21 September 2014

Going Back

So here I am again.

Sitting inside a pressurised tube of metal hurtling my way at 30,000 feet across time and space.

In my six hour flight from Singapore to Delhi, two and a half hours of time shall be ripped asunder – I am not exactly sure from where – but I know it will not be given back until I return in a week’s time.

It will play bedlam with my sleep all week.

The trip is a combination of business of pleasure. There will be some time in Delhi - where I shall endeavour to repair some broken buildings – or at least host a series of confusing dialogue with our people in India who will do the reparations on our behalf. Then I have a couple of days in my beloved Nepal – where my younger brother is already waiting for me – as are the little children from the Snowland school who I so adore.

We are finishing filming with some beautiful English film maker friends of ours who have volunteered their time and their expertise to tell the story of “The Long Way Home” – the tale of the children who attend the Snowland Ranag school and are separated from their families for more than ten years. I have written about the story several times before and am currently working on the book. It is a moving and compelling tale full of anguish and hope and marvel – and it involves holy men and mighty mountains and bravery beyond words.

I think it will be the most important thing I have ever written.

It is the most important thing I have been involved with.

Providing opportunity and education to the mountain children of Nepal is something that is consuming me and I delight in the fact that we are seeing these kids beginning to live to their potential. The fact that my brother is involved and feels as connected as I do to the country and its people is an added bonus.

I love my little brother dearly. I love his passion and his empathy and the person that he is.

He is my best mate as well.

The dialogue in India will be confusing because in India “yes” quite often means “no”, “no” will mostly mean “no” and “perhaps” could mean either. There will be a great deal of politeness and diplomacy - and every meeting will start and finish late.

Time and punctuality in India are quite meaningless and there are always delays and excuses. I have been traveling and working in the sub-continent for many years now and I am quite used to it.

It is much the same in Nepal – although in Nepal there is a slightly greater sense of madness and a great deal more happiness.

I don’t really mind.

I don’t mind at all.

There is a large Indian man seated next to me on the plane who is bedecked in gold jewelry and a very bad suit. He has endeavoured to strike up a conversation with me on several occasions. Whilst I generally don’t mind talking to strangers I just feel like reading and writing tonight so I have been a bit monosyllabic in my responses.

He has tried to read what I am writing too so I have had to tell him straight up that I am working on a highly confidential Government document and if he persists in trying to read it - I will be forced to have him arrested when we land.

It has both shut him up and made him sweat quite profusely.

I feel some measure of perverse pleasure at this.

I don’t know why.

I have eaten my dinner – and a fine dinner it was. It was a curry of the highest order.

Travelling business class does have its perks although I am quite sick of plane travel in general - and I spend large hunks of my life in airports and in planes. I consider this dead time really and would rather be doing something else but I do manage to get some nice reading done – and occasionally I write.

I am reading the new Murakami book. My how that man can write.

I wish I could read Japanese - as I am sure that there must be some of his work that is lost in translation but his craftsmanship with words spellbinds me.

It really does.

So I shall go about my business as best as I can in India. I am staying at the stunning Oberoi hotel. They know me well there and it is a splendid establishment that reeks of opulence and wealth.

I will be very comfortable there.

I am much more excited about going to Kathmandu though. My old and very wise friend Babu – who has been my driver in Nepal for many years, shall pick me up from the airport. He is an endearing character who has taught me much about life and myself. We have travelled many battered roads together and swap good banter like old friends do. I have cajoled many a great story from Babu – I think the greatest being his stories of how he once drove John Lennon and Yoko Ono around in their search for a tantric Hindi sex idol.

I have described this sojourn in a piece I wrote mire than a year ago now titled “Bless You Yoko – Bye Bye Babu” – so once again I shall not repeat the tale here. It is all true – I have seen photographic evidence and Babu would never lie to me anyhow.

It is not in his nature.

If you want to know more – read it yourself.

When I land in Kathmandu I will go straight to the Hotel Himalaya – where my brother and the filmmakers will be waiting – as too will the holy man Rinpoche. He is a reincarnation of a great Buddha master and has been my mate for many years. He is quite a remarkable fellow who single handedly started the Snowland Ranag school – for he comes from the Upper Dolpo region way up near the border with Tibet – and his mission in life is to help his people.

We do what we can to help him for he has touched our hearts and the children of the Dolpo are simply wonderful.

So then we will go the school where we will film all week. My brother and our friends have started already. We will be talking to the children who went home on the great journey last year and the kids who will be journeying back home to their villages next year. My brother made the trip with six of the kids in April this year – only to the lower Dolpo but it was far enough. They took several small planes, then local buses and they rode horses and they walked and walked and walked.

They trekked up mountains so steep and through valleys so beautiful - that they have to be seen to be believed.

I have seen some of the film and all of the photos and I wish I had gone on this journey. Alas I am too old and unfit for such a walk – but my brother is not and he will again return with the kids next year.

I have been to other remote parts of Nepal that are less taxing on my fat old body and the Himalaya are simply breath-taking. To walk on the roof of the world is something I would recommend to anyone. I have no spirituality in me at all but there is something about those mountains.

They host a power or a force that is pure and it is mighty.

It is nature at it’s very finest.

Kathmandu should also be on everyone’s bucket list too. It is one of the most ancient cities in the world and the architectural splendor of the temples that have survived earthquakes and decay for more than 2000 years are a sight to behold.

Despite the abject poverty of Nepal – and I have been to no country more poor – the people are strong and tough and happy and optimistic. I am not what sure what link this has to the Hindu or Buddhist faiths - and there may be none at all.

It is perhaps their lack of possessions that we Westerners take so much for granted – and we value so highly - that causes them to be happy just to be alive. Their compassion for each other, their love for their children, their generosity of spirit and kindness really strikes a chord with me.

When I walk around the mountains and the city of Kathmandu people always smile warmly and me and we laugh and greet each other with loud and genuine “Namaste”.

We hug a lot and my heart sings when I am there. I feel waves of joy all the time.

I always cry when I leave.

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