Lost in McleodGanj

DSC_0027We recently holidayed in Mcleodganj (population of about 2000), a beautiful suburban town of Dharamshala in Himachal Pradesh. This town is surrounded by the majestic Himalayan Mountains and speculated to attract three times more tourists than the town’s population, from India and the world.

The city is busy and crowded too with vehicles swirling and speeding across crowds of people walking onIMG_2 narrow lanes. The narrow lanes are fenced with small coffee shops, road-side eateries (momos and Tibetan bread greeting you right outside the coffee shop), Tibetan stores selling paintings, jewellery, clothes, etc. Strangely it seemed like everybody was busy and hustled And suddenly I didn’t miss Bombay (Mumbai). Mcleodganj seemed like a replica of chaotic-Bombay but without the traffic jams. The unnerving feeling of being once again in the heart of a Bombay-wannabe-town seemed enough inspiration to walk out of this craziness… literally!

DSC_0043And we did! In our pursuit of silence and oneness with nature, we walked 14 kms to Naddi village and back where we walked alongside the gigantic and intimidating Dauladhar Ranges. We breathed in the crisp and fresh air, soaked in the calmness and got lost in its beauty A refreshing walk it was following trails with no names…A walk into the unknown.

And our walking pattern continued the following day to Triund. It was a strenuous trek IMG_3because we tried completing the walk (16 kms back and forth) in one-go, which is definitely not advisable.All reinvigorated, we returned to our hotel and briefly chatted with our friendly Tibetan manager. She spoke about her life, beginning with how she had moved to Mcleodganj following transit schooling at Karnataka (South India), and leading to a deeper discussion. Apparently, most Tibetans enrol into transit schools to be able to follow a smooth transition.

IMG_7Before we could try and better understand what “smooth transition” meant in this context, our manager added, “His Holiness (the Dalai Lama) has always encouraged us to learn different languages. We had to learn to speak Hindi and English otherwise it is difficult to find good jobs”. After probing further we found out that between Mcleodganj and (the main city) Dharamshala, Mcleodganj had the most number of Tibetans who indulged in tourism-related jobs (trekking, driving tourist vehicles, carrying luggage for trekkers, selling Tibetan jewellery, clothes, painting and running hotels and restaurants like that of our Tibetan manager).

“But very few Tibetans have migrated (from China-controlled Tibet) DSC_0032to Mcleodganj since the Olympics in 2008”, she continued. “Tibetans (from China-controlled Tibet) cannot relate to Hindi-movies-loving and cricket-following Indians. And, so many have migrated to US, Canada or Australia, but those abroad-settled Tibetans do not know anything about our struggle for Free Tibet”, she said in despair. At the hotel, we came across many articles, pictures/posters and videos on Tibetans’ struggle for a ‘Free Tibet’, before and after 1959. And just when our manager talked about it again we stumbled upon a disheartening fact that Tibetans and the Tibetan government were in exile and lived like refugees in Mcleodganj!

IMG_4And now some generations may have skipped the struggle phase and conveniently moved away from this reality, making them (maybe even) lose themsleves now, more than ever. … maybe in time, across generations, or particularly in Mcleodganj, despite their proximity to the exiled Tibetan government (that lies between Mcleodganj and Dharamshala). And, they may seem to be drifting away from their true purpose, which requires more than just direction from a spiritual leader or international support. Seems like a steep, rocky road like our 16 kms Triund trail …except that our trek had an end. The exiled Tibetan government, however, may not be that fortunate.

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By Bhakti Joshi

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The Sponge Effect #TGP2014

3 ‘Mumbaikars’ set out for their first (un)conference experience on Feb 6th …a looooooooong drive. Saving graces: scenic visuals,  crazy ‘disoriented’  conversations and the reggaestar Bob Marley on the boom box for company.

When one visits Goa (the purpose doesn’t matter), all one expects is to have the experience of a lifetime…Eachtime. Everytime. Did #TGP[1]2014 do that?

