The International Incident in McLeod Ganj



It took nine days before I came to a reasonable spiritual accommodation with the mountains and felt like I could leave. Yesterday’s long trail is felt in my knees today, so perhaps it is a good time to have a respite in the town of McLeod Ganj (pronounced, “McCloud”). I’m trying to adjust to a new place, Moonwalk Residency, which has a nice corner room w/ a fine view of several peaks at the north end of the range I saw from Naddi.



Steppe eagle




But there is lots of noise from the lobby and echo-prone inner passages. Should I worry? Or is there something secret behind the too-cheap price of this room (about $17)?

Clouds have concealed the peaks since my arrival at 1 p.m., but now, at 5:15, they are beginning to make an appearance. I love looking up the hillside of McLG and see the ascending levels of multi-colored buildings…many of them home to Tibetans.

I have dinner at a Japanese-run restaurant and NPO just a few steps up the road from Moonwalk. Miso soup w/ tofu, rice, tofu-age in a nice sauce that tastes authentic, two kinds of veggies for about $3.00. Upon return, the hotel is quiet and I enjoy the calm of my room…until around 10 p.m. when a large group of Indian tourists returns from their dinner. For awhile I try to let the TV distract and dispel the noise but it’s clear this is a group of young people from the lowlands on holiday, and they intend to party.

I don’t want to belabor what happened next…but it will probably sound that way. At 12:30 a.m., after appeals to the front desk have gone nowhere, I decide to go down to the first floor of the hotel where the group occupies all the rooms to see for myself how they can possibly be so consistently noisy. All room doors are open as both young men and women come and go, heading to an outside veranda where they’ve dragged mattresses and blankets for their cavorting and drinking. Big bottles of vodka and scotch are passed from mouth to mouth. Singing along w/ the TV, yelling, laughing, arguing…the usual dynamics of a party. But it is the only one going on outside this chilly Saturday night, and certainly the only one this late. Dogs are barking like crazy on the hillsides around the hotel.

I ask one young man to take the party inside because, as I remind him, this is a hotel and not a private club. The group outside is also right below my room windows. He says he’ll take care of it. I get back into bed w/ earplugs and sleep a few minutes, but soon I’m woken up again by the veranda party that is down four floors from my room balcony. I finally venture outside and look down to see 10-12 people in their early-mid-twenties still drinking and smoking and carrying on, now at 2:45 a.m.

After some thought on how to find a middle way that will not provoke violence and yet get my point across, I go downstairs again. The same young man materializes, says the same thing, although this time two women are present and say they understand my concern. I say that I do not want a confrontation and that I want the evening to end on a peaceful note, but I am not going to endure their noise any longer.

I then play my trump cards based on my room’s strategic location. If the party does not move inside in fifteen minutes, I say, I will dump water on you. Ok, ok, we’ll take care of it, I’m told, and we part. I tell them I’m serious. Yeah, yeah…and they go right back to the veranda, take up their positions, and get a chuckle out of their comrades when they recount the conversation. Pass the bottle, gimme a smoke, har-de-har!

At 3:20 a.m., I dump a single cup of water on the veranda corner, a good 10 feet from the nearest warm body. Compassion in action! It’s only a cup, but thanks to the pull of gravity over a 30 ft. drop, it splatters dramatically against the concrete and gets their entire attention, drunk as they are. They are shocked, shocked! and all look up into the darkness. I tell them in a calm voice to go inside or I will use a bucket next time instead of a cup. The reactions are predictable from the young men, who hurl every insult they’ve learned from Hollywood movies. The women are the sensible ones, pushing the guys inside, gathering blankets and mattresses, ending the standoff peacefully.

I’m ready for someone to come banging on my door, but it never happens. By 4 a.m. I drift off to a restless sleep, waking at 7:30 to shower, watch the morning light, pack my bags, and get the f. out of there, returning to the safe sanctuary of Kashmir Cottage until the year end holidays are over.
It takes me two days to recover.


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