CBSE Class 11 English Hornbill Book Chapter 8 Silk Road Summary, Explanation with Video and Question Answers
Silk Road – CBSE Class 11 English (Hornbill Book) Lesson 8 Silk Road Summary and Detailed explanation of the Lesson ‘Silk Road’ along with the meanings of difficult words.
Also, the explanation is followed by a Summary of the Lesson. All the exercises and Questions and Answers given at the back of the lessons have been covered. Also, Take Free Online MCQs Test for Class 11
Class 11 English (Hornbill Book) Chapter 8 Silk Road
By Nick Middleton
By Vaishnavi Tyagi
|Silk Road Introduction||Silk Road Video Explanation|
|Silk Road Summary||Silk Road Lesson Explanation|
|Silk Road Question Answers|
Silk Road Introduction
The story is written by Nick Middleton. This chapter is about the narrator’s journey from slopes of Ravu to Mount Kailash to complete the kora. To bid him farewell, Lhamo gave him a long sleeve sheepskin coat. He hired Tsetan’s car for his journey and took Daniel along to escort him to Darchen.
Silk Road Class 11 Video Explanation
Important Videos Links
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Silk Road Summary
The protagonist wanted to go to Mount Kailash to complete the kora. He hired Tsetan to drive him up to Mount Kailash. As a farewell gift, Lhamo gave him a long-sleeved sheepskin coat. He took Daniel as his companion till Darchen.
When they started the journey, Tsetan took a short cut to the south-west which was a direct route to Mount Kailash. They had to cross high mountain passes to reach their destination. Tsetan assured him that it would be no problem if there would be no snow. They crossed through few gazelles, a herd of wild asses and shepherds tending the flocks.
When they reached the hill, they passed dark tents which were home for nomads. He saw a Tibetan mastiff standing outside the tent as a guard. These mastiffs ran after his car as he reached near the tents. These dogs had large jaws.
As soon as they entered the valley, they witnessed snow capped mountains with rivers flowing which were blocked with ice. When they were riding through the hill, the turns became sharper and roads became bumpier. Tsetan was driving in third gear. The protagonist could feel the pressure in his ears. He held his nose, snorted to clear the congestion. He checked his wristwatch, they were at 5210 meters above sea level.
They reached their first hurdle which was a road filled with snow. Tsetan threw dirt on the snow and drove carefully on that road. They resumed their journey. The protagonist felt his head was hurting. He took a few sips of water from his water bottle. They were still climbing up the hill. They reached at 5515 meters above sea level. They stopped again and this time the fuel tank hissed when Testan unscrewed the top. As the petrol was expanding due to low atmospheric pressure, Tsetan told them not to smoke around it.
Soon in the afternoon around two o clock, they stopped for lunch. The protagonist’s headache was gone by now. By late afternoon, they reached a small town called ‘Hor’. They reached the east-west highway again. It was the old route from Lhasa to Kashmir. Daniel got off the car and took a lift to Lhasa. Their car had a few punctures which worried Tsetan. He got them fixed and the protagonist waited at a local café of Hor while having a glass of tea. He found Hor a miserable place. After a while, Tsetan reached to him and they resumed their journey again.
At night around 10.30 pm, they stopped at a guest house in Darchen to spend the night. The protagonist got ill and suffered from nose-congestion due to the change in altitude and cold weather. He stayed awake all night. Next morning, Tsetan took him to Tibetan medical college where a he consulted a Tibetan Doctor who gave him a five-day course medicines in a brown envelope.
After taking a full day of medicine, the protagonist was feeling good. Tsetan left him thereafter assuring his health condition. The protagonist was staying at Darchen. That place had a general store where Chinese cigarettes, soap, and other things were available. In the afternoon, the men gathered at a shabby table to play pool every day. Women would wash their hair in the narrow stream. Darchen had one problem, it had no pilgrims. According to the local people, in the peak season of pilgrimage the place would be filled with travellers. He met a person in the Darchen’s only café. His name was Norbu who was a Tibetan working in Beijing at the Institute of Ethnic Literature of Chinese Academy of Social Science. He came to Darchen to complete the kora just like the protagonist. He was fat and found it difficult to walk. The protagonist decided to go on the pilgrimage with him. They hired yaks to carry their luggage. Norbu finally said it is not possible for him while he collapsed across the table and laughed hilariously. His tummy was also too big.
Silk Road Lesson Explanation
A FLAWLESS half-moon floated in a perfect blue sky in the morning we said our goodbyes. Extended banks of cloud-like long French loaves glowed pink as the sun emerged to splash the distant mountain tops with a rose-tinted blush. Now that we were leaving Ravu, Lhamo said she wanted to give me a farewell present. One evening I’d told her through Daniel that I was heading towards Mount Kailash to complete the kora, and she’d said that I ought to get some warmer clothes. After ducking back into her tent, she emerged carrying one of the long-sleeved sheepskin coats that all the men wore. Tsetan sized me up as we clambered into his car. “Ah, yes,” he declared, “drokba, sir.”
