Monday, October 22, 2007

Book post

Last days rituals : slimming down my pack after a prelim weigh in at the train station before the flight, which involves sending books, maps etc. home by post. The most time consuming part of this is the making of a approved book post package : a sewn parcel with a inspection slit.

This years version was so-so , I'm thinking of bringing the makings of the parcel with me next time .

Saturday, October 20, 2007

One last lap

Morning in Boudnath , the semi-legal taxi should be , not leaving without a last kora round the stupa.
Fall in to the rustling river of people , crowded at just after six in the morning.
On the second lap I come to a dead stop : everybody has stopped and turned their backs to chorten.
A dove hangs up there , trapped on a piece of wire from a kite that has tangled in the phone lines. An old Tibetan woman smacks her lips loudly ; not a sign of disapproval but of concern. Two monks start to throw a bundled upper robe to dislodge the dove , with great public support ...oooh! aaah ! .... and roaring laugh as a final high throw almost succeds ... and lands the robe on a high window ledge.
Finally the dove is freed , and lands in outstretched hands , but not in good form. Sadness and concern in a great circle of down turned faces.

Monday, October 15, 2007


Leaning out , backwards , and looking up in to the sky as in supplication the boy says something I can't make out from where I'm sitting. Response arrives from above , a wad of rupees in to his hand. New passengers.
We have just hit tarmac after some hours of .. not in class with Ladakh , but still tiring road work, and are starting to pick up speed. Roofs on all the other buses as well are crammed with people and goats : the Dasain festival is getting in to full swing.

Myself I'm looking forward to a bucket shower (last night in the trailhead latrine without light hardly counts), a new pair of pants and a wall plug for my camera : my one unstolen battery gave up i the Gosaikhund pass , and the days after that were practically all spent walking in plugless country , in rain and fog - little help from my solar charger.

Will up and backdate more tomorrow. Or maybe I'll just live here , in the moment.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007


Relatively easy walk up to Gosainkund after the acclimatisation night in Laurebina. Steep outside the trail with alpine flowers reminding me of home.

Somwhat relieved to find that Ben and the others did'nt suffer anything worse than a bad night : worst case scenarios for forced ascents to these altitudes are are daunting even with good medical backup , and unthinkable without. Gosainkund has in fact been the focus for a medical article I read before leaving , and up in the lodge I find the consent form for another study : " you have been selected for this study because you have been diagnosed with HAPE/HACE." Informed consent from persons suffering from a disease that by definition diminishes their mental capacity.. that must have been an interesting discussion in the ethical commitee.

Friday, October 05, 2007


As I start to walk out of the monastery guesthouse , I become convinced that the Nepali realitity (elections just postponed , Maoists destroying printing presses of the Kathmandu Post , and bandhs ) have washed in on the monastery grounds.
Loud voices , shouts .. and then i recongnise the handclaps , "the thunderbolt" - debate hour for the monks.

Just finished my extensive preparations before setting out for Langtang with Ben , a photographer I met first time in Manju ka Tilla. Iodine , sunblock and lit an oil lamp.

Monday, October 01, 2007

On seclusion , and photography

I sit again , after the morning kora , in the New Orleans Cafe. The Boudha stupa shows just how heavy the rains have been , the whitewash being rinsed away from all nearly flat surfaces. The morning paper carries a story of of three villagers being killed in a flash flood near the border, an irregular event in early October. I'm still on a eating binge , after the ATM run (mostly on tsampa , tea & dried fruits) and generally being dhaba'd out. The New Orleans serves perfectly mellow potatoes , salads (something I normally don' touch on the subcontinent) and apple pies .. at a price. The kora revolves just outside the open doorway : monks , teens in jeans .. with iPods and malas, a prostrator with ironsoled flipflops as hand protection, and tourists of course. The doorway nags at the edge of my consciousness : I like sitting at the one table there , with my notebook and camera , but when I walk by it later I get to see it from the outside : the doorway becomes the frame for a shooting gallery for camera wielders.

