McLeod Ganj, Himachal Pradesh, India

The moon is almost full. It’s hanging over the hills in the East, above Triund. The seas are clearly visible: three dark patches. If I squint I can see a face that’s either happy or angry, but not really.

I’ve ordered French onion soup and Veg. Mushroom Curry Rice. I’m in Dharamkot. This is the Israeli occupied part of McLeod Ganj. Israelis here outnumber all other nationalities, including Indians. At least that’s how it seems if you go to any of the cafes and restaurants. Many signs and menus are written in Hebrew.

I don’t know why there are so many Israelis here. In Kolkata there were many Japanese. On Koh Pangan (Thailand) there were a lot of English, and in the area I was staying a lot of Germans as well. It feels a bit like a new kind of colonialism, though I don’t think the travellers doing their yoga and reiki classes and meditation retreats playing drums and didgeredoos and smoking chillum see much resemblance between themselves and the Raj, but I’m sitting at a table being waited on by Indians and getting annoyed because they don’t get the concept of a starter and a main course and bring my French onion soup and Veg. Mushroom Curry Rice at the same time, but I don’t say anything. Some people would but I never do. I just don’t go back to the places I don’t like. That has an effect. Ordering French onion soup has an effect. The places which only serve Indian food around here don’t do very good business. The most popular restaurant in Dharamkot is Israeli owned and run and serves Israeli food. I don’t think there are any places here that only serve Indian food. They all have Italian sections on their menus, Israeli sections, most offer continental breakfasts and there are many adverts for German bakeries – anywhere that serves a cinnamon roll calls itself a German bakery.

Maybe it’s a good thing that so many young Israelis come here. If they settle here rather than on Palestinian land that must be a good thing, unless they start kicking out the Indians and claiming they were here first.

Wealthy foreigners don’t need to kick anyone out physically though. They can do it with their money, and probably without realizing what they’re doing. Sunil, the guy in the chai shop on Triund, was complaining about how this town had changed, how prices had gone up, which must mean many locals can’t afford to live in the town where they grew up. Some may get rich off the tourist trade, but some won’t. Sunil was saying he used to walk through Bhagsu and he could stop and chat to people for two or three hours, having a smoke with them, but now they’re all rushing about saying they haven’t got time. He used to be able to get a taxi for 7 Rupees but now the same journey costs 200 Rupees. That was six years ago.

Things change.

2 Comments

  1. Mbashta · 18 May 2006

    Task for Dr Paulus:

    Without recourse to Google, explain the effect the decline of the Ottoman empire had on the current Israel/Palestine situation.

  2. paul · 18 May 2006

    Without what to Google? Let me check dictionary.com… OK, without looking at Google I can’t explain anything. Looking at Google I can explain everything in an almost infinite number of ways.