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Sunday, September 2, 2012

SILK ROAD ( An Extensive Study)



ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Nick Middleton teaches geography at Oxford University and is a fellow of St Anne's College. He is a Royal Geographical Society award-winning writer, and the author of Travelogues.

Dr Nick Middleton's background is in the physical side of geography but his interests span the entire subject. His academic role is supplemented by his work as an environmental consultant and freelance author having written more than 200 articles in journals, magazines and newspapers, and 16 books. He has also co-written and edited another nine volumes.


INTRODUCTION

The author chronicles the challenges and hardships he faced in the Silk Road regions as they are now. The reader finds it refreshing to traverse such vast tracts of physical geography, expanses of the natural world that remain largely untamed.

As a trade route, the Silk Road has been less a single highway and more a network of overland routes linking Europe with Asia, making trade possible between those with a passion for silk, horses and exotic fauna and flora. Just about every transaction imaginable has occurred along its many trails over the centuries.
Middleton's particular passion consists of exposing himself to nature's vicissitudes like facing oxygen starvation in Tibet as he climbs towards the "navel of the universe," and other hardships during the journey.

The author is an adventurer, but at heart more a meticulous academic than a daredevil. Researching the different forms of altitude sickness, he is alarmed to discover it can lead to swelling of the brain or to the lungs slowly filling with fluid.

Having no religious inclinations himself, he begins to speculate on Tibetan Buddhism as a prerequisite for survival at such an altitude, yet makes the classic Western error of putting bodily discipline before mental striving.

This account of the Silk Road, with its contrasts and exotic detail, certainly describes the challenges and hardships Middleton faced. However, if he had sacrificed some of the sense of his own heroism, and introduced instead more of a sense of wonder or of the absurd, the book would have proved a more entertaining read.

SUMMARY 

Leaving Ravu:

The author left Ravu in the company of Daniel and Tsetan. Before leaving the place, Lhamo gave him a gift. She gave him a long-sleeved sheepskin coat. Their next destination was Mount Kailash and Tsetan knew a short cut. He said the journey would be smooth if there was no snow.

The Sight of Drokbas:

As they passed by the hills, they could see the lonely drokbas tending their flocks. There were men and women, well wrapped. They would pause and stare at their car, occasionally waving as they passed.

The Tibetan Mastiffs:

As they passed the nomad’s tents there were the Tibetan mastiffs. They would explode into action as they neared the tents. They barked furiously and completely fearless. They would chase the car for some distance and would then go back.

Ice blocking their way:

The turns became sharper and bumpier. The sudden and unexpected fall of snow started blocking their way. Both the author and Daniel got out of the car for Tsetan to drive it safely, taking sharp bends. They were at 5210 meters above the sea level. The icy top layer of the snow was very dangerous; the car could slip off the road. The snow continued blocking their way. As they reached 5515 meters above the sea level, the atmospheric pressure became very low and Tsetan opened the lid of the petrol tank to release the evaporated fuel. The author experienced severe headache.

The Town of Hor:

By late afternoon, they had reached the small town of Hor. Daniel returned Lhasa and Tsetan repaired the flat tyre of the car. Hor was grim, miserable place. There was no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks. There was the accumulated refuse everywhere. Unlike the past, the place no longer appeared holy.

Reaching Darchen:

By 10.30 p.m., they reached a guesthouse in Darchen. The author had a very troubled night. His sinus were blocked and he was not able to get enough oxygen and finding it difficult to sleep. Most of the night he sat up and was not able to sleep.

Visiting the Medical College:

The next day Tsetan took him to the Darchen Medical College. The doctor told him it was just cold and the altitude giving him troubles. He gave him some medicine and that night he was able to sleep well.

Tsetan leaving for Lhasa:

Tsetan left the author in Darchen and went away. He did not mind if the author would die in Darchen. He was a good Buddhist and believed in life after death. However, he was worried it could affect his business, as he may not get more tourists to be accompanied.

Dry Darchen:

Like Hor Darchen was dusty and heaps of refuse could be seen all around. There were not many shops in Darchen. The town appeared to be sparsely populated. He felt lonely, as they were not any pilgrims. He had reached there very early in the season.

Meeting Norbu:

The author wanted to reach Mount Kailash to do kora. But he didn’t want to do it alone. He was looking for someone who could speak or understand English. One day he was sitting in a cafĂ©. When Norbu saw him reading an English book he came and introduced him to the author. He was a Tibetan, but worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He too was there to do kora. But he was not a religious person. Both of them decided to climb Mount Kailash.