Once we reached, we weren’t sure what to expect for the next 2 days. It was like throwing ourselves into “the unknown”(literally actually! Because when we entered, we didn’t know anybody).

Two eventful days done and we headed back with a fresher mind and renewed perspective. But, like most reflective humans do, we decided to evaluate “THE EVENT”.Ok who are we kidding? We just wanted to kill time!  Some excerpts below:

Bhakti: Hey, what was one good thing that you think shone out about #TGP2014?

Tarun: I liked the concept of an unconference, where meeting different kinds of people became easy.

Malaika: The venue was brilliant. It provided the much needed calm and ambience to unwind.

Bhakti: For me, it was to find some radically-driven, spontaneous people who thought of crazy things and are just following their passions like I am. I felt right in place.

Tarun: Ok! And what would you pick as one of the things that  could have been  better? Like I thought, they could have started-off on time and utilize all the time allocated to the event to its very best. Especially on the first day when most participants didn’t know what to do after reaching the venue.

Malaika:  A set of on ground ‘identifiable’, enthusiastic volunteers would have been better for those 2 days of the event. All the volunteers looked exhausted and drained out (which I’m sure they were).

Bhakti: Yea, I agree. Randomness and chaos is fine but they should be within certain outer parameters such as a musical tone indicating the start and/or end of a session.

Malaika and Tarun: (Nod in agreement)…Distracted Tarun who is driving has knocked a passerby down :)))

Malaika continues:  So tell me what did #TGP2014 do for you?

Tarun: I’ve been working in a corporate setup for over 12 years now. #TGP2014 made me realize that I am still a student who is excited and willing to learn stuff and seek answers to many a question. I felt young again! 😉

Bhakti: The ‘spaces’ during the event were created brilliantly and they were spread out. Moving from one space to another led me to bumping into different people with whom I could share a laugh, argue like children especially during the workshops, build creative ideas and new theories. There were also some spaces for self-introspection in between sessions, that ended with live music and dance  to fill a vacuum, if any.

Malaika: Yeah ..still recovering from the 3 hour dance last night ..hahaha. Anyway, answering the question.. I never thought conversations and connecting with strangers will come easy to me. Also, I realized that not all intelligent people are interesting and not all interesting people need to be intelligent. But if you find a combination of interesting and intelligent people, BINGO!

Bhakti: hahaha..I’m sure that was a real problem :). So now tell me what were your top 2 sessions?

Malaika: 1) Chasing Dreams and how? by Raghavendra Satish Peri; 2) Design a game, design a fun by Harold Raichur which was the most fun-filled session at #TGP2014. Our group had a laugh riot.

Tarun: 1) Sound energy management and its applications in healthcare by Karan Sajnani; 2) Silent Zone facilitated by Sindhu. Second day I was unwell 😦 Slept it out …came in time for the Jam session though .

Bhakti: 1) Viewing alcoholism through the lens of ghazals by Paras; 2) Rubanomics – The rise of new rural-urban by Madan Padaki.

Tarun, Malaika and Bhakti: Music and dance at the end of the event each day was absolutely ‘Goa-licious’ 😉

So basically, #TGP2014 works well IF:

  1. You have decided in your head to break free from all that you perceive yourself to be
  2. You shed your inhibitions (whether it is walking up to people and making random conversations or grooving to the music on the dance floor like no one’s watching ;))
  3. You take advantage of the level playing field it provides to be able to connect and share your thoughts with people at all levels on topics that you may share in common
  4. You want a break from the monotony of daily work and boost your senses
  5. You seek inspiration from other’s experiences
  6. You can manage to make at least one good connection personally or professionally
  7. You don’t expect too much of order

Goa always screams “Music, Beer and Awesome Company”.  #TGP2014 hit that note Bang On!

I don’t think we’d be wrong to say an event like #TGP2014 suits a Mumbaikar’s’ style of functioning “Method in Chaos”. All you got to do is SOAK IT IN!


[1]  http://www.thegoaproject.com                IMG-20140206-WA0009_1 (1)
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