Photography ... can't avoid the subject any longer. Source of many of my best experiences ... and equally the worst. It's easy to distance oneself from the
picture , and in some ways the the telling true tales of horror are related to the "real traveler " myth : content is to varying extent real , but the function is to boost the self image.

On the other hand , there are real issues. Two years ago in Ladakh , I went in to center court of a Ladakhi monastery - during services - to bring back (controlled words but face flaring like a Mahakala ) a tourist who used the altar as a support for his video camera.
Today the word hunting pack pops up in my mind as I see some groups shining up as groups of monks or Tibetan women comes in to range. A few makes the tactical choice of walking crosscurrent to the stream of kora walkers - something which requires some conscious effort , cuts you out of any blending or participatory experience ... but gives you the face shot.
The language in photography is propietary , exclusive : you take the shot , you shoot film (or chips) ... and then on the other hand digital photography has wrought a major change. When I first arrived here with a camera it was seen one of the obscure things that angrezis devoted themselves to . Today I meet people who take their right to their self image as granted : take a photo ... sure ... now show me . The way it should be, and often a source for joy . The Tibetan pilgrims from Nakchu and I had a lot more in common than one would think of first : places we both had been to , places we wanted to go to .. all unraveling as we went through a full 512 mb memory card.
And ,reactions to the blaring insensitivities aside, one must keep things in perspective : most people try to be nice . Seeing the odd crosscurrent walkers brings home one of two points : either their actions , or how few they actually are.
Responsibility is after all individual ... and includes the option of just standing in the way of the telephoto lens at the right moment.

Yesterday I had an other sudden flash of outside view of ourselves in the small garden of the New Orleans , eating organic vegetables and imported Italian pasta as the construction workers hang on bamboo poles above us , legs curled around the bamboo , tying together the scaffolding. We sat , not with elongated earlobes from the jewellery , but with sloping shoulders from our digital SLR:s , as in a modern day Kapilavastu court. GoreTex , the silk of today. To complete the irony one of the most common books found on the coffe tables is Siddharta - a book about a man who actually left his sheltered life and confronted himself with the realities of of living outside the court.

IndiaMike carried the same day a story on how a quarter of a billion of Indias citizens live on 14 rupees a day - which is a lot less than what we pay for the Darjeeling tea in the New Orleans.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Uniformed elephants

...never get used to meeting them in the night.


Crossing the Sonauli border in rain - the makings of a new tradition, after a chilly night on the night train to Gorakhpur, passengers bundling up like headed for the burning ghats. Then a jeep to Sonauli , quick switch to a Kathmandu bus with leaking roof and blaring Nepali duets all night.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ATM run , interrupted

Step 1 : Jump off the bus at Kunzum La.

Proceed up to the prayerflags at the crest , at N 32.40939 / E 077.62674 (altitude 4662)

Drop down to Chandra Tal , at 4296 meters , after 15 klicks.

If you get rain and sleet in front of the ATM two days higher up the valley, choose another machine and walk back .

Wednesday, September 19, 2007


Morning.The Rs 100 room has a faint reek of urine from the attached toilet, and the window has no latch and is held shut by a cinderblock.

... and I read of Alain de Botton fighting over a piece of dessert in Barbados with his girlfriend.
Travel , Botton tells us is both created by and undone by anticipation. We rush in to the plane , as in to a new relationship , with images of perfgect beaches .. and mar this by bringing in our own imperfections in to the picture.
We fight over a piece of creme brule' as the sun sets over Far Tortuga.

Many would say that this is a gloomy outlook , condemning us to lives of quiet despair in Teg & Clapham ,but Botton surprisingly brings in two prophets of gloom to refute this : Baudelaire and Edward Hopper. Both had the same yearning for the starting points : Baudelaire could wax on indefinitely about over modern boats and railways , and Hopper found many of his motives im waiting rooms, roadside diners and the like.

