English CBSE Class 11 NCERT Hornbill Chapter 8 Silk Road- Line by Line Explanation and Meaning of Difficult Words

SILK ROAD – Explanation

Author – Nick Middleton

Notice these expressions in the text. Infer their meaning from the context.

Ducking back Going back
Manoeuvres Movements – usually predetermined or predefined
Billowed Appeared
Swathe A narrow strip
Cairn of rocks Heap of stone made as a monument, landmark etc
Careered down Climbed down
Salt flats Area where salt has been deposited


A FLAWLESS half-moon floated in a perfect blue sky on the morning we said our goodbyes. Extended banks of cloud like long French loaves glowed pink as the sun emerged to splash the distant mountain tops with a rose-tinted blush.

Word Meaning
Flawless Without defects, Perfect, Clear
French loaves Pieces of French bread
Glow Shine
Splash Spread,
Tint Colour
Blush Shade, Tinge

When were departing in the early morning, a perfect half moon was shining in the clear sky. Colour of the sky appeared blue. The clouds were in the shape of large French loaves. When the Sun rose in the sky the clouds appeared pink. The rays of Sun were falling on the mountains. The mountains appeared of pink colour shade.



Now that we were leaving Ravu, Lhamo said she wanted to give me a farewell present. One evening I’d told her through Daniel that I was heading towards Mount Kailash to complete the kora, and she’d said that I ought to get some warmer clothes.

Word Meaning
Farewell present A gift given when someone is leaving
Heading Going
Kailash Kora Pilgrimage of Kailash
Ought Must, Should

We were leaving the place Ravu. Our host Lhamo wanted to give us a farewell gift. During one evening I had told Lhamo that I would be going to Kailash to complete the pilgrimage. Daniel translated this to her.  She advised me that I must buy some warmer clothes.


After ducking back into her tent, she emerged carrying one of the long-sleeved sheepskin coats that all the men wore. Tsetan sized me up as we clambered into his car. “Ah, yes,” he declared, “drokba, sir.”

Word Meaning
Ducking back Going back
Emerged Appeared
Sized up Looked carefully
Clambering Walked with difficulty
Drokba Shepherd

Lhamo went back into her tent. She had to bend because the door was of lesser height. She brought a sheepskin coat for me. This coat had long sleeves. All men of this area wore similar type of coat. Tsetan carefully looked at me while we were getting into the car with some difficulty. He told me that I was looking like a shepherd.



We took a short cut to get off the Changtang. Tsetan knew a route that would take us south-west, almost directly towards Mount Kailash. It involved crossing several fairly high mountain passes, he said.

Word Meaning
Get off Bypass
Involved Included
Mountain passes Roads made along mountains

We took a short cut route to bypass Changtang. Tsetan knew a route through south-west direction. This route would take us directly to Mount Kailash. He informed me that we would need to travel roads that were running through high mountains.


“But no problem, sir”, he assured us, “if there is no snow.” What was the likelihood of that I asked. “Not knowing, sir, until we get there.”

Word Meaning
Likelihood Possibility

He told us that if there was no snow, we would not face any difficulty. I asked him what the possibility of snow was. He did not know. He said we would come to know after reaching there.


From the gently rolling hills of Ravu, the short cut took us across vast open plains with nothing in them except a few gazelles that would look up from nibbling the arid pastures and frown before bounding away into the void.

Word Meaning
Gazelles Type of animal
Nibbling Eating
Arid Dry
Frown Slightly distort the face or eyebrows
Bounding away Running away
Void Open space, Place where nobody lives

From the gradually sloping hills of Ravu, we reached a huge open plain area between the mountains. Only some gazelles were grazing there. They were slowly eating the dry grass of the pasture. They would slightly distort their face before running away in the open space.



Further on, where the plains became more stony than grassy, a great herd of wild ass came into view. Tsetan told us we were approaching them long before they appeared.

We moved ahead. The fields now had lesser grass. Only stone surfaces were now visible in the fields. Now we could see a big herd of wild asses. Tsetan told us that the herd has so far not seen us. We reached the field before the herd could see us.


