Dig on India, man. On the same street you've got a Hindu temple, a buzzing bus station, mango hawkers, cell phone dealers, sari stitchers, Levi wearers thumbing through branded T-shirts, a thousand flies and all their cousins, the constant trickle of the open sewers, beggars clinking coins and rustling paper, the clack of coconut shells piling higher, and ringtones telling you you could be my chamak challo or J. Bieb's baby baby baby oh. Monks in maroon and saffron huddle laughing around laptops and Cokes while matrons in chupas mutter chants and thumb through worn sets of prayer beads, watching the ladies in burkas barter for fruit. Walk a little further and glance over the side of the bridge, and the rhythmic thwack of mothers beating their clothes against boulders in the brown water meets the lowing of cattle that just walked in front of a hip rickshaw driver blaring the newest from Bollywood. Only the dogs are silent, quietly watching for a dropped biscuit from a toddler or a scrap from the butcher.
In this soundscape lives the Tibetan diaspora in Bylakuppe. Kushal Nagar, the closest big town, is a center of tourist activity for Indians going on a summer holiday to the higher, cooler ghats and hill stations of southwest India. The town caters to the fifteen thousand or more Tibetans, with signs advertising "Tibetian dress specialists" proudly capping the tailor stalls. Fifty rupees by rickshaw away lay the camps themselves, a sprawling verdant community of rolling hills and cement houses. The sounds of tractors and motorcycles take over, accompanied by industry and, in the distance, the clapping of monks in debate. Unabashedly Buddhist, speakers chant mantras from rooftops and His Holiness teaches the finer points of compassion from a speaker near the catfish pond as devotees earn merit by feeding the aquatic residents glucose cookies, rolls, and day old bread. The children and I look upon this activity as one of sharing, as a good half of the cookies crunch happily in our mouths as the other half are slurped up by the "fishes with moustaches." In the quiet parts of the day, the silence is made more conspicuous as motorcycle drivers turn off their engines to coast down the easy slopes in beautiful unhurried bliss. Six a.m. the next morning, the buzzing of my little three-sectioned friends reaches a crescendo, the siren-song of the birds climaxes, and chants from rooftop sound systems begin anew as I roll over to hear my wife's soft, slow, sleeping breathing.