We took a short cut to get off the Changtang. Tsetan knew a route that would take us south-west, almost directly towards Mount Kailash. It involved crossing several fairly high mountain passes, he said. “But no problem, sir”, he assured us, “if there is no snow.” What was the likelihood of that I asked. “Not knowing, sir, until we get there.”
Loaves – bread shaped and baked in one piece which is usually sliced before being eaten
Kora – meditation performed by Buddhist believers
Ducking Back – going inside and then coming out
Size me up – to look at someone attentively
Clambered – move or climb in an awkward way
Drokba – Shepherd
As the protagonist was heading towards Mount Kailash to complete the kora in the morning, he witnessed a beautiful half-moon in the blue sky. The clouds looked like French bread which glowed pink because of the sun which spread a slash of rays on the mountain tops. It looked like a rose-tinted blush. Ravu and Lhamo wanted to give him a farewell gift. One evening when the protagonist passed a message to Lhamo through Daniel, she gave him a long-sleeved sheepskin coat which is meant for men. Tsetan looked at him attentively while he climbed into his car. He declared yes and said Drokba to him which means kora in the region of Tibet.
They took a short cut to cut off the Changtang. His driver knew the short route which took them to the south-west towards Mount Kailash. They had to pass high mountain passes. Tsetan told him that they can reach the destination only if there is no snow and they can’t know that until they’ll reach there.
From the gently rolling hills of Ravu, the short cut took us across vast open plains with nothing in them except a few gazelles that would look up from nibbling the arid pastures and frown before bounding away into the void. Further on, where the plains became more stony than grassy, a great herd of wild ass came into view. Tsetan told us we were approaching them long before they appeared. “Kyang,” he said, pointing towards a far-off pall of dust. When we drew near, I could see the herd galloping en masse, wheeling and turning in tight formation as if they were practising manoeuvres on some predetermined course. Plumes of dust billowed into the crisp, clean air.
Gazelles – an African or Asian mammal with large eyes that moves quickly and hoofs
Nibbling – take a small bite from
Arid – having little or no rain
Pastures – land covered with grass
Frown – to disapprove of something
Bounding – jump; hop; bounce
Wild ass – an animal who have ears shorter than a horse and smaller in size
Herd – a large group of animal
Galloping – progressing in an uncontrollable manner
En masse – in a group
Manoeuvres – military exercises
Plumes – Trails
Billowed – filled with air; swelled out
The route was filled with open plains in Ravu where Gazelles were eating grass from the land which had little rain and disapproved while hopping back in the void. As they moved forward, a large group of wild asses appeared. Tsetan told him that they were approaching the wild asses long before they appeared there. Tsetan pointed out a huge pile of dust which he called ‘Kyang’ in his local language. When they drew nearer to the destination, they could see a large group of animals progressing in a fast and uncontrollable manner like they were doing military exercises. Trails of dust filled with air.
As hills started to push up once more from the rocky wilderness, we passed solitary drokbas tending their flocks. Sometimes men, sometimes women, these well-wrapped figures would pause and stare at our car, occasionally waving as we passed. When the track took us close to their animals, the sheep would take evasive action, veering away from the speeding vehicle.
We passed nomads’ dark tents pitched in splendid isolation, usually with a huge black dog, a Tibetan mastiff, standing guard. These beasts would cock their great big heads when they became aware of our approach and fix us in their sights. As we continued to draw closer, they would explode into action, speeding directly towards us, like a bullet from a gun and nearly as fast.
Wilderness – wasteland
Solitary – private
Flocks – a group of birds
Evasive – slippery
Veering – to change direction suddenly
Shaggy – bushy or hairy
As they move passed the rocky area, they came across private Koras nurturing their group of birds. Both men and women stared at their car and some also waved at them. As they moved closer to the animals, the sheep would take a slippery path and would suddenly move into another direction away from the car.
They witnessed nomads’ tents which were dark in complete isolation and a big black Tibetan dog standing as their guard. They fixed their gaze on the approaching car and ran behind it as a bullet fired from a gun.
These shaggy monsters, blacker than the darkest night, usually wore bright red collars and barked furiously with massive jaws. They were completely fearless of our vehicle, shooting straight into our path, causing Tsetan to brake and swerve. The dog would make chase for a hundred metres or so before easing off, having seen us off the property. It wasn’t difficult to understand why ferocious Tibetan mastiffs became popular in China’s imperial courts as hunting dogs, brought along the Silk Road in ancient times as tribute from Tibet.
By now we could see snow-capped mountains gathering on the horizon. We entered a valley where the river was wide and mostly clogged with ice, brilliant white and glinting in the sunshine. The trail hugged its bank, twisting with the meanders as we gradually gained height and the valley sides closed in.