“Kyang,” he said, pointing towards a far-off pall of dust. When we drew near, I could see the herd galloping en masse, wheeling and turning in tight formation as if they were practising manoeuvres on some predetermined course. Plumes of dust billowed into the crisp, clean air.

Word Meaning
Kyang Wild ass of Tibet region
Pall of dust Cloud or layer of dust in the sky
Galloping Running quickly
En masse Together, Every body
Manoeuvres Movements
Plume of dust Cloud of dust
Billowed Appeared

He saw a cloud of dust in the sky far from us. He called it Kyang. When we came near the plain area, we saw a herd of wild asses that was running together. All the animals were moving close to each other. It looked as if a group was doing an exercise in a predetermined manner. Because of running of animals, a cloud of dust was generated in the sky.



As hills started to push up once more from the rocky wilderness, we passed solitary drokbas tending their flocks. Sometimes men, sometimes women, these well-wrapped figures would pause and stare at our car, occasionally waving as we passed.

Word Meaning
Wilderness From nowhere, Suddenly
Solitary Alone. Lonely
Tending Taking care of , Rearing
Well-wrapped Fully covered
Waving Signaling

Now once again hills had started appearing. Earlier there were rocks along the way. We saw shepherds who were alone and taking care of their herds of animal. These shepherds were both men and women. They had fully covered themselves with warm clothes. They used to stop and look at our car. Sometimes they waved their hands as we went ahead of them.


When the track took us close to their animals, the sheep would take evasive action, veering away from the speeding vehicle.

Word Meaning
Track Path
Evasive Try to avoid
Veering Change direction, Move to other direction

Whenever our path was close to animals, the sheep would try to avoid coming in our way. They would move away from our fast moving vehicles.


We passed nomads’ dark tents pitched in splendid isolation, usually with a huge black dog, a Tibetan mastiff, standing guard. These beasts would cock their great big heads when they became aware of our approach and fix us in their sights.

Word Meaning
Nomad Person moving from one place another,
Pitched Made
Splendid Amazing,
Isolation Alone
Mastiff Type of dog
Cock Tilt, Bend
Fix us in their sight Continue to stare

We crossed the tents of nomadic people. These tents were made at a lonely places. Usually a dog of mastiff breed used to be outside their tents. As soon as they saw our vehicles, these large dogs would tilt their heads. They continuously stared at our cars.



As we continued to draw closer, they would explode into action, speeding directly towards us, like a bullet from a gun and nearly as fast.

Word Meaning
Exploded into action Suddenly started taking action

When we reached closer to them. They would suddenly start running towards us at their full speed. They used to run very fast.


These shaggy monsters, blacker than the darkest night, usually wore bright red collars and barked furiously with massive jaws. They were completely fearless of our vehicle, shooting straight into our path, causing Tsetan to brake and swerve.

Word Meaning
Shaggy Full of long hair
Furious Frightening, Violent, Fierce
Massive Very big
Shooting Moving quickly
Swerve Abruptly change direction

These big dogs had long hair on their body and were dark black in colour. They usually had a collar of bright red colour around their necks. They had very big jaws. Their barking was frightening and violent. They were not afraid of our vehicles. They would quickly come right in the path of our vehicles. Tsetan had to apply brakes to the vehicle and abruptly change direction to avoid collision.


The Sketch of Mount Kailash dog would make chase for a hundred metres or so before easing off, having seen us off the property.

Word Meaning
Chase Follow
Easing off Stop or reduce the speed

These dogs, which were as big as Mount Kailash, would follow us for about one hundred meters. When we had moved out of their area, they would stop or reduce their speed.



It wasn’t difficult to understand why ferocious Tibetan mastiffs became popular in China’s imperial courts as hunting dogs, brought along the Silk Road in ancient times as tribute from Tibet.

Word Meaning
Imperial courts Kingdom

Now we understood why these dogs were popular among rulers of China. Chinese rulers used to use these during hunting. These used to be brought to China from Tibet through the Silk Road.

Silk Road refers to a route that was a famous and popular path for trade between China and other countries.


By now we could see snow-capped mountains gathering on the horizon. We entered a valley where the river was wide and mostly clogged with ice, brilliant white and glinting in the sunshine.

