(Pictures at https://picasaweb.google.com/109837841352688899289)
I was still in two minds whether to stay on at Dharamshala and go and throw myself at the mountains, but I would rather have an extra day in Varanasi than up there freezing and unhappy. I’d given myself till 10 O’clock to have breakfast and be ready.
Before I left I wanted to straighten something out with the Manager Nick at the Green. On the first night I was sure I had paid him for 2 nights but his place was truly cold and with the waterfall above the room . I’d left after one so I made it he owed me 300r as I’d paid for 2 nights. He was sure I’d only given him one night, we had a sort of an easy stand off, in the end he said
“If you’re sure I’ll give you the money back” I had been pretty sure but not 100% but neither had he, but he’d given me the money back. I’d been around for a few days, it was the only the placeI had eaten in as it was great food, great coffee and had unlimited internet wifi connection.
When I woke that morning and something told me that in fact I had only paid for the 1 night, I still wasn’t 100% sure about it, but I thought what the hell, follow the inner voice. So when I paid for breakfast I gave him the 300r too. I explained that I still wasn’t sure but I’d like to give him the money. He blushed and smiled, it was only 300r and it really didn’t matter that much to me, but what did was that I wanted to leave in a good way.
The bus down from mountain from McLoud Ghang was mental. It was only a little bigger than a mini bus maybe a 30 seater and no matter who stuck their hand out on that mountain road the driver stopped and everyone got on, up there you don’t leave people out on the road no matter what time of year. Everybody hung on for dear life as it swung this way and that, an old Tibetan lady stood next to me and I were laughing out loud.
Me “Wooooaaaah” her “Wooooooo”
At one point it stopped a little longer than normal, and I noticed a cow up on a grass verge over looking the road, behind it was a huge black crow that was pulling the cows tail, It could only have been doing it to be mischievous, it kept grabbing hold of its tail and really giving it a good hard yank, over and over till in the end the cow moved away. It made me think, if you’ve been reading these you’ll know I lay a lot of significance at the behavior of the Crows. I was actually relieved but saddened to be going and I’d had the nudge.
I got a connection almost immediately from Dhasramshala to Kanga which took about an hour then an hour and a half wait there. I was surfacing but had still not fully arrived a few people tried to strike up conversation, I was pleasant but mercury was still in the underworld. The journey in all took 11 hours on 3 buses; the first part through the foothills of the Himalayas was the best. Cracks in the sandy earth had been worked by water into great chasms and deep gullies that were coated with across the tops and across their slopes and terraces with luxuriant almost iridescent lush green grass all the way along with splashes of yellow and lilac wild flowers that that at times seemed to hover like fragile mists above the fields. There were many rivers too, some way down below that had cut through the land ever closers to the centre to of the earth and some massive and sprawling and slow moving chocked with great sand bars. There were of course Hindu temples hanging on for dear life in the most outrageous places and above them great Kites circled and big black Crows hovered on the upsurge of the winds. I have to say the driver was absolutely death defying, as we swept from side to side never loosing his nerve on the bends. Goods carriers and other busses would come out of nowhere, he simply swept past them. He was incredible, he wasn’t in brown, but in a different state he’d be a brother, no doubt.
The road cut through, around up and over the hills which were made up of smoothed ground rocks and grey yellow sand tightly packed between. I remembered Jim Tuma from Montana and Alex from Ghost ranch who had shown me rocks that had been smoothed and polished buy the action of water, or flood, the rocks in the Himachal State foothills (which is where Dharamshala is) had all the hall marks of being ground up and deposited after a great flood or tide. I could be wrong, but I could be right and I tell you what, it went on for mile after mile, perhaps for the whole of state, it must have been some wave bigger than I could ever imagine. The Himalayas are formed by two land masses colliding right, and as we drove through the hills I could clearly see how the layers had been deposited, and were lifted up approximately south facing and leaning back into the earth approximately north towards the Himalayas, it was the crumple zone, rather like a car crash looks though on a continental titanic scale. It was fascinating to me, rocks always have been, but I’ll spare you for now and if you’re interested or I’m wrong drop me a line and well talk about it for sure.
From kanga it rained and drizzled virtually all the way, it wasn’t the most exciting of journeys and once we had passed over the foothills and I contented myself with meditating and doing some healing on my knees which had begun to ache up there in the mountains in all that damp. The guy next to me contented himself with trying to invade my space.
I saw hands with light beaming out of them. Then a pool of water that was cloudy with green algae grown over the surface. It was a good metaphor for my mood, the light from the hands seemed to be clearing away the clouded surface.
We got into Chandigarh sector 17 bus terminal at 9.30ish, I was of course a flame and many a rickshaw moth got singed, I wanted a little space to get my bearings first. But there is always stress and panic with the rickshaws, It gets tiring. Then one guy mentioned the name of the hotel I’d planned upon. So I said
“Ok lets go, Hotel Satyadeep it is”
He of course tried to change my mind as soon as we got to his Rickshaw, as he was obviously on a fee from some other hotel but I was firm. Now the rickshaw was a peddle one and nothing wrong with that of course but he had the worse case of a broken leg setting badly I have ever seen, he could hardly walk from the station to where he was parked, What ever had happened to him had to have hurt, badly. As he set off peddling my heart just went out to him, he was well built stocky guy but the weight and strain was clearly visible in his back as pushed down on the peddles. I almost told him to stop and I have never felt comfortable in peddle rickshaws but of course they need the money. So when we arrived which was literally across the road I gave him what he’d asked for originally and all the change I had on me. Which took him off guard and I enjoyed his surprise.