Swerve – change direction suddenly
Ferocious – cruel or violent
Mastiffs – a dog who is a strong breed with dropping ears saggy ears
Glinting – sparkle or twinkle
Meanders – to follow a winding course of a river or road
Those bushy creatures were blacker than the normal black colour who wore a bright red collar and they barked angrily at them with big jaws. Those dogs were fearless and were running towards the car causing Tsetan to apply brakes and change direction suddenly. The dogs ran after them for a hundred meters more and then stop to watch them go away. These Tibetan Mastiffs became popular in China’s royal courts as hunting dogs. They were brought along the silk route as tribute in ancient times from Tibet.
As they passed the area with bushy Tibetan dogs, they started witnessing snow-capped mountains. They entered the valley which was covered with Wide River covered with ice which was white and shiny in the sun. The track was moving along the river bank as they gained height and the valley was closing in towards them.
The turns became sharper and the ride bumpier, Tsetan now in third gear as we continued to climb. The track moved away from the icy river, labouring through steeper slopes that sported big rocks daubed with patches of bright orange lichen. Beneath the rocks, hunks of snow clung on in the near permanent shade. I felt the pressure building up in my ears, held my nose, snorted and cleared them.
We struggled round another tight bend and Tsetan stopped. He had opened his door and jumped out of his seat before I realised what was going on. “Snow,” said Daniel as he too exited the vehicle, letting in a breath of cold air as he did so.
A swathe of the white stuff lay across the track in front of us, stretching for maybe fifteen metres before it petered out and the dirt trail reappeared. The snow continued on either side of us, smoothing the abrupt bank on the upslope side. The bank was too steep for our vehicle to scale, so there was no way round the snow patch. I joined Daniel as Tsetan stepped on to the encrusted snow and began to slither and slide forward, stamping his foot from time to time to ascertain how sturdy it was. I looked at my wristwatch. We were at 5,210 metres above sea level.
Daubed – spread a thick sticky substance on a surface carelessly
Lichen – a slow-growing plant which grows on walls, trees or rocks
Clung – hold tightly onto something
Swathe – a long strip of land
Petered out – to diminish gradually and stop
Encrusted – decorated with a hard surface layer
Slither – to move smoothly over a surface
The driver was driving in third gear while the turns were sharper and the ride got bumpier. Then they moved away from the road which ran along the icy river. It had sharp slopes and big rocks coated with thick sticky orange lichen. Below the rocks were chunks of snow. The protagonist felt a pressure on his ears, he held his nose and snorted in order to clear them. A sharp turn came again and Tsetan stopped the car and jumped out from his seat. David too did the same. He exclaimed “snow” in his excitement.
A long track of snow was in front of them which was about fifteen meters long before it diminished and the normal dirty track appeared again. The snow was on both sides of them and it was difficult to move the vehicle in that condition. The protagonist joined Daniel as Tsetan tried to move smoothly over the snowy surface by stamping his foot on the surface. The protagonist saw his wristwatch, they were 5,210 meters above sea level.
The snow didn’t look too deep to me, but the danger wasn’t its depth, Daniel said, so much as its icy top layer. “If we slip off, the car could turn over,” he suggested, as we saw Tsetan grab handfuls of dirt and fling them across the frozen surface. We both pitched in and, when the snow was spread with soil, Daniel and I stayed out of the vehicle to lighten Tsetan’s load. He backed up and drove towards the dirty snow, eased the car on to its icy surface and slowly drove its length without apparent difficulty.
Ten minutes later, we stopped at another blockage. “Not good, sir,” Tsetan announced as he jumped out again to survey the scene. This time he decided to try and drive round the snow. The slope was steep and studded with major rocks, but somehow Tsetan negotiated them, his four-wheel drive vehicle lurching from one obstacle to the next. In so doing he cut off one of the hairpin bends, regaining the trail further up where the snow had not drifted.
Fling – throw
Lurching – listing
The snow was deep beneath its icy top surface. Daniel said that if they turn their car over, they could slip off. Tsetan grabbed dirt and threw it across the frozen surface. They pitched in and helped Tsetan until the snow with soil appeared and it loaded the tension of Tsetan. He drove back the car and slowly drove to the more comfortable side of the road.
After ten minutes, Tsetan stopped again as another obstacle came in front of them. They drove around the snowy track which was steep and filled with rocks. He further drove from the hairpin bend, moving on the higher side where the snow was still there.
I checked my watch again as we continued to climb in the bright sunshine. We crept past 5,400 metres and my head began to throb horribly. I took gulps from my water bottle, which is supposed to help a rapid ascent.
