DHARAMSALA, BEING THE TIBETAN GOVERNMENT-IN-EXILE, is the political hub of experts and activists dedicating their efforts in bringing back Tibetans’ their independence. According to my book, the Secretariat and library is just a couple of kilometres away from McLeod Ganj but experience tells me once again that we should never trust the book.
In reality, the walk down to the Secretariat is more confusing than expected, and amidst all the disappointment, I met a friendly Geshe Tenzin, who led me the way. A mere direction enquiry turned into an invitation to his dormitory. I could not decline his enthusiastic offer and thus followed my new found friend who barely speaks English into his humble room which he shares with other monks like him.
Geshe Tenzin has been a monk for 25 years, and started taking English classes recently. He proudly displayed all his English homework which I think has perfect handwriting. Tibetans are very friendly people and he shared with me his bowl of instant noodles and tsampa (with a serving of boxed fruit juice because he would never want me to drink tap water).
After our lunch, Tenzin insisted in showing me around, so we first went to the Secretariat together. The whole town is filled with miniature governmental departments, from the Ministry of Home Affairs to the Ministry of Religion and Culture. Right opposite the chorten lies the Tibetan Library and Archives which houses manuscripts and books brought from Tibet. There is a simple one-floor museum exhibiting relics that survived the journey here.
Next, I had to visit the Men-Tsee-Khang Medical and Astrological Institute, which Tenzin happily complied. The small museum shows Tibetan herbs both in its raw form, and in pills that I have been taking all the while. The lady at the museum, told me that there is a medical school here which trains and certifies amchi doctors.
Tenzin’s humble room which he generously invited me in.
His English homework.
Tenzin mixing a bowl of tsampa, made with Tibetan flour, water, salt and butter.
The beautiful Tibetan library. I got in for free thanks to Tenzin.
TENZIN, BEING A TIBETAN MONK, felt responsible for making sure I got back safely, so he now insist on seeing me back to McLeod Ganj. He showed me a very steep shortcut which acscended quite efficiently but left us breathless. Alas, we arrived somewhere I am familiar with and I treated Tenzin to a simple cup of Tibetan tea, which I guess he enjoyed thouroughly.
We reluctantly went our separate ways, with tears rolling in Tenzin’s eyes. He shook my hands firmly, and I promised to email him so that we can keep in touch. Tibetans, other than being typically kind and friendly, shares amongst themselves as well as with guests. This genuine sincerity is what I appreciate most about Tibetans and I hope they stay the same for many generations to come.
Tenzin’s shortcut back to McLeod Ganj. Once I saw the old man in front of me, I stopped whining and gained momentum just to prove that I am young.