A quick trip up to Singapore last weekend for a meeting could have actually easily been a one day turn around. But It has been a while since I caught up with old friends Peter Schoppert (once a publisher, and a dotcom wiz, he is now with McKinsey & Company looking after external relations – but his real talent is simply being a genius about everything that’s going on!) and his wife Lee Chor Lin, a mover and shaker in Singapore’s museum world and who now runs the Singapore National Museum of Singapore. Chor Lin has injected a huge dose of life into NMS, overseeing the huge renovation and additions a few years ago, bringing in all kinds of interesting and contemporary exhibits.

Up right now are two contemporary photography exhibitions which, if you are in Singapore or have some time to spend there, are absolute musts to see.dsc_2448.jpg

They are both housed in the spacious underground exhibit halls, which is very fortunate for the first one especially – Robert Wilson’s “VOOM PORTRAITS.

This exhibit has travelled and is not new, but here each portrait gets a whole large cubicle like space to itself – every photogs dream. The portraits are video stills – almost. As you stand there standing at portraits of the likes of brad pitt, suddenly they move. It’s kind of eerie and wonderful. Wilson really catches you off guard with the minimalist movement, and a smooth indiscernible looping of the tapes.

The other exhibit, Chang Chien-Chi’s “Doubleness” is three of his exhibitions put together, which again is only possible in this fantastic space. The first one, from which the title comes is about the whole scene behind arranged marriages. Many of the images are disturbing and touching at the same time. Deceptively simple, straightforward shots from the inside of the registry counter, mass wedding setups, it all speaks of quiet desperation and quick fixes. The next section is disturbing in a different take on desperation: “Chains” shows portraits of inmates at an asylum which simply chains pairs of inmates together – slightly better of ones with dificult case. The theory being one would help the other. When you look at the images you get the feeling the opposite is going on. And this in our times. The last part is off Chinese migrant workers in New York, and the families they left behind – years of separation.

What is a bit sad about these exhibits is how few people were there. Most seemed to be those who had stumbled on it on their outing to see the “new’ museum. Both exhibits warrant a lot more publicity, both (especially Taiwanese Chang Chien-chi’s) have quite a lot to say about our contemporary world. A Sunday afternoon at the NMS is worth it, plus you get these two world class exhibits! Check it out: http://www.nationalmuseum.sg/

On the ‘private’ side of Singapore’s art scene, Peter and Chor Lin took me down to the dockside were the inimitable Valentine Willy set up his latest fine art gallery (VWFA) in a warehouse – all white and huge. That is if you can find it on Keppel road inTanjong Pagar in a building called – wait for it – Distripark. (Here Valentine is seen consorting with the Grand Doyenne of singapore’s art scene, Marjorie Chu)

img_0477.jpgFilippo Sciasca (previously of Gaya) is showing a handful of his canvas takes on Carravagio. Brave of them to show just a few, and indeed that is how it should be: show only what needs to be shown. The canvas, cracked and crackled like some renaissance batik, are so thick with glue and resin that even when one of the frames broke during shipping, the canvas was so stiff that it stayed flat, so Filippo tells me. I like this collection, it does reach across the centuries. There were a lot of familiar faces down there, old Indonesia hands like Mary Edleson, and dancer Restu heavy with twins.


Looks like it will still be awhile before the arts get really popular in Singapore. So we (Peter, Chor Lin, Meena Mylvaganam and I) wind up the evening off Cuppage Center with mexican food and then some live music. A very slick Malaysian guitarist who is close to being a genius but seems stuck at the ‘wiz’ level . We call it a night at midnight and head home. I miss color here….img_0480.jpg

