Yesterday Tiff and I were sitting at our favorite coffee place, Moonpeak, doing our favorite thing--monk watching--when suddenly, for a brief few minutes I became a famous movie star. We were sitting at a table outside near the road and there was a group of Punjabi Indian men (looked to be in their 20's) sitting on some concrete barriers that stopped cars from careening over a cliff, across the street. They were not at all attempting to be discreet in looking our way. This went on for about a half hour until one of them, after much discussion and prodding, finally had the courage to approach me. "Can you please take a picture for us?" he asks. Ha! Is that all they wanted? Me to take their picture? They shouldn't have been nervous about that, I was more than happy to...
...maybe it was the language barrier, but that wasn't exactly what they were asking.
Instead, they wanted me to have my picture taken--with each one of them--separately. So feeling utterly amused and quite flattered I obliged, and each one of them came to stand next to me for a very un-candid photo. There was no arm over the shoulder action--nothing. Just me standing there, hands at my side, them next to me, hands at their sides, smiling goofily at the camera. After that was done, I smiled politely and started to make my way back to Tiffany. Wait, but no... they weren't done yet. Apparently they had round two planned--the seated photos. They sat me at one of the restaurant tables and then a couple of them at a time would come sit with me--making it appear that we were actually dining together. (Sans any food or drink). By this time a small crowd had gathered also bemused by the impromptu photoshoot. Finally, after the "dinner" photos were finished, I was allowed to make my way back to Tiffany, with many kinds words of gratitude from the men.
I am dying to know what they tell their friends when they get back to Punjab...I can only imagine.
So, for a brief moment, I felt kinda famous. A little flattered, a little weirded-out, a little violated, a lot embarrassed. But, you know, if I had to, I could probably get used to it... :)
I flew out of McLeod Ganj today and I'm back in Delhi-- and its still hot. But this time proved to be much easier, even though I am by myself. Once you have experienced a city and have some sort of familiarity with it, it is so much easier the second time around. I am staying at the same hotel as the first time, and it's made me realize how good we had it up in the mountains. Tiff and I were paying 3 dollars each a night to have a bed with sheets and blankets, and hot running water--and a view worth a million. Here, I am paying twice as much, to have a room where I will not put my head directly on the pillowcase (I cover it with my sarong or a towel), there are no blankets on the bed (although the aren't really needed) the flat sheets (no cover sheet), although I'm pretty sure are clean, have holes in them, and there is no hot water. I miss McLeod Ganj!!!!
Wow. What a fantastic little treasure of a town it is. It is someplace I'd love to visit again. Next time I would set up some classes beforehand because the town is overflowing with educational opportunities. Massage, cooking, dance, Tibetan, Buddhist, Hindu, music, yoga, meditation, trekking--all types of classes and all very affordable.
While I was there I spent most of my time taking it all in. It's a place you probably need to stay longer than 9 days to really get it, but I did my best. We found our favorite places to eat, hang out, use the internet, explore--and since it is so small, by the time I left we knew all of the people that worked at each place and some of the other regular patrons and we were recognized and greeted by many. We had our favorite Lepers ( many of the beggars have leprosy and are missing limbs) but they are absolutely lovely people, and even if you don' give them money they are always ready with a Namaste and a smile. We saw monkeys pretty regularly, we belly-danced, we attended a Sufi (type of Islam) music concert, we saw a sitar (stringed instrument) and tabla (percussion) concert, had Tibetan massages, went to the Dalai Lamas temple, shopped for beautiful Indian and Tibetan clothes, jewelry, decor, watched a young girl walk a tight rope with no net under her in the middle of the street for money, met a fantastic young Aussie named Tiirum, who is bound to change the world, I had my epiphany...and I finally got rid of all of my ailments. So overall, I think it was a successful part of my trip.
After being in Asia for the last 6 weeks, I am looking forward to Europe. It's crazy, the countries I've gone to and have ahead of me are all so different, culturally. But, there are good people all over the world and Tiffany and I have been really lucky to have met so many.
Namaste, India. Buon giorno, Italy.