Word Meaning
Snow capped mountains Mountains that had snow at their top
Clogged Full of
Glinting Shining

Now we had reached at an area from where we could see mountains that had snow at their peaks. We came into a valley where the river was quite wide. It was full of ice. The ice was pure white and shining in the Sun.


The trail hugged its bank, twisting with the meanders as we gradually gained height and the valley sides closed in.

Word Meaning
Trail Path
Hugged Very very close
Meanders Twisting path of river, Having many curves
Closed in Came nearer

Our path was very close to the river bank. The river and the path had many curves. Gradually we were moving to higher regions. Side of the valley were now closer to us. Meaning that on either side of path we had mountains.



The turns became sharper and the ride bumpier, Tsetan now in third gear as we continued to climb.

Word Meaning
Bumpier More jumping

The turns of the road were now more sharp. The vehicle was jumping more because the road was not smooth. Tsetan was driving the car in third gear. Our car continued to climb up.


The track moved away from the icy river, labouring through steeper slopes that sported big rocks daubed with patches of bright orange lichen. Beneath the rocks, hunks of snow clung on in the near permanent shade.

Word Meaning
Track Path
Labour To make large efforts
Sported Showed
Daubed Splashed, Stained
Lichen Type of plant
Hunks Lump, Chunk, Piece
Cling To stick

Now we moved away from the river. It was difficult to to drive on the road that was becoming steeper. Along the rocks we could see patches of bright orange coloured plants of lichen. It appeared that some portion of rocks never received sunlight. On these parts of rock snow had formed permanently.


I felt the pressure building up in my ears, held my nose, snorted and cleared them. We struggled round another tight bend and Tsetan stopped.

Word Meaning
Tight bend Sharp bend

Now the pressure in my ears was increasing. I caught my nose and blew away through it. We had great difficulty in negotiating the next sharp bend. Suddenly Tsetan stopped the car.


He had opened his door and jumped out of his seat before I realised what was going on. “Snow,” said Daniel as he too exited the vehicle, letting in a breath of cold air as he did so.

I could not understand why he had stopped the car. Tsetan quickly came out of the car. Daniel also came out of car. Daniel shouted ‘snow’. He was very excited to see the snow. He blew some air out of his mouth. Its colour was white because of cold.


A swathe of the white stuff lay across the track in front of us, stretching for may be fifteen metres before it petered out and the dirt trail reappeared. The snow continued on either side of us, smoothing the abrupt bank on the upslope side.

Word Meaning
Swathe A narrow strip
Petered out Decreased, Ended

We could see a white strip of about fifteen meter length, on the road. After this the earthen surface of the road could be again seen. On each side of the road there was snow. Therefore the sudden increase of height along the side of the road looked smooth.


The bank was too steep for our vehicle to scale, so there was no way round the snow patch.

The rocks along sides of the road were very steep. It was not possible to climb the vehicle on these and move ahead of the snow patch.


I joined Daniel as Tsetan stepped on to the encrusted snow and began to slither and slide forward, stamping his foot from time to time to ascertain how sturdy it was. I looked at my wristwatch. We were at 5,210 metres above sea level.

Word Meaning
Trail Path
Stepped on to To walk on, To stand on
Encrusted Gathered in a heap, Became hard
Slither Move smoothly
Stamping Putting foot on ground with force
Ascertain Assess, Understand
Sturdy Strong

I got down from the vehicle and stood near Daniel. Tsetan stood on the heap of snow. He started moving his feet on the snow to move it sideways. From time to time he was hitting the snow with his foot to understand how strong the snow was. I looked at my wristwatch. It was showing how high we had climbed. We were at 5210 meters above sea level.


The snow didn’t look too deep to me, but the danger wasn’t its depth, Daniel said, so much as its icy top layer. “If we slip off, the car could turn over,” he suggested, as we saw Tsetan grab handfuls of dirt and fling them across the frozen surface.

Word Meaning
Fling Throw, Spread

According to me , depth of snow was not much. Daniel advised that the danger is not the depth of snow. The top surface of snow is always slippery thus more dangerous. Our car may slip and turnover. Tsetan picked some dust in his fists. He spread it on the surface of the snow.