VISION….. AND THE LITERAL LACK OF IT. Two films from Balinale

The Balinale International Film Fetsival is well and truly over, showing some great films and some less so, and despite a couple of little tech hiccups at showings (in Ubud in particular, “someone get the circuit breakers…”) seems to have gone off well. Congrats to the organizers for helping to enrich Bali’s cultural pool. I have been meaning to post some comments about two films I saw, which deal with vision – and the literal lack of it. Why they intrigued me is of course very subjective on the one hand – Michael Wiese, who made “Sacred Sites of The Dalai Lamas: A Pilgrimage to the Oracle Lake”, is a friend and the subject matter is of course close to my heart; John Fawcett, who was the subject of God Made Them Blind, is also an old friend. On the other not-so-subjective hand, I am so glad to see more content-over-form film, where the film makers have simply focused on being dictated by the subject instead of spending time and money on fancy footwork. Granted there is a slightly amateurish tinge in both, but the awkwardness is overcome by the subject matter, and if anything makes it more real. I was glad not to have lots of clever visuals or mtv sensationalism interfere in either of these films. For a Tibetan Buddhist, watching Sacred Sites, a vaguely cinema verité take on a modern day Buddhist pilgrimage, really gives one the feel of being there. Though pilgrimages may sound like something exalted, there are also always the nitty gritty bits of travel which enforce reality checks – logistical obstacles, sickness, fatigue, and so on. If anything pilgrimages are really about what happens inside us as we confront all of this, as well as how we absorb the extraordinarily sacred places we visit. The places we see and experience in this film are remote not only in space but in time as well. It feels like being a 21st time traveller in 16th century Tibet, and for a Tibetan Buddhist, it is like treading on hallowed ground – caves of great masters like Guru Rinpoche, Atisha, Milarepa and other famed hermits attained enlightenment, valleys where spiritual communities of the highest order lived and flourished, and finally the oracle lake where the history-determining visions are sought. We travel in the company of Glen Mullin, a living legend for Tibetan Buddhists, and the irrepresible Bhutanese teacher, venerable Khenpo Tashi. The simple, hand held camera work, the candidness of musician Steve Dancz’s narration make it an intimate encounter. When you watch these scenes you know that these are not ordinary places. The “vibe” comes through. It is a kind of vindication for Michael, who, strapped with the technological reality of recording this journey, obviously had to sacrifice some sense of the sanctity of the pilgrimage – if nothing else working when others were meditating!

In “God Made Them Blind”, film maker (what else do you call someone who like Michael also wrote, directed and produced their film?) Richard Todd spent more than four years documenting the extraordinary community work of John Fawcett in Bali. John Fawcett, who is an earthy western Australian ceramicist, has devoted the last decade or two to providing free eye operations for literally tens of thousands of poor Balinese. After a traumatic nearly crippling accident, the pain from which left him in a state of deep depression, John somehow found his way to Bali. Here he found inspiration to move forward again, and one day he came upon the idea to set up a mobile clinic. That is the short version. The story itself is told with refreshing, humble candor, and we follow John in his encounters with poor Balinese farmers and fishing folk, slowly overcoming their superstitions: “God made them blind” said one farmer about 8 of 12 his children who were genetically blinded by an operable condition, for 12 years refusing to let John have them operated on; the moment he finally relents is caught on camera in an almost anitclimactic yet touching way – which is how most of these moments actually do happen. There are several stories intertwined, and different reactions: moments of quiet joy and wonder when vision is restored to the one of the girls referred to in the title, the bewilderment and wonder of a two year old who had never seen anything before in her life, the quiet, resigned disappointment of a older peasant woman who, after finally being convinced to see the doctor, found she had left it too long and could not be helped. Through it all is John’s life story, his pain, and his dedication to this extraordinary service: by most counts the program has successfully given sight back to twenty five thousand Balinese. And Richard, bless him, helps us see this. My hat is off to both these film makers, who have documented inspiration with the minimum of fuss.

the spice of life, Singapore Sluggish, bali-nale film fest, and India reaches for the moon!!