Anticipation may be wildly unrealistic in travel , as in romance, but in difference to the rest of the the dream industry it leads us to new places.
Thanks Joe in the next room , for lending me the book, thanks to the sister who gave it to him , and goodbye T. who came and went again in in the matter of a day.

As yoy may have guessed , Losar ( a three dhaba town with a police checkpost , altitude 4108 meters) is no obvious contender to Barbados. The small temple ( rather unceremoniously shut with shop-style steel shutters ) holds the reamins of Serkhong Rinpoche in a silver stupa , there are some rare photographs of Dalia Lamas tutors, and som good torma. There are nice walks. The dahbas makes the tired old Eastern Europe joke mandatory : never mind the menu , just tell me what you've got.
Imagine our surprise when we ( Joe , Neil & I ) as the only passengers remained in town after the bus left was told that no , no roooms .. you must reserve ahead.After getting rooms in the cinderblock palace ( to the considerable surprise of the other patron ) we had supper and turned in for the night.
Later : singing ! music ! (overdressed) women !
Next morning , we ask about the party ( feeling , of course , a bit miffed about being left out ) .
"No party "
"But the music , singing ... "
"Oh that .. that's the film team. "

Monday, September 17, 2007

Looking for the Lama

Bookswap : I come out of Ki Gompa with the monasterys history (bilingual ) and leave a book by Gedun Chopel : Guide to the Sacred Places in India , a pilgrims handbook .. with train maps.

In the mid-70's a Swedish progrock band released a song which no one remembers for it's title, but with a refrain that still brings a whole generation to a standstill, in a variety of reactions .
All together now , in different shades of sentimentality , sobriety and defiance : " Who can you reeeally trust ? "

The title was looking for the Dalai Lama , and few if any reacted - in a time where anti-colonialism was a catchword - to the practice of taking a living Tibetan person and turning him in to a metaphorical tool for internal Western conflicts.

Tibet was at a safe distance , eight years before the supression of the Lhasa revolt and fourteen years before Dalai lama received the Nobel Peace Price. It was partly put there by the agenda of the Swedish left , who averted their eyes to anything but the Indochina war - and kept it averted after the defeat of the US.

The song was about looking for truths , and not leaders - a message that not only had bearing on the generation toting pictures of chairmens and party leaders , but remains valid in a present context , where many look for not the method of Buddhism but the prepared answers. Buddha in a box , retail price.

A long time after the melee of the 70's ( yes, sex was more fun before AIDS) reality will intrude on similar attempts at using the Dalai Lama. Meanwhile there is the real ongoing search for lamas : Tibetans looking for Gedun Choeki Nyima , the Panchen Lama abducted by the Chines government eleven years ago : a dress rehearsal for the grand event to come : the passing of the present Dali Lama. So far the the Panchen Lama rehearsal has not run smoothly . Two years ago I was in Shigatse and could see the Tibetans systematicaly ignoring the Chinese apppointed Panchen (Zuma Panchen , fake Panchen in Tibetan) : lots of pictures of the 9th and 10th , with fresh flowers fruits etc. - and two pictures of Zuma Panchen - with a naked shelf below.It is no coincidence that there has been no serious attempts to establish him in Tashilunpo monastery .
The 10th is obviously hugely popular , in spite of his long time in the People's Congress in Beijing . What Tibetans remember him for is coming back and saying that nothing of what had been gained was worth all the sufferings of the Tibetan people , and the famous letter before that. There is another level though , which links Spiti intimately in to this process : before the great speech and the letter , Panchen Lama made a religious ruling that effectively limited Chinese power. The ruling was that the next re-incarnation of Rinchen Zangpo , one of the most important figures in Tibetan religious history , would be found in the " Western Lands " , i.e. outside Chinese control. This is where he is found now , in the monastery of Ki. The Ki monastery monks have by tradition studied in Tashilunpo (shigatse) monastery , and this link was re-affirmed when the Rinchen Zangpo become head of the commitee to identify the present Panchen Lama. This game will continue : recently the Communist Party declared that all reincarnations are now subject to official state approval , and invalid before that point. Meanwhile the Ki monks will continue to go to Tashilunpo monastery - but now in south India . All major Tibetan monasteries now exist in two mirror versions , one in exile , one under Chinese control. Welcome to the twilight zone of Chinese religious politics..