UNDERSTANDING THE LESSON THROUGH KEY SENTENCES:
1. The author left Ravu for Mount Kailash in the company of Daniel and Tsetan.
2. Before leaving the place Lhamo gave him a long-sleeved sheepskin coat.
3. The journey would be smooth if there were no snow.
4. As they passed by the hills, they could see the lonely drokbas tending their flocks.
5. As they passed the Tibetan mastiffs would explode into action.
6. They barked furiously and completely fearless. They would chase the car for some distance and would then go back.
7. The turns became sharper and bumpier.
8. The sudden and unexpected fall of snow started blocking their way.
9. By late afternoon, they had reached the small town of Hor.
10. Hor was grim, miserable place. There was no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks.
11. There was the accumulated refuse everywhere. Unlike the past, the place no longer appeared holy.
12. By 10.30 p.m., they reached a guesthouse in Darchen.
13. The author had a very troubled night because of cold.
14. The next day Tsetan took him to the Darchen Medical College.
15. The doctor told him it was just cold and the altitude giving him troubles.
16. He gave him some medicine and that night he was able to sleep well.
17. Tsetan left the author in Darchen and went away.
18. Like Hor Darchen was dusty and heaps of refuse could be seen all around.
19. There were not many shops in Darchen.
20. He felt lonely, as they were not any pilgrims.
21. He had reached there very early in the season.
22. The author wanted to reach Mount Kailash to do kora.
23. He was looking for someone who could speak or understand English.
24. later he met a Tibetan Norbu who too was thee to do kora at Mount Kailash.
25. Both of them decided to climb Mount Kailash.


TEXT BOOK QUESTIONS AND ANSWERS
UNDERSTANDING THE TEXT
I. Give reasons for the following statements.

1. The article has been titled ‘Silk Road’

The ‘Silk Road’ refers to a net work of overland routes linking Europe with Asia. This has been the trade route followed by the Europeans since ancient times, who had a passion for silk, horses and exotic fauna and flora of the east. Just about every transaction imaginable has occurred along its many trails over the centuries. Travelling the Silk Road is the most resonant journey on Earth. It is a thread that links East and West, a network of veins that pumped new lifeblood into mighty empires, a fabled route trodden by innumerable adventurers through the ages. The author Nick Middleton in his travelogue follows the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo overland from China to the edge of Europe. Hence, it titled as ‘Silk Road’. The reader finds it refreshing to traverse such vast tracts of physical geography, expanses of the natural world that remain largely untamed.

2. Tibetan mastiffs were popular in China’s imperial courts.

Tibetan mastiffs were popular in China’s imperial courts as hunting dogs. They were brought along the Silk Road in ancient times as tribute from Tibet. They were huge black dogs used as watchdogs. They explode into action like bullets. They are furious and fearless.

3. The author’s experience at Hor was in stark contrast to earlier accounts of the place.

According to the earlier accounts, the place abounds in natural beauty. 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 another traveller. However, now it is a grim miserable place. There is no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks, liberally scattered with years of accumulated refuse.

4. The author was disappointed with Darchen.
The author was disappointed with Darchen. The high altitude was giving him health problems. He had a bad cold and was not able to sleep at night. Since he was one of the early arrivals there weren’t any pilgrims coming to the place. The place was dusty, partially derelict and punctuated by heaps of rubble and refuse.

5. The author thought that his positive thinking strategy worked well after all.
The author was disappointed with Darchen. He also complained of bad health. Tsetan had left for Lhasa. He was feeling rather lonely with no pilgrims around. It was then he met Norbu, a Tibetan who too wanted to visit Kailash. They would be a good team as both of them were academicians who had escaped from the library. The author started thinking positively and it gave him some delight and a new enthusiasm.

II. Briefly comment on:
1. The purpose of the author’s journey to Mount Kailash
Nick Middleton is an Oxford Professor as well as an adventurer. He follows the most difficult terrain through the Silk Road and reaches mount Kailash. He visits the holy place to complete the kora- going around the place.

2. The author’s physical condition in Darchen
The author was not physically well when he reached Darchen. His sinuses were blocked due to the cold wind at Hor and he was not able to sleep well at night. The next day Tsetan took him to the Darchen Medical College and the doctor there gave him some medicine that gave him some relief.

3. The author’s meeting with Norbu
The author was feeling rather lonely without Tsetan who had left for Lhasa. There weren’t any pilgrims at Darchen as he had reached the place much early in the season. It was then he Norbu who was a Tibetan and also an academician. He too was there to visit Kailash and they decided to go there together.