Spice is the pulse of life in Cochin, and it is certainly the orientation that Eveready marketing people here have seemed to cottoned on to…img_0374.jpgBimg_0358.jpgbut seriously, if you are looking for spices in Cochin, and a proper shopping experience you can forget about Jew-town. The Jewish quarter is exotic, and fun to see, but if it’s shopping you want it is trap. It is worth the trip into hot and muggy Ernakulam to Broadway (“a very narrow street” our taxi driver dryly quipped) – people are more real, the prices are pretty much realistic, surprisingly enough even the locals claim that prices are pretty fixed, and it is altogether a more pleasant and fruitful shopping experience. img_0365.jpgFrom Cochin we catch the red eye to Singapore. It is pretty impossible to sleep: I have my AudioTechnica noise cancellation earphones in, but when I gallantly offer them to Monica I discover the nightmare that has kept her tossing and turning. The gentlemen next to her, behind us and in front of us seem to have sinus problems, sniffling and snorting literally every 5 minutes. It is an amazing concert, and think a great opportunity for Kleenex, to er, um, clean up. The poor stewardesses on this wretched Silk Air flight do a turnaround from Singapore: something like 11 hours on deck – mildly wild, but imagine doing it every other day. Anyway Singapore airport at six am offers little more than Starbucks. Monica heads off to her Bangkok flight, I head into town. Already my main meeting has been cancelled but I figure I can get my lens fixed and a new power supply for my Mac. In the long wait at the check in counter at the Orchard Hotel’s reception desk I run into Paul Ropp, who has just blown (no typo) in from Delhi. We have breakfast, and he tells me that he is town for a gall bladder operation. Never had an operation before and a tad nervous. I must sympathize. But funny how everyone in my sphere is getting gall bladder problems lately! I finally get my room, and I have to say its just like a little cupboard with amenities, many of which end up getting charged to your bill. A nice relaxing dinner with friends takes the edge off my travel discombulation. The next day I discover that Nikon can’t fix my lens in less than 4 weeks (how’s that for service) and I decide to blow the joint (Singapore). I spend more than an hour trying to get thru to a human being at Singapore airlines (“for english press 1, for reservartions press 2, for… etc etc, then finally please hold”) after 8 minutes of computer sprach I am told to ring again (yes by the computer). I am ready to wring alright, and it wouldn’t be a computer’s neck. World’s worst Buddhist I am at that moment. Then last minute lunch appointment with old pal Peter Schoppert gets cancelled as it has been raining and the traffic in Singapore gets totally glutinous at the slightest drop.. I can’t wait to get to the airport: what has become of that efficient Singapore of legend? BALI: Galleria the next evening is the venue for the opening night of Balinale, an international film festival which is the brainchild of Debbie Gabenatti (seen her with volunteer Kelly Marciano on the left)img_0384.jpg and there is a full crowd in attendance. My old favorites Rima Melati and Christine Hakim, two jewels of the Indonesian film industry and who are warm inside out, are there, and it gladdens the heart. It turns out that the people I shared a row with on the plane are there, and Kate is from the Chaplin films outfit – what a small world. Debbie and her team have been working hard, there are 50 odd films to be seen, many are award winners. The opener is a bit of an insider’s film, it is a doco about Pierre Rissient which is a tad long, and there are a few walkouts, but I am glued to my seat . It is a fascinating look at a man, a kingmaker behind the scenes, who helped to shape the careers of many in the west and in the east – Clint Eastwood, Sydney Pollack, King Hu, etc, and of course Christine too. She introduces the film along with Pierre’s assistant, as Pierre is in hospital in Paris with a broken ankle. I am intrigued to see my photograph being used at every opportunity by the festival, even as the projected backdrop in the theatre. Fame at last…img_0395.jpg There are some great films on, and if you are in Bali at least check out the program here: http://balifilm.com/balinale/ProgramOverview.htm Meanwhile, from Andra Pradesh not so very far from where I was lazing on a house boat last week drifting through backwaters where most people live a pretty basic life without plumbing (they have the whole river…), India has just launched it’s first moon (unmanned) mission. This is supposed to make it less of a third world country, despite it’s impoverished millions. There is a huge pro and contra debate going on but one thing is for sure is that there is a huge amount of nationalist pride going on. img_0400.jpg

