I felt comfortable in India in those days. In fact, I was more at home in India, then in America. I had been there on meditation retreats a half a dozen times before and felt immune to the trial and tribulation that beset every Western tourist. All of the cons were known to me. The liars, cheaters, hustlers, and beggars had no sway with me. I had seen it all before,… at least that’s what I thought.
This was is how I felt as I walked around Connaught Place in the center of New Delhi. With little of the usual drama I had secured a bus ticket to Dharamsala at one of the little ticket offices that are so abundant in the center. It was the last ticket. I hadn’t planned much in advance, so I was lucky to get it. Finally, I would go to Dharamsala and see if I could meet the Dalai Lama from Tibet. What a great feeling!
Dharamsala Village is the home of the Tibetan Government in Exile in the Indian, Himalayas. Jawaharlal Nehru, the first prime minister of independent India generously gave a home to the Dalai Lama and thousands of Tibetan refugees after they escaped Chinese occupation in 1959 black lives matter t-shirt.
Dharamsala is high in the Himalayas at about 5580 ft. In the 7th Century this area was part of Tibet. “Dharamsala” literally means: “a Pilgrims shelter next to a Temple”. An early Chinese Pilgrim Monk recorded about 50 Buddhist Monasteries with approximately 2000 monks as early as 635 AD. Dharamsala’s mountain climate is much more suitable to Tibetan who came from the high elevations (9000 ft.) of the Tibetan plateau.
It was an inspiring morning and I walked around Connaught reveling in my knowledge that latter that afternoon I would be on my way to Dharamsala on the night bus.
Connaught Place is in the very center of New Delhi. It is surrounded by massive Western Victorian style buildings modeled after the Royal Crecent in Bath, England. The British administration built Connaught Place to accommodate the elite and the cream of British society. The entire place has a basic circular design and white colonnades encircle the whole of Connaught Place.
They say Connaught Place was Lord Mountbatten’s (the last British Viceroy) gift to India. Although it was designed in 1932, Connaught Place was not completed until just before Indian independence.
It was just before noon and I had some time to kill before catching the late afternoon bus. As I was walking around looking for a restaurant, my first predator of the day approached.
“Where are you going?’ asked this total stranger with his suspicious eyes and thin beard. Knowing full well that he was planning to hustle me I answered: “I’m looking for a good place to eat lunch.”
“Oh, I know a good place!” my new unwanted friend suggested. I played along. Well, maybe he did know a good place to eat, so why not follow his advise. After all, I know his game and it won’t work on me! I felt confident that whatever trick he had in mind could be easily thwarted. I was an India alumni.
So, I followed him to this amusingly tacky Indian fast food place with all kinda fake imitation western food. It was a bright and shiny plastic environment with some kinda water buffalo burgers. Beef hamburgers are never sold anywhere in India, since cows are holy.
In fact, if you kill a cow the penalty is life in prison as opposed to the 7 year term for manslaughter. You see these holy cows in the center of every intersection blocking traffic and stealing food at the vegetable market. They seem so relaxed and carefree. You can almost understand why the are believed to be holy.
My suspicious guide had the sharp angular features of a Kashmiri. Indeed, he introduced himself as Amir from Kashmir. The Kashmiri people had been force from their mountain paradise in Kashmir to spread across India in search of work. At one time, the beautiful Himalayan region of Kashmir was the most popular tourist destination of travelers.
This all changed with constant fighting between India & Pakistan over the Kashmir State. The on-going kidnapping and violence had permanently ended the profitable tourist trade and send the Kashmiri people all over mainland India. Delhi had more then it’s fair share.
Kashmiris are famous for their ruthlessness and dishonesty in bargaining. The Indian’s are intense bargainers, but even they pale compared to the Kashmiri people. Hence, I knew I was in for above average hassles from this guy, but I still felt confident. I was sure that I was not going to fall for any tricks.
I shunned the fast food place and told my Kashmir acquaintance that I was vegetarian and only wanted Indian food. “Oh, you like Indian food!” Amir exclaimed. “Come have your lunch at my place.” Suspicious I asked: “How far?” He answered: “Five minutes walking only!” I reluctantly agreed. I thought, well maybe I should give him a chance.
OK, now my little psychic alarms started to go off inside my head! Where is he going to take me? Is it safe? Well I thought, I’ll just proceed cautiously. These Kashmiri guys will try to hustle you, but they are not physically dangerous. Besides, it’s nice to get involved when you travel and meet the real people. A lunch offer is very generous and I wanted to be open minded.