Questions Without Answers

In lieu of the ridiculously long entry that I wrote in my old fashioned moleskine (I will fill the moleskine before I leave India and will have to make do with what I can find here. There are lots of journals available, mostly with homemade paper that I refuse to write on long term. I will begin my search for a suitable, sturdy, lined replacement shortly.) about the first of the three teachings of the Dalai Lama, I am posting a series of questions. The entry I wrote post Dalai Lama was a good one, with lots of self determination and anti-Buddhist thoughts involving my own sense of self, but I haven’t figured out how to filter it out properly for general consumption. Some personal development simply isn’t meant for a blog. (As a result, almost all of the big stuff I’ve worked through has not made it on here.)

I’m glad that I went to (a) teaching of the Dalai Lama, but I did not go to the afternoon one and I won’t go to the one tomorrow. They really are designed for Buddhists, which I am not. Thanks to all my studies in college, I could more than follow what he was lecturing on. However, I would get more out of reading his lecture than I would out of sitting on the floor watching a tv screen and listening to the FM radio English translation.

Anyway. Dharamsala is so different from the rest of India that the contrasts have provided a lot of questions for me. A lot of things I’ve gotten used to (such as staring, photographs, etc.) don’t happen here with its majority Tibetan influence. It’s a nice relief, but it did bring up a bunch of questions. Questions that don’t need answers, really. These questions are filled with generalizations as well – with a country of over a billion people, this doesn’t apply to everyone, obviously.

Why do Indians have this habit of taking photographs without asking? Those of them who are polite enough to ask, why do they want a photograph of someone whose name they do not know and they have no real connection to other than being in the same place at the same time? Indian men will often take my photograph on their cell phone without asking, and I’ve heard that a lot of them show these pictures to their friends and claim that it’s their American girlfriend that puts out. But it’s not limited to Indian men (though they are more likely to just take it without asking), Indian women and families will often stop me to ask if I will pose in a picture with them. I don’t get it.

What’s with the staring? They will physically move to get a better view of staring at you, men and women alike (men are creepier about it). On trains with beds that have curtains, my friends tell me that they’ve had men open the curtains of their (as in, my friend’s) bed so they can stare at them. Which is creepy. But women will also just stare at you for what seems like hours. You just have to ignore it, though I really don’t get what they find so fascinating about me.

Why do Westerners say “please” and “thank you” as often as we do?

Why do Indians expect a tip for not bloody doing anything? Did Westerners start this? Because a tip is for service, a tip is optional. A tip is not for slamming my chai down on a table and ignoring me for the rest of my time. A tip is not for me writing down my order and you bringing me the food and then disappearing. A tip is not for just barely doing your job, or doing your job poorly, or not doing it all. For a country where tipping is not the norm, the entitlement surrounding it (and me, as a westerner) is appalling.

What does it say about Western culture that when I see the physical affection between [Indian or Tibetan] men here I am startled?

Why are there Indian beggars but no Tibetan ones [in Dharamsala]?

Why do backpackers find it acceptable to be unwashed, poorly clothed, and rude representations of Western culture? Traveling is not an excuse to be dirty. So what if your hostel doesn’t have a shower. That’s what that damned bucket is for. Also: Lady, in the United States those would not be pants. They would be tights. Here they’re just obscene.

If we actually throw our garbage away (in a rubish bin), does it end up in a garbage dump or does someone else just dump it on the street? I can’t tell.

Why do shopkeepers think that harassing me will make me go in their store? Why, if I am looking at [journals, statues, anything but scarves] do they drag me over to their scarf collection?

Why do Indian people who speak English speak it so damned fast? Do they think that it’s an accomplishment to speak their second language that quickly? Does the American accent seem slow to them?

Why do Indians bother saying that they’ll be over at 12:30 if they won’t show up until 2? Why not just say they’ll be over in the afternoon (or would they then show up in the evening)?

Why are the stray dogs here [in Dharamsala] so much more friendly and well fed than they are elsewhere in India? (Possible answer: I doubt they get kicked as often.)

Anyway. Eventually I’ll post pictures and possibly the more processed version of my thoughts regarding the Dalai Lama’s teachings.

Tomorrow? A day hike to Triund. It’s my first hike at this elevation… which I need as prep for Nepal, really.
For comparison: Old Rag is 1,001 meters and Mount Katahdin is 1,606 meters. Triund is at 2,827 meters.
I’m at about 1,770 meters already and this hike is only about 10 km/6 miles. But it’s not the distance, it’s the elevation that may be a concern. I only wish I had time (and the equipment, because I wasn’t planning on trekking up here most of my stuff is back in Faridabad) to go further and maybe do an overnight.

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