October 20, 2006

A Night At The Movies In Dharamsala

Perched high up in the Indian Himalaya, is the small enclave of Dharamsala. Dharamsala and its neighbouring township McCleod Ganj, is home to a thriving community of Tibetan exiles, including His Holiness, The Dalai Lama.

To reach this bastion of Tibetan Buddhism, the traveller is required to take transport up a winding, treacherous mountain road, that leaves little room for oncoming traffic.

On arrival, it becomes apparent that this is a place unlike any other in India. Everywhere are monks and nuns, clad in their maroon and saphron-coloured robes, wandering about doing their daily business. There are also many backpackers, attracted by the spiritual promise.

One evening, my friend and I decided that we would entertain ourselves by visiting the local cinema. Now, by cinema, I do not mean a multiplex, but rather a tiny room at the back of a food store, that had seating for only 12 people.

We purchased our tickets and took our seats, staring at the regular sized television set that was sat in front of us. The presentation for the evening was The Replacement Killers, with Mira Sorvino and Chow Yun-Fat; an extremely average film with lots of shooting and chasing.

The highlight of the evening came not from the film, but from watching some of our companions in the "cinema". Sat in front of us, were four Buddhist monks, who seemed entranced by the movie. Each time there was an action sequence, they leaned closer to the television, obviously gripped by the high jinks before them. There was enormous novelty to be had from witnessing this incongruous clash of culture, tradition and modernity.

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