Dharamsala is the home place of His Holiness the Dalai Lama of Tibet in Exile. It’s a town of contradiction.
On one hand it is peaceful and calm. It must be the only place in India where people apologise if they accidentally bump into you, and don’t try to swindle you out of too much money. The Buddhist influence is obvious, bringing a wonderful blanket of peace and calm to the people and town.
I took conversational Hindi classes with a lovely Punjabi woman and her attitude said it all to me. She told me, she and her family (her husband and two children) were very poor, but this did not worry them because they had little to worry about. The more money you have, the more complicated your life and the more stress and unhappiness you had. I think she has a point, as an unemployed traveller, I certainly am much happier than I was as a well paid banker.
On the other hand, Dharamsala is full of expats and travellers from all over the globe. Whilst there are many who I believe have come to volunteer and assist the Tibetan refugees, these people are not readily visible to the short-term traveller. However, the many aging hippies and stoned backpackers are everywhere, and in my opinion ruin the serenity. For example, I watched a 65-year-old American woman storm out of a cafe without paying for her Rs40 meal, because she wanted something and the Tibetan cafe owner did not speak enough English to understand her request. I find this type of attitude intolerable. It’s a real pity, and made me feel quite out of place in Dharamsala. Perhaps I didn’t stay long enough, or perhaps I stayed too long.
Here are some photos of the parts of Dharamsala that I did love, the beautiful, peaceful town.