Philosophy on a happy, sobering+chilly new year

Trip Start Feb 29, 2004
Trip End Apr 12, 2005

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Monday, January 3, 2005

Quite a weird New Year all around, with the festivities thrown in with the strange atmosphere of knowing about the earthquake/tsunami catastrophy (over 150,000 people dead?????) and worrying about friends in the area.

I feel so lucky to have been out of danger, and my heart is going out to people struggling through it all right now, including one of my friends from Chiang Mai. She's just left Canada with her brother to go back to Thailand and search for their mother, who's missing. If anyone is in the area, have a look at her family's website and maybe there's a chance you have seen her. They've set up a really helpful site to help with other missing people who were staying at the same place, Nangthong Bay Resort, Khao Lak, Phang Nga.

I've heard from some new and old friends and am SO relieved to hear they're safe, but am still waiting to hear from others. It's strange to think that I'll never know about many of them, whether or not they're ok. But I guess that's how the world and life normally operates and has done forever, eh?

Maybe this age of email and IT gives us a heightened but false sense of connection, control and responsibility somehow, but really, it's all so very much out of our hands. Makes you wonder about fate and destiny and if there really is any Big Plan (or Big Planner). Or not. After 10 months of travelling through some of the most spiritual places in the world, I can safely say I'm not a bit closer to forming any sort of definitive answers for myself, though I've met uncountable (um, that should be 'countless', teacher!!) people who truly believe they have. Wonder how they see all of this in the great scheme of things?

And in fact, as far as McLeod Ganj and Delhi are concerned, life seems to be fairly normal and no one really is talking about it at all. Wonder why?

Maybe it's all been too far away from Delhi and especially from this cold but beautiful mountain area in the north--in fact, the Indian media has a reputation for being very sensationalist, but I've seen very little of it up north. Can only be a good thing. But it all has a remote sort of feeling--no one I've spoken to in the past week actually has any friends or relatives in the affected areas, so that's part of it. Or maybe it's the whole Hindu/Buddhist thing of beliving in reincarnation and that death is just another part of life and the whole cycle of things. Like the everyday feeling at the burning ghats in Varanasi. Or maybe it's that people are just concentrating on getting through each day, on their lives, on their families, on the here and now.

At any rate, as they say life certainly does go on, and to stop all the philosophising for a while (got on a rant there), if you were here in McLeod Ganj on New Year's Eve, you'd never have known a thing was amiss in the world. This quiet little town was transformed in a matter of hours with (?)hundreds of Indian tourists piling in to celebrate. Mostly men. Single men. I was told several times most of them were Punjabi (is this supposed to make a difference??). Young. And drunk and loud. And very happy. Interesting.... :)

I tried to keep out of the bulk of the craziness and found refuge in a cosy little restaurant. I was soon joined by some very non-shy guys from a bit further south in Chandighar: a journalist, an astrologer and a film distributor. Just a normal dinner table in India. The jounalist kept firing questions at me about everything from "Do you believe in god?" to "It's not cold here for you people, is it?" (We People? We westerners? We Vikings?--everyone thinks I'm either Swedish or Danish or Dutch) to "What is reality?" and "So you like chai?". The astrologer told me I'll have a very bad stomach problem later this year (ummmm, already happening buddy--you are GOOD!) and that I should get married when I'm 38 or 39. Hhmmm...Later I spent some time with a group of Kashmiri guys who run the hotel where I'm staying. Nice guys and they make a lovely, cinnamon-y-cardamom-y cup of green Kashmiri tea. Looked through a load of photos of horse and mountain trekking in Kashmir and have yet another destination to add to my future wish list. Just maybe not now in winter. Was offered a free reiki treatment--might have to try it, as my first and only reiki encounter in Pushkar was very disappointing to say the least. My skeptical attitude is most likely not helping here!

So all in all and not counting the 2 days of craziness for NY's, it's been quite chilled up here, again a nice change from hectic Delhi (it was strange to jump back into that city after VERY chilled Diu). Even though it's fairly remote, McLeod Ganj is actually quite Western (=all the carrot cake and pizza and hash browns you can eat) because many travellers come here to study Tibetan Buddhism, meditation and to see the Dalai Lama. He heads the Tibetan government in exile based a couple of km's down the hill, so a huge portion of the people in the area are Tibetan refugees.

In fact, I've been recruited to teach a class this week at a Tibetan adult education center--stay tuned for more from the rainy-almost-snowy north...
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