Thursday, May 8, 2008

Mystery

If you hike for an hour North of Dharamsala, you reach the Tibetan Children Village. While most of the population of Tibetan in exile lives in city, they created this special place for the children. For one, the adults are resilient. With efforts, they can overcome the culture shock of being adopted by India and integrate, something that the children may have more difficulties with. But the village was also created to give them a chance to grow as Tibetan. So that they could do more than remember their Tibetan culture, but be Tibetan.

Two of my future colleagues happened to be in town. It was a nice day out so we went walking. In the village, I pet the dogs and I cheered at the kids playing cricket next to Dal Lake. Then we had a meal of spicy chopsuey at the cafeteria.

The water pipes run along the roads, only occasionally do they go underground. When they leak, they gush more water than is ever available in the city. It is enough to create a new creek. The pipes to the Tibetan Children Village are broken in a number of places. So, as we walked, the road was lined with people who came to the leak to wash their car.

In India, the vehicles on the road are kept alive for decades. I would be curious to have an expert in antique with me to put dates on everything (Lucien?). The buses must be from the '50, the scooters from the '70, the motorbikes from the '80. But the cars are new.

I understand that India has little money and many hands. That is why they repair instead of rebuilding, and why the infrastructures are shabby. But why are the cars new? How do they afford them? Which disproportionate fraction of their income do the invest on them? Why do they do so?

That's the first mystery of India. The second mystery are the large smoke plumes raising from the hills. It looks like the forests are coming ablaze at multiple locations, every night, everywhere. In Rishikesh -- though nowhere else -- I was able to see an orange glow at the base. I was captivating like a camp fire: it was dangerous-looking yet safe. Natives I asked say the villages must be burning garbage. Sure, even in the city it is customary to gather a pile of garbage in street to incinerate it. But I don't believe it. The quantity needed for the plumes I see couldn't be produced by the diminutive hill villages.

The third mystery are the dry river beds. More than half of the bridges step over a ditch of rocks with a few trees. The Slumville picture, for instance, is taken from such a bridge. The river has been dried for long enough that, after the trees, the poor have taken roots. I mentioned it to a friend of a friend, my host in Kullu, Mr Kamal. He described how global warming had taken a unmistakable toil on the region. Kullu went from receiving 7 feet of snow to not receiving any snow in the last 7 years. Farmers are abandoning their apple trees and are looking for replacement crops. The newspaper talks of cities rationing water. Is global warming responsible for all the dried rivers?

I would like to thank Mr Kamal and his family for hosting me for a few days. I enjoyed being showed around the farm and having a chance to discuss the economy of India. The trip to Prashai Rishi Temple was equally memorable. Thanks again.

I spent the last few days in Manali, bathing in hot springs, waiting for the glacier to melt and the roads to open. Leh or to Kaza, near Tibet, whichever melts first, I will visit!
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