backwaters, Christianity, Cochin, Islam, Kashmiris, and Crows

The highlight of the whole vacation is a two night boathouse trip drifting through the backwaters of Kerala. It’s very dreamy, slow pace going along canals as people come out to do their washing, or simply gaze back at as and wave as we go by. The name Kerala (ké-rla) is a bit of a no brainer: kera= coconut, ‘la’= land. We luck out at one point in Champakulam and run into the church ritual marking the beginning of a Syrian Christian religious period (didn’t quite catch what it was, Keralans have a tendency to speak English like they do Malayam, fast staccato, and clipped – there are enough syllables in the average Keralan proper noun to fill an dsc_0729.jpgalphabet). But what is interesting is how early Christianity came to Kerala – some say around the time of St Thomas. So there are all manner of Christians, living side by side with Hindus and Muslims in peace. More on that later. But the richness of the Syrian Christian colors here is uniquely local.dsc_0417.jpgsyrian-chucrch2.jpg_d3b9508.jpgBut for sure, as in most religious traditions of India, one feels the strength of people’s faith here. There is of course still much stronger conservative social elements which form part of the drive, but again as in all religious traditions in India there is much personal conviction and devotion. dsc_1760.jpg_d3b8836.jpgdsc_9547.jpgKerala, so slow and sleepy, seems to allow that faith in all its variety to create a harmony, (for example, one sees Muslims tourists visiting churches) and all go about their ways quietly side by side. But there are shadows of the India’s flip side, the senseless communal riots which are mostly the creations of politicians eager to exploit this massive reserve of energy locked up within the faith that Indians have to their respective religions: many Keralans believe that some of the new Indian bred Muslim terrorists (as opposed to the previous bogey, Pakistani terrorists, or for that matter even the Hindu descendants of the assassins of Mahatma Gandhi) use Kerala as a meeting place, and that there are training camps in the forests. It’s a typical India “probable” but there is yet little published evidence to substantiate it. But on another ‘front’ what is clear is that the merchant Kashmiri’s, India’s pushiest tourist ‘operators’ who seem to own shops anywhere a foreign tourist sets foot, have established a very strong foothold in the local tourist industry. After our slow boat ride, it is really rankling to be continuously assaulted as we walk down what were once very charming streets in Jewtown. There are now only maybe four Jewish families (as I mentoned earlier in the blog) but there are scores of Kashmiri shops. TheKashmiri vendors’ smooth talking, pushy style really contrasts with the laid back Keralan politesse, and I become irritable at my own lack of patience with them and my own prejudice. Our autorickshaw driver pushes me to a snap by continuously trying to take us to different shops run by his friends, and I get grumpy. Later, poor Monica, who herself has a passion for photography, cops it from me when she inadvertently steps into my frame at the fish market. I feel like I am grasping at straws, and later on am so out of sorts that I mistakenly format a card full of images – half of my last days take on the boat ride with some of the best images. So they are all lost. I go into a funk, and much later really regretting being so mean. I realize how great my attachment to images is, and how it in turn gets in the way. When my companion points out that I seem to value these images more than human relationships I feel ashamed, and feel like giving up photography if I continue to have this manic attachment. I remember René Burri of Magnum telling me that he tries to remind his fellow photogs that we are humans first, and photographers second. I must remember this advice. It is perhaps one of the most important things I have learnt in sleepy Cochin, (which incidentally is so full of crows, considered to be messengers of the wrathful Tibetan protector Mahakala).dsc_1442.jpg