We both pitched in and, when the snow was spread with soil, Daniel and I stayed out of the vehicle to lighten Tsetan’s load. He backed up and drove towards the dirty snow, eased the car on to its icy surface and slowly drove its length without apparent difficulty.

Word Meaning
Pitched in Helped
Apparent Visible, Evident, Obvious

We both started helping Tsetan. Soon the entire surface of snow was covered with soil. I and Daniel remained out of the car to reduce weight of the car. Tsetan drove back to move the vehicle slightly away from the snow. Then he slowly moved the car on the snow and continued to drive slowly. He crossed the entire length of snow. It appeared to us that it was not a difficult task.


Ten minutes later, we stopped at another blockage. “Not good, sir,” Tsetan announced as he jumped out again to survey the scene. This time he decided to try and drive round the snow.

Word Meaning
Blockage Obstruction
Survey Examine

After about 10 minutes Tsetan again stopped the car. There was one more obstruction. He again came out of the car and examined the situation. This time he decided to drive the car around the snow.


The slope was steep and studded with major rocks, but somehow Tsetan negotiated them, his four-wheel drive vehicle lurching from one obstacle to the next. In so doing he cut off one of the hairpin bends, regaining the trail further up where the snow had not drifted.

Word Meaning
Studded with Full of
Negotiated Passed through
Lurching Swaying, Jumping over
Hairpin bend Very sharp curve
Drifted Spread,

The slope was now very steep. The path was full of rocks. With great difficulty Tsetan was able to drive our four-wheel drive vehicle through these roads. The vehicle was jumping over many obstacles of the uneven road. He negotiated several sharp bends. Finally we reached a portion of the road which did not have snow on it.


I checked my watch again as we continued to climb in the bright sunshine. We crept past 5,400 metres and my head began to throb horribly. I took gulps from my water bottle, which is supposed to help a rapid ascent.

Word Meaning
Crept past Moved ahead slowly
Throb A fluctuating pain
Horribly Very painfully
Gulps Swigs, To drink in small quantity
Rapid Quick
Ascent Upward climb

I looked at my watch and noticed that we were continuously climbing to greater height. The sunshine was bright. We had climbed to more than 5400 meter above the sea level. I started feeling a very bad fluctuating pain in my head. Such pain may be caused when someone moves up quickly in hilly region. I took some swigs of water. It is said that it helps a lot in such pains.


We finally reached the top of the pass at 5,515 metres. It was marked by a large cairn of rocks festooned with white silk scarves and ragged prayer flags.

Word Meaning
Cairn of rocks Heap of stone made as a monument, landmark etc
Festooned Decorated
Ragged Old and torn 

Finally we reached at the top of the valley which was at 5515 meters above sea level. At the top of hills a heap of stones was decorated with white cloths and old flags used for prayers.


We all took a turn round the cairn, in a clockwise direction as is the tradition, and Tsetan checked the tyres on his vehicle. He stopped at the petrol tank and partially unscrewed the top, which emitted a loud hiss.

Word Meaning
Unscrewed Opened by rotating
Emitted Gave, Generated, Created
Hiss A sound when air or vapours comes out of a container

We all walked round the cairn in clockwise direction. This was the tradition of the area. Tsetan checked tyres of the car. We stopped at the patrol filling station. Tsetan opened the lid of the petrol partially. A hissing sound was generated.


The lower atmospheric pressure was allowing the fuel to expand. It sounded dangerous to me. “Maybe, sir,” Tsetan laughed “but no smoking.”

Because of lower pressure of atmosphere at high altitude, volume of petrol was increasing. I thought it was dangerous. Tsetan laughed at my fear. He said that petrol will not start burning. But one should not smoke while the lid is being opened.


My headache soon cleared as we careered down the other side of the pass. It was two o’clock by the time we stopped for lunch. We ate hot noodles inside a long canvas tent, part of a workcamp erected beside a dry salt lake.

Word Meaning
Careered Moved quickly

We quickly climbed down to the other side of the valley. Since we had climbed down my head was not aching now. We stopped for lunch at 2 PM. We ate noodles. The hotel was in a tent made of canvas. It was mainly for the people working in nearby dry salt lake.