We finally reached the top of the pass at 5,515 metres. It was marked by a large cairn of rocks festooned with white silk scarves and ragged prayer flags. We all took a turn round the cairn, in a clockwise direction as is the tradition, and Tsetan checked the tyres on his vehicle. He stopped at the petrol tank and partially unscrewed the top, which emitted a loud hiss. The lower atmospheric pressure was allowing the fuel to expand. It sounded dangerous to me. “Maybe, sir,” Tsetan laughed “but no smoking.”
Throb – pulsate
Ascent – climb on an upward slope
Cairn of rocks – the pile of stone on the top of the mountain, especially where someone is buried.
Festooned – decorated
The protagonist checked his watch again while he was climbing the mountain in the bright sunlight. They move up to 5400 meters height and his head began to pulsate again. He had a few sips of water from his bottle which helped him to climb the slope.
They reached at 5,515 meters and a large pile of stone was decorated with white silk scarves and some dirty prayer flags. They took a turn round that stone in a clockwise direction as in the tradition and the driver checked the tyres of his vehicle. He stopped at the petrol tank and unscrewed its top which made a loud hiss noise as the pressure was making the fuel expand. The driver told him maybe it’s dangerous but told him not to smoke around there.
My headache soon cleared as we careered down the other side of the pass. It was two o’clock by the time we stopped for lunch. We ate hot noodles inside a long canvas tent, part of a workcamp erected beside a dry salt lake. The plateau is pockmarked with salt flats and brackish lakes, vestiges of the Tethys Ocean which bordered Tibet before the great continental collision that lifted it skyward. This one was a hive of activity, men with pickaxes and shovels trudging back and forth in their long sheepskin coats and salt-encrusted boots. All wore sunglasses against the glare as a steady stream of blue trucks emerged from the blindingly white lake laden with piles of salt.
By late afternoon we had reached the small town of Hor, back on the main east-west highway that followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir. Daniel, who was returning to Lhasa, found a ride in a truck so Tsetan and I bade him farewell outside a tyre-repair shop. We had suffered two punctures in quick succession on the drive down from the salt lake and Tsetan was eager to have them fixed since they left him with no spares. Besides, the second tyre he’d changed had been replaced by one that was as smooth as my bald head.
Careered down – sinking the slope
Salt flats – thatched roof covered with snow
Pockmarked – disfigured with a scar
Brackish – slightly salty water
Vestiges – a trace of something that is disappearing
Laden – loaded
His headache cleared as they descended down the slope. It was two o’clock when they stopped for lunch at a long canvas tent beside the dry salt lake. They had hot noodles. The plateau was disfigured and the lake was filled with salty water and thatched roof covered with snow. It had traces of extinct Tethys Ocean which used to border Tibet before the collision of the continent. Few men were working there with pickaxes and shovels. They were wearing sunglasses to minimize the glare coming from blue trucks loaded with pile of salt, salt-encrusted boots, and long sheepskin coats.
By the late afternoon, they reached Hor town and back to the east-west highway, which was an old route from Lhasa to Kashmir. Daniel found a ride as he was on his way back to Lhasa, both of them bid him farewell at tyre repair shop. Their car suffered two punctures on the way from the salt lake so Tsetan was eager to get them fixed. They had no spare tyre left and the second tyre which he changed was replaced by a smooth tyre just like the head of the protagonist.
Hor was a grim, miserable place. There was no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks, liberally scattered with years of accumulated refuse, which was unfortunate given that the town sat on the shore of Lake Manasarovar, Tibet’s most venerated stretch of water. Ancient Hindu and Buddhist cosmology pinpoints Manasarovar as the source of four great Indian rivers: the Indus, the Ganges, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra. Actually only the Sutlej flows from the lake, but the headwaters of the others all rise nearby on the flanks of Mount Kailash. We were within striking distance of the great mountain and I was eager to forge ahead.
But I had to wait. Tsetan told me to go and drink some tea in Hor’s only cafe which, like all the other buildings in town, was constructed from badly painted concrete and had three broken windows. The good view of the lake through one of them helped to compensate for the draught.
Class 11 Important Links
Grim – ugly or grey
Accumulated – gathered
Venerated – respected
Cosmology – science about the origin and development of the universe
Flanks – sides
Forge – put together; build-up
Hor was an ugly and miserable place which had no vegetation and just dust and rocks. It is scattered with gathered refuse and it was luckless that it was on the shore of Lake Mansarovar which is Tibet’s most respected water. According to ancient Hindu and Buddhist cosmologists, it consists of four Indian rivers – the Indus, the Ganges, the Sutlej, and the Brahmaputra. Sutlej River flows from this lake and other three rivers rise near the sides of Mount Kailash. They were in a remarkable distance and he was eager to build ahead.
He waited for Tsetan while having some tea at Hor’s café which was constructed badly from painted concrete and three broken windows. Although, it had a good view of the lake.
