It is so cold, I can't sleep . I am lying on the top bunk bed on the train to Patankhot, freezing. I have only a polar jacket and a light sheet covering me. I raise my head and see my young Panjabi neighbor who is lying under a thick wool blanket, listening to music and wearing a red "rapper" hat that reads 'obey'. Remembering the dark chocolate cake that I bought earlier, I reach out for my bag and grab the cake. I offer to share it with my young neighbor, and he says, "it's very tasty". Then, he hands me a colorful plastic bracelet, and tells me that he learned to make it by watching youtube. We eat our cake slowly and happily. After we finish, I try to sleep again, letting myself go to the voice of Ane Brun. The train is moving slowly, the cold wind is getting through to my skin. It is dark and silent, the trains movement wraps the people like a cradle. In the middle of the night, I wake up, my young neighbor is in a deep sleep. I raise my head, when I see the eyes of a man looking at me intensely from the seat next to the door corner. I put my head again on my backpack and crawl under the cotton sheet and try to sleep.
Dawn breaks slowly, people get off, and the cart gets less crowded. Finally in the train like dawn breaking the dark , silence is broken with the cry of salesmen "pokhara! chai!" People awaken, mid bunks are closed. I get down, and small talk start. I am the only tourist in the compartment, the other passengers ask me where I am coming from, where I am going to. I tell them that I am from Turkey, coming from Goa,and going to Dhramsala,to listen the teachings of the Dalai Lama. They approve with pride. Then, my monk friend walks in wearing his maroon monk dress, whom I had met as I was getting onto the train. He had told me that we would go to Dhramsala together. He joins our conversation, tells us that he is originally from Tibet but living in Nepal in exile and he was chosen for the meeting which would take 3 days in a monastery. Afterwards, he will join the long life ceremony of the Dalai Lama. Through the conversation, languages change from English to Hindi from time to time. They then translate, we make jokes, we laugh, we are happy.
Finally the train arrives to Pathankot, I leave the station with my new friends. They tell me to wait for them to arrange a minibus. I meet the other monks and we talk.. adding each other on Facebook. They arrange a minibus and the gang gets in, all the seats are full. On the road we share food , stories and laughter. We slowly drive up to the mountain path. I see monkeys on the road scream with surprise, my new friends laugh at me. We listen to the latest pop songs and have fun. It takes about three hours and a half to reach Mc Leod Ganj. We all say goodbye, with the hope of seeing each other again. I pull my luggage on the dirt roads of Mac Leod to find my hotel.
The weather is freezing, I can see the snow capped Himalayas. The village is small with one square where all the roads lead.
It is Mc Leod, Ganj where Dalai Lama's seat in exile and the residency of His Holiness. The village was originally established by the British and named after by David Mc Leod, who was the Lieutenant -Governor of Punjab. It was the headquarters of the British and destroyed in the earthquake in 1905. It was backwater until 1960, when the Dalai Lama claimed asylum here following the Chinese invasion of Tibet.
I arrive to my hotel, walk into the room, go out to the balcony and see the eagles. I watch the eagles flying over from my balcony, just like I watch the seagulls from my balcony in Istanbul. The monkeys are jumping from roof to roof,climbing up to the balconies, like the cats in Istanbul. I look at the snow capped Himalayas , pine trees under the snow, watching the eagles and monkeys, hearing the cries of the children playing, I feel serene...