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Up n Around in Dharamsala n Dharamkot

A plane ride to Delhi and then another hopping one ,on a smaller craft, lands one at Guggal, a small landing strip . A small aerodrome with a pleasant outfield ,welcomes one to the hilly fragrance and the familiar mountain air which besots India’s hill stations, to Dharamshala. At takeoff, the touristy feel, the air of a holiday, envelopes one, as one ascends with the chuckles, the giggles, the small talk of the holiday makers. The presence of foreigners, our messiahs of tourist dollars, the loud conversations of the Desis, and the crackle of the kids makes one cherish the anticipation of an oncoming get away. The holiday is palpable, as one descends. On arrival, a taxi stand charges Rs 20/- for designating a cab for each. One of the foreigners facing a problem, for not having the Indian Rupee, is willing to dole out 25 cents instead of the twenty rupee. But that exchange, not looking do able with the cab stand guy, both agree she will pay the amount to the cabbie after making the exchange at the town.

My cabbie negotiates through the turns and streets of Dharamshala. Twisty, turny, crowded, tourists filled..Its season time as Indian multitudes throng the misty Himalayas to beat the heat of the hot plains and enjoy the summer break of Indian schools. The driving skills of the Cab guys are phenomenal, they do the killer turns with ease, steep wet slippery lanes -one tyre right on the edge. And they can do all this revere, as the passengers heart comes in his sleeve !They would surely win any tv challenge series on car mountaineering. “Dont worry Saab ,we have been doing this childhood?” and “how many mishaps has it taken to learn this?” my mind screams?

The streets of Dharmsala zig zag into Mcleodganj -Mcllo as its called in local parlance, the seat of the Dalai Lama , the spiritual and temporal head of the Tibetans, the head of the government in Exile of Tibet.Mcllo with its Tibetan inhabitants ,has streets and traffic and jams at junctions as cars tra – verse roads which even bikes would scarcely pass though.The maroon robed populace, the souvenir shops and Tibetan food and medicine centres lend a clear small Tibetan town feel to the place, with an air of spirituality and religion.

The noise and traffic give way to Dharamkot ,higher on the hills, encased by pinetrees ,hallmark of the Himalayan hill stations, the Himalayan peaks and the peace of the valleys.The streets ,if anymore even more windy and few.Walk and trek are the best means of navigating the region. Accommodations are in the form of low end to mid range ,mostly room stays and lodges ,developed by the locals to feed the foreigners on a low budget and Indian looking for some comfort. Some lodges ,like the Lodge and the Cloud ,are nicely done and most of the better ones are clustered around a square of hotels ,preferred by the large groups of Indians and their families ,who make their presence felt with loud ex-changes and thumping.If its more peace you are looking for head to the places a bit higher up.

Yoga:

If Rishikesh if the yoga capital, then Dharamkot is its younger sibling.There are dozens of yoga classes in the vicinity -“schools” as they call themselves.Whether its Vinyasa or Hatha,power or Iyenger,Yin/yan or Bihar school -all form and styles are here.From drop in to 500 hour teacher training .There is an explosion of yoga ,healing,the energy systems, the esoteric and what not.Walls at vantage points carry posters of teachers and their train-ings, workshops and groups, a mileu of offerings,,for one to explore ,the depths of ones be-ing and the cosmic consciousness.

I had done a little research on the yoga schools and found many – Sarvaguna,Universal ,Chandra <Maahi,Trumurti,Kashmir Shaivism school ,KaiIash Tribal,Shivananda and what not.I settled on Vijay after seeing his site and you tube.The ac-tual man was very different from the one I had imagined .a punitive short guy ,thin and al-most frail.But as he spoke ,the knowledge of his subject emerged out with a softness of speech , and a compassion of thought as he reneged with some info on yoga.I chose a class at 4 pm ,a mix of vinyasa and hatha. The ‘class’ was a carpet covered hall with some mats and equipment overlooking the valley , as most classes I learnt, were, was conductedby two very flexible and strong instructors who made you the paces in a manner which easy for each .It was fascinating to see the phirangs bend and twist ,to obnoxious pos-es.One could not help marvel at the dexterity of these people, and their fitness levels, and their commitment to good health ,as they stretched to their limits thousands of miles away from home, alone in a Himalayan hilltown , in a room clenched above a steep cliff, offering fantastic vistas of the snow clad mountains.

UP AND AROUND DHARAMKOT.

Dharamkot has a cute road or lane which serves as a kind of Main Street , a long windy lane with cafes, bars, rooms ,treatment enters .The informality of the place is engross-ing.One could be in Goa or Nepal and find the same beat.Casually dressed tourists out of a budget holiday.Its a backpackers paradise.

Walls serve as community community centres as people put posters up on them, displaying their offerings of classes and sessions as esoteric as discovering the divinity or the feminine energy within you, to Reiki, dancing, tantra and a kaleidoscope of events and courses .One browses on this Wall at the entrance of the market street and picks and chooses from the palette of sessions and chooses ones to best suit ones appetite for exploration.

