Dharamshala — Youth in city is always on the hunt for an escape that is rooted in character and personal in essence. A cozy escape that as soon as stepped into, swoons them away with pocket friendly food, a peaceful read and music that makes nostalgia smile ear to ear.
McLeod Ganj is a delight for an audience of this kind. Not just because food here is delicious and that the Tibetan owners will accept you as their own. More so, because they are a smiling bunch of 'Tashi-Delek' (Tibetan for Namaste) speaking people, who'd make you feel welcome even if its 30 minutes over their closing time.The interior and seating of the cafes here is very aesthetic and intimate, each personally inspired by the locals.
They literally invest a quintessential part of themselves in their cafes. Also, as much as your favorite café serves well for an escape into wonderland with plenty to read and feed on, in McLeod Ganj, it doesn't feel isolated as soon as you step out, as it might seem abandoningwhen bidding your favorite café goodbye in the palace of concrete, the city.
So, while you rest in your comfort launch pads that stuff you with enough good food, books, space and feels to prepare you for the rest of the day, here's where you can nestle when in McLeod Ganj!
Mr. Tenzin will mostly greet you in Four Season's café. You can find yourself a cozy corner at Four Seasons. The sun will filter through the glass walls from the side of the street, anyway. "Thukpa and Tibetan butter tea would be my favorite picks any day", says Sehr Raheja, who has stayed in Mcleod Ganj for 15 days now and credits her happy mornings to the regular breakfast she has here, on most days.
"My parents fled from Tibet, we have since then been brought up in India, the Dehradun colonies of Tibetans", says Tenzin, who has also been a student of Buddhist Philosophy. "Buddhism originated in India. We do not relate to the Buddhism of China. The culture- more inclusive and less interruptive, the language- derivative and shared sometimes, we belong more to India." says Tenzin while pointing towards the flags with the famous chant 'Om Mane Padme Om' and explaining its similarity to Sanskrit.
"We just want to live in peace", simplifies Lhamo, who runs Lahmo's Croissant with her husband. Walking into Lhamo's Croissant is like passing the threshold of your bedroom to enter the dining hall after a fresh nap from the cradle. Full-size pictures of members of a family adorning the walls, almost kissing the low ceiling will make you question if your descent is Tibetan and the people in the posters, yours.
"They are in a happy place", she tells about her husband's family in the pictures.
"I'd rather choose my family's nomadic way of life. Things are easier there. Here we have rent, staff, ourselves to pay for".
A pethora to choose from the French Cuisine on her Menu, Lhamo is the host you'll order to while she smilingly shoulders the faith to make your afternoon! She fled Tibet with 6 of her friends and left behind her family, still traversing Tibet as nomads. "I went to Madras for 2 and a half months, in the French Colonies there, I learnt how to cook!" she shares the story of her culinary origins. "I have been running restaurants since 10 years in McLeod", says a confident Dorjee, who runs Norling café with her husband.
"The café business is not that rewarding anymore. They are a hundred of them on this road only! There's a lot of competition and we don't get much to ourselves in the end", she shares as her 7 year old daughter dances to a number by Bruno Mars. "The best thing about Normling is that a hearty smile awaits me from Ajit before my tomato soup and American chopsuey arrives.", recalls Sushant Bhat, a regular customer. Just in case you make it, get yourself the corner seat behind the counter beside the window. You'll then have to yourself the back of a momo-seller whose braided hair in an artsy assembly, with Tibetan jewelry hanging off the hedges of a roadside vendor's in the background and the some-what busy street will suffice as company for rest of the meal.
Garima Pura is a second year journalism student at the Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communication (SIMC) in Pune.