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Dharamsala Delights

I recognised them as new arrivals by the look in their eyes. Frightened and wide-eyed, they absorbed everything with a kind of hunger. I had seen this look several times during my few months in Dharamsala. In the distance, the snow-capped Dhauladhar mountains rose out of the wide, verdant Kangra valley, the steep valley sides lined with rhododendron, pine and Himalayan oak. For these travellers from Tibet, pressed into an old bus labouring up the Himalayan foothills, this was the last step towards refuge.

The woman next to me had a baby strapped to her back. She was beautiful, her face open and smooth, her cheeks red from exposure. A rosary moved slowly and methodically in and out of her sleeve, each dark turquoise bead acting as an abacus for time and prayer. Suddenly exhausted, she leaned against my shoulder and gripped my knee for support, and eventually fell asleep against the seat in front.
As the bus lurched into McLeod Ganj, the family were overwhelmed with relief. The woman placed her hand on the grubby window as tears coursed down her face. She paid no attention to the Indian beggar children running alongside us with their matted hair and eager grins; her eyes were fixed on the scattered groups of Tibetans beyond. Once a popular summer retreat for British colonists working or living in Delhi, the hill station, otherwise known as Upper Dharamsala or "Little Lhasa", is now home to several thousand Tibetan exiles and their spiritual leader, the Dalai Lama.

It was February and bitterly cold, but even so, the narrow, muddy streets were filled with monks, nuns and lay people, crowding around the many stalls selling incense and reams of prayer flags. In a couple of days it would be Losar, Tibetan New Year, and the mountain behind the Dalai Lama's residence would be quilted with these bright tattooed squares. I paused at the racks of prayer wheels, watching the new arrivals feeling the smooth wooden pegs before spinning the colourful cylinders, clattering their mantras into the heavens.

I went to visit the refugee reception centre, where in the kitchen a smiling Tibetan woman hovered over a couple of enormous steaming pots, her long plaited hair tucked neatly into the back of her apron. She waved me towards the office, where I was greeted by a young woman who spoke perfect English.
"There is someone you should meet," she said decisively, after we had been chatting for a while. I was led into a bare room lined with benches and told to wait. A few minutes later she returned with a 14-year-old girl. Her name was Tenzin. On the insistence of her parents, Tenzin had left her home in rural Tibet with five of her friends and a small number of adults to try to reach Dharamsala, where she could be assured of a good education, safety and spiritual freedom.

The two-month journey across the Himalayas in the dead of winter had been harrowing. All her childhood friends had died of fatigue and exposure. Of the group of 15, only six made it to safety. Although Tenzin had survived the trip, she had lost all her toes to frostbite. Ignoring my protests, the woman urged her to show me her feet. Just at that moment two small boys ran into the room in their socks and skidded into a tangled heap. Laughing, Tenzin swung one bare, toe-less foot onto her other knee, caught my eye and beamed.

Since this first visit in 1999 I have grown to love this unique place, with its mix of Indian hill people, Tibetan exiles and "spiritual" tourists, and have returned again and again. Each time, I found myself profoundly moved and inspired. Yet for people like Tenzin and the woman with her baby on the bus, this place, this sanctuary, means so much more. 
Kari Herbert (                                                             Courtesy:

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TeA LeavEs # 6

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பாஸ்போர்ட் சைஸ்!

முருகன் டாலர்
சட்டைக்கு வெளியே இருப்பது
பத்தாவது பரீட்சை எழுத
முதன் முதலில் எடுத்தது

கூலிங் கிளாஸ் போட்டது
நாங்கள் நண்பர்கள்
சேர்ந்து சென்று
தனித் தனியே எடுத்துக் கொண்டது
இன்றும் வீட்டுக்குத் தெரியாது

அடுத்தது விண்ணப்பத்திற்கு.
கருப்பு கோட் சிவப்பு டை காம்பினேஷன்
வேலை கிடைக்காவிட்டாலும்
கல்யாணம் கூட்டிக் கொடுத்தது.
ரொம்ப நாள் இருந்தது

வங்கிக்கணக்குக்கு ஒருதரமும்
வண்டி வாங்கியபோது ஒருதரமும்

ரேஷன் கார்டுக்கு அதிலொன்றையே
டெவலப் செய்ததாய் நினைவு

அதற்கப்புறம் எடுத்ததெல்லாம் டிஜிட்டல்
இடது நெற்றித் தழும்பில்லாமல்

நீங்கள் பார்த்து விட்டு வந்திருப்பது கூட
டிஜிட்டல் தான்
எனக்கு அவ்வளவாகப் பிடிக்காது
லைப் இன்சூரன்ஸ்க்காக எடுத்தது

மகனுக்கோ மருமகளுக்கோ
பிடித்துப் போயிருக்க வேண்டும்
நாளிதழ்களுக்குக் கொடுத்துவிட்டார்கள்
தோற்றம் மறைவு தேதிகளோடு.

Tea Leaves #8

Instant print
I may be old fashioned, 'digital is great, but papers are perfect'.  The love for instant cameras started from good old toddler days.  A portrait peeping out in a minute is an unmatchable joy.  If you are with me on this, then take these picks.
As the name suggests, 'Fujifilm instax mini 90 neo' is classic. The brown coloured piece is just what you wanted. Retro looks with a view finder, bulb exposure and quite a few modes, eyes in a party can't give a miss. 150$ won't burn your pocket too. Only trouble is that it lacks any digital capacity. You can't store anything, but to shoot and print. Also, mind, the cost per print can be 20 Indian rupees per picture!
My vote though is reserved for the upcoming ' Polaroid Snap' an instant and digital camera from a company that just revived itself from bankruptcy. This one will hit the stores in four colours, print using Zero-ink technology (seriously! no ink, but heat activation of colorized crys…