(recounting Dec. 31)
As lightning flashed and thunder rumbled across the Kangra valley below Kashmir Cottage, the closing hours of 2013 became an entertaining succession of weather extremes. First was rain and thunder in the morning, which let up around 9 so that I could do a shopping trip to McLG.
I took the rim trail that leads from KC to connect with what must surely have been the main route from Dharamsala market to McLG. However, aside from several washouts, parts of the trail close to town are now buried under trash and garbage dumped from the McLG hotels, apartments, and businesses below Temple Road. No doubt the monkeys and stray dogs are dependent on this mess but it is daunting to behold. What would it take to clean it up and instigate refuse collection and recycling in McLG? What would all this smell like in the summer?
My first stop was the famous Kunga Guest House to pick up a cheesecake for New Year’s Day dinner with Rinchen Kando and TC. The place is packed with foreigners and a big table full of (what appear to be) Punjabis having breakfast at 11:30. That means partying went on late and I don’t even want to think about Punjabis in that regard. At a table near the window, I rest my bag on an empty chair while the cheesecake is being packaged and note a single caucasian male about my age, his breakfast order awaiting one of the servers (all very diminutive Indian men). He looks pained, his brow strained, and makes me wonder if someone were observing me from a distance, what would my normal expression convey? Attentiveness? Curiosity? Amusement? Happiness? That’s how I feel most of the time…but whether it registers on my face is another matter.
With a huge cheesecake box in my arms, I navigate the muddy puddles, pick up my laundry deposited the day I stayed at Moonwalk Rez., and check out one more possible lodging, Zambala House. ZH has a great view of the Dhauladars to the north, but the place I visited earlier, Deodar Villa, is close to the main temple complex, the “mani path” circumambulation route, several Tibetan run restaurants, and has a terrific view of the Kangra valley as well as mountains. From the Zambala House room, I see a wall of fog moving across the valley and snap a photo. For $45 a night at DV, I also get breakfast and hopefully a peaceful environment. Maybe I’ll stay a few nights at ZH as well since the price is about the same and it is run by Tibetans.
I escape rain in a little cafe on Temple Road run by a Bhutanese woman, whose cute 6 year old daughter entertains me with balancing acts on the booth partitions, playing solitaire, and writing her name in English. A couple novice monks not much older than the little girl come in for lunch, one of them clutching a thousand-rupee bill no doubt given him by his teacher. Once I’m finished w/ my bowl of noodles, I pop next door and pick up 3 candy bars, which I distribute quickly and am gone.
The rest of the afternoon is spent napping, trying to stay warm in a room w/ no heater and no sun. The weather drama continues with bouts of rain, then sleet, then heavy fog. I finally ask for the heater from the dining room and Tsering takes pity and lets me have it. That changes everything, and then (as long as electricity flows) I am warm and happy.
I invite Norman over for coffee and carrot cake and learn more about his role as chief auditor for the Canadian govt., even investigating and filing charges against a scam that the largest fraud within an administration in Canadian history. Norman retired as soon as he could (age 64) so as to devote “my remaining years” to the Tibetan cause. He’s been volunteering as an advisor to the Central Tibetan Authority’s office of communications and information, and seems to know everyone. What’s more, he is a cancer survivor, beating back multiple myloma in his late forties with 3 rounds of total body radiation that “took him to the edge of death” and then replaced the nasty cancer cells with his own stem cells. And all this at a time when he was shouldering great responsibility in the government, and trying to push ahead with his study of the dharma. Whew. He’s been a kind and insightful guru to local logistics and histories, and I’m grateful he’s here.
I make a point to get cleaned up before dinner and end 2013 with clean clothes, body, and a satisfied mind. Dinner is a royal affair with delicious all veggie manju buns, tasty zucchini and carrot side dishes, and a carrot-squash soup. A delicious carrot cake arrives half an hour later, and I can’t even begin to eat it (but do the next day).
Finally, though I do not make it to 12 midnight, I cap the evening with music and give each song my full attention. Here’s the playlist:
Alison Krause and band, “Can’t always trust happiness”; “Blue Trail of Sorrow”
Beatles, “Golden Slumbers”
Santana / McLaughlin, final medley of guitars, sitars, chanting
Charles Mingus, “Sound of Love” (by Duke Ellington)
…and it is with the soaring and warm tones of Mingus that I call it a day and bid 2013 adieu.