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Now we\re cooking

The stove is in full swing now , amy-lais prayer wheel has also picked up speed ,Suchung and his wife are doing complex exercises with atta flour and another old woman has entered to run a load of butter tea through the butter churner : shlorp-shlorp-shlorp.
The TV sputters in to life now and then , ;pouring out bollywoodism, commercials and thrilling cricket results.
Meawhile I"ve landed in the bachelors corner , with a good buzz going from the arrak.

Somebody says something about the inji : I'm just past it , and join in the laughter with out understanding anything.

The 3D exercises with the atta flour turns out to be tingmo : not the big Princess-Leia-hairdo on steroids I'm used to from Manju ka tilla , but delicate , convoluted shapes - think Escher in bakery.

Saturday, September 15, 2007


Wake up to the sound of ... rain. Crazy.

Got out of the bus two klicks out of Sichiling, and had one of those what-am-I-doing-here moments as I stood alone and watched it going away. Next moment a jeep stops, and Sonam from Tabo pops out his head. As they prepare to go away , another jeep stops to talk with the other .. which turns out to be Kesang from Kaza. More two-hand handshakes.

Dhankar perched high on the ridge , some six hundred meters above : I set out feeling a bit queasy. Halfway up I meet Yechung Dolkar , who assumes responsiblity for my ariiving in a civilised hour.Despite my feeble attempts to say that no , you , don\t have to wait for me. Relentlessly she pushes me up the mountain , by just standing there and looking at me until I get moving again.

We part as we we come in to Dhankar Village , and a flight of swallows dive out of the trailside grove. I dive in to the first house with a welcome sign, and get a guestroom, and sit in the kitchen as the evening meal is prepared. I wind up with a toddler on my lap, as the men go slowly about making dinner. By the time the rest of the household appears, the dinner is finished.

Denial becomes impossible at this point and I start waltzing between the kitchen and the toilet.
Evening ends with a double dose of Cipro , and drinking hot honey wter brought up by Suchung-le. Nice chat over a fifteen minute candle stump.

next day , still a bit wobbly in the knees. Go up to Dhankar Gompa. The entrance hall to the dhukhang holds some interesting images of monasteries , and between them elaborate images of .... shoes , with comments. The two lay monks , teenagers in jeans and baseball caps , are unfortunately not in the same league as Sonam in Tabo : the monansteries are " in Tibet" , and all paintings are eight hundred years old.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Manning & Tabo

Today's big project is to clean up my table. Or : the most important things are beyond words. So , in the spirit of Thomas manning : my table. Thanks to the solar panel on the roof there is a working writing light (see upper left corner). The folded Silva 12 V solar panel supplied nicely for my camera during the three day power out. The trombe (passive solar heating wall) of the monastery serai , where I stayed is incidentally the largest I've ever seen.

(Tabo Choskor , religious enclave, is the oldest working Buddhist monastery in original form in India, founded in 996. Also one of only three surviving examples of the Kashmiri Buddhist painters , that re-introduced Buddhism in to India with the Second Spreading together with the Great Translator - Lotsawa.

Thomas Manning succeeded where countless other westerners had failed in reaching Lhasa, and was unable to say anything about the the Potalas logic defying perspective or the countless art treasures .He went looking for a hat.)

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

In to Spiti

The bus rocks, swings and creaks like a ship in .... interesting weather .Some hours has gone by since leaving Kalpa luxuriously in afront seat of a Manali jeep. A ride that also came with good company and conversation from France.