I was served by a Chinese youth in military uniform who spread the grease around on my table with a filthy rag before bringing me a glass and a thermos of tea.
Half an hour later, Tsetan relieved me from my solitary confinement and we drove past a lot more rocks and rubbish westwards out of town towards Mount Kailash.
My experience in Hor came as a stark contrast to accounts I’d read of earlier travellers’ first encounters with Lake Manasarovar. Ekai Kawaguchi, a Japanese monk who had arrived there in 1900, was so moved by the sanctity of the lake that he burst into tears. A couple of years later, the hallowed waters had a similar effect on Sven Hedin, a Swede who wasn’t prone to sentimental outbursts.
Filthy – dirty
Rag – scrap cloth
Solitary – private
Confinement – detention; captivity
Stark – plain
Sanctity – pure
The protagonist was served by a Chinese boy who was wearing a military uniform. He spread the grease around his table with a dirty cloth and brought him a glass and a thermos of tea. Tsetan freed him from his private detention and they started their journey ahead passing more rocks and rubbish.
The protagonist’s experience was opposite from what he read on traveller’s first encounters of the town. Ekai Kawaguchi was a Japanese monk who arrived in the town in 1900, he was so moved with the purity of the lake that he cried. After few years, similar effect was on Sven Hedin a Swedish who didn’t have such an emotional outburst.
It was dark by the time we finally left again and after 10.30 p.m. we drew up outside a guest house in Darchen for what turned out to be another troubled night. Kicking around in the open-air rubbish dump that passed for the town of Hor had set off my cold once more, though if truth be told it had never quite disappeared with my herbal tea. One of my nostrils was blocked again and as I lay down to sleep, I wasn’t convinced that the other would provide me with sufficient oxygen. My watch told me I was at 4,760 metres. It wasn’t much higher than Ravu, and there I’d been gasping for oxygen several times every night. I’d grown accustomed to these nocturnal disturbances by now, but they still scared me.
Tired and hungry, I started breathing through my mouth. After a while, I switched to single-nostril power which seemed to be admitting enough oxygen but, just as I was drifting off, I woke up abruptly.
Something was wrong. My chest felt strangely heavy and I sat up, a movement that cleared my nasal passages almost instantly and relieved the feeling in my chest. Curious, I thought.
Nocturnal – night time
When they resumed their journey from Hor, it was dark at that time. After 10.30 pm they decided to stay in a guest house in Darchen which turned out to be a difficult night for him. The rubbish dump in Hor made his cold worse and herbal tea also didn’t help him. One of his nostrils was blocked as he lay on the bed. He wasn’t getting sufficient oxygen and he checked his watch. He was at 4760 meters above sea level. The height was not more than Ravu but he would be out of breath several times a night. He was so familiar to these night time disturbances and he was scared this time.
He started breathing from his mouth, he was tired and hungry. He switched back to breathing from single nostril and as soon as he was about to sleep, he would wake up shortly. He was not feeling well as his chest felt heavy. He sat up and it cleared his nasal passages. He was curious.
I lay back down and tried again. Same result. I was on the point of disappearing into the land of nod when something told me not to. It must have been those emergency electrical impulses again, but this was not the same as on previous occasions. This time, I wasn’t gasping for breath, I was simply not allowed to go to sleep.
Sitting up once more immediately made me feel better. I could breathe freely and my chest felt fine. But as soon as I lay down, my sinuses filled and my chest was odd. I tried propping myself upright against the wall, but now I couldn’t manage to relax enough to drop off. I couldn’t put my finger on the reason, but I was afraid to go to sleep. A little voice inside me was saying that if I did I might never wake up again. So I stayed awake all night.
Gasping – breathlessness
Propping – to hold up
He tried again by laying back on the bed. The same thing happened. He was in the land of signals where something told him not to do it. He wasn’t able to go to sleep this time. When he was sitting up, it made him feel better as he could breathe properly and his chest felt light. The opposite happened as soon as he laid down. He held himself up against the wall but he wasn’t able to relax. He was afraid to sleep now, a voice inside him told him that he might die if he would try to sleep so he stayed awake all night.
Tsetan took me to the Darchen medical college the following morning. The medical college at Darchen was new and looked like a monastery from the outside with a very solid door that led into a large courtyard. We found the consulting room which was dark and cold and occupied by a Tibetan doctor who wore none of the paraphernalia that I’d been expecting. No white coat, he looked like any other Tibetan with a thick pullover and a woolly hat. When I explained my sleepless symptoms and my sudden aversion to lying down, he shot me a few questions while feeling the veins in my wrist.
“It’s a cold,” he said finally through Tsetan. “A cold and the effects of altitude. I’ll give you something for it.”
I asked him if he thought I’d recover enough to be able to do the kora. “Oh yes,” he said, “you’ll be fine.”
