Penetrating north India unveils a look of the country that cannot be seen whilst moving in other directions. The people and way of life are as different as the nature of the northern regions. The valleys and mountains are sights to behold, especially for those looking for peace away from home, weary of the madness of Goa. In spite of its being a tourist destination that the same foreigners who party their nights away in the magical setting of Goa flock to, this part of north India has no buzz of any kind.
Dharamshala is the soul of Himachal Pradesh. Chilly at night and mildly warm during the day, the Indian home to Tibetans is rising fast as one of the most sought after holiday getaways, and perhaps too fast for its own good. Traveling to Dharamshala (or anywhere in north India, for that matter) can be a severe pain if one has to pass through Delhi. Having to spend time in Delhi is the worst punishment for all the sins you have yet to commit. When the mighty Slayer opened the flesh-ripping anthem Raining Blood from their titanic thrash assault Reign In Blood with the words “trapped in purgatory”, they were singing about the time they had to spend in Delhi. It was, I suspect, not drugs or alcohol or time, but all the maida that contained actually edible food off the streets of Dilli that did the legendary band in.
Jokes aside, I’ll continue the ranting by saying that the people of Delhi are the scum of the earth. In Mumbai, they’re direct about matters: you pay, you get. In Bangalore, you pay a lot but you can eventually be at peace. In Delhi, however, even after paying through your nose for commuting or the stay, you cannot be content. They won’t let you be content. The autorickshaw and cab drivers fool even the city’s people; you have to be filthy rich and own a car and a house, or you have to fleece people – it’s the middle class that suffers in Delhi. The touts who make fast cash by ‘helping’ you find a reasonably priced hotel are as slimy as the dudes who refuse to go by the meter. This is by far the wiliest lot I have come across in my life, and how I’d love it if they were made to work in Mumbai and thus learn some lessons. New Delhi, the capital of India, does not want to run on standard fare. It’s an undeserving city that wants to be as lazy as Goa.
Stress levels drop on the 13-hour journey to Dharamshala, and you’re vaguely aware of passing through other states, and whether you’re traveling by bus or train, Himachal Pradesh welcomes you with biting cold weather the moment you set foot on its land. No complaints from here onwards; it’s countless trees and faraway mountains and endless valleys, a spacious room with an unbelievably beautiful view, and soft-spoken people.
Even if you’re shopping in McLeodganj or drinking milk-less chai grown in the tea estates of Kangra or being enchanted by Buddhist monks in a monastery, you can always get a view of the snow-clad peaks of the Dhauladhar range behind mountains bereft of snow.
Over the next fortnight, this blog will take you to the places we visited during our stay in Dharamshala, show you the things we saw around our hotel in Bhagsunag (Upper Bhagsu, to be exact), and make you hungry with the food reviews, of course.
It’s not the just the ubiquitous momo but also the omnipresent calm that gives Dharamshala its charm. Even if time doesn’t allow you a trek to the snowline, there is something about looking at a snowy mountain and wallowing in the miserable understanding that even that which is not too far away can be unattainable.