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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Part Three: Points of Departure - McLeod

I'll be frank. I have avoided writing this entry because it signals that I've accepted having left Dharamsala and India. For each departure, another arrival, and having lived long enough to have said good-bye to my share of people and places in many different ways, I can handle the mixed feelings better than, say, twenty or even ten years ago. 

In the past few months I've bid farewell to my colleagues at Harvard (the best people you could ever hope to work with), friends and family on this side of the Atlantic and then, after all too short a period, to friends who are family to me on the other side of the world.

My pal Fleur inspired me this morning when I found she had posted a comment to me on Facebook that this was for me: It's a three and a half minute slide show of Budan and I'll probably play it a few mo more times for myself before the day is done. It also inspired me to catch up on Fleur's blog, which is some of the best writing on the web. I'm tempted to tell people to quit reading right now and go to It sums up so much of the camaraderie, the motivation and reflection that accompanies us when we travel and unexpectedly find another family we didn't know existed (but suspected might well have).


In essence, this post is dedicated to Fleur Carter, who will no doubt be back in Dharamsala before me.

As anyone can surmise, I think, from reading the past few months, the people I've met are the glue that binds me to India. In Bodhgaya, there is Sanjay and his dad and the staff at Heritage. There's Mahendra, Viki, Dinu and my brother Kapil. And wherever she is, Leigh Kumar!

But for as much as I love Bodhgaya and the villages, McLeod Ganj/upper Dharamsala is what I think of when I consider returning home to India. Saying farewell to Dolma, Dorjee, Tsultrim Kalsang and Tashi Yangzom was difficult. My friend Pasang's family are gems.

Similarly, I will miss tea with Shafi, grabbing a meal at Jimmy's and Nick's, sitting in Moonbeam watching the sun set, and just ambling about the valley and up a mountain. The crisp mornings, meditation, yoga and tai ch'i and then up to Budan to see everyone. The road trips with Dolma and the family, the evening meals, hearing Palden singing, playing with Kelly on the rooftop; none of this may make for compelling reading, but it's the stuff of life on a daily basis that gives great joy.

Teachings by His Holiness the Dalai Lama, performances at TIPA, visiting the Voice of Tibet and the CTA (Central Tibetan Administration, now officially the name for the Tibetan Government in Exile) offices, and dinners out with Dolma filled in the rest of time. And then, back to Budan for a last latte or a cumulative cappacino. There are worse ways to spend your time.

A mournful Losar and the self-immolation of Jamphel Yeshi were reminders that as lovely as McLeod is, the Tibetans aren't here by choice. Yet, it has been an honor to stand with them and at least in some minimal way contribute to their lives in exile. Additionally, it has been important to bear witness to the poverty throughout the subcontinent and see up close the work being done at a local level. There are lessons learned that I hope I can share in more substantive ways once I'm settled for a while.

Lastly, there is the majesty of the mountains. Morning and afternoon, evening and night; their silent presence rings about Kangra, surrounding us in ample enfoldment.

That last day was as long as I could make it. I dragged my steps. I mailed a parcel, gave some things to my favorite street kid, checked out of Pink House and made one more hike up the steps with Rinky, my landlord. We parted and then I headed across the street to Tsultrim's and deposited my stuff there. Dorjee, Dolma and I had a quick lunch and then it was back to Budan for a farewell party. After that, the trudge to the bus.

Along the walk to my departure, Dorjee remarked that I was showing attachment to Dharamsala, to the people I've met, and so on. Well, yeah. But I would characterize it as well as having been charged in two senses of the word. One, with the positive energy that comes from an exceedingly wonderful experience and acknowledging the innate beauty and goodness of those involved. Two, I feel charged with a duty to continue sharing that energy wherever I go, one that I happily accept. Attachment is relative. Sad to leave but knowing I can return mitigates the sadness as it ripens into something more like joy, unbounded by a sense of self for all to take from what they can.

The following pictures are the visual tokens of those final weeks in McLeod Ganj.

My next-door neighbors...
Random shots from walks



The view from Tsultrim Kalsang's:


Interior of the CTA Parliament where issues are discussed among the representatives of the Tibetan people:

Butter lamps at the Tsglagkhang...


And a monkey who didn't really want his picture taken...


Another great meal at Korea with a truly wonderful woman:

...and more reasons why departures are bittersweet:

rGrogs-po means "friend". That cake was sweet. The message was sweeter.

Two sGrogs-pa! Phuntsok and Ta Bo!

Altogether here (thanks to Fleur for taking this picture):


Kelly, the Wonder Dog :

....and a girl and her dog: last fond farewell to the Family,

I'd sure like to thank everyone who reads this, by the way. I hope it's been informative and to some degree enjoyable. It's not over, either. The next entry wraps up the India chapter that was written mostly for friends and family in the states. The ones that follow will be for the family and friends from India, as well. I'll be interested to see what comments come from there.


1 comment:

  1. John-la! You have bought tears to my eyes, thank you so much....I am sure I will see you back here sooner rather than later, I know the boys (and I) can not wait for you to return so coffee and cake awaits you x