Paraphernalia – miscellaneous articles
Tsetan took him to Darchen medical college the next morning. It was new and looked like a monastery with a door which lead to a large courtyard. They went to a dark and cold consulting room filled by a Tibetan doctor who wore nothing kind lf random articles which he expected. He was wearing a thick pullover and a woolly hat. He asked him a few questions while feeling his veins. He told the driver that it is cold and he had an effect due to cold and altitude change. He gave him some medicine and reassured him that he will be able to do the kora.
I walked out of the medical college clutching a brown envelope stuffed with fifteen screws of paper. I had a five-day course of Tibetan medicine which I started right away. I opened an after breakfast package and found it contained a brown powder that I had to take with hot water. It tasted just like cinnamon. The contents of the lunchtime and bedtime packages were less obviously identifiable. Both contained small, spherical brown pellets. They looked suspiciously like sheep dung, but of course I took them. That night, after my first full day’s course, I slept very soundly. Like a log, not a dead man.
Once he saw that I was going to live Tsetan left me, to return to Lhasa. As a Buddhist, he told me, he knew that it didn’t really matter if I passed away, but he thought it would be bad for business.
Darchen didn’t look so horrible after a good night’s sleep. It was still dusty, partially derelict and punctuated by heaps of rubble and refuse, but the sun shone brilliantly in a clear blue sky and the outlook across the plain to the south gave me a vision of the Himalayas, commanded by a huge, snow-capped mountain, Gurla Mandhata, with just a wisp of cloud suspended over its summit.
Pellets – shots
Derelict – ruined
Heaps – loads
Wisp – a small amount of something
The Tibetan doctor gave him a five day course. He came out with a brown envelope which had fifteen screws of paper. After having breakfast, he opened the ‘after breakfast package’ which had a brown powder which he had to take with hot water. It tasted like cinnamon and the lunchtime and bedtime packages were nearly the same. They looked like sheep dung, both had small spherical brown packages. After taking the full day medicine, he slept peacefully that night.
Tsetan left him in Darchen when he came to know that he is going to be fine. He told him as a Buddhist that if he had passed away, it would not matter but it would be bad for business.
Next day, Darchen wasn’t looking so bad. It was dusty, partially ruined and had loads of rubble and refuse everywhere. The brightly shining sun in the blue sky gave him the vision of Himalayas. Gurla Mandhata, he was able to see a little bit with clouds suspended over it.
The town had a couple of rudimentary general stores selling Chinese cigarettes, soap and other basic provisions, as well as the usual strings of prayer flags. In front of one, men gathered in the afternoon for a game of pool, the battered table looking supremely incongruous in the open air, while nearby women washed their long hair in the icy water of a narrow brook that babbled down past my guest house. Darchen felt relaxed and unhurried but, for me, it came with a significant drawback. There were no pilgrims.
I’d been told that at the height of the pilgrimage season, the town was bustling with visitors. Many brought their own accommodation, enlarging the settlement round its edges as they set up their tents which spilled down on to the plain. I’d timed my arrival for the beginning of the season, but it seemed I was too early.
One afternoon I sat pondering my options over a glass of tea in Darchen’s only cafe. After a little consideration, I concluded they were severely limited. Clearly I hadn’t made much progress with my self-help programme on positive thinking.
Rudimentary – basic or primary
Incongruous – strange
Brook – a small stream
Pondering – thinking
Darchen had some basic general stores selling Chinese soaps, cigarettes, and strings of prayer flags. Every afternoon men would gather for a game of pool. They would sit around a shabby table looking strange in the open air while women washed their hair in iced water of a small stream which flowed all the way to his guest house. Darchen had no pilgrims which were a setback for him. He was told that in the peak season of pilgrimage, in this town was filled with visitors. Some brought their own accommodation such as tents which were set up in the plains. He felt that he had arrived at that place way too early. One day while he was thinking about his options while having a glass of tea at Darchen’s only café, he concluded that there are limited options for him as he made little progress on the self-help program on positive thinking.
In my defence, it hadn’t been easy with all my sleeping difficulties, but however I looked at it, I could only wait. The pilgrimage trail was well-trodden, but I didn’t fancy doing it alone. The kora was seasonal because parts of the route were liable to blockage by snow. I had no idea whether or not the snow had cleared, but I wasn’t encouraged by the chunks of dirty ice that still clung to the banks of
Darchen’s brook. Since Tsetan had left, I hadn’t come across anyone in Darchen with enough English to answer even this most basic question.
Until, that is, I met Norbu. The cafe was small, dark and cavernous, with a long metal stove that ran down the middle. The walls and ceiling were wreathed in sheets of multi-coloured plastic, of the
striped variety— broad blue, red and white—that is made into stout, voluminous shopping bags sold all over China, and in many other countries of Asia as well as Europe. As such, plastic must rate as one of China’s most successful exports along the Silk Road today.
