By Thubten Samphel
Dharamsala seems to be getting crowded these days. Earlier, the only crowd was the white crowd of the British Raj. But they left when the empire folded up. After the Raj the crowd that converged in McLeod Ganj were the swaggering langurs that met on treetops that lined the road from McLeod Ganj to the Tibetan Children’s Village. If their meeting did not go well, or if the desserts that fueled their meeting in the first place were not sufficient, the langurs menaced the lone traveller on that deserted stretch of road with bared teeth and red bottoms.
Evolution of sorts has come to Dharamsala. Now real people have started trooping to the place, not the sort of people like the Gaddi shepherds who whistle their flocks of sheep and goats into a wooly, floating, disordered discipline as they wind their way up the narrow footpaths to greener pastures in the upper reaches of Dharamsala. Nor the sort of people like the Tibetan refugees murmuring their om mani padme chants and spinning their prayer wheels in a fervent clatter. Nor the brash new refugee entrepreneurs from rapidly ‘modernising’ Tibet, intent on making a fast buck and moving on, preferably westwards.
Nor are these people the backpacker types, with their worldly possessions on their backs and quick enlightenment on their minds, greatly helped in this by easily available stimulants and whose different tastes have spawned a whole range of restaurants offering a variety of cuisines in Dharamsala’s urban jungle called McLeod Ganj.
No, these are real people, people sitting on top of the human food chain and up on the evolutionary ladder. They are the actors. From both the woods that entertain the less evolved ones across the seven seas and seven continents. I hope it is seven, both the seas and continents. Need to brush up on geography. They are from Hollywood and Bollywood, come to pay homage to Dollywood, or sniffing around for a script or a shoot so as to sing and cling around the trees in their own woods.
In the recent past, Manisha Koirala of Bollywood and Jet Lee of Hollywood came to Dharamsala, one after the other. Manisha to meet His Holiness the Dalai Lama. Jet Lee and his family to meet the young Karmapa. This reporter hopes Jet Lee was here to learn and be blessed and not to teach. And they are on a well-trodden path. Actors, equally eminent as they, had hit the same road, resulting in the Tibet story being told and shown on screens across the seven continents.
A new crowd has converged in Dharamsala just the other day, not the crowd of a rapidly ‘modernising and globalised Tibet, with cell phones in hand. It is the crowd from traditional Tibet, from the cold grasslands of Golok, the lush forests of Gyalthang and the deep blue skies of western Tibet. The men and women, deeply wrinkled as if the dignity of old Tibet were etched on their weather-beaten faces, were wrapped in yakskin, were at the inauguration of Dolma Ling Nunnery to receive His Holiness the Dalai Lama’s blessings.
As a befitting tribute to them for keeping the dignity of old Tibet alive, His Holiness the Dalai Lama told them that the spirit of Tibet is with the Tibetan people in Tibet.
In turn, Dharamsala seems blessed by their very presence and by the lingering smell of old Tibet they left behind them.
An occasional diary
(www.tibet.net is the official website of the Central Tibetan Administration.)