To India with Sofie: Day 6

Thursday September 6, 2012

Today we will travel North to the Himalayas. We will try to reach Manali where Tenzin lives with his family. Tenzin’s aunt Norzin who also lives with him, is Sofie’s grandmother. Sofie never met her Tibetan grandmother. So this is very exciting.

We wake up early by 6am, and are invited to take breakfast. When traveling  I never eat much. This morning I eat some dried bread, and Sofie is happy with chips and Pepsi. Thinlay, Tashi and Tenzin take something stronger for the long journey.

By 6.20am our taxi has arrived. Although most taxis are the same type, Toyota Innova, ours is well maintained, has A/C in the front and in the back and later we will see it has a very good suspension.

Our driver has been instructed that we are not in a hurry, and he seems to like that: he’s a calm and silent person who knows his car and the road very well.

The sky is very blue today, no haze or mist; you can see very far. We take the highway (NH1) to Chandigarh. From there we will go via Rupnagar, Anandpur, Bilaspur, Sudernagar, Ner Chowk, Mandi, Pandoh, Kullu, Patilkuhl to our destination Manali.

There are roadworks going on on the highway to Chandigarh. It’s my impression that all ground crossings will be replaced by safe traffic exchangers. This will significantly reduce the amount of accidents, and perhaps decrease the time-distance between Delhi and Chandigarh. Delhi’s conurbation ends after nearly 50kms drive. Local politicians are talking of extending the Delhi Metro as far as Chandigarh. But politicians talk a lot in India, and in the midst of something like ‘coalgate’ talking does not equal funding.
Although the highway’s speed limit is set at a low 80km/h, most vehicles drive a lot slower. According to the GPS on my phone, when our taxi indicates it drives 80km/h, in fact it drives only 65km/h.

During the ride to Chandigarh, Tenzin tries to explain how Tibetan Buddhism differs in form from Zen or Theravada. Tibetan Buddhism has preserved a lot of the rituals of the Bön shamans from the first millenium and before, and is more conformist than other Buddhist schools. However, only the form is different; all original Buddhist philosophical concepts have been preserved.
So somehow, (and not unlike Mexican catholicism) local form and rituals have been included, but the shamanism itself got completely replaced by a conformist religion, with postmodern possibilities.

By 10am we are getting hungry and our driver halts at a KFC 80kms before Chandigarh. Tenzin hopes by eating here, nobody will get any food-poisoning. Although we don’t get to taste local dishes, the food tastes good. The toilets are very clean.

Close to Chandigarh, we take a bypass road. I try to make a video of the driving. If things go well, you can click the embedded youtube links.

On this bypass, the taxi stops at a road restaurant so we can buy some drinks. Perhaps one notices the contrast with KFC.

It is now 11:30. We have been driving for 4 hours, and rested half an hour at the KFC. This stop only lasts minutes.
Only 20 minutes later, Sofie says she wants to go to the toilet. When we stop a bit further at another restaurant, there is indeed a toilet, 🙂 but we have to clean it before allowing Sofie to go.

Our conversation discusses childhood. How important the first years of childhood are to the human being. How in difficult times, children used to be raised a lot using hard physical punishment. How even the school teachers in those days really beat up the children. And some parents have not outgrown the society that is outgrowing them. The conformist parent just does what society has told him to do: to make his children behave the way society wants it, and to do it the way society perscribes it. Just like in the stanford prison experiment, the teacher or parent just plays his or her role. The narcistic parent, that is the pre-conformist, might even be worse. The way children are raised is handed over from parent to child. So we cannot entirely blame parent, or teacher or society. This is a very complex issue.
Seen from the Western post-conformistic point of view this is all crazy. We have learned to interpret law, rituals and tradition, and adapt when necessary, but only a post-conformist can do that. To become a post-conformist, critical education is very important.

It’s past 3pm when we see the first hill of the Himalayas.

Manali is now mentioned on road signs. 275kms says the first sign. Once we cross Anandpur, we start to climb on often impossible roads. The first 100kms, till Bilaspur, take nearly 3 hours.The youtube link below might give you an idea …

Thereafter, the roads are a little bit better, but driving in the mountains after dark, when drivers coming from the opposite direction refuse to dim their headlights, is dangerous, and our driver takes his time.

Our destination Manali is coming within reach. Sofie and her grandmother will see each other for the very first time. The final 50kms go very slowly. We are getting very excited, 3 of us are also coming home. We left Delhi by 6.45am and we arrive in Manali round 9.45pm. Tenzin gives directions to our driver, and asks him to stop at a small crossroads 300m from the house. From here it is difficult to drive with a large taxi.

The walk to the house seems to take a long time, although it must have been less than 5 minutes. But there we are. We get a very warm welcome. Sofie and her grandma hold each other. Then we are led into the house. Butter tea and auspicious food is waiting as a traditional welcome.

Sofie and her grandma sit next to each other. This is a magic and emotional moment, and my hands are shaking when i try to make some more pictures.

Majung, Tenzin’s stepmother serves food and drinks. There is a feeling of joy this entire evening. I still feel it when writing about it now. We get a beautiful room upstairs, next to the house-temple dedicated to Padmasambava. I wonder why i feel as if this is coming home also for me.

9 thoughts on “To India with Sofie: Day 6

  1. What a great post, I enjoyed wandering through your journey with you!
    Thank you for sharing such wonderful photos and words….
    Take Care…

  2. I got to Manali from McLeod Ganj via the most harrowing bus ride imaginable! It’s great to keep Sophie in such comfort. There is something so wonderful in that photo of her with her grandmother.

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