holiday in kerala

In more than thirty years of visiting India I am ashamed to say I have never really explored the south, so now I have decided to rectify this. Prodded on by my keen explorer friend and intrepid travel companion Monica, I am trying out a vacation in Kerala (both time off and Kerala are new to me!). In Dharamsala though, on my second to last day, I get a shock. My trusted 24-70mm nikkor lens, designed for the full frame D3, falls apart – the mount screws have somehow come loose, and no amount of my fiddling can put this egg back together again. I realize I have left my 60mm back home, and a slow burn panic sets in. Three cheers for my good old friend photograher Raghu Rai for saving the day, he arranged for his trusted supplier to sell me a top condition second hand 24-85 (older lens but works ok for full frame D3) in Delhi. I am a bit wary of this older model lens, as it does have a reputation its helicoid slipping as it ages but so far so good. And Raghu, who is certaily one of the most brilliant photogs I have ever known, insists that he has taken most of his best shots with this lens. Hmm ok, if its good enough for Raghu it should be good enough for me – but could I just borrow his eyes too for a while???? Raghu’s loyal helper Nanden, who has been working for him for years delivers it to me at the guest house. Nanden has a motorbike, looks well fed and prospering – here he is at 40!nanden.jpg . A 3 hour plane ride down from Delhi brings me into Cochin (Kochi), and on the way I am again, for the umpteenth time, struck by the sheer physicality of the vastness of India. dsc_9305.jpgMonica comes in from Singapore direct on Silk Air. As Raghu Rai exclaimed over the phone when he heard this: “Isn’t India incredible now: you can fly anywhere from anywhere!” In fact many in India are prospering, as is evidenced by the number of middle class Indian tourists travelling abroad and througho9ut their own country. But the Kerala seems to be doing especially well. With a 100% literacy rate amongst Keralans and a reasonably healthy economy, hats off to the communist governments of Kerala of the past decades. But of course local travel agents and other tourist industry operators are holding their breath to see what happens with the world financial melt down. And as always in India, the contrasts can be startling – between the billboard dreams and reality,dsc_9354.jpg and the luxuries of 5 star resorts like the ex-colonial Burnton Boatyard in Cochin.dsc_9359.jpg

dsc_9424.jpgHere we go a little over budget and splurge on a couple of nights of waterfront luxury, fishing boats go by our window, and the staff are just dying to serve us. Dangerously addictive. Anyhow Cochin overflows with its colonial past, ghosts of Dutch, Portuguese and English competition for control of the spice trade, and their subsequent Christian legacy is felt everywhere here. But there are also Syrian Orthodox churches, Muslims, (Hindus of course) and the odd Jew – apparently only 4 families left in the old Jewish quarter of Cochin. Cochin is certainly a melting pot. Rev P.J. Jacob, vicar of St Francis Church in Fort Cochin oversees a flock of some 200 families, and tends to the registrars in a church which is the oldest standing Christian church here. _d3b8560.jpgVasco da Gama was buried here for a decade or so before being disinterred and returned to Europe. (looking at the rather small grave site, a guide wrily remarks that da Gama was “quite a short man, barely 5 ft”). On Sunday churches are all overflowing. Our driver Raj Kumar, a portly Keralan who looks like pirate but is extremely considerate and a great driver/guide, tries to sound bland as he remarks that “Sunday mass is compulsory. If don’t go to mass, then later difficult to get married in church. !” But color is everywhere, bright and rich.dsc_9569.jpg dsc_9602.jpgThere is no fear of going overboard. One slightly lonely Durga temple, where the goddess is being dressed up by a Brahmin, reminds me we are still in Hindu India.That and a slightly touristy daily Kathakali show we catch in a nearly empty airconditioned theater. Next morning we head off to the hills, we will do a final tour of Cochin on our way back._d3b8639.jpg For now it is up to the hills to Munar, around 5000 feet above sea level and most definitely tea country. There are masses of domestic tourists about, many down from booming Bangalore (though Kerala aspires to compete in the internatonal IT biz, now might not be the time?) all enjoying themselves immensely._d3b9103.jpg In the tea plantations it is mainly Tamil workers, apparently Keralans aren’t interested in the low wage scale. So the Tamils have migrated here for generations, some have married into local families. _d3b9098.jpgMeanwhile on the roadsides one sees fantasy mansions built with money earned by Keralans who have gone to the gulf states to find their fortunes (and they did!), so everyone seems to be happy. But it is a tiny state in India, and doesn’t necessarily reflect the whole picture, I am sure.