The room turned out to be a little more expensive than I have got used too, but it was clean warm, hot water, towel and soap. Luxury and a nice inexpensive restaurant a few doors down too.
Next day I slept in, had breakfast just down the stairs at a place called the Shri Sweet which was owned by a truly lovely man called Vikram Jit, who spoke wonderful old style English, he said he was a friend of Boris Johnson and was quite a philosopher. There were big pictures of Sai Baba on the wall, we’d talked a while when he asked me to return there on the way back across where he would connect me with a wonderful meditation Ashram up in the mountains. I need and am looking for help with the next step with the energy I channel for the healing. I think he’s right and we shall see.
I’d been told I could book my rail ticket at the relatively clean and un-crowded bus station just down the road. I only had to tap one guy on the shoulder who’d pushed in front, it’s always so irritating and I could feel his anxiousness behind me. The ticket guy had seemed great. He checked the ticket availability without sending me to another window, booked my ticket in seconds, I’d filled in all the necessary details and then he handed me my ticket. I’d known back down in the south it was all a load of cobblers and could be easily done. I actually shook his hand through the window. I was booked on the 11pm train to Varanasi for the next night.
Trouble was what he didn’t tell me that the train connection was from a different town called Amballa, I thought Ambala was the name for the station rather like Victoria station in London. I had clearly said Chandigarh to Varanasi and I found out with 2 hours to spare it cost me a lot of money in a cab, I was incandescent with rage. The Indian Information service is the worst I have ever experienced, they actually don’t give a damn, to many people to care really I suppose. Nobody gives a damn unless you flatter them or they can take some Ghandis off you. Then when I got to that station that night the train was 4 hours late. Truly India needs a kick up the ass.
The reason I came to Chandigarh was ‘Nek Chands rock park and it didn’t disappoint. I got there early paid 15r entrance fee which at first I thought I had mis-heard as there was no quadrupled price for filthy rich foreigners and I thought she’d said 50. They guards waved me in and gave me a map of the city on the way out, this town was different.
Nek Chand had apparently started building his Rock Garden back in 1958 it had started out small, but had soon grown over a few acres. It is a remarkable achievement to a life well lived. He had apparently worked as a surveyor as they built the highways and had been stationed near or at the public waste works depot, where all the rubble and broken materials were dumped. He’d had an idea to just build something with all the waste. I asked him later why and his influences and he just said the idea came from God. I’d thought he perhaps been influenced by Gaudi or (*) but it seemed not, it was all his own. He’d worked on it after he finished work in secret, had not even told his wife, had erected a great wall of oil drums filled with concrete so that nobody in the depot even realized what was going on behind it. He and a few chosen colleagues had worked into the dark of the nights using burning tires so as not to draw attention with floodlights and also to keep away the snakes. It wasn’t discovered for some years and had grown over many acres by then, apparently when his employers realized what had been going on were furious and it was in the balance right up until that last moments whether the bulldozers would be send in to flatten it. But due mostly to a man called Dr Randawa an influential man in town who saw the genius in it and of course the possibilities with it swung the decision in the parks favor. To top it all Nek was given a grant and apparently 50staff to help him continue his work and now because word has spread there is a steady flow of volunteers from around the world who are helping him finish the place. Though it is far from finished and the grant has long since run out, it is just amazing and to me a testament of what can be done when a person ‘sees’ and has the courage to just follow what they know is right.
You walk in, down tunnels and passages of the concrete moulds of steel drums that lead into various open spaces where neat rows of strange shaped volcanic rock that should have been gravel back in the 60’s had Nek not seen their beauty, then gardens and waterfalls and many tiny alcoves which disorientate and puzzle you. There seems to be 3 phases and if you look you can see his evolution as an artist. The Figures in the second phase were my favorite, they were just wonderful, funny, curious and delightful set upon terraces. You have to bend to come through little doorways, stand up straight and there are about 50 monkeys and 20 moose staring at you. The statues of the women made with broken bangles were inspirational, it wasn’t just the statues but the way it all interlinked from the huge waterfalls which I sensed were the parks proudest achievement, the third phase was also beautifully done but sort of spoiled by a camel ride and an inflatable Kids bouncy castle, I just didn’t get that. The newer area was spacey and the mosaics were inspired but to my eye were not done by Nek Chands hand. It is beautiful place and filled my mind with creative ideas. The incredible thing about the place is it is ‘all’ made out of scrap and rubble, a monumental achievement by an inspired beautiful man.
