McLeod Ganj is home to the Dalai Lama, who settled here temporarily in 1960. Five decades later he still lives here, and his modest residence within a small temple complex in the south side of town is now his permanent home in exile.
This area, situated amongst lush green hills, experiences some of the highest rainfall in the country and perhaps the world. My time here has proven to be no exception as it has rained everyday, multiple times a day, most of the downfall torrential in nature. The streets run with mud.
I think I expected the home of the Dalai Lama to be serene, maybe peaceful, maybe not as chaotic as the rest of the India I’ve seen thus far. Maybe some monks meditating over the virtue of trash collecting and creating a clean environment. Maybe just a tiny bit more interest in serenity and cleasnliness. Not so. While the verdant green hills stand in silent testomony, cloaked in fluffly shawls of grey and white cloud, Mcleod Ganj itself is cramped and teeming. The humans share their narrow dirt and gravel streets with cows, goats, monkeys, stray (and at times vicious) dogs, motorcycles, and cars. Just as the with the rest of India pedestrians scurry out of the way of vehicle who rule the road with sheer force of might. If you don’t jump out of the way of a barreling automotive machine, honking like a demon to let you know it’s coming the fuck thru whether you like it or not, you get yelled at/scolded with extreme derision for being a slow piece of shit that dares impede the progress of fucking progress. Have feet? Fuck you. Get out of the way.
…Which I show I found myself standing in a huge pile of cow shit. Least it wasn’t human excrement.
On our second day here I was stricken with the bane of all travelers, T.D. Not pretty. The first day is the worst as your guts basically squeeze anything you might like to put inside of them out. I stayed close to the hotel which blessedly had a proper toilet, and not a squat hole. Hanging on the balcony I observed. An old monk clad in red and orange robes struggling up a flight of stairs, cane in one hand. A gaggle of monkeys pulling laundry off of hanging lines and cackling about it. Infinite rolling clouds opening up into torrential rain. Endless white travelers. Yes, white people.
McLeod Ganj is crawling with white tourists and ex-pats, all here to find some sort of enlightenment in the holy place the Dalai Lama has chosen to be his home in exile. They all attempt to blend in in some way, local garb and such, but stick out like sore thumbs nonetheless. Before I came in India I described what I wanted to get out of my trip to a resident of Agra (home to the Taj Mahal which I won’t be visiting eat that tourism board!!) and was told that my desire was to have a “hippie experience”. I was slightly offended by the label but I now know what it meant. Thankfully, it does not apply to me. These people are trying way too hard.
So, im sitting on the balcony, guts keeping me anchored, when I observed an event that shook me, and disturbed me to the core. A pack of stray dogs came across a squad of monkeys chilling on one of the many tiered cement rooftops. Mclead Ganj is buit into the side of a large hill so the town has many levels to it. The encounter came to a sudden and violent head as the dogs pounced upon the monkeys and attacked. The monkeys chased them off by sheer force of numbers, but not before of of their number lay still and fetal on the rooftop, mangled to death. The screams of the monkeys and the snarling barks of dogs was disquieting, to say the least. A cacophony of violence. The corpse, small and pathetic, lay on its side for another day a reminder that it is not just us humans who are capable of wanton and pointless destruction. Even tho I have seen much suffering since arriving here, this particular event turned my already sour stomache.
All this is not to say that I have a particular dislike of this place. Barring the noise, the dirt, the appalling lack of proper sanitation and garbage disposal, there is a charm to McLeod Ganj, an ambiance I can not put into words.
Tomorrow, it is time to move on. After much deliberation is has been decided that we are not going to Kashmir, but instead will travel to Leh where we have a flight to Kathmandu on the 19th, via Manali. Manali to Leh is known for it’s ridiculous dangerous road. One of the mountain passes on the road translates to “pile of dead bodies”. Good times are coming, so stay tuned.