mcleod grunge

Back in Dharamsala/McLeod Ganj for the first time in years, and can only say that it has somehow managed to get more crowded (it’s gone vertical) filthier in town (though the garbage pick up seems to work overtime, and the huge hillsides full of aqua bottles have gone). The drivers are all certifiable. Dinner at the hotel tibet, once the fancy place in town was barely do-able as the toilets reeked right up the stair well to the top floor. But the jewel in this muddy lotus is of course being able to attend the teachings HH the Dalai Lama gave last week to a huge group of Taiwanese, Singaporean and Malaysian Chinese. Very organized bunch, with flags and roating schedules for who sits in the temple. Loads of Indian tourists as usual, but must say I find most of them very devotional and are thrilled to see HHDL live. It’s quite touching how un-artificial their sense of veneration is. HHDL was in pretty good form, recovered from his bout of exhaustion but all the attendants keeping a watchful eye that he doesn’t overdo it, regular medical check ups are pretty much in order for the next few months. haven’t really done too much photographydsc_9149.jpgand these shots are pretty much classic. but for those who haven’t been, well this is what one set of views look like (from the balcony of the Ashoka guest house.mcleodpan1.jpgThe mixture of languages and people that now inhabit the Dharmasala circuit is mindboggling, there are tuvans in Thai fishermen pants, Latvians talking to Icelanders, half Tibetan-and- anything-else kids running around. Just about anything. It’s a cool world in that way – I flew in from singapore next to a Polish Bolivian (swedish national) who spoke English like an office worker from London, and on the flight up chatted with a Latvian-American photographer – not to mention the tall, radiant Finnish-Bengali girl at Delhi airport we both chatted up (relax, she was married and off to a meditation retreat). Well now that there are more of us mix ups, being Turkish Indonesian doesn’t feel so strange anymore. Anyhow India has always had a history of tribes floating through. How it copes with modernity in the future is anyone’s guess, but there ae plenty of entrepreneurs who try. In delhi just outside the monastery guest house where I stay, there is a an electric car dealership – not quite the sleek look GM is looking for, but in Delhi’s crowded streets and parking spot battles these make sense. But I won’t buy one just yet.img_0295.jpgimg_0294.jpgnothing like straight talk I say. More later!

the man up in the air

It has been a fast moving and tiring week, and now after only about 8 days on Bali am at Changi airport trying not to overspend. But they did have a 40 language translating gadget including Tibetan – the world has changed. Anyway looking bak on that week which started with a kind of new agey spacey session at a wellness spa in denpasar where one of the partners demonstrated “channeling the energy of the universe by candle light – but then went on to say that he would be happy to see the Bali bombers executed (killed was the term I believe). Hmm its a cruel universe..balibomb-rh0019.jpgwell David and I did a bunch of stuff in between, me every night uploading to German Vanity Fair who thankfully loved what we gave them (thank goodness – imagine staying up to 1 am and getting up at 5.30 everyday and them not liking it… )Then we wound up the whole week with an interview with Kadek Wiranatha of Ku De Ta who over lunch, and after explaining how he did a deal with a banjar to build Ku De Ta on part of their cemetery, said that he doesn’t believe in magic but “I’m sure there is a someone up in the air who knows everything..”. Two ends of a very Balinese spectrum I guess!dsc_8826.jpgOh well off to India. Slightly more to the philosphical spectrum there I am willing to bet.

who keeps remembering the bombs?

