The bus took about 9 hours from Manali and we were wandering on the streets of Dharmshala at 4 am, 18th of May. Rajat had some relatives living there and hence we decided to stay there instead of a hotel. What better than the comfort of a home. And rightly so, for the hospitability and treatment we received there was endearing! The Punjabi Choley and Aaloo ke paranthe were, true to their fame, delicious to say the least. And how can I not mention the cutest girl ever, his couple of years old niece , who with her sweet nothings and innocent mischieves made us all kids with her.
After a few hours of rest, we started again. Our first spot was Macleodganj, the Indian home of His Holiness Dalai Lama and a large numbers of Tibetan refugees. It was about 7-8 kms uphill from Dharmshala, so we decided to walk our ways up. It was a visually delighting experience to observe the high mountains on one side and deep valleys on the other. However, what drew my attention the most as a Civil Engineer was the improper gradient of the roads which was way higher than the recommended. Also, a constant feature among most of the hilly roads in India is the absence of a proper boundary making the already not-so-safe roads even more dangerous. Anyways, the walk was pleasant and our first stop was the Tibetan Museum. It introduced us to a world that we only had heard about or at most read in some newspaper headline-the Tibet-China issue. The struggle of Tibetan people for freedom against the Chinese rule was depicted and their agony and misery which forced them to leave their country and live here in India as refugees was very poignantly shown. The museum housed various depicts of their struggle and the devastations caused by the Chinese invasion. It described how the beautiful and valuable resources-natural and cultural-of Tibet are being exploited and destroyed by China. Adjacent was the Dalai lama temple.(Yup..that’s true- temple. I wonder to date that why is it called a temple and not monastery). It included the residence of His Holiness Dalai Lama himself, and a monastery. It was a really serene and pious environment, with monks of all the ages in the typical maroon colored dresses and bald, sitting in rows and chanting mantras. A large number of monks resided there too, and learnt about Buddhism. We talked to one of them and saw their books, though couldn’t understand a word since they were in Tibetan language. The monks dedicate their lives to the service of humanity and despise the worldly charms such as marriage. The sight of small children aged no more than 10 as monks surprised and to an extent bothered us if it was voluntary or not. We came to know later the Tibetan families had a tradition of dedicating their first child to the service of Dalai Lama, i.e. the first child had to be a monk, referred to as a Lama in the local lingo. We enquired if there was any way to see the Dalai Lama himself, but without any affirmation.
Next we just went for some mountain climbing. Actually that was the way to Pizzeria (or whatever, the spelling is) a local Pizza shop which according to the people had amazing and unique pizza. Add to that, it was located at a place accessible after a tiresome climb of the mountain which only increased our curiosity and ofcourse appetite. However to much of our dismay we found it closed when we finally reached there, courtesy the local weekly close! The way also included an encounter with the huge pahadi dogs who came and surrounded us from all sides leaving us with no option but just allowing them to sniff and touch us! To fill our bellies we finally entered a restaurant called the Tibet kitchen which looked quite classy, but what the heck , they even charged for water! And Sudeep and Rajat were repulsed by the sight of pork and lamb on the menu and hence we just had to suffice with a platter of Tibetan momo, while our appetites had to wait till we reached back to dharmshala.The town was an interesting sight, with the Indians getting almost outnumbered by the foreigners- Tibetans and tourists. Our next destination was a place called Bhaagsu Naag- with the local stories of a powerful clan of snakes headed by the Bhagsu Naag residing in the water abundant area, which prohibited the king from using water for his people. The king fought them and due to the killing of snakes ended up with a curse, and hence built a temple of the Bhagsu Naag to redeem himself. The stories also talk of the king Dharm Singh, after whom Dharmshala was named. Apart from the temple, the place had a waterfall which was barely existent now. However it gave way to an eyeful of beautiful sights, specially the way between the two mountains, with the thin stream of water flowing amidst plentiful of rocks.