4. Tsetan’s support to the author during the journey
Tsetan was a good and efficient driver. He drove the car very carefully. During the journey, he spoke to the author giving information about the places they were visiting. He was very caring. At Darchen when he found that the author was not well, he took him to the medical college and got medicine for him. He was a good Buddhist.

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.”
Tsetan was a good Buddhist and believed that death was not the end of life. Kailash being a holy place it would be better for him as it would take him to heaven. Then if the author would die there, it would be bad for his business as his credibility will be at stake in looking after the tourists and later he may not get any customers.



TALKING ABOUT THE TEXT

1. The sensitive behaviour of hill-folk
The hill-folk are quite unsophisticated and innocent. People like Tsetan very religious and God-fearing. They are very much hospitable and take care of the visitors from out side.

2. The reasons why people undergo the travails of difficult journeys
The author was an academician; hence, he undertook the journey for the purpose of education. For him it was a learning experience. Secondly, people undertake such journeys because of the spirit of adventure. The areas covered by the author are some of the most difficult terrains in the world. The third can be a religious reason. People visit places like Mount Kailash as part of their pilgrimage.

3. The accounts of exotic places in legends and the reality
There are many accounts of exotic places in legends and the reality. Places like Mount Kailash, Manasarovar occupy a prominent place in legends. There are many articles written about these places.


ADDITIONAL SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS

1. What was the farewell present given by Lhamo to the author when he told her that he was going to Mount Kailash?
The farewell present given by Lhamo to the author when he told her that he was going to Mount Kailash was a long-sleeved sheepskin coats that normally shepherds wore.

2. What did Tsetan say would be the only hurdle while they were on their way to Mount Kailash?
Their journey to Mount Kailash would involve crossing several high mountain passes. Tsetan knew the way very well; but the only problem would be snow. He could not say anything for sure until they reached there.

3. While crossing the rocky wilderness whom did they see and what was their reaction?
While crossing the rocky wilderness they saw solitary dorkbas- both men and women well wrapped in sheepskin coats- who were tending their flocks. They would pause and stare at their car, sometimes waving as they passed.

4. How did the Tibetan mastiff react when they approached?
The dogs would cock their great big heads when they became aware of their approach and would fix them in their sights. As they drew nearer, they would explode into action, speeding directly towards them, like a bullet from a gun and nearly as fast.

5. How did the river appear as they entered the valley?
As they entered the valley, the river became wide and mostly clogged with ice. It appeared brilliant white and glinting in the sunshine.

6. How did the author feel when they were at about 5400 meters up the sea level?
When they were up about 5400 meters from the sea level, the mountain was covered with snow and the author felt his head throbbing horribly. He took some water from the bottle, which was to help a rapid ascent.

7. Why is it that on the top of the mountain there is a plateau pockmarked with salt flats?
These salt flats are the vestiges of the Tethys Ocean, which bordered Tibet before the great continental collision that lifted skyward, millions of years ago.

8. What activity was going on in the area where there were flats of salt?
This place was a hive of activity. Men were working with pickaxes and shovels trudging back and forth in their long sheepskin coats and salt-encrusted boots.

9. Describe the appearance of Hor.
Hor was a miserable place. There was no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks, liberally scattered with years of accumulated refuse.

10. What troubled the author at Darchen?
A bad cold troubled the author at Darchen. He was unable to go to sleep at night as his nostrils were blocked. As he dozed off, he woke up suddenly. He felt his chest going very heavy, as he was not able to breathe in enough oxygen.

11. How did the Darchen medical college appear?
The Darchen medical college was new and looked like monastery from the outside with a very solid door that led into a large courtyard. The consulting room was dark and cold.

12. What according to the doctor was the problem the author suffered from?
According to the doctor, the author suffered from a bad cold as well as the effects of the altitude. His sinus was blocked and he was not able to sleep at night.

13. What did the author notice in Darchen?
In Darchen, the author noticed that the people were very relaxed and unhurried, but there was a significant drawback. There were no pilgrims in Darchen.

14. Who was Norbu?
Norbu was a Tibetan but worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in the Institute of Ethnic Literature.

15. Why had Norbu come to Kailash?
Norbu had been writing academic papers about the Kailash Kora and its importance in various works of Buddhist literature for many years, but he had actually done it for himself. Hence, he too was there to do Kora.

16. How did Norbu become an ideal companion for the author?
Norbu was an ideal companion for the author as both were academics who had escaped from the library. Both were not devout believers and they did not intend to prostrate all round the mountain.