A bit down is the popular trekkers trek and dine cafe ,perched a level above the street.With regular seatings and low Indian kind and sumptuous food, the breakfast being amazing.Its the hot spot for trekkers who leave from here maybe for a day trek or now which is 3 days long.On being asked the dais’s wifi password ,the waiter replies “I luv you” much to the amazement of the patrons .Realising the inaptness of the days password, he rushes to the managers counter , to get it changed to a more suitable phrase!

Mobile networks are shaky, with Airtel being the preferred one.I wish somebody had told me as it would have saved me a cab drive to Bhagsu on the other side to source a pre paid Air-tel from a store ,who was able to give me one after I flashed my Adhar or UID Unique iden-tification number.As the man ,puting my Adhar number on the website, he confirmed that my identity was true and in the process also managed to know my house address and oth-er details.Surely dangerous if you ask me.Exposing my details to an unknown person , but thats how things work for now.

Another counterpoint I discovered was that without my mobile network ,I could not book my return tickets.I checked on the website through the wifi connection that only two seats were available on the day I wanted to return on my plane ride to Delhi.but I could not receive an OTP on the phone due to it being out of range, and I was helpless!! Luckily I found a travel guy who did it for me through his card machine.Sometimes carrying the greens are simply irreplaceable. Led to realise how dependent we have become on the net and networks for daily survival! On return I called the credit card company and asked for an alternative method to use the card in case of failure of OTP.none they said .India has a layer of security through the One Time Password ,to protect its netizens! But some cards allow a pass-word to be used on net through a 3D secure system, one needs to register ,and keep the password in ones head handy at all times in a crisis situation.

Opposite the Trek and Dine cafe is the Body Temple run by Anand. A highly trained and widely experienced therapist with certificates from around the world, which find home the reception wall of his centre .during the course of our conversations we find some common friends through the Osho.Anand is one of the few therapists trained in the Chi New Tsang stomach massage ,a deep therapy to cure of chronic stomach ailments .There maybe just a couple of them trained and working in India. The therapy inner room has the feel of a tem-ple with the body being treated as a deity on which Anand confers his ministrations, know-ing every nerve, vein ,muscle and tissue .A pressure point here and a mama correction there ,swift strong strokes and after 90 minutes one emerges light, aligned and cured. The outside in contrast to the dark environment ,is pleasing as one shares a herbal tea with Anand on the pleasant balcony behind ,as he guides for future health practices for better life.

Speaking of herbal teas ,the best in my life have had ,is at the small cafe .Acute eatery not more than 6 people seated, serving a tall cup concoction of green the leaves, elaichi, honey, lemon grassy cinnamon stick and lemon. A must have.

Organic food is all over.Please do enter the Bodhi Greens Cafe.A pulsating eatery an out-side and low seated inside area. Most days there is live music with musicians from around the world.Today was asian guy with a 7 foot long flute used by the aboriginal, the Didgeri-doo juxtaposed with fiesta guitarist from Spain ,whose also taking Hindustani vocal lessons from an Indian guru!

The duo doled out lively tunes which got everyone into the grove .

This event was coutured by a guy I met at the Bodhi Greens Cafe. AK is a bearded techie, a U.S. returned guy who has also worked in real estate in Dubai and Delhi. Having shifted base to Dharamkot, AK is developing a portal called World Travel Network™ , which has eleven thousand travellers a its members- giving best place experiences in tourist hubs of Goa, Manali, Dharamshala, and other International Travel Destinations. He works most places on his laptop through a wifi, seated on a table with clear views of the hills, letting the beauty of the Himalayas instigate the ideas in his mind, which are spewed out on his laptop, amongst breaks of teas and cigarettes. He did away with the Sim few months back and communicates with the world below at a time of his choice. Here in this unhurried and unobstructive life, he chooses time as he would like it, spending it at his leisure -upto 3 am at the Greens Cafe, talking up with strangers and relegating them with tales, explains esoteric concepts like Human Design, a recent science with marries personality traits with stars and energy centres and numbers – making you a manifestor or a generator or a projector or a mix. Its a science which combines the organs and the energy flows and the stars and numbers along with psychology. All that you are made of! Human Design!!.

“you must return in Nov” says AK, when the daylight sun is warm enough to walk in a T-shirt and the nights can be made warm enough by a fire place. An incredible time to be here and in mind its a sure Yes. More tales-and more people. Mcclo was offered to a Runhall family for two lac rupees and they didn’t buy it, those they still own majority of the present day Mcclo.

Miri, an Israeli lady ,who ran pilates classes also owns  several guest houses in Patnem Goa. AnIndian ,who grew up in Thailand and now lives in Dubai.A person from Denmark on a Vegan diet learning yoga. A truly cultural melting. pot. True World Travellers!

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