The first glimpse of Spiti is a weather worn chorten , protected not only by by a crudely hammered multi colored tin roof from the BRO but also for some reason encircled by barbed wire.
Signs of life seems even sparser than when crossing in to Ladakh. Even the happy-go-lucky semi military sign painting squad from the BRO seems a bit taken by the environment : none of the usual streams of motherly advice , jokes and puns ("Darling , I want you , but not so fast" ) that I've come to take for granted from Ladakh. Just one single , sombre , litterary allusion : " Live and let live " , painted on a sharply descending rock curve.

A Buddhist cave adorned with prayer flags on the other side of the Sutlej river , with seeming impossible access, shoots by. Some khyang at a flat , narrow strip along the riverbed.
This time I've given up all attempts of poping out of the window and and holding on to my camera , let alone operating it. I,m hemmed in between two Kinnauri ladies one who switches to my window seat to dry retch out of the window.
On the other side sits a gelong and three nuns from Hango monastery. The nuns fret , in a nice way , with their one piece of finery : Himalchali hats with with dried white petals that catches the light like blades of fiber optics.

Afte the checkpost at Jangi ( where I technically becmes an illegal : " shall not resort to any photography, carry any maps not approved by the Defence Ministry. or or immaginaries.. " ) there is suddenly no one standing , and only two people in the two seats rows. A depp breathing spree ensues , which is dampened by the arrivall of new passengers and sacks at .

The road dips and bends ( " Horn Please " has been replaced by " It is an offence not to sound the horn at .. ") ; skirts precipices and shoots i to rock galleries in the usual way.

The canyons are different though : giant patterns of contrasting stone materials suddenly frozen , on smooth sides .Gargantuan coffeee and cream , and later licorice , Jackson Pollockses.

In a magic moment the bus descends steeply in to a sumdo :one canyon to the right , with a near perfect sugar cone reaching up to the golden evening light and the road cutting in to a rock gallery after crossing a Bailey bridge thick with prayer flags.

Didn't get the shot , but got apples instead , and a sense of sharing , from ne of the sacks on the floor instead.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Blam !

Nothing beats the wake up call of a large monkey making a four point landindg on the tin roof outside your window.
Shimla . Again.

Since I\ve had problems diting & uploading photos ( no smoking on the buses is great , the stapling ban on on bank notes is a relief , but cyber wallahs going all legal seem like sense of order running amok ) : the sound track of my life here , so far .

Manju was the babel of languages , competing with the fans .. well , you've already had that part.

Sarahan, next stop after Shimla. At 4:30 in the morning a Kali worshipper fires up a sound system that would have been the object of envy of the cavallery officer in Apocalalypse Now . ( Yes , that one : " I love the smell of napalm in the morning " )
This is one of the reasons why animals hide under the ground , to no avail. The pylon that that carries the the loudspeakers that hammers the entire valley in to submission seemingly looms even higher after the fall of the "new" tower , and as I clamp my teeth on the pillow to stop ther resonance vibrations to Kali's greatest hits I start to wonder if it really was a a earthquake that brought it down.

Kalka was the the fluttter of the prayer flags otside my room , and again the loud voices arguing from the kitchen of the Shivalik: from now on I'll asuume that what sounds as the preamble to a knife fight in Bengali is merely a difference of opinion .

The sound scape right now in Nako , beyond the Inner Line , could pass for a long intro to some minimalist music. Soft hissing sound from the kerosene lamp during the power break , the door to the dining room creaking and swinging open to the strong winds outside.
During the day , in the the village , the Kinnauri women dominate the audio input , swinging from melodious chirping to to sudden laughs and sharp calls.
Speaking of women brings me to the unexpected sound of ckicking steps that awoke me today. They came up to my door , which then was nudged repeatedley.
Never ruled out the presence of high heeled women in my life , but I was mildly surprised that one would turn up at this point.
I then went went out of my room ( quick check in the mirror) , said hello and gently led the young calf out along the balcony , along the corridor an in to the street.

Monday, September 03, 2007

In Kaza

If you lower it someone will come .Ground cover : just establish eye contact and throw it to someone.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Escape from Manju ka Tilla

Once again I sit down in the square in the front of the the two small temples , thinking this is .. well , not great , but it works. Then I put my hands on my knees , and afterwards the pants are not wet , but soaked. Time to get out of the monsoon.