ADDITIONAL LONG QUESTIONS

1. Justify the title ‘Silk Road’

The ‘Silk Road’ is not single highway, but a net work of overland routes linking Europe with Asia, making trade possible between those with a passion for silk, horses and exotic fauna and flora. Just about every transaction imaginable has occurred along its many trails over the centuries. Travelling the Silk Road is the most resonant journey on Earth. It’s a thread that links East and West, a network of veins that pumped new lifeblood into mighty empires, a fabled route trodden by innumerable adventurers through the ages. Yet underlying this romantic trail is one of the most extraordinary tracts of land on this planet, a vast region separating China from the Mediterranean world that rates as one of the least hospitable on Earth. It was the difficulty of crossing such unforgiving territory that kept East and West apart for so long, allowing them to develop in their own distinct ways.
The author chronicles the challenges and hardships he faced in the Silk Road regions as they are now. Nick Middleton follows in the footsteps of Alexander the Great and Marco Polo overland from China to the edge of Europe. The reader finds it refreshing to traverse such vast tracts of physical geography, expanses of the natural world that remain largely untamed.

2. Describe the author’s experiences at Darchen.

Both the author and Tsetan reached Darchen at night. He had serious sleep problems at night as he was suffering from cold. The next day Tsetan took him to the Darchen medical college and got some medicine for him. Tsetan left him to return to Lhasa. At Darchen, he found people very relaxed and unhurried, but he could not find pilgrims there as he had reached there very early. He then met Norbu who was a Tibetan, but a Chinese academician who too had come for Kora. They decided to climb Kailash together, as both were not devout pilgrims and had no desire to prostrate all round the mountain.

3. How was his experience of Hor a stark contrast to the accounts he had read of the earlier travelers?
Hor is a small town placed in the back on the main east-west highway that followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir. The author found the place very grim and miserable. There was no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks, liberally scattered with years of accumulated refuse. The town sat on the shore of lake Manasarovar, Tibet’s most venerated stretch of water. His experience in Hor came as a stark contrast to accounts he had read of earlier travellers’ first encounters with Lake Manasarovar. They were so moved by the sanctity of the lake that they became very emotional. Now he could find open-air dump in the town.

4. “He's an adventurer, but at heart more a meticulous academic than a daredevil”. Explain the truth of the statement based on your reading of the travelogue ‘Silk Road’ by Nick Middleton.

Oxford professor, travel writer, Nick Middleton is truly an adventurer, but at heart more a meticulous academic than a daredevil. He is an environmental consultant who has written many articles in journals, magazines and newspapers, and 16 books. Nick Middleton teaches geography at Oxford University and is a fellow of St Anne's College. His main research interest is in the nature and human use of deserts and their margins. After reaching Hor what attracts him is not the natural beauty of the place but the litter all around. He was disappointed to see the open-air litter all around. He gives a graphic detail of the mountain terrain, the snow covered mountains and the calm and relaxed people he met there. He strongly believes that travel broadens our mind.


EXTRAPOLATIVE QUESTION

Prepare a travelogue of a hill station you recently visited.

Kodaikanal- the mesmerizing natural beauty

Kodaikanal, located amidst the folds of the verdant Pali hills, is one of the most popular serene hill stations in India, which mesmerises any visitor. With her wooded slopes, mighty rocks, enhancing waterfalls and a beautiful lake, Kodaikanal is a charming hill station. Kodai is situated at an altitude of about 2,133-m high and covers an area of 21.45-sq-km. The hill town is renowned for its educational institutions of international repute. The pride of Kodaikanal is the 'Kurinji-flower', which blossoms once in 12 years. The hill-plantain fruits and plums are known for their freshness and taste.

Kodaikanal is one of the most popular hill resorts in India. It is a charming hill station, stands amidst sylvan beauty on the southern crest of the upper Palani Hills near Madurai in Tamil Nadu. With its rocks, woods, lovely lake and bracing air, Kodaikanal is an ideal hill resort for the tourists.
The unique flowering plant 'Kurunji'(Strobilanthus Kunthanus) that last bloomed in 2004, is nature's gift to Kodaikanal. Kodaikanal located amidst the folds of the verdant Pali hills is one of the most popular serene hill stations in India, which mesmerises any visitor and is frequented all through the year.
The hill-plantain fruits and plums are known for their freshness and taste. Berijam lake, one among the beautiful lakes of South India, spreads over an area of 24 hectares.


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