McLeod Ganj 25-28/4

(Top photo: Iswar testing out the ‘panorama’ option on the SONY camera)

In the photo below are Sieve and Honza, two students at Lee’s Butoh Course. The photo is the right side up – they were bending backwards when this was taken. Honza is a visual artist whose eyes get deceptively spaced out when he performs. But meet him outside of the butoh space and there is a whole range of mischief, warmth and curiosity in them. He also has an obvious knack for picking out and making striking costumes for himself. Sieve had her own restaurant in france, she had participated for two months in the butoh course last year and has now come back to do the full year.

One space both of us were quite excited about visiting was TIPA. We were feeling quite lousy that we had missed their Opera festival by a few weeks and would be missing their annual performances by another few weeks. nevertheless we landed up there one fine afternoon post a loooong uphill walk roughly around this time.

The Tibetan Institute of Performing Arts was set up in 1959, the same year that the Dalai Lama arrived in Dharamsala with many other Tibetan refugees. Its quite amazing to think that a centre for performing arts was one of the first things they opened up. We were told that there would be a small private performance for an Italian and an Australian delegation that was in town. And we could watch the performance if we liked. But that was not until another few hours. But that was ok as we were feeling really lucky to have gotten a chance to watch something as we were actually on our way to Dharamkot and weren’t planning on coming to TIPA until the next day. So we walked around aimlessly. Tried walking to Dharamkot but it was just too damn far so looked around for a local dhaba level place had chai and came back around this time.

But then we were early. So we waited and waited a little more and then finally around this time

We went in to see the performance. Their senior troupe was out performing in the US so we saw a handful of five to ten minute pieces mostly of Tibetan group folk music and dances. We were told not to film, so we had kept our cameras inside so sadly not a single photo of the performance. The unexpected thing was both of us getting Goosebumps right at the end of the performance when the entire cast came on stage along with the Tibetan flag and sang their national anthem. Over twenty five performers and another 50 odd students and audience participated and the melody and feeling behind it was really something.

Since we were in Mcleod ganj it would be unforgivable to not visit the Tsuglagkhang Temple complex where the Dalai Lama stays. The day we decided to go was also the day the Dalai lama was back in town. So every single Tibetan shop was shut and everyone was off to the temple. No we didn’t see the Dalai lama. The photo below is of these notices that were up all over town. Most of them were in Tibetan so in my ignorance i thought they were just a missing boy poster. As strange as that sounds. The connection was made when i saw this one in the temple in English. There were also large hanging vinyls which had a lot of graphic photos of violence and bloodshed of Tibetan freedom fighters.

The main temple doesn’t allow photography, but here is one from the second temple from the side. The temple itself is really striking, really intricate hand painted colourful murals cover the walls and ceiling. Also including a close up of the prasadam offering that i was really shocked to find. Every single idol or book of religious significance had besides it incense, packets and packets of biscuits (plain, cream and digestives) Amul butter, dairy milk chocolate and bottles of honey. =)

Sometimes we go to someplace so often or see it many times and feel so familiar and comfortable that we just forget to take a photo. =( one such place is Carpe Diem. Our favourite restaurant in Mcleod. Which by the way parvez had recommended to us. This was the first place we went to and they infact helped us find a place to stay in. since we don’t have a photo of the restaurant, here is one of a salad that made anushkas eyes light up. Sadly that happened before i could get the camera out so please just imagine that expression and drool over the salad. I take responsibility for putting the two olive bits for eyes. If you see around the salad you would see the table. All the tables are like that, filled with writings drawings and photos. Giving each table its very own personality. We obviously couldn’t resist adding a little bit ourselves =)

Carpe Diem also has these musical jam sessions every Sunday. the guitarist singer on the absolute left is Shambhu who also happens to be a friend of pervez’s. This was taken while they sang Sayonee.

And finally here is Ram Kishen. Flute maker and flute player. Self taught as most people we are bumping into seem to be. He sells classical flutes, nepali and Japanese flutes made with rose wood, teak wood, and another wood (not bollywood) which i forgot. Bamboo ofcourse. He teaches flute to tourists. And while he is waiting at the shop he takes a large sack needle and carves on flutes. One very interesting thing we realised was like so many others from Himachal he too goes off either to Goa or Pushkar from Oct to Jan. Which made us think that if we were to follow the typical Lonely planet route of places to go and the good times to go there we would in all probability be bumping into the same people tourists and vendors alike everywhere.

Here is a going away photo of the crazy constructions that are going on everywhere.

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