In the town of Dalai Lama – 3

Dharmshala is a bigger town than Macleodganj-Forsythganj. One thing that strikes you immediately about Dharmshala is the total absence of political hoardings in every square. Pune is utterly infamous for its flex culture pouring out it’s ugliness in the name of pomp and exhibiting insecurity of some people. Vanity of vanities, as the Bible says. It was therefore very pleasant to see cityscape clear of political hoardings.

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We didn’t have much time there but one thing no one wanted to miss was the majestic Dharmshala cricket stadium. It overlooks the snow-clad Dhauladhar summits in the background. Really majestic yet sublime. I am not a cricket fan but those of you who are should come here once. 

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Because the Shimla side of Himachal is more known, the number of outsiders on the Kangra side is relatively less but yet sizeable. It’s all poised to change now. The present CM of Himachal has been holding winter sessions of the state assembly in Dharmshala for last many years and he recently announced it to be the second capital of the state. It’s supposed to be the master-stroke in the upcoming assembly elections there. 

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On the journey, we also got an opportunity to meet the manager of Palampur tea processing cooperative. He was a very well informed and also enthusiastic enough to talk to us. Kangra valley tea is somewhat different from the Darjeeling and Assam tea. The kind is different and so is the processing. The cooperative was loss making a few years ago and the government had to take over. Today the losses are minimised and it is working fine. There are some private factories around but overall area under tea cultivation is not large here, people prefer other traditional crops like rice over tea. The harvest season here is shorter compared to the eastern Himalayas, and thus smaller is the processing season. And the usual paradox of India – that labour is difficult to find in the country of 1.3 billion population – was true here too. Plucking season demand of labour is huge. I have never understood this paradox well. The whole tea processing that we witnessed is a simple drying and segregating process – but the weathering stage which is crucial in the whole scheme of things is the most energy and time consuming. Most of the final product is green tea and black tea, not the CTC type which Indians largely consume, and thus its largely exported. But not directly. They auction it at Kolkata Tea Board first. 

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There is a place nearby in adjoining Mandi district for commercial paragliding. It’s a good place if you are interested in some adventure. Although largely safe and simple, it does take some gumption to jump in the valley.

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People here are involved in constructing homes and hotels everywhere – in the plains and on the slopes, in the corners and on the road side, near the markets and far away. There is some amount of prosperity here largely owing to tourism industry as the local economic activity is mostly very basic. SBI ATMs can be sighted everywhere. Noticing it gives you some kind of patriotic feeling, like the one when we locate Indian Post Office in random border town. There is a narrow-gauge train too, coming from Pathankot. It’s not as famous as Kalka Shimla one but there is some scope to improve the connectivity. The roads however are superb. One must salute the state government for that. Shimla side people find Chandigarh nearer and go there for marketing or for other needs. For Kangra and Chamba it’s Pathankot, not Chandigarh. There is one Himalayan Bioresource Technology Institie of CSIR there. We didn’t get time to go there and see what they do. 

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There are many small cantonments here, dotting the landscape. Many schools here are named after Vikram Batra (PVC) who belonged to this region. Kangra also has distinction of producing the first PVC of India – Captain Somnath Sharma. Like the neighboring Kumaun Himalayas, this region is also known for producing excellent jawans and many officers, known for their professionalism and valour.

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That is all.. It was a short trip of two days. Final impression is that of the Himalayas. It’s lasting. It’s a beauty where serenity meets majesty and creates a magic. That magic keeps you calling back to Himalayas again. That magical feeling never goes away. That magic persists deep inside your heart. That magic of the Himalayas.

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