Welcome to Page 2 of my India Journies...

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A lime soda with a twist of bubble for breakfast! We arrived at Pathankot in the middle morning of the next day and piled our luggage into a little van, then onto our home for the next 14 days, a 3hr, and kidney rattling trip to Dharamsala.

We stopped at a hotel for breakfast, and got to sample Mutton Mumus, a Tibetan dish, along with limes sodas, and egg omelet. "You could get food on the train, but you may not live to conclude the journey!", so I was told by several people, including Dorji, so we hadn't really eaten since the previous day, just drinking water.
Continuing towards Dharamsala, the road became more and more bouncy as we slowly ascended into the mountains. When we came to the little villages, there were men everywhere, and cows had the right of way, we slowed down several times to allow a cow to meander across the road, or move off the road altogether, if there was a cow asleep in the middle of it!

As we climbed higher into the foot hills of the beautiful Himalayan's with the Kangra Valley slowly sweeping out below us, it was hard not to have your breath taken away! The bumpiest part of this journey was arriving in Dharamsala.
At mid afternoon, the sun was high, the air cool and refreshing. Dorji explained that there had been a great monsoon flood which swept most of the sewage and roads away about 8 months before, and the Indian government were slowly repairing the roads. Our van slowed down as it labored up the very steep hill of Mcleodganj, upper Dharamsala. An acrid smell reached at our nostrils - sewage, Dorji explains, flowing in the main drains on the streets... We had to get out so that the van can turn the steep corner onto the street where our Guest House was. The smell of sewage wasn't so overwhelming here and the street was very narrow indeed, with Tibetan and Cashmere stalls spilling into the narrow passage. Dawa, Jessica and me in the back of the Van to Dharamsala!
Pema Thang Guest House, Upper Dharamsala, India... Our base was at the Pema Tang boarding house, owned and managed by Tibetan refugees, it was very comfortable and friendly and we made deep connections with the manager and the workers there in no time.

My 14 days here was to work with the Tibetan tailors that Prema had commissioned to make the 62 Silk costumes out of 70 silk saris for the Pilgrims and Tibetan dancers to wear for the performances that we were to do.
I was also to work beside two other western women who arrived early. Lead by Prema and Anahata, we would be teaching and working with the Tibetan women who would be dancing with us at the TCV Celebrations, at the Norbulingka Institue, at Dolmaling Nunnery and for His Holiness, The Gyalwa Kamapa at Gyuto Tantric University at Sidbhari and for His Eminence, Tai Situpa Rinpoche, at Palpung Sherab Ling Monastery and hopefully for His Holiness the Dali Lama.
We then went to meet the team of tailors Prema had hired. I was excited to be given this opportunity to be involved with the costumes. We met the overseer of the tailors, the Head Tailors daughter, Diki, and discussed the schedule.

These tailors worked for His Holiness the Dali Lama, and usually sewed elaborate Thanka Frames, appliquéd Thanka's, Monks Robes, Temple soft furnishings and cushions. Their experience in sewing a top and full dance skirt was very limited indeed, especially when it came to all the different sizes that were required!

It was thought that the tailors had already begun work on the costumes, which wasn't the case, as they weren't sure of measurements and how to go about making the outfits, though samples had been sent with the material.

Kunchoc Dolma, one of our beautiful Tibetan Tailors preparing the material for final sewing....
The material, 100% heavy silk 5mt silk saris, was from the Varanassi Silk Makers, heavily embroidered with gold metallic thread. Each sari was over $75US dollars, and the colors so rich and each had intricate individual embroideries.

As a sewer, I had never seen such phenomenal material, so was fascinated with their production. I also had never witnessed such ingenuous ways to continue sewing no matter what! 5 Tibetan tailors all refugees and apprentices to His Holiness the Dali Lamas' tailor worked tirelessly to have our costumes ready in time.
The final dresses that was made by the Tibetan Taylors, worn by the women of the pilgrimage... We faced language barriers, sewing techniques, and conditions that were not entirely ideal, Rolling blackouts weren't considered to be a problem by the Tibetans, they used singer pedal sewing machines like most Hindi tailors. However the consistent dust from the roads that settles on everything, or the bright green chalk marks that the tailors accidently drew on the right side of the material was a small problem on the bright white silk. Ah well nothing like a quick trip down the non-existant road to lower Dharamsala to the dry cleaner to try to get the marks out and to do a bit of shopping while I waited!
3 days into my stay at Dharamsala. I purchased a beautiful Himalayan quartz crystal, from a Tibetan trader. I had purchased it for my close friend, teacher and mentor in Tauranga who has taught me a lot about what I know of crystals and minerals. I felt it would make a wonderful thank you gift to him.

I went with it across to the cyber cafe and downloaded my e-mail. Unexpectedly, I got the news from several e-mails that my dear friend, teacher and mentor in Crystals, had died in New Zealand, that morning! I was overwhelmed with grief and was crying at the computer when the beautiful Cashmere Shop Owner came over and said "Oh please madam, do not let the computer make you cry, Please madam, we can fix it, please madam do not cry..." In between the sobs and tears I tried to explain that there was nothing wrong with the computer, just the news it carried to me. "Then madam, maybe you should not read the news if it distresses you so!" he replied.

I was with Anahata, so she tried to explain that it was because my dear friend had died, "Oh madam, I am so, so, terribly sorry, but I cannot fix that!" He replied, I smiled at him and thanked him for his concern, and quickly wrote a note to the family of my friend sending my prayers and wishes to them. Expressing grieve on the internet is very hard indeed!

Prema suggested that I sponsor a butter lamp ceremony for his journey into the next life, so the next day I walked the Kora path around His Holiness's residence. I took my moonstone marla, (prayer beads) and recited the Tara Mantra over and over, calling on her to help release my grief and sadness of my loss.
I then went to the Temple and organized through some of the monks there, to light 100 butter lamps in his memory. It took awhile to get them to understand what I was wanting to do their, and found it difficult through tears and sobs that wouldn't be kept at bay and finally an english speaking student explained to the Monks what I was wanting to do. Their eyes shone empathy and understanding as they led me to the butter lamps. Through the interpreter, they explained what I needed to do, as they continued to prepare more butter lamps, gently reciting prayers for my beloved friend. They let me light the candles as they offered prayers and for a long while I sat in the peace of the temple, reflecting on this precious moment, this precious life.... 100 butter lamps lit in memory of my beloved friend Noel, who passed away while I was in India...
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