Himalaya – Michael Palin The man behind the fumbling, filthy “It’s man”, the “shopkeeper”, “Ken Shabby” and the “Man with Three Buttocks” characters (amongst others) from Monty Python’s Flying Circus sketches, is ironically cultured and well-read. Whether you’ve already visited a bit (or all) of the Himalayas or dream of seeing a world apart from the dominant west; this book opens the window for nostalgia, further information and reflective insight. This is a raw documentation from a western perspective exploring the hidden lands of part of southern Asia’s most intriguing landscapes and cultures.
Midnight’s Children – Salman Rushdie The British/Indian writer, Salman Rushdie, with a death warrant pinned on him from Ayatollah Khomeini after allegedly mocking the Qur’an in his controversial debut novel, The Satanic Verses, is a man who can’t be stopped. In The Midnight’s Children, Rushdie takes us on the journey through the life of a young boy, born at the strike of Midnight, with a switched-up fate and psychic powers. This story is a mystical and eye-opening look at life in India, and on how limitless imagination can be.
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Okay so you probably noticed a bit of a trend here, let me explain… When I was 16 years old (4 years ago) I went on a school trip to northern India, which changed my perspective on so many aspects of my life and expanded my perception the world. It was the first time I had seen a “developing” country… and it shocked me to see parts that were so neglected that they appeared war-ravaged; these are the slums. The biggest train stations are covered with sleeping bodies every night, which are so densely occupied we had to form a bee-line just to exit the dilapidated multistorey building. We of course saw dozens of beautiful temples and the magnificent Taj Mahal, yet amidst all of the chaos were countless beggars, mostly children; most of them selling cheap jewellery. While business men in clean suits rushed past them. The country is riddled with a paradox of poverty and luxury.
Just a day after our expedition through Delhi, and a 9-hour train ride, we arrived in the Indian Himalayas, where we were, I’ll admit it, “glamping”. Here we were mentored by a devout-yogi and experienced Indian hiker, called Raj, who got us up early every morning for yoga practice and meditation, and kept us up late at night for night-time journaling and reflection. we spent a day at a nearby orphanage playing games and learning each others’ languages with the kids. They were some of the happiest kids I had ever seen, because they understood how precious life is, and that even the toughest circumstances have a silver lining. Raj also took us through a day-long hike through a section of the Himalayas, white-water rafting down the Ganges, and played “beach” volleyball and cricket with us at a pit stop beside the Ganges – who knew it had sandy shores?!
Although i only saw a tiny chunk of this vast country, these cumulative experiences amongst many others jam-packed into a single week, gave me a sense of hope and appreciation. India, like these pieces of literature, reminded me that life is a full-on, colourful adventure. There is a soup pot of opinions, challenges and constant noise, and all of these things teach us everything we know right now. Curiosity is a fire, and the only way to keep it burning is to feed it.