Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Initial Thoughts

It's rather strange being here.

After all, at one level or another, i'm in a refuguee community. The tibetian people here lack Indian passports, and so must pass border checkpoints with their Indian issued refugee card, and usually a couple hundred rupees in backsheesh for the guy at the border.

Admittedly, my experience with refugees is limited. However, at one point, my mum did rent her house in London out to the refugee council, and so I did get to chat with a couple guys from Iraq and Somalia- who had been tortured and experienced very nasty things.

The experience here is completely different. Tibetians are everywhere, armed with mobile phones, very western clothes, hanging out and chatting in internet cafes (which are everywhere here) and mostly, ignoring me.

This in itself is strange. In India proper, i'm a strange thing, something to be looked at, prodded, touched, and laughed at. I have to work very very hard now to even get a smile, as most people don't even look at me. I sorta miss being the center of attention.

The majority of Indians that i've met in this town are Kashmiri merchants - famous all over India for their business skills... In general, I really really dislike dealing with them, as I find them to be pretty ruthless. I never feel like i'm getting a good deal, and always feel like they'll stab me in the back.

The kashmiri thing complicates the simple act of Hello.

To the Indian Hindus, I say "Ram Ram", to the kashmiris (who are mostly muslim), I say salal alakium, and to the tibetians, I say Namaste (because I don't know how to speak their language yet). It all gets a bit confusing, and every once in a while, I catch myself saying Ram Ram to a tibetian monk - and laughing at it.. After all, i'm praising a hindu god to a buddhist monk ;)

This state seems to produce Apples, as the beer/wine shops stock cider - something iv'e yet to see in India. I had a bottle of unfiltered apple juice earlier, and it was great - just like the cloudy juice you get in England. I'll try a cider later, if my stomach is feeling better.

Food here is so so. Fresh veggie momo (dumplings) are available in the street for about 25 cents, but I find myself really missing the food from the south. I'll be there in 3 weeks, so I suppose I can put up with the food for now.

Am being quite lazy here. I went on a walk this afternoon to a neighboring village in search of a shiva temple. I found one, after a great walk through some nice mountain trails, but found a pretty boring baba (holy man) chatting on a mobile phone and smoking a cigarette. Less than holy.

On the way back, I got lazy, and flagged down a passing Tibetian on a motorbike. He gave me a ride back to the main town, albeit at scarily fast speeds going round the mountain turns. It was quite fun though :)

I think i'll be here till the 10th or so. I need to wait for my airplane ticket to show up from Delhi. After that, i'll head towards the Paravati Valley for some intense relaxation before I head to Varanasi.

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