Let us become nobler

Sanskrit word 'Arya' or 'Aryam' stands for nobility. Let us implore everyone to become noble, the Arya or Aryam. Christians, Muslims, Hindus or Jews, communists or capitalists, rich or poor, clever or dumb, weak, meek or bully. Uncomfortable perhaps are they with other, threatening peace. Ray of hope for the world is ‘include-all’ ideas of ancient Indian wisdom popularly known as Hinduism. Only they knew how to celebrate individuality of each person. Aryas respect ideas of others, respect way of worship of others, help others and become a noble citizen of this wide and varied world. Idea behind this blog is to bring out those ideas and help each of us become better than what we are. 'N' in the 'Aryan', by the way, was a mistake made by colonial 'experts' who wanted to underplay and undermine the culture and religion of those who they clandestinely enslaved.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

11- Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A Story of Shiva and Me.

(A decade ago after a trip to Tibet, Nepal and India, I wrote down my impressions. It was not meant to be a book, however after it was read by some, it was suggested that if it gets published, interested persons can use it. However I thought (and still think) that the narration was more of a personal quest into Bhagavan Shiva and that it may not interest a wider audience. Therefore instead of commercially publishing it, I thought of placing it on a website of Publishing house Harper Collins’s website known as Authonomy.com. It remained on their website as "Kailash, Kathmandu and Kashi – A Story of Shiva and Me", for people to review my narration for many years. However, last year, when Harper Collins shutdown Authonomy.com and I realized that some people still wanted to read my account, I decided to place all 26 chapters of that travelogue on this blog. Reader views and comments are welcome)

Chapter 11.  Major town Saga. A Town with Army HQ, Shower-Shops and Clinic / Feeding Dead to Birds, Zoroastrian Tradition in Tibet

Saga is probably the only town that had some ‘life’ on this thousand km stretch up to mount Kailash. It is situated on the bank of the River Brahmaputra and is a bigger town than Nyalam or Paryang. It hosts an army camp, a medical clinic, a few restaurants, stores, laundries and above all ‘Bath-Shops’ in where one can pay ten Chinese Yuan and take hot water shower in tiny cubicles. One Chinese currency Yuan is about seven to eight Indian rupees.


Anyone, who goes to Saga, if tries to compensate for everything missed during last few days in the desolation of Tibetan roads, can hardly be blamed. We too hit the streets as soon as we could dump our belongings in the rooms allotted to us. First stop was the bath-shop: our first shower after leaving Kathmandu!  Then it was variously groceries, fruit shops, restaurants, laundry and not to forget those internet-telephone shops.  The streets were wide but not paved nor tarred, random digging was visible everywhere, garbage was dumped at many places, a stinking open sewer, (or was it a dead stream?), that ran through the center of the town and met river Brahmaputra, slim and young Chinese men in military uniform and Chinese girls in rather modern outfit walked streets, Glass-windowed restaurant showed sparsely occupied tables, Tibetan men and women worked on roads  villagers in shaggy clothes walking slowly, sometimes with digging tools in hands and were on the street some very ferocious looking dogs. Our group looked quite out of the place here, but no one seemed to stare at us as aliens; they were used to our type of specimen passing through their town everyday. If they knew English or Hindi and if they had a little smile on their faces, probably shopping could have been more delightful experience. We were kind of puzzled by withdrawn, even frosty expression on faces shop-keepers, most of who were Chinese women, perhaps wives of Chinese soldiers or other officials.  On rare occasions, they did break into smile when in conversation with their compatriot colleagues, friends or customers. I felt that Chinese people were missing their friends and relatives as if having come there just to serve on an ‘employment-contract’ the way laborers are imported by Arab-Gulf countries. They spoke only Chinese, hardly show any friendly courtesy or out-of-the-way helpfulness and always kept their conversations among themselves.  Tibetans presented opposite picture. They smiled, had robust bodies, exhibited helpfulness, even though they only knew Chinese and Tibetan languages. Contrast was also in their dressing. Chinese men and women were smartly dressed in clean, well ironed, well maintained, new looking garments but Tibetans wore old looking, ill fitting dress which showed having been hardly ever been washed and their women sported ‘bindi’ on their forehead (Bindi is a forehead adornment, a colored dot, applied in the center of forehead, above eyes) and also used ornaments made with beads and threads on their hands and necks.


While we were loitering aimlessly on the streets of Saga, our patient pilgrim, unknown to us, was facing unexpected hardships at the local clinic. As his blood sugar level had reached high levels, and as he had repeatedly vomited, Gautam decided to take him to the local clinic, the only medical facility on this Zangmu and Kailash 1000 km route.  A very big disappointment was unfolding there. Medical staff at the clinic could not understand what pilgrim was complaining. A doctor, who was part of our group also tried to explain and suggest a line of treatment. However nothing penetrated. Strangely, the staff put the sick pilgrim on glucose drip. This could be fatal for the patient who was already suffering from excess blood-sugar. With no hope from that clinic, Gautam summarily withdrew the patient from there and brought him back to the hotel before his situation could worsen further. We too had presently returned from our expedition to the Saga market. Patient was administered whatever medicines were available with us, rested and his wife consoled, prayed to Bhagavan Shiva for his health and everyone retired to the bed after a wholesome hot dinner that was prepared by the team of our Sherpas. Some pilgrims had tried to dine at restaurants in Saga town for authentic local dishes. From their account, I knew the food was good and they seemed to have enjoyed their adventure.


In Saga, we saw those fierce dogs, from whom, our group leader had told us to keep away. They are known to attack lone person and even kill and eat human flesh if they are in a pack. We were told to leave our guesthouse only in a group and try and keep a stick or similar thing for defense.

Feeding Dead to Birds, Zoroastrian Tradition in Tibet


Tibetans still follow the ancient Zoroastrian custom of offering dead to the birds. To attract birds, they apply animal fat and other substances on the body of the dead. And to make it easier for them to pick up the pieces and fly away, they cut human body into small pieces. However more often than not, the birds still fail to come, as in this region, not many birds can be found due to harsh climate. Under that situation, if birds are unable to consume the dead person, they are forced get rid of the dead body by feeding the corpse to the dogs. As some of these Tibetan dogs are fed on human flesh, they have become very dangerous to humans. We talked to a local Tibetan about this unusual practice. He informed us that it was not true and in case birds do not arrive, the dead body is consigned to fire. We do not know whom to believe, but we know the fact that no tree grew at this height and getting wood for cremation would be expensive and difficult if not impossible. We soon realized how hard was it to get wood, when we tried to buy wood for campfire the next day on my birthday. As for Dog’s ferociousness, I can relate what I saw there; something ghastly and indelible. From WC window, looking over the backyard, I saw two dogs, chasing a helpless hen, catching up with her and violently tearing her apart, pulling at wings. It was so grisly; I turned my face away before the hen was split in two. It outraged me as it appeared going against nature; firstly, hunting animals hold their prey by neck and secondly, domesticated hens and dogs have always lived side by side in the backyards and barns in amity. On both counts what I saw did not fit the bill. Dogs seem to have acquired the patent human meanness.


Curiously these dogs are usually fast asleep during day, appearing as if they are dead and they start waking up to their famed ferociousness in evenings. Not withstanding warnings and viciousness of the dogs, there were some fool-hardy local boys for who teasing these dogs appeared a sport. We were very scared when we saw this happening on the street. However I guess, it was the presence of sticks in the hands of those boys that must have convinced the dogs not to bite but be content only with bark.


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