Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Pahar ganj, day 2

In the morning, after breakfast on the rooftop, I said goodbye to Carlos as he headed off to catch a flight to Australia to meet his brother. I'd really enjoyed traveling with him and having some good "guy" company for a change.

I walked through the market, and found a nice little book store by the cinema where I picked out a decent English translation of the Ramayana, the classic epic of Rama and Sita, and the battle against Ravana. I figured most of the rest of my journey would be alone, so it was a good, thick companion.

I wasn't very interested in exploring but went through the ganj looking for a travel agency to book a bus ticket  to Dharamsala. There were many shops from selling goods from Kashmir or Leh and the shop owners were usually from there as well. They spoke to me of how beautiful their homes were, and I would have loved to be on my way that far north, but even if I had time, snow could easily close off access this time of year with little warning. Just the word, Kashmir, puts me into a momentary trance. I hope one day to find my way up there, but since I actually headed most of the way that far, I bought a nice quilted sweater with a big pointy hood (purple, not white!). They recommended a good travel agent, down the street so I thanked them and made way way back into the chaotic street to find him.

He had a boutique with beautiful paintings, sculptures, silk and Kashmir clothing, down a little alley, but his sign made it easy to find. I walked in and, all at once, learned a few very valuable life lessons; "Namaste!" is not Hindi for, "Hello!", you shouldn't say "Namaste!" to a Muslim, and (in this little shop, anyway) they aren't going to react very kindly if you do!

"No! No Namaste here!" he shouted, as I quickly dropped my hands down from my forehead, where I'd momentarily held them with palms together.

"Oh, sorry. I thought it meant 'Hell." What should I say then?" (From all the Buddhist stuff he was selling, I didn't realize he was Muslim.)

"As-Salāmu `Alaykum," he replied.

I did my best to repeat it back to him. 

Once greetings were out of the way, he was more than happy to book me a ticket and said I could catch a bus that evening, at 6:45. Sounded great to me, so he told me to meet back at the shop at 6:30 and he'd arrange for a ride to the bus. 

I came back, I couldn't remember what the greeting was he'd told me, so I went with a simple, "Hi." Though, a part of me still felt like telling him, "Namaste." I looked around but there was no driver there waiting. After a few minutes went by, I asked when the driver would be there and he said, just wait. 6:45 came and went, and still he just told me to wait. I was getting a little fidgety wondering how I was going to get a bus that had already left, but he told me to relax and wait, this was India time, after all. 

Eventually, my ride showed up and drove me to the end of the market and down the street a little ways, then dropped me off at a gas station and left.  I can't say I wasn't repressing a fairly strong urge to panic, but I did see a few Indian men also waiting with bags. Eventually a bus pulled up and I heard someone call out, "Dharamsala!" and I thanked who ever or what ever it was who/that had always kept me out of trouble in my travels. 

Sit, squat, or neither?

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