The plateau is pockmarked with salt flats and brackish lakes, vestiges of the Tethys Ocean which bordered Tibet before the great continental collision that lifted it skyward.

Word Meaning
Plateau A flat are between hills
Salt Flats Area where salt has been deposited
Pockmarked Spread across, Exisiting at many places
Brackish Salty, Saline
Vestiges Reminders, Sign, indication
Great collision A very big change that occurred on earth

In the plateau of Tibet we can find many dry fields of salt and lakes of salty water. These are the indications that once Tibet was close to Tethys Ocean. But during a big change that had occurred on earth, this area was lifted up and now it is in hilly region.


This one was a hive of activity, men with pickaxes and shovels trudging back and forth in their long sheepskin coats and salt-encrusted boots.

Word Meaning
Hive of activity Place where many people work
Trudge Move slowly with lot of effort
Salt encrusted Covered with slat

Lot of people were working at this place. Men were having pickaxes and shovels. They were slowly walking ahead and coming back. They were wearing long coats made of sheepskin. Their boots were covered with salt.


All wore sunglasses against the glare as a steady stream of blue trucks emerged from the blindingly white lake laden with piles of salt.

Word Meaning
Glare Sharp light
Stream Line, Queue
Laden Full of
Piles Heaps

All people were wearing goggles to protect their eyes from the sharp shine of sunrays. A long line of blue colour was regularly coming out the lake. These trucks were full of salt.


By late afternoon we had reached the small town of Hor, back on the main east-west highway that followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir.

By the end of the afternoon we had reached a small town  Hor. Now we were again on the main east-west highway. Through this route business was carried out between Lhasa and Kashmir.


Daniel, who was returning to Lhasa, found a ride in a truck so Tsetan and I bade him farewell outside a tyre-repair shop.

Daniel was going back to Lhasa. He found a lift in one of the trucks going to Lhasa. We said good bye to him. We were at the tyre-repair shop.


We had suffered two punctures in quick succession on the drive down from the salt lake and Tsetan was eager to have them fixed since they left him with no spares. Besides, the second tyre he’d changed had been replaced by one that was as smooth as my bald head.

Word Meaning
Quick succession Quickly one after the other
Fixed Repaired
Spare Extra

While driving down from the salt lake our vehicle had two punctures quickly one after the other. Tsetan was very eager to get these repaired because now we did not have any extra tyre. In addition to this, second tyre was very smooth. Hence it was necessary to get the tyres repaired.


Hor was a grim, miserable place. There was no vegetation whatsoever, just dust and rocks, liberally scattered with years of accumulated refuse, which was unfortunate given that the town sat on the shore of Lake Manasarovar, Tibet’s most venerated stretch of water.

Word Meaning
Grim Unattractive, Dismal, Dreary
Liberally Good quantity
Scattered Spread
Accumulated Gathered, Deposited
Refuse Waste
Venerated Highly respectable, Worshiped

The Hor village was an unattractive and horrible place. It did not have tress or other greenery. Lot of waste was scattered in the village that got deposited over a long period of time. This situation was certainly bad because this town was very close to Lake Manasarovar. This lake is worshiped in Tibet.


Ancient Hindu and Buddhist cosmology pinpoints Manasarovar as the source of four great Indian rivers: the Indus, the Ganges, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra.

Word Meaning
Cosmology The science of origin of this world
Pinpoints Indicates precisely

Ancient Hindu and Buddhist culture regards Manasarovar as origin of four great Indian rivers – the Indus, the Ganges, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra.


Actually only the Sutlej flows from the lake, but the headwaters of the others all rise nearby on the flanks of Mount Kailash. We were within striking distance of the great mountain and I was eager to forge ahead.

Word Meaning
Headwaters Source
Flanks Sides
Striking distance Very close
Forge ahead Move ahead

Only the Sutlej river starts from lake Manasarovar. All other rivers originate from the other sides of Mount Kailash. We were very close to the great mountain Mount Kailash. I was very eager to move ahead to reach there.


But I had to wait. Tsetan told me to go and drink some tea in Hor’s only café which, like all the other buildings in town, was constructed from badly painted concrete and had three broken windows.

