After much travel, I have arrived in Dharamsala – affectionately called “Dhasa,” Dharamsala and Lhasa combined – at last. Surrounded by Tibetans, their gorgeous script, and the humbling mountains, I feel that the journey of this project has finally begun.
The monks and nuns are a constant presence on the streets. Old and young, they wear puffy quilted vests and sneakers along with their chougu (Tibetan monastic robes). Each time I see the swishing burgundy fabric, I feel this immense excitement, as well as shyness. After traveling all this way, with such anticipation, I find myself at a loss for words every time I see a robed woman in the lanes of McLeod. The desire to speak with them, coupled with months of research and admiration from afar, has me feeling like a schoolgirl facing her crush. But I’m already in communication with TNP India, and my interpreter is finalized – I’ll be meeting the nuns very soon, so my giddiness will have to be subdued. The next few days will be spent polishing my interview questions. I plan on spending time with the women before we sit down for the interview itself – get to know them, and tell them about my life also. I believe that this practice will encourage more equity: I am not simply an outsider asking questions, getting what I want, and then leaving. I want this to be more of an exchange, a sharing.
My interpreter is a wonderful friend and asset already. I found her as a reference from someone in Delhi, who was a reference from someone else, who was a reference from my Indian mother’s friend circle, Indian mother, all the way back to me. Her mother works in Tibetan schools, and her father works in the Tibetan Government in Exile. I’m sure she and her family will have much to teach me during my time here. I’m going to be living next door to them, in the Tibetan Children’s Village neighborhood. Tibetan and Indian families will surround me, traffic will be far away, the touristy rush of McLeod Ganj a beautiful 25 minute walk away through the hills and ancient deodar pines. A large balcony overlooking the hills and valley will be a few steps away from my bed. A perfect place to write.
Currently my internet connection does not encourage photo uploads. But within a few days I should have things set up properly in my own home. So prepare yourself for photos of the magnificent “Little Lhasa” and its smiling inhabitants.