It has been my pleasure this week to work once again with writer David Leser from Australia on a story in Bali, and once again it is for a European magazine. The story is about the bomb, but of course a very different angle this time, 6 and 3 years on. dsc_8672.jpgDavid is intelligent and (not always a given) witty, a man who has seen a lot with no dearth of interesting anecdotes to share. David was born into publishing (his dad was a major player in the Conde Nast world) but struck out on his own early in his career. He has been visiting Bali for years.. Back to the bomb: It interesting to see as time goes on that many Balinese really have moved on (and why not indeed) and really don’t think that much about the bomb anymore except for taking bets on when the culprits will be executed. It is time the rest of us moved on too I suppose. Reviewing some of my old images (the least graphic of which I show here) does bring back a slight bitter tang, a drying of the mouth. balibomb-rh0002.jpgnow of course there are only memories and memorials, and the odd poignant message.balibomb-rh0006.jpgIt is interesting to see just how subjective memory is. It is also interesting to see how various different people interpret the changes that have come to Bali since. But I do wonder if we will ever recover from the post bomb international (and local) carpet bagger invasion…

The School at Dagpo Shedrup Ling

One of the projects that Dagpo Rinpoche has going annexed to the monastery is a school for local and other Himalayan kids. It provides an education for kindergarden, primary and the equivalent of junior high school, with most of the kids boarding. Of course during Rinpoche’s recent visit the kids came up to show their respects, of course the tibetan custom of showing your tongue in respect might seem startling but hey different strokes for different folks:dsc_6833.jpg.IN any case their despite their conditions being pretty basic, with one communal bathroom being shared by all, the spirit is great. The older kids (13 years old) are dorm prefects for the little ones, they are responsible for around 20 kids each getting their bedding, cleaning their rooms, and doing their morning and evening prayers. Such a difference from teenagers in the ‘developed’ world. dsc_7834.jpgdsc_7794.jpgThis school provides an opportunity whch for many simply wouldn’t be there. They learn a basic curriculum plus English and Tibetan, and most of the kids spoke basic English. The older ones like this 13 year old prefect spoke reasonable conversational English, even coaching the younger ones in her care. I guess a strong sense of community helps. Although the school gets some direct donations, their water and electricity is mostly subsidized by the monastery. They have basic necessities, but I do mean very basic. Though by no means is this an official appeal for donations, if anyone is inspired to make a donation please contact me and I will redirect you to the relevant people. A few of the kids are from Ladakh, from very poor families, and as Ladakh is closed during the winter months they end up staying for the two month winter break. Some of these are pretty young still.dsc_7768.jpg

2 weeks in the Himalayas

dsc_6636.jpgJust got back from two weeks in Dagpo Shedrup Ling Monastery in the Kullu valley where the Ven Dagpo Rinpoche was giving teachings to a mix of his foreign students from Europe and Asia and the monks at this newly relocated monastery, inaugurated acouple of years ago by HH the Dalai Lama. Rinpoche was taching two texts from his lineage simultaneously, it was certainly an in depth transmission further enhanced by various explanations which are only found in the oral tradition. Besides the fact that any internet connection was either incredibly slow or a minimum half an hours drive away, I have to say it was refreshing to be without the net for a while. It was wonderful to to watch the monks interact with their Lama, as Rinpoche spends most of his time in France these occasions are doubly precious for them. They showed Rinpoche their skills in debate (quite a lively affair, no quarter given!!!):dsc_6238.jpgdsc_6405.jpgdsc_6441.jpgOne thing I did discover (not that I didn’t know it before but it really came home) is that the Nikon D3s I am using, which despite having fantastic response and great image processing in radical light, are very large , obtrusive and noisy in intimate situations. I do miss my old film contax G2 rangefinders which were perfect for that kind of thing. In any case the new monastery is thriving, and the monks’ education is going well and nobody minded my camera too much (or were polite about it). Meanwhile Rinpoche has insisted that the kitchen only serve vegetarian food, and the head cook, who despite being mute is pretty fierce, keeps the younger monks in line. dsc_7100.jpgdsc_6056.jpgbut this monastery has always been famous for its discipline, especially in the old days. Everyone does their share of work.dsc_6081.jpg In what felt like no time at all the two weeks were over, then it was back to Delhi and the heat for a day, then the afternoon flight to Bangkok.