But I had to wait for some time. Tsetan advised me to drink some tea. There was only one café in the village. Similar to other building of the village this was made in concrete and poorly painted. It had three broken windows.


The good view of the lake through one of them helped to compensate for the draught.

Word Meaning
Draught Flow of air
Compensate Reduce the effect

The air was very cool. I could see a view of the lake through one of the windows. And this view reduced the effect of flow of cool air.


I was served by a Chinese youth in military uniform who spread the grease around on my table with a filthy rag before bringing me a glass and a thermos of tea.

Word Meaning
Filthy Dirty
Rag Torn cloth

A person from China served me tea. He was young and wearing military uniform. He cleaned the table with a dirty old cloth. So table became more oily. He brought me a glass and a thermos of tea.


Half an hour later, Tsetan relieved me from my solitary confinement and we drove past a lot more rocks and rubbish westwards out of town towards Mount Kailash.

Word Meaning
Relieved Released
Solitary confinement Alone in a room
Rubbish Refuse, Waste

I was alone in the tent. After half an hour Tsetan came into the café. We drove through many rocks and refuse. We were moving  in west direction to reach Mount Kailash.


My experience in Hor came as a stark contrast to accounts I’d read of earlier travellers’ first encounters with Lake Manasarovar. Ekai Kawaguchi, a Japanese monk who had arrived there in 1900, was so moved by the sanctity of the lake that he burst into tears.

Word Meaning
Stark contrast Exactly opposite
Accounts Description
First encounters First visit
Sanctity Purity, Holiness
Burst into tears Started crying

My experience in Hor was exactly opposite to the description provided by earlier visitors of their visit. A Japanese monk Ekai Kawaguchi had come to Manasarovar Lake  in 1990. He was so impressed by its purity that he had started crying.


A couple of years later, the hallowed waters had a similar effect on Sven Hedin, a Swede who wasn’t prone to sentimental outbursts.

Word Meaning
Hallowed Holy
Prone Vulnerable, To easily get affected
Sentimental Emotional
Outbursts Expression

After some years Sven Hedin, a person from Sweden had visited Lake Manasarovar. He was not a person to get easily affected by emotions. But he too started crying after seeing the holy water.


It was dark by the time we finally left again and after 10.30 p.m. we drew up outside a guest house in Darchen for what turned out to be another troubled night.

Word Meaning
Drew up Stopped
Turned out to be Proved, Evolved

When we started from Hor it was already dark. After 10:30 PM we stopped infront of a guest house in Darchen village for night stay. That night was yet another night full of troubles.


Kicking around in the open-air rubbish dump that passed for the town of Hor had set off my cold once more, though if truth be told it had never quite disappeared with my herbal tea.

Word Meaning
Kicking around Walking

While walking around in the town of Hor, I had once again caught cold. Probably it was because of the waste that was lying in open in the town. But actually my cold did not get cured even after taking herbal tea.


One of my nostrils was blocked again and as I lay down to sleep, I wasn’t convinced that the other would provide me with sufficient oxygen. My watch told me I was at 4,760 metres.

My one nostril was once again blocked. I was trying to sleep. I was not sure if I would be able to breathe through the second nostril .We were now at 4760 meters above the sea level.


It wasn’t much higher than Ravu, and there I’d been gasping for oxygen several times every night. I’d grown accustomed to these nocturnal disturbances by now, but they still scared me.

Word Meaning
Gasping Breathing deeply,
Accustomed In the habit of
Noctural Occurring in the night
Scared Frightened

The height of this town was not much higher than that of Ravu. But at Ravu many times during the night I felt the need to breathe deeply. Now I was getting used to such disturbances during my sleep in the night. But I was scared.


Tired and hungry, I started breathing through my mouth. After a while, I switched to single-nostril power which seemed to be admitting enough oxygen but, just as I was drifting off, I woke up abruptly.

Word Meaning
Switched to Changed tp
Drifting off Sleeping
Abruptly Suddenly

I was tired and hungry I started breathing through my mouth. After sometime I started breathing through one nostril. Which for sometime appeared sufficient. I was trying to sleep. Then I suddenly woke up.


Something was wrong. My chest felt strangely heavy and I sat up, a movement that cleared my nasal passages almost instantly and relieved the feeling in my chest. Curious, I thought.

