Friday, February 27, 2004

First Weekend getaway on 21st - 22nd February 2004.

We had decided that on weekends we would travel to exotic destinations in and around B'lore. To start off, Ruchir bought a book 'OUTLOOK TRAVELLER's 52 Great Weekend Getaways',a comprehensive guide to intrepid buccaneers! We came across a place called Bylakuppe, 99 kms from Mysore which houses the largest TIBETIAN settlement outside of TIBET. There are close to 50,000 tibetians inhabiting the vast lands close to the border of COORG district. The biggest town close to Bylakuppe is Kushalnagar, 7kms away.

So 5 of us,Ruchir, Simran, Ashwin, Myself and Vineet (Simran's DCE friend) set out on our journey. We boarded the TIPU express (Dep Time 14:15 hrs), which is a type of JAN-SHATABDI train. It took us just 2 1/2 hours to reach Mysore. In the train, Ashwin got friendly with a couple from Switzerland. Both Doctors, they had taken a 2 month break from work and were touring India. The topic of Sexual Repression in India came up during the discussion ! The man was wondering why do Indians try to touch his wife's butt ??!!!! For this our learned friend, Ashwin had an immediate logical answer.
Indians are sexually repressed lot.
They cant express their love in public.
Most of the Indians have their first sexual experience post 25 years.
Pre-marital sex is taboooooo.
and so on and on and on....

Our firang friend was impressed. They shook hands and as we were carefully observing, we could see a tinge of depression on ASH's face. The lady did not oblige ..!!

counter_repressed_indians = counter_repressed_indians + 1.

From Mysore we took a bus to Kushal Nagar, taking us 3 more hours. Total journey time = 6 odd hours and expenditure/head = 67 (train) + 32 (Bus to kushalnagar) = Rs 99

We reached Bylakuppe at 8 and we had a rude shock. The entire Tibetian settlement was pitch dark. Just the ephemeral sounds of the autorickshaws ! After some local enquiry, we decided to take an auto to one of the nearest settlement camps - camp 1. The driver became our first tourist guide. Although an Indian, he seemed to be one of them !! He started off by explaining the style of living of the tibetian refugees.
As he was narrating with elan, we stuck our heads out and gazed at the amazing starry sky. Phew !! after years of looking at polluted, dull night skies in Bombay, this was a rare sight.
It was a clear night; the sky was dotted with innumerable stars. How utterly amazing, we thought, that God had created these stars. There are billions and billions of stars in the universe, and that we only see a small percentage of the countless myriad? Our sun is one star in the vast universe. The closest star to our sun is 4.3 light years away--Proxima Centauri. It is amazing to think that our sun, the closest star to us, is only average in size and in temperature in comparison with all the billions and billions of stars in the universe. And yet, astoundingly, our sun is 330,000 times bigger in mass than the earth. God created our sun and all the stars by His awesome power--"The heavens are [indeed] telling of the glory of God." Do you hear the voice of God in the sun? the stars? the clouds? the moon? His stamp of authorship is on His creation; and that stamp is God Himself.

Immediately we started debating whether the 'Non-Twinkling, Very Shiny' star is a planet...VENUS? This seems to be common knowledge to all. But unfortunately its not true all the time. Stars & Planets can be deceiving, probably less than humans ! :)

Well, the vehicle took us through vast empty fields and to one camp after another. All pitch dark.....It was LOSAR time for the TIBETIANS. 'Losar' means New Year. They celebrate three days around new year's day by doing nothing of their regular work. Monks abandon their daily rituals of praying, cleaning, and leading a rugged life. The NON MONKS intensify their insane bike rides,smoking pot, and shopping. We could not find accomodation at any of the 20 camps and returned to Kushalnagar only to eat Punjabi food for dinner and spend the night in a decent lodge. We had Romanticized about staying in a monastery and eating Tibetian Food ! All that remained a dream.....:(

