On the way back from the Ganga we stopped of at an Ashram run by Swami Ramdev - an very famous yogic teacher who believes in a both medical and yogic solusion to health problems. He has build a huge complex with free yoga, very cheap and delicious food tailored with whatever ailment you have and reasonably priced accomodation - hostel Rs50 per night, private single room Rs200. For Rs1200 you can have a complete medical health check up and results are delivered through there fully equipped pathology lab. No wonder there is such a growing Medical Tourism Industry in Indian! I spent a lovely day there and attended one of the yoga classes there. Brilliant day in glorious weather.
So after the first week or so with the lovely Dorjay family, I was starting to feel a little kidnapped. Not that they where holding me hostage but just that I had no time to myself. The idea of ultimate torture to an Indian would be to leave them in a room on their own. I that is just what I wanted. So I made my plans to go further north on my own. Jumped on an overnight bus and headed to McLeodganj where the Dalai Lama and the Tibetan govenment is in excile. His Holiness was supposed to be arriving back in Dharamsala on the 16th but he got a better invitation than meeting me. George W decided to give him a medal. How inconvienient! This is all to do with the Nuclear power deal that is going on in India. China is putting pressure on India not to do the deal with the US so the US gave the Dalai Lama a medal for his humaniarian efforts and to piss of China. I am sure his Holiness does not mind though. I met some excellent people up in McLeodganj (named for an ex governor David McLeod during colonial rule) amoungst whom was Sumir, a half Indian/half Californian chess playing musician without whom I would not have had such an excellent time, Phil Void, the leader of the Dharma Bums whom I had the pleasure of performing with for the Tibetan Childrens Village (backup vocals :)) and animal loving Sarah from Belgium, parton saint of lost dogs in McLeodganj. This is where my true travelling really began. There where some local people too who where very keen to get me involved in Tibetan activism. I sypathise greatly with the Tibetan plight but I don't think that I am ready to charge out into the Olympic arena with a Tibetan flag tied to my back just yet. I think that my role is less dramatic and more long term that that. Let me talk to you more about Phil and the Dharma Bums. Phil is a magnificant character who is firmly planted in the 60s, sings protest songs and lives half his life in McLeodganj and the other half in the US. Any musicians or singers that come through are welcome to join him on stage at the many events that he plays at and add extra flavour to his songs. Hence me singing at the TCV and at a jam session in a bar. I loved it! Sumir was also part of the Dharma Bums during his stay there and plays flute, guitar and sings. He got me back into playing chess which we did daily, him soundly beating me every time but one... and that was with his help. He also gave me some flute lessions and taught me a couple of chords on the guitar. He is easy going and a has a great sense of humour. I hope very much to keep in touch with him and maybe do some more travelling with him in the near future. Could not ask for a nicer chap! Then there was Sarah, on the run from 'normal' existence in Belgium and with a love of dogs. Only met her on the last couple of days at McLeodganj but she was very sweet. Nobody else seems to care much about the dogs up there but her. Problem is that they can be quite dangerous as Sumir found out one night after walking back from the Cave (must explain that is where I was staying for part of my stay in McLeodganj, as kindly offered to me by Phil, very little natural light comes in and it gets bloody cold at night giving it cave like qualities) he got attacked by a pack of them as he walked to close to some food they had scavenged. Luckly he had his guitar with him that he valiantly used to ward them off. The dogs are all malnourished and wander the streets looking for kindness and food. Show them a little and they will come back time and again. Which brings me to the street kids and their families. They are in dire need of help but will con you given half the chance. Time to sign off, breakfast is calling at my new friends apartment. More tomorrow.
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