a long time, where as in India it was snuffed out by Muslim invaders long ago. I soon as entered Nepal many houses are adored with prayer flags. There various Nepali ethnic groups that follow a style of Buddhism closely linked with Tibetan Buddhism. The Newaris, Gurungs and Sherpas are all Buddhist. This can be felt as one circumambulates around the Boudanath stupa. Every morning and every night are the auspicious times that Tibetans and others come out to walk around the stupa. Lamas are out reciting prayers and on very special days like the 15th and the 1st day of the Tibetan lunar month, butter lamps are lit all aroud the stupa. In fact, on the day I left Kathmandu there was suppose to be a partial solar eclipse, so the butter lamps were out early. It is quite a site, and the churning feeling that I have felt many times before is quite alive here. The are many monasteries here, so I went on a monastery tour. On one day Dagmo Kusho la's dad had a day off so we went to the Ka Nying Sherap Ling Monastery, the home of the Rangjung Yeshe Institute which offers a Master's degree in Buddhism. My first Tibetan teacher at Cornell taught Tibetan at this school, as well has Dagmo Kusho la's mother. I would totally love to study here, but of course I can not afford it. We got a audience with Chokyi Nyima Rinpoche, the founder of the school, which my friend's dad knew and we went to his Saturday morning teachings. Afterwards, he took me to another famous stupa in Kathmandu, the Swayambunath stupa. This stupa is also rich in Buddhist history. It is also known as the Monkey Temple, because it has many monkeys. We visit several smaller stupas and visited Lama Zopa's main monastery. Kopan monastery had a (Lung) wind transmission that day. Meaning a Lama would read a scripture and it is believe that by hearing it one benefit and might understand what is said. The Lama reads the text fast without break and it travels through the air into the minds of its listeners. By the time we were finished at Kopan, a whole day had passed and we headed back to Bouda and entered the circumambulating area. At Bouda I recognized a very familiar face walking towards me. It was one of my companions that I had traveled to Amaravati with, Dean. I was elated to see him. I knew he was going to be in Nepal, but did not know when and where. So we hung out for a little bit. Dean is heading to Western Tibet to Mt. Kailash or as it is known in Tibetan as Kang Rinpoche for the Tibetan holiday of Saka Dawa. Mt Kailash is the most sacred mountain the world, holy to Hindus, Jain, Tibetan Buddhist, and Bonpos (A Tibetan religion that existed before Buddhism entired Tibet). Tibetans all the way from the Kham province in Eastern Tibet will perform full body prostrations to the mountain and circumbulate around it in the same fashion. It is not a fun trip, but Dean is bent on going and I am praying that he has a safe trip. The day after we had met at Bouda, we set up a time to meet and to visit some monasteries. We went to Sakya Tharig Monastery looking for an Italian friend ,that I had met in Dhasa, that I knew was teaching English there, but I found out that he had left. Then we went to Ka Nying Sherap Ling and sat in on a Puja. For the last stop we went to Shechen Monastery, built by the great Nyingma teacher Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche. There was a puja going on to get ready for some teachings happening the following week. This puja also had religious cham monastic dancing, with was quite interesting. Afterwards, we headed our separate ways, not knowing when we will meet again. I went to Shechen Monastery to the next day and a weird thing happened. After the puja, a white man approached me asking me where I was from and what was my name. After I told him, it turned out that this man knew my paternal uncle who plays jazz music. The white man plays trumpet. I have not been in connection with anyone from my father's side of the family since I was very young. It took me off guard. I thought of it to be weird to met someone who knew my uncle. I was going to go the monastery again the next day, but I did not want to see that guy again. So throughout my stay in Nepal I was thinking that I would like to spend more time there. I will look into the Rangjung Yeshe Institute Master's program. It could be a possibility. It sucks that I can not afford it through. I am grateful to Mr. Tsering Dhondup and Dagmo Kusho la's dad for hooking me up during my staying in Nepal. I have to say that I liked Nepal more than India. It has half the beggars and the girls for some reasons seem prettier and I have been confirmed on this one by numerous qualified sources. My trip back to India was quite painful. My seat had no leg room, thus my knees were in utter pain, and since I was not so trusting of the dhabas (restuarants) that the bus had stopped at, I developed a powerful migraine headache probably due lack nutrients. Today I leave from Majnu ka tilla back to Dhasa. I'll be there by tomorrow morning. I hope that I have not bored you death.



Anonymous said...

hi there can u tell more abt reaching to dharamsala frm majnu ka tila delhi.. i mean where can i find buses frm majnu ka tila. i have come to know that buses tavel regularly frm t here

my email-

anniek said...


I really enjoyed reading your travel story! Wow what an adventures and special meetings!

I am leaving for my 6week India, Nepal, Tibet trip in 5 weeks time... I could use some advice actually as I havent planned much yet. Will follow the founder of a small charity in India who is going to check the different childrens villages around Hyderabad... then take a plane to Kathmandu (would love to go to Dharamsala... meet Tibetan people... and find perhaps a school that would like to partcipate in an art workshop with me)... I am thinking of going to Lumbini, Chitwah, Boedha, Lhasa/Tibet, back to Kathmandu-London.

Hows the Maoist activity at the mo?

Hope to hear from you!