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Himalaya

Day 38: Dharamsala and McLeodganj

Michael Palin - HimalayaBy two o'clock the last of the line has gone through, and he is escorted away by his efficient, ever so slightly severe minders, only to reappear on the verandah minutes later to address a group of 60 new arrivals from Tibet, refugees who, have just made the difficult and dangerous crossing through the mountains as he did 45 years ago. One of his private secretaries translates his remarks for me. Very interesting they are too. He begins in a folksy way, sitting, hands on hips, trying to draw these cowed and respectful new arrivals out. He starts by asking if any of them had been caught by the border police, or lost money and valuables on the way. He asks about the current state of the hospitals and schools. Do they teach Tibetan? How many lumberjacks are there in Tibet these days (a reference to the massive deforestation since the Chinese arrived)? Then he talks to them quietly but with authority. He tells them that since September last year the government in exile has renewed official contact with the Chinese. Though he hears that the Chinese occupation is even more repressive than the year before, he notes that more Chinese are visiting Tibet, both as tourists and pilgrims, and that there is a growing interest in things Tibetan around the world, which is putting pressure on the Chinese.

It is important that they retain their Tibetan culture and language but Buddhism is far from being an irrelevant, unchanging religion. Buddhists and scientists have much in common, while in the field of psychology the Buddhists are well ahead. He grins. By 2000 years.

We will win, he assures them, because we have truth and truth will ultimately prevail. Don't worry. Educate yourselves. Learn Chinese. Learn about the world outside Tibet, because if he ever returns to Lhasa he will not go back to a feudal society. Go back, he says to the ones who plan to return home, and tell them that.
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PALIN'S GUIDES

  • Series: Himalaya
  • Chapter: Day 38: Dharamsala and McLeodganj
  • Country/sea: India
  • Place: McLeodganj
  • Book page no: 85

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