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Dalai Lama spells boom in the hills

Darjeeling, Dec. 2: The Dalai Lama’s six-day visit to the hills is quickly filling up the coffers of the residents of Singamari, where the spiritual leader will deliver his discourses.

With thousands of the Dalai Lama’s followers trickling into the town over the past few days from across the country and Bhutan, those with a room to spare are making a killing.

The Buddhist leader will deliver his sermon and conduct an initiation programme at the St Jospeh’s School ground and most of his followers are choosing to stay in the fringe villages of Ropeway, Shanti Parbat, Bhota Goan, Thana Line and Bhanu Gram, a mere 10 minute walk.

Residents of these villages are charging anything between Rs 100 and Rs 500 per day for a person for the week-long stay. The rates however, exclude the food bills, which the guests have to foot separately.

Subash Brahim, a resident of Bhota Goan, already has 20 people at his place, all from Sikkim, and he is charging Rs 200 per person for a day’s stay. “Most houses in the area have already been let out and there is a huge demand. A lucky one may still find a place but it will be difficult”, he said.

Brahim says most visitors prefer to cook their own meals.

Sanjay Dorgee, who has travelled from Sikkim with his parents, for the Dalai Lama’s blessings, said: “It is economical to rent a place in Singamari. My parents are old and they cannot travel everyday from town.”

With schools and colleges, which provide paying guests, closing down for the winter vacation, the villagers see an opportunity to make quick money.

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