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Mark Moxon's Travel Writing

India: Dharamsala

The hills of Dharamsala
The sloping hills of Dharamsala

Within two hours of arriving in Dharamsala I had booked into what seemed to be the only available room in town – a depressing pigsty, to be honest – and was sitting in a café on the outskirts of town listening to an astoundingly posh English accent spout the following:

A slate roof in Bhagsu
The roof of the farmhouse in Bhagsu

Take a piece of Dharamshala with you

Now that you have visited this hilly region, so called 'Little Lhasa', capital of Tibetan diaspora, you have felt the mountains and the trees, cold rivulets of Bhagsunath, the chantings of the monks, the temples, the silent images of Buddhas, chupas and apron clad people – a society on the verge transformation.

Your experience – your heart ensconsed in a bud, has loosened to a flower. You have deciphered the serene notes of the mountains and the clouds. Let not the memory fade away once back at your material world. Take along with you the audio and visual of the world you have just experienced. In your daily strife, do remember us, play the cassettes and feel the difference. You are not all alone...

[List of tapes and videos deleted]

Nice, eh; the genuine Tibetan experience in your living room, complete with stereo sound and Dolby noise reduction. Then again, this is from the same newsletter that has an article on 'elf immolation', and contains the following new-age bullshit in an article entitled 'Healing in Dharamsala' by the delightfully named Fleur Wood: 'Looking for a spot of Spontaneous Healing, Reiki, Aura Cleansing or Past Life Therapy? Well, you've come to the right town.' Reading this, my stomach began to sink.

Escape to Bhagsu

The farmhouse in Bhagsu
Bhagsu accommodation

Despite being forewarned, I decided to tackle Dharamsala for two reasons. First, I've had enough of hot weather, and the last cool winds I remember are those of Darjeeling; and second, being about to immerse myself back into the West, I figured it would be instructive and helpful to see if I could acclimatise myself back into western values. Besides, being a sarcastic soul, I rather thought it would be entertaining to hear lots of white folk harping on about finding The Truth™.

Very, Very Scary

A mother and two children in Bhagsu
My kind hosts in Bhagsu

The scariest was an English woman of 32 who was staying opposite me in my first village home; she was the main reason for my scooting further up the hill to find another farm cottage to hang out in. Normally sociable and interesting (if a little full of her own self-importance), Keeleigh proudly told me that she had been stoned every single day for eight years, and couldn't remember a day she hadn't spent smoking. As she puffed on her mixed opium-hashish joint, she changed from docile socialiser to agent provocateur. Nothing I did or said was acceptable; the fact that she had an incredible hatred of journalists and computers only managed to fuel her tangential rants against the modern world. At one stage she was trying to explain how evil computers were and how disgusting it was that people used them to communicate with each other, but I was adamant that not only are computers simply a communication medium, but they have created a new arena of language and semantics with their lack of face-to-face contact, lack of sarcasm and tonal operators, and an almost forced use of semantics over implied contextual meaning. She wasn't having any of it.

Two children saluting
The delightful kids of Bhagsu; I don't know why they're saluting either

'When someone is seeking,' said Siddhartha, 'it happens quite easily that he only sees the thing that he is seeking; that he is unable to find anything, unable to absorb anything, because he is only thinking of the thing he is seeking, because he has a goal, because he is obsessed with his goal. Seeking means: to have a goal; but finding means: to be free, to be receptive, to have no goal.'

Rain Stops Play

The monsoon finally caught up with me in Dharamsala. Wandering through the lush fields and down the Tibetan streets of McLeod Ganj and Bhagsu, the heavens would open with no warning and throw down water at a rate only unsurprising to those who go through such torrents every year. Clouds rolled in on my farmhouse, and every afternoon and evening I would retire to a safe haven to read, write and dream of going home.

1 I've changed the name to avoid libelling the man in question. The person being referred to was a successful pop singer from the late 1950s/early 1960s, and that's all I'm going to say...