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McLeod Ganj, India

McLeod Ganj is cold, and it rained for most of the day. I bought a jacket, one made by Tibetans living here. McLeod Ganj is the home of the Dalai Lama, though I think he’s now in England, or maybe Holland, or possibly Argentina. Have a look on to see, if you really want to know. If you’re not too bothered where he is then it doesn’t matter.

There are pictures of him everywhere, and shops selling posters with his most famous sayings. Not really posters, but words printed on cloth attached to sticks that you’re meant to hang on your wall to remind you to live a good and just life or whatever, or to remind visitors to your house to live a good and just life and not to abuse your hospitality, and not to move into your house, invite in all their friends and relations and kick you out, forcing you to go and live with the next door neighbours.

I took the night train from Rishikesh, and then an overloaded shared jeep, a three hour journey up into the mountains as the sun was rising.

Went to see a Tibetan film this evening at the local cinema, which seats about fifty in seats which appear to have been taken out of a coach. The film a video projection of a poor quality DVD. It was called Himalaya, sun-titled the childhood of a chief, about a village of Tibetans walking with their yaks from one place to another, but the old chief doesn’t want to start walking until the stars are auspicious whereas the guy who is setting himself up as the new chief, called Karma, wants to leave right away. So the village splits, but the old guy’s lot catch up with the young one’s bigger lot, and then the old chief throws salt in the fire and says if the salt crackles it will be good weather but if it is silent it’ll be bad weather. The salt is silent so he says they should cross the mountains tomorrow but Karma says the sky is clear so the weather will be fine and they should rest for a couple of days before leaving. This time village goes along with what the old chief says, and the old chief is proven right. The weather is bad and the old chief gets lost in the snow but Karma, who refused to go with them, is following and finds the old chief and saves his life. They reach safety, the old chief gives his blessing to Karma as the new chief and then he dies. He had wanted his son to be chief but his son has been hanging out at a monastery painting murals and doesn’t want to be chief, but the old chief’s grandson will become chief because the whole film is about him. There’s a flash forward at the end to the new new chief looking at the mural that has been painted of this journey.

I thought the film was too beautiful. Very high production values and highly composed images. All a bit too nice and perfect. If it had been filmed in a more raw way, shot on digital video with hand held cameras then maybe it could have been good.

Had dinner in a restaurant with a Scottish woman I met on the train, some Italians she knew and an Indian guy she knew. I ordered an espresso coffee. One of the Italians was discussing whether or not it would be real espresso. Usually here espresso means filter coffee, whereas if you just ask for coffee you get Nescafe instant coffee. We hear the machine spluttering. It sounds like a real espresso, but then the waiter puts a cappucino down in front of me. The Italian says that’s a cappucino, he asked for an espresso. No, that’s an espresso, says the waiter. No, it’s an espresso, insists the Italian. No, it’s an espresso, insists the waiter. Okay it’s an espresso, I say. I don’t care. It has chocolate sprinkled on top and looks like a decent cappucino. So long as it’s not Nescafe. It seems crazy trying to get authentic Italian things in India, but most tourist restaurants now offer Italian food on their menus.

I’m staying in a hotel that’s off the road. You have to walk up a rough path to get to it. I have a room with bathroom attached and hot shower, and two thick blankets on my bed.


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