A guard offered to take me to Nek Chands office to meet him. He was surrounded by, I presumed his staff. But they turned out to be well wishers just like me. He was truly unassuming and modest and all I wanted to do was ask him his influences and just say thank you. I noted he had the warmest softest hands. An American guy called Tony Rajer rattled my English sensibilities at the time but I was to see him in a different light later on. As I got up to leave he informed me that there was a presentation that evening to honor the press and I would be welcome to come along. I said I would. He instructed me I should refer to Nek Chand as
“Mr Nek Chand” and that I should “Bow and touch his feet before I spoke to him” I didn’t like that at all
“Well, I’ll wait and see what you do first and we’ll see eh”
“You’ll see” he said
“I will” I said
Later I walked up to the Sukhna lake, had a few coffees amongst the multitude, then slipped quietly away along the wall of the promenade away from the crowd watching young guys harvest the lake grasses filling their boats up and rowing right across the lake disappearing into the tall grass on the other side, it was interesting but I just couldn’t find out what they wanted it all for.
I had walked till 5pm and the presentation was about to start. I arrived just in time and was greeted by Tony, who remembered my name. I always admire that, I realize it doesn’t make a person anymore sincere but is such a good skill. He introduced me to Cory Philips the volunteer coordinator from Boulder Colorado, who with a team had just completed the exterior mosaic of the “Sound Proof Hall” where we were gathered. She showed me her sea horse and her turtles up there for all to see, wonderful and inspirational. All sorts of arty people had gathered, a guy dressed in yellow who named himself after a gun, I couldn’t remember which so I just called him ‘shotgun’ some guy called Rajesh who seemed to want my attention but kept looking over my shoulder when I talked, he was odd, wanted to go for drinks, so I lost him. I also met Renee Singh a journalist who it turned out was interested in healing, I sensed that she needed some, we talked a little and arranged to meet later. She was an interesting and shook whilst she talked. She seemed to be hurting as she recalled her past.
Tony Rajer presented such a good and convincing show and gave medals and love to the press. I was impressed by his nerve and tenacity but most of all by his love of what had been created at the Chandigarh Rock Garden and his obvious love of Nek Chand. During the presentation a well meaning guy had brought some miniature statues of the ones in the park, he thought they could sell and generate some badly needed income for the foundation. I watched Nek as the 4 little figures were placed on the stage front. He looked and simply shook his head. I had to chuckle to myself, it has been and is a labor of love, he is not for selling out. If you are ever in India check it out, it is well worth a visit or go and have a look at www.nekchand.com I have also added some photos. If you feel the urge to support this guy or to simply write a letter of appreciation, do so. Nek Chand is the real deal. Excellent place, great people, I am so glad I came.
Renee picked me up at the hotel at 9pm and we drove around to the family house, I could tell that she was thinking.
“What am I doing”
But I’m a safe bet, and she’d relax once we did the healing I thought. Now I’m not going to go deeply into what was troubling her but will tell you a little about her. It seemed I had been invited to tea by old Indian aristocracy. I was perfectly at ease with myself and in their home, what I brought with me was genuine and I wanted nothing form them except I realized later some company which is where the exchange was, there had to be one, it is the law, I had noticed a shift in gear since I had been to the presentation.
There were great pictures of her Seikh grandfather ‘Sir Sardar Gurdhal Singh’ and lord and lady Mountbatten. He was a self made man with a face that showed strength and character. Renee introduced me to her delightful aging father ‘Harcharan Singh’ who had the most lovely face and mischievous boyish eyes, though he was loosing sight in them now and her sharp sparky Mother Pritpal and the life long family servant Darmian who had prepared us some delicious food. They invited me to stay there, to come and stay at the Mango plantation apparently the biggest in India, to come out to India again and visit for longer. I said I might just do that, I was happy sat there with then amongst their old family relics their airs and their character, in amongst all the dysfunction and what ever goes in amongst any normal family they seemed to have humor and intelligence, Renee and I chatted like old and dear friends.
During the healing, I sensed quite a few things which we discussed, I decided that I would say what ever came as we didn’t have time not too, so I went gently but straight to what I thought the core, it seemed to hit the nail on the head. I sensed her nervousness and disbelief that this was happening. I reassured her that I had come a long way to meet her and not to be afraid. It was pretty good when she allowed it to flow to her though she felt it hard to relax and let go. I will say that I saw she was green which she confirmed as her favorite color and in fact after the healing was done, there was a message for her to “Take up the reigns again” I was sure it was from grandfather Sardar Singh and I most certainly saw movement in the room we were sat in. That was the point the healing happened, it hit the spot, somehow something always does, it might be something insignificant to you but to the person it is the weight lifting off the shoulder.
It was Renee’s birthday that evening so we sat until the small hours, I got to be the first to say happy birthday to an aristocratic charming Indian Lady, the food was delicious and the company a tonic. Renee gave me a lift back, after scuffing her car all down the side of her fathers as she reversed out, she didn’t seem to bother, I was mortified and a little worried, but in the end it was simply fun. We sped quickly though the remarkable streets of this architecturally interesting city, a whole other story. No traffic, lush whispering trees, peace and fresh air and space no hassle.
The Guard at the hotel was sat asleep at the door. I tried to creep in but he heard me
“I wait for you sir, Goodnight” He said. I was really touched.
Some places do welcome you don’t they.