Kallol Bhattacherjee assessments The ‘Other’ Shangri-La, by Shivaji Das

A journey via ‘new’ Tibet, a put of unbelievable elegance, also considers myths, legends and ties with China

In 2020, we ought to have celebrated the 70th anniversary of India-China’s diplomatic relations, instead it will be remembered for the skirmishes in the Himalayas. Even though bilateral ties have been overshadowed by the disaster, there is a full new globe to explore as considerably as China is worried, and Shivaji Das takes visitors on a journey to the western Sichuan region and the Tibetan highlands in his travelogue, The ‘Other’ Shangri La.

Like a dream

It is a intriguing account of the amazing natural beauty and tradition of the location in which the Tibetan plateau merges into China and also the myths and legends of Tibet. The author takes the reader into a dream-like tour of Tibet’s magical mountain peaks and the elegance of its persons. He blends simple history, effectively acknowledged anecdotes and personalized knowledge to provide to life Tibet as nicely as Tibetan-Chinese daily exchanges to the reader with out in excess of burdening it with politics.

Das describes Tibet’s famed monasteries and their legends. At Chonggu Gompa, also regarded as ‘Bandit Monastery’, he and his spouse fulfill a team of monks who are sunbathing, dropping no trace of a boisterous previous. The monastery has a standing of remaining an abode of infamous criminals who in spite of currently being profession-monks terrorised neighbouring places. It is now identified for ‘miracles’ and “sometimes the facial area of Manjushri, the bodhisattva of fantastic wisdom, quickly seems in these mountains.”

Similarly appealing is the introduction to Tibet’s popular peaks like Jambeyang which at 5,958 metres is just one of the tallest peaks in the globe. But it is the visual appearance of the mountain that the creator offers in an evocative fashion — “A sharp pointed elegance, wanting like a magician’s wand hidden driving a white handkerchief.”

Then and now

Writings on Tibet and western Sichuan are rare and the last time we study this kind of an evocative narrative was most likely Vikram Seth’s From Heaven Lake (1983) where by he released the all-natural splendour of Tibet as effectively as the bureaucratic equipment of China. The e book by Das is an much easier read in comparison which exhibits that despite the decades in in between, the other-worldly natural beauty of Tibet stays unspoilt.

Nonetheless, there are major variances between then and now. In Das’s narrative, Tibet is infrastructurally improved put. He writes about his go to to Daocheng which at 4,411 metres is one of the optimum airports in the environment. The airport is used for more rapidly journey to Sichuan which is nicely known for its delicacies all about the planet.

The accounts of Sichuan are distinctive from Tibet but clearly show the connection among mainland China and the Tibetan Autonomous Area. Although Sichuan is brimming with its spice and western impact, Tibet has performed a crucial role in drawing tourism to the location as showcased by the wide existence of the well known caterpillar fungus in airport outlets which are eaten in fantastic amount these days throughout China.

The section on Sertar in Tibet, one of the greatest and surreal metropolitan areas identified for the follow of Tibetan Buddhism, is probably the significant position of the book. The creator and his Singapore-dependent Chinese wife, Lobo, also skilled the playful side of the inhabitants. 1 evening, a bunch of youthful Tibetans, who experienced experienced much too substantially to drink, observed the writer and “pounced” on him — all for a photograph with an Indian. Lobo was temporarily concerned.

The ebook reminds us that people today-to-people today exchanges can continue to salvage relations concerning the two Asian giants.

The ‘Other’ Shangri-La Shivaji Das, Konark Publishers, ₹299.

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