So, what’s an Aussie girl doing in Dharamshala?
I come from a corporate environment. A dog-eat-dog world where, as an ABC (Australian born Chinese) woman I’ve not only had to battle against the corporate glass ceiling but a bamboo one as well. Long work weeks and back-to-back meetings dominated my time as I trained a team of staff to take over my role.
Whether by fate or subconscious manifestation I found myself at a crossroads not long ago. Do I continue in a company that, out of desperation finally offered me the promotion I should have gotten long ago? Or do I give it all up and step into the unknown.
I chose the latter.
And so, began a series of events and synchronicities that led to me selling my apartment and packing my bags for India. I had decided to leave the bustling streets of Sydney where everyone is in a rush to get somewhere, and head to the small town of Mcleod Ganj where no one is in a rush to get anywhere.
As the current home of H.H. the Dalai Lama, I had ‘eat-pray-love-esque’ expectations of finding a wise old guru who would impart pearls of universal wisdom. And that I would, in a sudden flash of realization, reach enlightenment and then disappear in a puff of smoke like the ancient Mayans did so very long ago.
Well I’m still here. So we all know what happened with that little fantasy.
My first few days were spent in a rented apartment with nothing more than a bed and a side table. Nothing. No chairs, no wardrobe, no internet. It was here that I learned the art of squat bathing and eating in the dark when the electricity cut out.
Here in the mountains, the smog of Delhi is replaced by the dirt from the terrains. A fine dusting of earth coats practically every surface and one learns here to be perpetually ‘dirty’. The 1st world princess in me balked at having to sit on the dusty ground the first time around and no amount of hand sanitiser was going to keep my hands in salubrious condition.
It’s here, in a place where people seemingly have ‘nothing’, that you realise they have everything. When your choice of soaps are ‘option A’ or ‘option A’, you come to appreciate that it’s not about the presence of ‘organic jojoba extracts from the far reaches of the Amazonian jungle’ that is going to make you cleaner- but that you simply have a means of getting clean.
When all the bells and whistles of consumerism and competition are taken away, you remember the simplicities in life. What little is had, is shared, and the concept of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’ simply doesn’t register. What becomes important instead is the quality of interaction and community.
There is a kindness and acceptance amongst the Tibetan community that goes beyond courtesy and indifference. Instead, it’s a genuine wish to see you well. These people smile because they’ve spent the evening at home with their families instead of at the office party schmoozing up to a boss they can’t stand.
Here, in the place where local Tibetans pull over the side of the road to offer me a ride on the back of their scooters because my “bags look heavy and the road is steep” and strangers offer me their cushion to sit on because the floor is cold- I think maybe I might have found nirvana after all
Originally written in May 2017