The Inspiration Behind Old Delhi Station Perfume

Simon Constantine:
“A short but powerful man beckons us. His name is the Venerable Ngawang Woebar and he’s a Tibetan monk. He welcomes us into the small room of his office and asks what it is we want. I struggle to explain that we are looking for a way to help Tibetans in their plight. We have travelled all the way to Mcleod Ganj in Dharamsala to ask this question. I now feel a bit awkward.

He takes us outside onto the balcony overlooking the pines. He describes how he came to be in Mcleod Ganj. As he talks, sweet ginger, lemon and honey tea is laid on the table and he quietly unravels the tale of his epic journey from Tibet to India.

When he was a young man he became an activist in Tibet, protesting for rights of Tibetans and supporting the Dalai Lama. The Chinese authorities imprisoned him for handing out leaflets and waving the Tibetan flag. After four months without trial and suffering interrogation and abuse throughout this time, he was released. Being further victimized and expelled from his monastery he decided to leave.

Without a passport or permission he had to take the treacherous route to Nepal. The three week journey was a tough one, travelling 30miles a day across the Himalayas, carrying all the supplies he needed. The day before his group reached Nepal they ran out of food. They resorted to eating rolled balls of snow with salt sprinkled on top. Barely sustained until he arrived at the Nepalese sanctuary he was deported to India where he joined the many thousands of desperate Tibetans who had to flee their homeland.

What was so endearing and powerful about his story was his delivery. Calm and warm, he smiled as he recounted the torture that he had been through. A look of quiet resilience that his experiences and his faith had endowed him with was the most moving thing of all.

As we arrived back in to Old Delhi station the fragrance of spices mixed with the smell of humanity were indelibly imprinted in my memory of meeting Ngawang and hearing his amazing story.”