Monday, 3 March 2008


Odder - Ornithology
I arrived at dawn at Dharamshala after traveling all night from New Delhy, there was an Indian saddhu sat on a bench with a few women in colored saris nearby. He nodded his head, up and down, looking at me with a candid smile as if he was waiting for me, as if he always knew me. I bowed slightly my head as an answer to his greeting. A lot of birds were fooling around making a hell of a noise in the station in this unreal and hazy ambience of that new misty dawn. I still cherish the strong taste of that something very new. I suppose he knew me from a past incarnation.

Lower Dharamsala is mainly a single road spreading across a few miles at 2000m high in a quite unordered and scattered manner, typical of these Asian mountain settlements. Contrary to the upper part of the town, known as MacLeod Ganj, where lie the seat of the Dalay Lama and the Tibetan government in exile, Little Lassa as they call it, it is not as "vivid" as the Tibetan community and its freaky western followers and admirers.

At Lower Dharamshala, the local community is more normal, that is Indian and Hindu, and tens of Kashmiri coolies, big bearded tough Muslim fellows from the high places of North India, dressed up in thick brown tunics and with ropes around the chest, looking like middle age knights doing slave work, carrying heavy goods on their backs through the streets.

There live local Indian Hindus with red bindus between their eyes and all those gods above, endlessly watching us with all their eyes, faces and arms, though they are mainly Shivaists like most in the region. On the way out of the town to Mac Leod, there is a tiny Kali-Matai temple with paintings of a black goddess on the rocks amazingly withstanding from the other gods. The Baba or Lord of the place showed me the interior of the shrine with a lot of careful recommendations in the local dialect as no word in English could be spoken. I nonetheless, understood that no foreigners were allowed to walk these kind of premises, but they always end up letting you take a look, in such a way that the forbidden thing only worsen to your curious thirst. I usually don't insist in such cases, that's probably why they always open the doors.

Where the Indian plain dies to give birth to the Himalayas, the Buddhist Institute stands at the foot of the 4000m high Dauladhaur, a huge wall of rock just rising behind small hills. From Dharamshala, it lies down the Kangra valley, and at Garoh the way turns left to catch later the main road to Kangra.
Odder is just a tiny village lost in the foothills, with two or three very basic shops and a tea stall along the road. It’s not on Indian maps, not on western maps, not on any map at all. Just somewhere between Dharamshala and Kangra, hiding in some black Kangra tea garden.

At the time I got there, I witnessed a fight; two men were holding another one in what I thought to be a robbery case.
Despite this unusual situation I’ve found the "Tibeti Mandir" after asking to one of the men, and underneath banana trees and other big trees, a small mahogany community was watching time like they’ve always done and will always do.

After a few days I was given my own room with views from the back to the nearby fields, woods and the Dhauladhaur Mountains, and to the front to a unique farm owned by an Indian family. By the way, they used to boost up their miserable stereo at 4, 5 in the morning with massala Indian disco, making what I supposed were wild parties before going to work in the fields. The nuns used to love that, it happened to cheer up they early morning prayers.

They were having their annual philosophy exams which lasted for a few weeks and would postpone the start of my classes. I was suddenly and brutally confronted with a new concept for me, the important law of non-acting, not to undervalue in such Buddhists circles; it’s the key of all logical understanding. So patience is recommended.

Subdued by all the natural beauty of the scenery and the mahogany red robes, I stood three days in a kind of limbo, "beatus" under the Bo tree before I started to think again, then I began to assimilate the regular day life style of the place.

So because of the exams, I was given some spare time I began to occupy with what would become one of my favorite things, sitting sessions on the verandah. Nothing really important just smoking Indian beedees and admiring all the wild life I was offered. Hordes of hundreds green parrots were seen flying around in a restless and frantic way above us and the fields shouting like young kids in the school yard, over our heads and in the trees, restless colors of moving feathers in the sun setting sky. Another bird species I couldn't identify could be seen fooling around also in huge numbers, heavier in its flight and with a yellow circle around the eyes. I came to see a few months later what I think to be a bird of Paradise above the tea stall, with a fancy 50 cm long white feathered tale.

The Tibetan Philosophy teacher was living in the room next to mine. He was a fifty, sixty years old monk exiled from Tibet, with a rather nice look. The man turned to have a quite powerful way of communicating to me in strange mental manifestations since he couldn’t hold a single word of English. He was to become what I ironically called "my conscience" as his words occupied my thoughts. He and Sonam would be powerful talking minds, these two persons where to be powerful magicians like the Tibetan tradition is full of, in the shamanic central asian way where it is branched from.

"This is your life force you´re staring at and it´s a good one".

A bird came into my room through the open morning door and stood hanging above it for a while fixing me with his funny face and he told me: "this is your life force" when I was looking at the trees and the green parrots. He also said "this is your happiness" when I was dazzled by the beauty of such scenery. He sang to me his mocking tune while hanging on the door, I looked at him and he was a Tibetan monk.

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