Well-trodden – much frequented by travellers
Cavernous – vast
Wreathed – twisted
Stout – firm
He was having difficulty in sleeping which hadn’t made it easy for him. He had no option other than to wait until the peak season of pilgrimage. The trail was much frequented by the travellers. He could do kora alone but it was a seasonal session because of the route blockage by snow. He had no idea if the snow was cleared and he was not feeling good about dirty ice that still recided on the bank of Darchen’s small streams. He had been facing communication problems since Tsetan left. No one knew much English to answer his basic question.
He met Norbu in a café which was small, dark and vast with long metal stove. The walls and ceilings were twisted in multi-coloured plastic sheets of different coloured stripes. It was made into a firm and big shopping bags which were sold over China and in many other countries of Asia and Europe. Plastic was China’s successful export along the Silk Route.
The cafe had a single window beside which I’d taken up position so that I could see the pages of my notebook. I’d also brought a novel with me to help pass the time.
Norbu saw my book when he came in and asked with a gesture if he could sit opposite me at my rickety table. “You English?” he enquired, after he’d ordered tea. I told him I was, and we struck up a conversation.
I didn’t think he was from those parts because he was wearing a windcheater and metal-rimmed spectacles of a Western style. He was Tibetan, he told me, but worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in the Institute of Ethnic Literature. I assumed he was on some sort of fieldwork.
“Yes and no,” he said. “I have come to do the kora.” My heart jumped. Norbu had been writing academic papers about the Kailash kora and its importance in various works of Buddhist literature for many years, he told me, but he had never actually done it himself.
Rickety – unstable
That café had only one window which he would take so that he could see his notebook clearly and he would also bring a novel with him to pass time. Norbu once saw his book and asked if he could sit opposite him at his unstable table. He asked him if he is English after he ordered tea. He told him that he was English. The protagonist guessed that he must not be a local as he was wearing a windcheater and metal-rimmed spectacles which were of western style.
Norbu was a Tibetan who worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences in the Institute of Ethnic Literature. Norbu told him that he had come here to do kora. The protagonist was happy. Norbu was writing academic papers on Kailash kora and its importance in various Buddhist literature works. He had never done the kora himself.
When the time came for me to tell him what brought me to Darchen, his eyes lit up. “We could be a team,” he said excitedly. “Two academics who have escaped from the library.” Perhaps my positive-thinking strategy was working after all.
My initial relief at meeting Norbu, who was also staying in the guest house, was tempered by the realisation that he was almost as ill-equipped as I was for the pilgrimage. He kept telling me how fat he was and how hard it was going to be. “Very high up,” he kept reminding me, “so tiresome to walk.” He wasn’t really a practising Buddhist, it transpired, but he had enthusiasm and he was, of course, Tibetan.
Although I’d originally envisaged making the trek in the company of devout believers, on reflection I decided that perhaps Norbu would turn out to be the ideal companion. He suggested we hire some yaks to carry our luggage, which I interpreted as a good sign, and he had no intention of prostrating himself all round the mountain. “Not possible,” he cried, collapsing across the table in hysterical laughter. It wasn’t his style, and anyway his tummy was too big.
Tiresome – dull and boring
Transpired – leaked
Envisaged – predicted
Devout – deep
Prostrating – lying down
Norbu was excited when he got to know why the protagonist was at Darchen. He said they could be a team who are two academists who escaped from the library. The protagonist believed his positive thinking strategy was working.
Norbu was also staying at a guest house just like him and Norbu was as ill-equipped like him. Norbu kept telling him that he was too dull, boring and tired to walk and he was fat. Norbu was not a practicing Buddhist but he was an enthusiast.
Originally, the protagonist predicted that the trek would be good in a company of any deep believer but he found Norbu to be an ideal partner. They decided to hire some yaks to carry their luggage and he had no intention of lying down flat all over the mountain. Norbu finally said it is not possible for him while he collapsed across the table, laughing hilariously. His tummy was also too big.
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Silk Road Question Answers
Understanding the text
I. Give reasons for the following statements.
1. The article has been titled ‘Silk Road.’
Ans: The article has been titled ‘Silk Road’’ because the protagonist explored the region of old silk route which was one of the historical routes for trade. The route connected Afro-Eurasian land. Trade of Chinese silk, spices, teas and porcelain, Indian textiles, pepper and precious stones, Roman Empire’s gold, silver, glassware, wine, carpets, and jewels were done.
2. Tibetan mastiffs were popular in China’s imperial courts.
Ans: Tibetan mastiffs were popular in China’s imperial courts as big hunting dogs. They were fearless and furious with big jaws. They were brought along the Silk Road as a watchdog from Tibet. They were a tribute in ancient times.
