Tuesday, September 09, 2008


Last prayers today in Majnu ka Tilla for Dalai Lama´s elder brother , Thubten Jigme Norbu, who died in USA. Buttertea afterwards, always buttertea.

Norbu (also known as Taktser Rinpoche after their birth place ) wrote for many Westerners the first introduction to Tibetan self image , Tibet , it´s religion , history and people , together with anthropologist Colin Turnbull.


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Saturday, September 06, 2008

Wednesday, September 03, 2008


Morning in Kibber. A mule train is being formed in front of the guest house , and the kids are singing a song of parting , and love : "If I had the money (i.e. the dowry) I would bring you with me.

The guesthouse has a coded ad saying chang served here : the low doorpost is padded with a piece of triple folded ground cover , nailed in place. Chang comes in to play in the evening , and more love songs : Kesang teaches us a drinking song where you present your dear one to the world.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Queue culture

After giving up trying to buy a bus ticket in advance I turn to watching the pack of another traveller. This gives me an outside view of my past experiences.
Ticket windows strategies include the time honored Indian classic : push hard until you can grasp the bars of the window ... and pull.
The ederly woman from Kaza is wise beyond years , and refuses to go into any conflicts and aggrovation as long as the response behind the window is basically go away , I'm not selling any tickets (until it's clear that the bus has made it to Kaza). She turns her back on the window , plants her feet wide apart .. and slids down to sit while others make grand gestures. Once in a while I catch a glimpse of her ,and she gives off a wonderful pealing laughter. Nirit stands a short distance behind her , feet also solidly planted on the ground , pushing as relentlessly back as the guys behind her, and not only maintaining her position but (this is the point where I really get impressed ) also holding out for a good seat after a good fortyfive minutes of push and shove.
Later I take a jeep to Kee monastery. The drivers cell phone calls out for attention every few minutes , with a sad , melancholy tune that could have been a Swedish folk song as well. Some hours later I stand on the monastery roof , the only sound being a faint inkling sound from the dishes being washed in the kitchen , a truck boring through the darkness with a load of girders , and the slow flapping from the prayer flag pole.

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Thursday, August 28, 2008

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Only three

Angmo and I turn towards each other at the same time :
"Excuse me , I took a photo without asking ..."
"I have only three apricots.."

The apricots are sweet and plum.

The only thing that is more fun than taking photographs is to turn over your camera to someone else.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Wash day

The hill side of Ki Monastery , seen from above, is dotted with red stylised figures on the ground : wash day , the clothes are laid out on the ground and on top of the bushes to dry.The whole thing gives associations to an art installation , or a crime scene.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

History happens to us

Long but fun day in Shimla. Started with lightening my load by sending home a book parcel, nicest package in a long time , ended with a very short discussion on the price : " you decide, sir " .

Next stop ; Inner Line Permit.New office , clickety sound sound of printers, fans .. and a angrezi blowing of his head ( and any remaining respect ) : "I just want my ***** permit !. I have been wating for hours !"

The process totters on , delayed another half hour by a country too big : one of the students in a Spiti conservation project comes from the Republic of Macedonia , which is too long to enter on the computerised form.

In the end we are ushered in to a court like room , where the the Assistant District Manager presides behind a impressive pile of folders, and calls us up one by one, inquiring of our origins.

" Austria .. so you speak German in Austria too ? "

" Anna *** ... Macedonia. So you were a part Marshall Titos land. How many countries now , out of former Yugoslavia ? "

Anna counts them off m, one by one.

" Sad. If this would happen to India , that would mean thirty three countries - can you imagine that ? Impossible. "

" Well .. history happens to us. It was sad, but we move on . "

Interestingly enough , the example of Yougoslavia and the Soviet Republics was mentioned in the book I finished yesterday : Baba Phuntsog Wangyal , witness to Tibets history.

Wangyal is an interesting figure, a Tibetan communist that started in in ( literally) Chiang Kai-Sheks school and was thrown out after being inspired to Tibetan independence after reading ... Lenin.Later he became the translator between the Chines and the Tibetans at the forging of the the infamous Seventeen Point agreement. Political spine reflex translates this as collaborator , but he remained highly valued through his rocky carreer , from the sole Tibetan in the TAR goverbnment to eighteen years of imprisonment and torture. following shortly after Dalai Lama's escape to India. The foremost Western academic apologetic , Melvyn Goldstein, has recently published a bibliography on him , that seems to project a solid image of someone who from the start was committed to making Tibet a part of China - but his own words from the time seems to contradict this, pointing to the work of establishing a separate Tibetan nation , encompassing all of Tibet , not just the present TAR.

And his present stand seems to be the only politically survivable in present China : best for the Tibetans "under the present historical conditions " .. mentioning Yugoslavia and the Soviet Union in the next breath.

Chinese claims on Tibet have been dressed in terms of family ever since Mao welcomed Tibet "back" to the Motherland. Chauvinism comes out more clearly when Chinese cadres in Tibet are dubbed lao dai ge : bigger, elder brother. If this would be a marriage it was scripted by Lars Noren , and the point that the loyalist Wangyal makes is that only willing marriages survives .. , i.e. there has to a right to divorce.

After the ILP I went to Park Cafe to see Dhannajay : still in Delhi, but I got to know Dixit and Rakshim , big plus. Long nice chai , afterwards Dixit led me to a long search for a new burner for my stove. Lakka bazar afterwards for a new staff, and sharing the one tree available when the rains really got going.

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Photos to be posted later.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008


Tsa tsa's drying in the Nyingmapa Gompa , Manali. Room next to the gompa , Rs 200. Momos Rs 30 next door.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

Tingmo At Last

Arrived in Majnu yesterday after midnight , and got out after a few hours sleep. Eerie , vacant feeling , nothing open : Olympic shutdown. New posters with detained/vanished in the March uprising.

I end up finishing Jiang Rongs Wolf Totem , a book that starts with his arrival as a Chinese cadre in Mongolia, presumably with a role to "enlighten" the people in the Chinese extreme periphery, and ends with the arrival of a huge sandstorm in Beijing , the inevitable consequence of the destruction/modernisation of the grasslands. Between that a long fascinating story of his tutors , the Mongolians who in turn are taught by the rulers of that realm : the wolves , who Jiang sees as the personification of what is missing in the Chinese society. This is a seeming parallell to Xin Rans Sky Burial : both books are descriptions of a Chinese traveling to the periphery in the sixties and being transformed by it. But Wolf Totem stands out in sharp contrast : this is a tale where you can feel the smell of wet wool and and hear the ice breaking under your raft. Sky Burial on the other hand is consitently lacking in that kind of detail and also in any real willingness to be changed : it is symptomatic that the the twin author/main character finds the names of the family she's living with too complicated , and renames them .

Train to Shimla tommorrow.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Spring is advancing on the high ranges , slowly turning the top layers of snow into mush, meanwhile the big mass remains unmoved, a thin line being nibbled thru the snow by the machinery of the BRO : Srinagar to Leh , Leh to Manali.

One of the last to walk in to Lahaul on the road was Vishnu Maya , who ( I imagine) became involved in one of the oldest cnversations on the planet :

"not now "
"now dear , this is not something I can decide on..."
Yes , their daughter was born at the top of the Rothang La ("The Plain of Corpses") ,altitude 3978 meters, with the help ,sympathy and blankies of the others present on the trail.

Maybe this is the time for us all to turn in to mush.

(More on the Manali-Leh road status on High Road to.. )