Quiet Days Drifting By

It’s been a while since I updated this blog. It’s been a quiet week relatively, although it doesn’t necessarily mean free days! Last Friday, it was fun meeting up with Silk in this coffee-house near the university called High Connections.

The ambiance was cozy and comfortable. Spread over three floors, all laid out in wood, the cafe house is perfect for idling a lazy afternoon away. If you have the money, that is. Prices were rather exorbitant. RMB20 for a cup of coffee is pricier than Starbucks! I ordered something called a Creamer, which I thought would be something like a milk shake. There was milk indeed. A lot of it. Plain milk with a topping of cream. That’s it. Silk was a bit subdued that day. She has this new interest in her life – that wasn’t the reason for her being subdued – a guy in Shenzhen who she hopes to date once she goes there to begin work. Much of the time is spent describing Cancerian traits. Silk has much in common with me. She hates talking on the phone too, describing how she was feeling so irritated when a really good friend from Venezuela spent hours talking to her on Skype. I much prefer messaging sometimes – these days, I find that I have no patience to write long emails, or hold long phone conversations. I understand why it’s necessary to use both these means of communication – but it’s just irksome sometimes!

I also have one golden rule in China – never discuss politics. Rules, however, are meant to be broken. Silk has been to Tibet. That mesmerizing place was on my travel horizon – but it turns out that the place may be blocked to foreigners in July as China “celebrates” the 90th anniversary of the establishment of the Chinese Communist Party. I was planning to go to Lhasa, see a little bit of Tibet, then take the Friendship Highway, cross into Nepal, and then take the flight from there to Bangalore. Plans, however, are also meant to be changed. So, it was while we were discussing this, that the whole political enigma that Tibet is came to the forefront. The official party line and propaganda is that the DL (to prevent this blog from being blocked, I will try not using HIS name) is a feudal lord, and the Chinese “liberated” Tibet from this feudal and nomadic, poverty-stricken existence. Fed this line relentlessly through the media, it is no wonder that many Chinese bristle with nationalistic indignation at the thought that Tibet should not be a part of the motherland. Ordinary Chinese feel baffled at what they consider as Tibetan ingratitude for the undoubtedly more money-ed existence they now offer the Tibetans. Economically, Tibet has prospered. And Silk feels that it’s time Tibetans acknowledge it. Many of the Tibetans she met in Tibet, she claims, were very friendly, and are ready to accept Beijing “helping them.” “Tibet was always a part of China,” she says, reeling off a baffling history that I wasn’t aware of. I don’t argue. Tibet is complicated. It’s not for me – a third person – to justify its complicated equation. “Despite everything, they still keeping saying DL DL,” Silk shakes her head in bewilderment. “They just want to live like kings, you know,” she says referring to the Lamas. “And have the people give them everything,” she adds. By this time, Birdy was lost – politics bore her interminably – and her eyelids were already falling to the floor in sleepiness. I changed the topic – let the Chinese and Tibetans sort Tibet out. From a very personal viewpoint, I loved the DL when I attended one of his speeches in Bangalore. He had such charm – it was hard not to like him. The rest of Tibet’s sad history and continuing plight – I don’t know…it seems that some places are just bound to suffering.

And now, my travel plans are almost finalized. Jorg and Julie will join us on a Xinjiang adventure. The plan now is to traverse this mammoth province – it’s the largest in China, and it’s one of the few places I know of where you can find snow mountains on one side and sweeping deserts on the other. We will be going to Kashgar or Kashi – and if, possible, take the beautiful Karakoram Highway that takes you to the border of Pakistan. This is the highest highway in the world, and I have read that the scenery is just amazing. Onwards then to Inner Mongolia, and then a little bit of Sichuan Province before taking the flight from Chengdu to Bangalore. There are no luxury resorts on this route, it’s not a vacation to be idled away – long trains, high altitudes, and high temperatures. Ride on camels. Sleep in yurts. But it will be a cultural and visceral experience that makes me feel that is the reason I travel – to change a little bit in your life, little by little, garnering all those experiences, reshaping and adding your own, till you find that travel was the alchemist, a little nugget of your soul begging to live life in all its glorious fullness.

PS: I hope I don’t appear a travel snob. :-). All kinds of travels – all kinds of experiences – I love to travel just to do nothing, and I love to travel just to do everything. Yǒu shíhou. Sometimes, as they in Chinese. 🙂

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