On the night train to Kalka (camera bag under my head, backpack under my knees ) I pick up Kim Robinson's Escape from Kathmandu , a minor guesthouse libarary classic.

A standard theme in boks from Nepal and Tibet is time travel : moving in to another age on a commercial flight. The time travel picks up another dimension when the now in the book also represents another age.

It starts with a ... letter. Gather around my feet little ones , and I'll tell you of a fara away time when we sent pieces of paper to each other. I was there , and I also was in Nepal just before the book was written : a time of innocence when you could point the finger and laugh at the theatrical aspects of the royal power , before the long dirty war between the government and the Maoists.Timewarp has moved Nepal ahead of my home in some respects : there is a lot more software produced in Kathmandu than in Stockholm , and Nepal today has stripped the king of ceremonial powers beyond our constitution : our king can't be brought to court.

At the same time the life along the trail has not changed much since early eighties, and many of Robinson's one-liners survive well , like the one about flying with (formerly Roayal Nepal) Airlines : In Nepal , clouds have rocks in them. It is written at the breaking point of our innocence , at the time when you start to to wonder of the life banana pancake baker , and step in to the kitchen.

This sounds really serious , which is far from the truth . It's a grea romp ,with a supporting cast to match : Jimmy Carter (former american president) , Tsongkhapa ( founder of Gelugpa school of Buddhism ) , pot-smoking Secret Service-men , Ang Rita ( twelwe time successfull climber of Mount Everest) . And of course a Yeti named Buddha ..

Nice walk with Sally from Oz in the morning , playing guide , and a nice dinner in the White House with Jamyang , Tsering and little Tenzing , who treated me with a first review of the new Milarepa film. Will pick up a copy in Manju before leaving , hopefully also Angry Monk , the film about Gedun Chopel.

Sunday, August 26, 2007

Re-united ...

at last with my backpack , that never left Helsinki.

37 degrees and - obviously - humid on landing , but feels less. Quick shower and drying under the ceiling fan.

Lots of food (shabalay , momos, phing) and lots of languages in the dining room of Wongdhen House : English , Tibetan , Nepali and French to start with.

Thenthuk in the small square outside the temples , this year with awnings. Communal dining area , prayer chantings and kids just running and screaming. No photos taken , people made me feel invited and after that it stayed down . The kids took some photograhs though.

Todays Tibetan word : Tinda ! Look !

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

Linux and sutras

Everybody loves seeing monks with computers.In a small net cafe in Manju ka Tilla , the Tibetan enclave in Delhi , I regularly met three young guys with shaved heads : two young monks and cyber wallah in charge of the place , with a multi colored mohawk hairdo . The place was cramped , the keyboards more or less worn out ... and hanging down at angle was a large portrait of Dalai Lama , framed with multi colored blinking LED´s.
The titillation of seeing Buddhists monks in this role lies in an assumed transgression : men or women of the cloth should remain isolated from the world of technology.

In The Argumentative Indian Amartya Sen raises an interesting contrasting view to this , high lighting the early Buddhists role as technological ground breakers. Book printing is obviously one of the greatest leaps forward in transmitting knowledge and ideas , and Indian and Chinese Buddhists had a key role in disseminating this technique : in fact the first dated printed book is the Diamond Sutra from Dunhuang. It was the Internet of it´s time : slow but hip , and in no way restricted to religious themes - the Himalayas were crossed in both directions carrying the latest landbreaks in astronomy , medicine and technology.

And in keeping with the Internet analogy , the Diamond Sutra echoed eerily of Linux terminology : "free and for universal distribution" as it says in the prologue .
Buddhists we´re involved the earliest book printing ventures in India , Japan , China and Korea. One could choose to see this as a co-incidental interest in material technology - or as an expression of the underlying social technique : printing became an extension of the public debate that from the beginning was a central feature in Buddhism .

