Have you ever had a holiday that just didn’t work out right? One you’d looked forward to for a long, long time. Our trip to India last winter, the fourth, was such a one, quite an odd trip when you put all the pieces together. Our time there felt like the movie Groundhog Day in many ways, especially the McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala part, sort of a been there, done that kind of thing. The place was the same, but we were different. Although I consider McLeod Ganj a spiritual home, as the trip grew closer, I didn’t feel like leaving home, and never really let go of my home community during the four months we were away.
Chennai, Tamil Nadu, in South India, was a different point of entry this time. First we regrouped in a three star hotel, in itself aberration. Then on down the coast to Mamallapuram, a tiny, ex-hippy colony with beautiful sandy beaches, a good place for relaxing and getting over the jetlag. Pondicherry, a Union Territory that was originally French, had wonderful architecture and real French bakeries, run by Indians of course. But it’s a typically busy small Indian city and you take your life in your hands crossing the streets, not much fun.
Still in Tamil Nadu, we visited the mountains of Ooty, a destination for Indian tourists. At almost 8000 feet, it gifted me with elevation sickness. It was a busy working town with a few interesting sites. After a false start at the sparse, cold YWCA in the town centre, where the staff were stiff and conservative, and religious pictures adorned all the walls, we secured a room up the hill at a nicer hotel. Well run and clean, the food was decent, albet a tad monotonous, being only Indian-Asian fusion. But Don’s appreciation of the place was spoiled by our waiter, who plied us with wretched tasting home made wine left by a Brit, then hard liquor, then offered momentos of the hotel.
The Prince Polonia Hotel in Paharganj, Delhi, owned by our devout Hindu friend Brig, had been suddenly sold, so many hours were spent using the internet at the very welcoming, upscale hotel next door, to secure a new place, (we never got our money back from the on-line booking agency). Finally we booked into a small family run place in Karol Bag, a new Delhi neighbourhood to us, at a whopping $100 Canadian per night, a far cry from our usual $35 at Prince Polonia.
We finally made our way to the airstrip below McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala by plane. This time the company did not go out of business as in 2012 and the fog lifted on a warm sunny, February day. Yeah!
It was wonderful to reconnect with dear Tibetan friends again, but we arrived just before Losar, the Tibetan New Year, when almost everything shut down for a week or more. The NGO’s we’d volunteered at previously and planned to work at again, were closed. Don’s never re-opened, and on our last day in town he went by, hoping to assist at just one English conversation group before departure, only to discover that the centre was closing that day, turning into an art gallery! My supervisor at Tibetan Women’s Association ‘seemed’ too busy to bother with me, and did not facilitate any of the plans for my work, not even ESL teaching and women’s empowerment coaching, as before, and as she had suggested during this visit. I felt hurt, annoyed and insulted by what happened, and mulled over lodging complaints, both to her and to the association. Ultimately I decided against that, for in the end I knew I was just one more rich entitled western woman in their eyes.
After the first three or four days of warmth, the weather regressed from February early spring to January winter temperatures, almost constant rain and frequent thunderstorms complete with big balls of hail! The Tibetan guesthouse our friends moved us into was very cold and there were multiple power failures. I also reacted to the negative energy of the place, sensing that bad things had happened there. Later a friend who taught Tibetan language at a nearby American private school told me that she once visited a student there, an older German woman who was ill, and found the place to be very cold and uncomfortable energetically. We moved back to our original, more expensive, Tibetan guesthouse.
When I tell people what happened in Dharamsala and in other parts of India, I hear how strange it sounds. Some look at me and say, “That was a weird trip.”, or simply, “Wow, that’s all I have to say, wow!”, or as a friend who is a medium asked, “Were you rejected?”
Yes, I think we were. But did India reject us or did we reject her?
After four trips to the country, (plus one 1970’s trip for Don), perhaps we’re done with India. The timing was all wrong for sure; we were both in transition as we slowly move into a ‘semi-retirement’ stage of our lives. Or could it be we were meant to find McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala, or “Little Lhasa” as it’s called, only so we could later become sponsors of a Tibetan family from northeast India as part of Canada’s Tibetan Resettlement Project? However, I’m sure we’re meant to be connected to India and particularly to McLeod Ganj, Dharamsala and to the very special Tibetan people there, but in a different way than before.
We spent the final six weeks of our four month trip in Ireland; (we did the “I” countries, our chiropractor said). Don didn’t want to go home, and anyway, by early March the rental agency had managed to rent our house, so we had no home to go to!
Literally marking the final weeks and days of the trip off on my pocket calendar, I was never so glad to see my home and my town again in mid May, and spent most of the warm summer on our back deck, surrounded by huge planter boxes of sunflowers, basil, carrots and cherry tomatoes, planted by my own two hands from seed.
What all that was about, I can’t tell you, but it was definitely part of my and our process! I needed to get that off my chest before moving on to my regular blogging.
Coming next: Good things did happen in India