Written by Heather
This has been such a strange week. On the other hand, I’m not surprised.
Let me begin by setting the scene:
SETTING. Alana’s apartment, morning. The sun is streaming through the window onto her bed, and you can faintly hear birds singing outside.
For those of you who don’t know, I have a new best friend named Alana (don’t worry Chrissy, you’re still my old best friend, and as we know from Dawa, that makes a big difference). She’s pretty much amazing, and I spend the night at her apartment an average of 2 nights per week. Why? Because she lives in town, silly, and I live outside of town. If I want to stay in town for a concert or anything that will go past 10pm at night, it’s a better idea for me to stay in town instead of trying to get a rickshaw or taxi late at night, and having to wake my family up to open the gate so I can come home. Oh, and she’s pretty much amazing. But I said that already…
This week, I spent the night at Alana’s four times. Why, you ask?
SEQUENCE OF EVENTS.
MONDAY NIGHT. The air is warm and clear and a small gathering of people are at Khana Nirvana, their tables pushed against the wall to make a clear space that everyone watches with anticipation while munching on their vegetarian burgers.
Khana Nirvana has an open mike night every Monday that I had heard about and wanted to go to for weeks. Finally, this monday of all mondays, I decided I would go. As it was going to go late, later than I wanted to return to my family, I decided to spend the night with Alana.
Manic man musing about how marxists had malevolently meddled with his mind
Smooth singer supported by a system of science set up by the supercapabilities of smartphones, ie the iphone, which synced her cycling sounds and set them into songs
WEDNESDAY NIGHT. A large group of people head away from town on a dark road in high spirits, flashlights waving, only to suddenly about face and head back toward the city lights, suddenly confused and abuzz with discussion.
I heard there was going to be a great Flamenco concert in town. Everyone was going. So I thought, I’ll go, and I’ll stay at Alana’s again. But then the concert was cancelled. So we chilled on a restaurant rooftop, where we should have bought food but didn’t, and listened to some indians and inji’s (white people) play music.
Indian instrumentalists with irratic and insane imaginations
Guru guy giving advice while getting grossly drunk
Flamenco guitarist who failed to furnish his fans with a full festival of fun
I may have had a strangely starbucks-esque experience at Cafe Coffee Day, completely OD’d on coffee and been insanely spastic the first half of the day, only to crash in the afternoon.
FRIDAY NIGHT. A light wind rushes across the dark porch outside Alana’s apartment, while a singular blue light emits from a laptop screen inside, highlighting the contours of two tired faces curled into bed.
Alana and I decided we wanted to go to Tsopema* on Saturday morning, catching a 6am bus. So obviously I had to spend the night again – no way I was going to trek from my house to town at 6am in the morning. On Friday night we had dinner with Chrissy’s family, and then Alana and I watched the beginning of two different movies, finishing neither. Very unfulfilling. Before we fell asleep, we decided we were waaaay too tired for the 6am bus, but maybe we would try another later bus to Tsopema.
SATURDAY MORNING/AFTERNOON. A small group of people sit on a blanket on a grassy hill, laughing and eating snacks while framed by giant snow-capped mountains above.
Of course, with that sort of attitude, we ended up never going to Tsopema at all. 10am Saturday morning, we ambled our way to the pancake hut, met Chrissy and an ADORABLE puppy named Angel, and had delicious blintzes. One had avocado inside… need I say more? (note: avocados are decidedly difficult to dine on in dharamsala). After, we decided to have a PICNIC. Excellent idea, eh? But then it rained. Damn. But then it stopped! And the sun returned! Rejoice! So we had a picnic at Swiss Park. And I attempted to fly my kite (thanks, mom and dad! No thanks to you, wind!). Oh, and we managed to procure sourdough bread and cheese – pretty impressive for India, although if we wanted to be really impressive we would have found an avocado, I suppose.
Adorable puppy named Angel acting like a animal and adamantly acclaiming for attention
SATURDAY NIGHT. In a dark and cool night, a throng of people jump and dance to the beat of a rock concert, thrusting their bodies and flailing their limbs in a drunken mess, each man trying to out-do the other.
After the picnic, we returned to town for the BIGGEST SHOW EVER IN MCLEOD GANJ. At least that’s what all the signs said. Of course, it started 2 hours after it should have, but that’s just India time. In the end, it was a lot of fun and the music wasn’t half bad, although once we started dancing the amount of leering that went on was almost enough to counteract the amount of fun I was having… but not quite enough! I persevered. The concert was followed by a second, smaller concert at a restaurant, some really terrible tasting food, some drunk tibetans, and the puppy again (rejoice!). By 1am, we retired to bed, only to have the puppy brought to us, which for the first time we weren’t excited about, especially when it promptly peed on Alana’s bed and shat on her floor. Great, thanks Angel. Too bad you’re so dang cute and fluffy that I can’t hate you.
Problematic puppy pee-ing and poop-ing on private property
Crazy crowd, carousing and clapping to the carols of a concert
Leering lines of lads, looking at ladies’ limbs as they lean and leap
SUNDAY MORNING. On the side of a crowded street is a small fabric shop, busting at every possible juncture with a delicious variety of textures and colors. Inside, an enthusiastic clerk is pulling fabric off of the walls and tossing it onto the counter, where two foreign girls are pealing through the pieces.
Welcome to Sunday morning! We slept in again and had a late breakfast, accompanied by a trip to the temple and then another trip to lower dharamsala. Alana and I were on a hunt for fabric, which we found, and bought, only to discover that we were being outrageously ripped off (it’s India, so being ripped off is no big occurance, but this was pretty bad), which just turned the entire day sour. There’s no feeling like being acutely aware that you are a white person and you are an easy target for being ripped off. It makes even the air feel sinister. It’s a difficult feeling to shake, but Alana helped by making me say two positive things everytime I complained about one thing (thanks, babe).
Shady shopkeepers selling superexpensive satins and silks to susceptible strangers
SUNDAY NIGHT. In a quiet and dark room, a young woman pulls out her laptop from a backpack and carries it back to her bed. Sighing loudly, she settles down and picks up a cup of tea, while preparing to type…
Finally, I returned home on Sunday night, only to completely collapse. There is something wonderfully bland, boring, and simple about home in comparison to the complex web of relationships and people that constantly surrounds you in town. No matter where you go in town, people are watching and taking note of your behavior, because they all know you, even if not by name. If you are a white person who lives in Mcleod Ganj for longer than a month, they all know you and take notice. You’ve got to wave at the right people and ignore the right people… it can be quite the tiring process. But at home, although I may be accosted by one attention-seeking 3-year-old, things are quiet and simple and beautiful. As I have learned to say in Chinese, wa hung shung yao ping jing da shung ho – I really just want a quiet life.
*Tsopema = Rewalsar = a lake that is sacred to Buddhists, Hindus, and Sikhs alike, although sacred to Buddhists because it is believed to be the spot where Guru Rimpoche flew from, when he flew from India to Tibet to deliver the teachings of the Buddha.