As Sen point out , when Ashoka arranged the first known public debates between different religions (at the same time time as the Catholic church had Giordano Bruno burned at the stake ) , they had a couple of centuries of the great Buddhist councils to lean on.

Sen points out this tradition as a quintessential Indian quality , that explains some of the unique qualities of Indian democracy : the only Asian country I can think of where the Army has remained consistently uninterested in wresting the power from the elected governments . This tradition predates Buddhism , like the one line from the Mahabharata that has gained foothold in many Western minds : I am become death , the destroyer of worlds..

When Robert Oppenheimer (a truly cultured man , who had read the Mahabharata in the original Sanskrit) used these words to describe his anguish in seeing the end result of his work , the detonation of the Hiroshima bomb , he fixed one side of the epic debate between warrior Arjuna , who at first refused doing the unthinkable and Krishna who in the end literally drove him out to the battle. Most in the West seems not to remember that final outcome , but Arjuna´s voice is still a living , working cry resisting the horrors of the war.

In the same way , Sen shows , the Vedas contain a multitude of voices , that gives unexpected firepower to unexpected standpoints : an complete agnostic tradition , women speaking out against male power structures, Brahmins being descibed as con artists..
Even though the Krishnas so to say won in these conflicts , they never made their opponents invisible , and we can pickup their side of the debate to day.

In comparison , much of Christian literature gives about as much depth to their societies inner conflicts as statements from the old Communist party conferences.

Photo from the Asian Classics Input Program , here in the process of transferring woodblock prints to hard drives in the library of Diskit Monastery , NUbra

Wednesday, July 11, 2007


.. as I return home in the early morning. Temperature has dropped 15 degrees in a single day , the trees are shaking as if they are trying to uproot themselves and walk away. A welcome relief to last week´s malarial ennui.

And a good day for planning travel. Can´t resist swiping this from Mridula´s blog :

Friday, February 09, 2007

New, old book

Long wait , in two senses : I looked for this story a long time ago , and gave it up when all I could find was long out of print German editions. Recently I found it in English , on a UK site , ordered it ... and waited three times longer than I´m used to from my Delhi bookshop.

Peter Aufschnaiter had in my mind become a sort of vaguely glimpsed counter image of Heinrich Harrer in Tibet : a man more interested in living his life with Tibetans , than boosting his own self image. ( Dalai Lama´s tutor , my foot ..)

And living, in the intimate sense , with a Tibetan woman which becomes a interesting point as I start in to the book : nothing to be found on this in the biographical notes.

Where did get this notion ? From the film ( where Harrer visits Aufschnaiter and his wife ) , or from Seven Years in Tibet ? More importantly , why do I think I "know" things like this without tagging the source ? Is my world view determined by Hollywood representations ?
Doh , I live in the Western/Northern hemisphere , of course it is to some degree . But not being aware of it is bad news.

Digging in to it : fresh reprint from a publishing house in Bangkok, with a different , lemony smell. I had smallexpectations from this cheaper reprint ... and then I find the back card board pocket for the map of Lhasa . Aaaah... loving attention to details speaking here, and in the drawings . Photographs , with that eerie detached innocence in the onlookers before the media age. A love of nature , and a cultured perspective , with quotes from Milarepa linked to what he sees today/yesterday.

Monday, February 05, 2007

Skövde skit

Synchronicity : as the restaurant car rolls in to Skövde Railway station the cast of Lagaan ( nice clip here )erupts in to the first dance number on the parched Indian earth. At exactly the same time three pale young girls , no bangles but a lot of rivets , safety needles etc. start in to a skit , in a rhytm eerily synchronized to the film.Dry snow and and a creaking ice crust under their feet.

Returning from "equatorial" Sweden and film festival. One opening sequence haunts me : Malalai Joya , a woman from western Afghanistan challenges the warlords in new, forming Parliament : " I speak for the dead and the martyrs , you have blood on your hands and should not be allowed in this assembly, you should be tried as war criminals" . She has bodyguards , lots of them.