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Himalaya

Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Michael Palin - HimalayaIt nevertheless retains a typically Buddhist character. There is an amiable sense of tranquillity, people don't shout and everyone works with seraphic concentration, whether in the thangka workshop, painting fine detail on a banner of beasts, angry gods and flying horses, or in the metal shop, hammering out the base of a sitting Buddha from a sheet of copper, or in an inscription room, sitting beneath a framed picture of the Dalai Lama and copying onto long, thin, rectangular plates the text of Buddhist scriptures picked out in gold, coral and silver.

Everywhere we go we are received with quiet cordiality and politely but persistently followed by a video camera recording our every move.

It's impressive, if a little tiring, all this courtesy and hospitality, and I'm not quite sure where it will all lead. The Tibetans in exile are skilful operators and I admire the tenacity and persistence with which they court world opinion, but as time goes by the Chinese are strengthening their hold on Tibet, while adopting more liberal policies towards the Buddhists and better relations with the rest of the world. It's hard to see where the leverage might be applied to get them to change their policy and allow a meaningful Tibetan government to work from Lhasa rather than McLeodganj.

Another problem is that over the last 44 years increasing numbers of the people who are running the government in exile have been born and bred in India and have never een the country they represent.

As we saw at Norbulingka this afternoon, life is comfortable for the cultural executives and it would surely not be easy to uproot themselves from this congenial corner and relocate to a cold plateau on the far side of the Himalayan wall.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 36: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: McLeodganj
  • Book page no: 83

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