On an October evening in 1999, at a marriage reception in London, I unexpectedly bumped into Kunj Trivedi, a friend
from Kenya. I was surprised to meet him after so many years. More surprising than that was his sudden but spontaneous
invitation to join him on an excursion to Tibet. The excursion was planned for April May 2000, to take maximum advantage of the good weather. The idea was to drive across Tibet to the holy mountain of Kailash and to the legendary lake Mansarovar where innumerable spiritual Indians down the ages have acquired inner realisation. The offer was a tribute
to me as much as an accredited accolade to a soldier. I am a born pilgrim. I call myself a pilgrim of this world since I love to see God in nature. Nature for me is the dynamic face of the Ultimate Reality that is immutable. Such adventures have constantly excited me and never would I let an opportunity like this be put aside. The group was to have a maximum of seven persons and would be led by an experienced mountaineer from Mumbai, Harish Kapadia. It is normally difficult to get Harish as a leader. He is as busy as a bee, travelling and leading numerous international mountaineers. Still, he agreed to lead these amateur trekkers, as he is Kunj Trivedi’s friend. Kunj himself is an avid photographer of a very high caliber. His 1998 calendar entitled CATS, won him international fame amongst photographers and friends. The calendar consists of the most brilliant photos of wildlife I have ever seen. On this journey, Kunj’s aim was to take splendid photos of Kailash and Mansarovar.
The expedition costs were high, though for this price utmost precision, planning and panache were offered. Vinod Your sixty-five years of youth would easily cope up with the rigors of the journey. You need only to agree. Kunj assured me. This was almost a compliment to me and I agreed instantly. We needed one more companion. 1 straightaway thought of Niles Nathwani in Vienna. Niles is not a very easy person to put up with. His thinking is totally different. He always comes up with new ideas at very odd moments, Just as a magician pulls a rabbit out of a hat, quite unexpectedly. This puts everyone around him in a tongue-tied situation.
He has some plus points. He takes nice photos and has a poetic eye to see, feel and describe nature. He writes well. In His peculiar mood, he may even write a record of the pilgrimage that he may publish, more so when no one wants him to do so. He also sings, though never for a long time. His voice is neither a pleasure nor a pain to the ear. He has a macabre sense of humour. Yet he is kind, considerate and caring, So. Without hesitation I phoned him. I knew he would not dismiss the offer to be a part of this once in a lifetime venture. And I was right. Niles agreed without a second thought.
Now that the team was organised, I set out to do my homework. Regular thawing at the local gym was imperative this included half an hour of running on the track. Half an hour of cycling and half an hour of body building on machines. This went on unit April 2000 with utmost discipline. At the same time the hunt to find all the available literature and maps on Kailash and Mansarovar continued. This occupied not just myself but the rest of the group too. Disappointingly Not much literature was available. Bookshops did not offer much. Offers from Amazon.com were also not gratifying. We were looking for something from the Indian point of view. Something that blended travel and philosophy. A lot of books were available on mountaineering and more than enough on Everest. We were looking for books on Kailash and Mansarovar. They remained untraced. We got some information and photos from our group leader. Later on we found that the lack of literature and information was normal. While on our way back from Mansarovar we met a group of Indians—doctors and barristers-’--who were on their way to Kailash. They also lacked information. They asked us all sorts of questions. Whether we had seen some white swans swimming in Mansarovar or if the lake had lotus blooms. There is nothing like that at Mansarovar and yet there is much more, I assure you. Mansarovar is half frozen even in summer and there are no inhabitants around the lake except for nomads on the move. There are neither temples nor pundits who offer to do your pujas. Still, not enough can be experienced or said.
The only way to supply information to such ardent seeks to write about our experiences. To tell these dedicated
friends of Kailash and Mansarovar that we saw neither swans nor Lotuses nor met Gods who spoke to us. My fear was that if I Asked
Niles to release his diary to the public, he would Surely not do so. So I kept my lips sealed. I have No Idea what Led him to make public his Experiences. This is a mystery for me as much as his person. however i am glad he decided to publish his story. i appreciate it is my pleasure to write this foreword to his petite liver.
This booklet is a living element of our gripping story of Mansarovar and Kailash. It is a tale about our adventures and aspirations our expectations and disillusionment, our escapes and retreats, our fancies and fears. It is a tale of our Tents. Our troubles and our treasures, And it is a tale of too Remote cities. We travelled a long way to see them. The route we travelled was full of hardship. Hence, if any of you visiting Kailash and Mansarovar benefits from our experiences. Our parpose is well served. In a few years from now a motorway to Kailash and Mansarovar will surely be constructed and change the pilgrimage. That will be the beginning of a new culture of pilgrimage in Tibet. One can then imagine dhabas (wayside food stalls), restaurants and hotels along the motorway. Kailash Mansarovar may become so much of a Turist attraction that future visitors may witness the Gods in more luxury than that offered in heaven. Filmmakers may also discover and commercialise this paradise. Our tale will then have little merit. That is perhaps the future scenario. For the present, some individuals may possibly profit from this diary. Some other aged persons, who have kindled in them a lifetime’s desire to make a journey to Kailash - Mansarovar before their final journey and who are physically unable to do so now, may read this booklet, live our pilgrimage and bless us. For us there can be no bigger blessings.
This profusely iIIustrated travelogue is a tale about fancies and fears adventures and aspirations, expectations and disillusions, escapes and retreats experienced by a team of adventurous pilgrims. This is a story of an unforgettable odyssey to the holy Mount Kailash and the sacred Mansarovar describing mysteries connected with the land capturing the intangible air of faith and pilgrimage. This travelogue takes us on a lourney to the wild, seldom travelled northern route visiting the remote cities, towns and monasteries of mysterious Tibet. it is a gripping story of pilgrims who aspire to see Gods Living in the wilderness of the remote holy land. This is an engrossing, touching and remarkable account of a picturesque travel with nice imagery describing majestic mountains, turquoise lakes and virgin rivers of Tibet. Written in a brilliant style, it is a dramatic record that succeeds in imparting onto the readers some of the intensely experienced emotions that will remain long in memory. This book has been included in the Tibetan Travel Classics, Pilgrims Publishing, Varanasi, India and Pilgrims Book House, Kathmandu, Nepal.
The book is a travelogue with a difference. it is not devoid of practical details concerning items to be carried by the traveler or the manner in which government and non-government agencies can help him. but essentially it is an odyssey of spiritual wanderings intermingled with geography, history, tradition and an enduring sense of faith and belief.
Some of the photographs are truly fetching and are characterized by professional finesse. A highly recommended reading for potential travellers and even for arm-chair pilgrims who will be inspired by its evocatively devotional content.
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