3. The author’s experience at Hor was in stark contrast to earlier accounts of the place.
Ans: Hor was an ugly and miserable place which had no vegetation and just dust and rocks. It was scattered with gathered refuse and it is luckless that it was on the shore of Lake Mansarovar which is Tibet’s most respected water. Ekai Kawaguchi was a Japanese monk who arrived in the town in 1900, he was so moved with the purity of the lake that he cried. After a few years, similar effect was on Sven Hedin a Swedish who didn’t have such an emotional outburst.
The protagonist’s car suffered from two punctures in that place. When he reached that place’s only café to have some tea, the place was filled with badly painted concrete and three broken windows.
4. The author was disappointed with Darchen.
Ans: He was disappointed with Darchen because he was having health issues due to change in altitude. He had a cold and was unable to sleep at night. The place had no pilgrims and it was filled with loads of remains and trash.
5. The author thought that his positive thinking strategy worked well after all.
Ans: The author thought that his positive thinking strategy worked well after all because he finally met someone who understood his language and was there to complete the kora just like him. He met Norbu at Darchen’s only café. Earlier, he got ill as soon as he reached the place. No one understood English well. He felt lonely as there were no pilgrims around.
He decided to team up with him to complete his journey. He was glad he maintained his positive thinking approach in life.
II. Briefly comment on
1. The purpose of the author’s journey to Mount Kailash.
Ans: The author wanted to go to Mount Kailash to complete the kora which is an essential display in Buddhism. Buddhists believers are to be performed meditation in this process.
2. The author’s physical condition in Darchen.
Ans: The author was ill when he reached Darchen. His sinus was were blocked because of the cold weather and altitude change. He didn’t sleep well and the next day, he went to the Tibetan doctor who gave him some medicine.
3. The author’s meeting with Norbu.
Ans: He was feeling lonely in Darchen as Tsetan left for Lhasa. No one knew the English language much in that place. There were no pilgrims at that time of year. He met Norbu at local café. Norbu was an academic from Beijing who worked for the Institute of Ethnic Literature. He was at Darchen to complete the kora.
4. Tsetan’s support to the author during the journey.
Ans: Tsetan played an important role during the author’s journey. He was an efficient driver. He took care of the author when he got ill after reaching Darchen. He took him to the medical college and got medicine for him. He also informed him about the places they were visiting in their journey.
5. “As a Buddhist, he told me, he knew that it didn’t really matter if I passed away, but he thought it would be bad for business.”
Ans: Tsetan was a Buddhist who believed that death is not the end. He might have gone directly to heaven as Kailash is a holy place. He thought it would be bad if the author died because it might affect his business and he would not get any customers in future. He could have lost his credibility.
Talking about text
Discuss in groups of four
1. The sensitive behaviour of hill-folk.
Ans: The hill-folk are very innocent and unsophisticated people. They are good at hospitality like Tsetan who took care of the author all the time.
2. The reasons why people willingly undergo the travails of difficult journeys.
Ans: The author was an academician who wanted to take the journey for the purpose of education. He wanted to learn from this experience. Normally, people take such a difficult journey for the spirit of adventure. Also, religious beliefs play an important role in such journeys. Mount Kailash is a holy place which is visited by many people for pilgrimage.
3. The accounts of exotic places in legends and the reality.
Ans: Mount Kailash and Lake Mansarovar are such prominent places in legends. Many people talk about it and there are many articles published online regarding two places.
Thinking about Language
1. Notice the kind of English Tsetan uses while talking to the author. How do you think he picked it up?
Ans: As Tsetan used to speak in a basic format, the author understood what he was saying without any major problem.
2. What do the following utterances indicate?
(i) “I told her, through Daniel …”
(ii) “It’s a cold,” he said finally through Tsetan.
(i) She didn’t know English so Daniel translated what the author was saying in the Tibetan language.
(ii) The Tibetan doctor was speaking in the Tibetan language. Tsetan translated it to the author in English.
3. Guess the meaning of the following words.
Kora, drokba, kyang
In which language are these words found?
Ans: Kora – circumambulation of the temple
Drokba – shepherd
Kyang – a wild ass of Tibet
These words are found in the Tibetan language.
Working with words
1. The narrative has many phrases to describe the scenic beauty of the mountainside like:
A flawless half-moon floated in a perfect blue sky.
Scan the text to locate other such picturesque phrases.
Ans: ‘Extended banks of cloud-like long French loaves glowed pink as the sun emerged to splash the distant mountain tops with a rose-tinted blush.’
‘We entered a valley where the river was wide and mostly clogged with ice, brilliant white and glinting in the sunshine.’
2. Explain the use of the adjectives in the following phrases.
(i) shaggy monsters
(ii) brackish lakes
(iii) rickety table
(iv) hairpin bend
(v) rudimentary general stores
Ans: (i) hairy
(iv) very sharp
(v) elementary; basic
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