Dharamsala, India — April 2, 2012
From Ven. Roger:
It’s very dark. There is a strong storm with blasting winds and the road is narrow with room for only one vehicle at a time. The road is on the edge of a cliff at least a 1,000-foot [305-meter] drop on one side – it makes you dizzy looking over the edge. The road is in bad condition: sometimes just gravel and rock, with too many holes really jarring the car. There is a truck coming the other way heading straight for us blasting its horn. (Indian trucks are big and heavy and often held together by wood! They are actually huge pieces of scrap metal on wheels with tires that have no tread or very little.) I have nowhere to go (it’s me driving) and I can’t figure how to avoid this oncoming scrap metal heap on wheels that moves like a crab. The roads are so narrow so when an oncoming vehicle appears, you have to find quickly where the road is a little wider so you can pass each other, otherwise you get stuck and someone has to reverse up. And even then it could be a long way and then you might find another car behind you and he is blasting his horn and the car behind him is blasting away on his horn. Actually, Indian drivers drive with one hand on the wheel and the other on the horn, and it is very acceptable. Anyway, I manage very luckily to find a place where we can pass and we continue in complete darkness. The journey is 12 hours so you really have to be alert all the time, like really alert!
Everyone has the right-of-way on the roads which is confusing, everyone thinks they own the road which also goes for pedestrians, cows, dogs and donkeys … earlier in the day we came across a guy on the phone rolling with his feet a large gas bottle down the middle of the road, the gas bottle picked up speed and he lost control which didn’t seem to be a problem for him as he continued talking on the phone as the gas bottle picked up more speed and headed straight for us! We swerved and all was fine as it is with Indian roads as there are no rules so no one is doing anything wrong so all is OK … I like it with no rules, but can’t handle the overtaking on blind curves, which is common. (I thought it appropriate to have no full stops when describing the roads here.)
Later that night we came across two trucks that just had had a head-on crash. There was no room to pass each other, so I guess they couldn’t get around each other so they decided to go through each other. It is very messy. Trying to get past this mess and not disappear over the edge of the cliff created some anxious moments. This is the drive to Manikaran from Dharamsala, where Rinpoche went for treatment in the hot springs.
It was a nice relaxing time with plenty of time to go to the hot springs, a holy place of Guru Nanak of the Sikh tradition. Still, Rinpoche’s focus seemed to be on others and we never had enough time to actually go to the hot springs apart from slipping in one short session here and there. Rinpoche instead focused on the local Tibetan community about four hours’ drive away (yes, on the worst roads ever). The community (near Manali) is where Song Rinpoche’s mother lived before coming to the US. A few years before Rinpoche had sponsored the main statues on the altar of the small gompa there. Rinpoche visited the place a couple of times and wants to have eight monks there and a proper small monastery, so Rinpoche made a proposal to the community to sponsor and set it up. Another time we visited this beautiful and amazing Kagyü temple not far away. Rinpoche was interested in the art and architecture. Then 12 hours back to Dharamsala again via the Tibetan community in Manali.
Now we are packed and ready to leave for Dehradun, about 10 hours’ drive from here. We should leave now but Rinpoche is still teaching (in the gompa of Tushita). We were supposed to leave yesterday, but didn’t. I already forgot why. Now waiting … hopefully, Rinpoche will finish soon. I’m so keen to get back on the Indian roads with no rules. No rules does make it easy.