Next morning, we headed towards the Golden Temple Monestary. In yesterday's pitch darkness we couldn't assimilate the Tibetian dwelling experience. In broad day light, we could see the structures that had mystified us earlier. The golden temple monestary houses close to 5000 monks. They stay in hostel like buildings. A school (affiliated to CBSE New Delhi !!!) and a university are built close to the hostel. Due to their new year celebrations, the Golden Temple was deserted. No poojas, no monks worshipping the lord !
We could freely walk inside the temple and all we did was look at the giant structures with awe. Buddha's (sitting) relic was 60 feet tall. The other two relics at buddha's either side were that of the descendant buddhas and were 2 feet shorter. Each of them were copper structures, with gold plating.All monestaries have a common entrance design. On the top are (or kallasa, as they say for hindu temples), two deers on either side of a wheel. Their sizes depend on the size of the monestary.

The area inside the temple is as big as a basketball court (include the audience area !!) The hall has clearly marked Rows for the monks to Sit and chant their daily hymns. We would have loved to see them in action ! :( The walls were adorned with paintings capturing Buddha in various moods. We spent almost an hour there. The peace and calm of the place was soothing.

Optimistic fools tat we were, tasting tibetian food for lunch continued as our obession. We trudged along from one camp to another. Finally an auto driver convinced us to go to camp 8 (we were at camp 1 then). A fair was underway at camp 8 where we could possibly get some momos....The fair was swarmed with chinkymen and women. Some women were dressed in their traditional attire (looks similar to the Japanese Kimonos)
and some were clad in tight tshirts and jeans. In general, tibetian folks are not very tall. Their average height would be around 5 feet 3-4 inches.

Blaring tibetian music greeted us. Just at the entrance, some smartly dressed women in a stall were selling tickets to the concert, scheduled for the evening. All the hottest tibetian artistes were expected to perform. The tickets were priced at 30, 50 and 100 Rs. We bought the 50 Rs tickets . Just opposite to it was another stall where 'SUPPORT BAN OF CHINA HOSTING THE 2008 OLYMPICS' coupons were being sold !! 10 rupees each and yes there was a lucky draw every hour !!

We decided to relax at the venue and just gaze at the variety of people there. Not much variety in terms of looks as all of them look alike !! :) But yes, they were in their best clothes ...

We returned to Kushalnagar for lunch. Back to Indian food at Kushal Nagar's best and most famous Hotel Kanika. A Veg Thali with some butter milk....and back to Camp 2 (close to venue of the concert). It was around 14:00 hrs then and the concert timing was 17:30. We decided to rest in the cool shade of some eucalyptus trees. In a few minutes, we dozed off. What a nap ! Reminded us of the nappy times at NITIE after a heavy lunch. 17:30 and we reached the venue. Junta already trickling in...TIBETIAN women are HOT !! All dressed in disco attire and a treat to watch...:)
Then came the monks. They were having the time of their lives. All the drudgery of the rugged life set aside for three full days ....they looked very excited. Actually, they are not the penurious types. Almost all of them sport rolex watches and nike shoes...and TVS Victor Bikes !

Concerts are not supposed to start on time. Any concert !! Be it Bryan Adams bash last month or this motley Tibetian concert. And yes, it was business as usual for the Cold drink vendors. A family with a cute baby was sitting in the preceding row. Her name was Nanu ! Probably 3 yrs old !Got a couple of pictures....

The music was melodious, so much so that Ruchir bought an audio cassette of one of their top selling groups. But after 8 we cudnt take it any more and fled from the venue. Took an auto and reached kushal nagar. Had some grub and boarded the bus to Bangalore.

Tibetians basically are 'excellent international beggars' . Their lifestyle supports the claim. None of them do any revenue generating work in these settlements. All they do is kill time, pray, spend money and raise awareness for their cause.
The money to splurge comes from various international peace agencies, celebs, donors .....Also in a family, atleast one of the young ones should become a monk. The rest of the kids are allowed to lead normal lives, but have to shoulder the responsibilities of their kin who has been chosen to live this sparing life. Women have a lot of freedom to travel and work. When I had been to the Bryan Adams concert, almost half of the gurlz were chinkis, and all of them real hot !

It was a wonderful experience, and I hope i can unravel more of these beautiful experiences.....