Word Meaning
Nasal passage Passage of nose, Nostrils
Instantly Immediately
Curious Strange

I felt something wrong was happening to me. I felt my chest had become heavy. I sat up. This immediately cleaned my nostrils. I was able to breathe. I felt relief in my chest. I found it strange.


I lay back down and tried again. Same result. I was on the point of disappearing into the land of nod when something told me not to.

Word Meaning
Land of nod State of sleep

I again lied down and tried to sleep. The same thing happened again. My chest started feeling heavy. I was about to again sleep but I felt I should not sleep.


It must have been those emergency electrical impulses again, but this was not the same as on previous occasions. This time, I wasn’t gasping for breath, I was simply not allowed to go to sleep.

Word Meaning
Impulses Waves, Shocks

It seemed to me that I was again getting electric shocks. But these shocks were not similar to the earlier ones. This time I was not breathing heavily. I was not able to sleep.


Sitting up once more immediately made me feel better. I could breathe freely and my chest felt fine. But as soon as I lay down, my sinuses filled and my chest was odd.

Word Meaning
Sinuses Nostrils,

As soon as I sat up, I started feeling better. I was able to breathe properly and my chest felt good. But when I tried to lie down, I had an obstruction in my nose. I felt something different in my chest.


I tried propping myself upright against the wall, but now I couldn’t manage to relax enough to drop off. I couldn’t put my finger on the reason, but I was afraid to go to sleep.

Word Meaning
Propping Taking support
Drop off Sleep
Could not put finger on reason Could identify the reason

I tried to take support of the wall to sit up against the wall. But I did not get much relief. So I did not sleep. I could not identify the exact reason but I was afraid to sleep.


A little voice inside me was saying that if I did I might never wake up again. So I stayed awake all night.

A voice within me was warning me. It told me that if I tried to sleep, I may never wake up. So I was awake throughout the night.


Tsetan took me to the Darchen medical college the following morning. The medical college at Darchen was new and looked like a monastery from the outside with a very solid door that led into a large courtyard.

Word Meaning
Following morning Next morning
Monastery Place where monks live

The next morning , with Tsetan I went to the medical college of Darchen. The medical college was a new building. It looked like a place where monks stayed. It had a very strong door. From this door we entered a large open space.


We found the consulting room which was dark and cold and occupied by a Tibetan doctor who wore none of the paraphernalia that I’d been expecting. No white coat, he looked like any other Tibetan with a thick pullover and a woolly hat.

Word Meaning
Paraphernalia Kit, Equipment
Pullover Coat

We went to the room of a doctor. This consulting room was dark and cold. A Tibetan doctor was sitting in the room. He was not wearing any kit or uniform that a doctor normally wears. He was not wearing a white coat. He was wearing a thick coat and a woolen hat. He looked like a normal Tibetan.


When I explained my sleepless symptoms and my sudden aversion to lying down, he shot me a few questions while feeling the veins in my wrist.

Word Meaning
Aversion Dislike, Unwillingness
Shot me a few questions Asked me a few questions

I explained to him that I was not able to sleep. I also explained what I felt during the night and my unwillingness to sleep. He asked me some questions. He checked my pulse.


“It’s a cold,” he said finally through Tsetan. “A cold and the effects of altitude. I’ll give you something for it.”

He finally told through Tsetan that I was suffering from cold and the effect of high altitude. He said that he would give me some medicines. The doctor spoke through Tsetan because he could not speak the language spoken by the narrator.


I asked him if he thought I’d recover enough to be able to do the kora. “Oh yes,” he said, “you’ll be fine.”

I asked the doctor if I will become alright to complete my kora. He replied that I would soon recover.


I walked out of the medical college clutching a brown envelope stuffed with fifteen screws of paper. I had a five-day course of Tibetan medicine which I started right away.

Word Meaning
Clutching Holding
Stuffed Full of
Screws of paper Packets made in paper
Right away Immediately

I came out of the medical college. I was holding an envelop that had fifteen small packets made in paper. Doctor had given me medicines for five days. I immediately started taking medicine.


I opened an after breakfast package and found it contained a brown powder that I had to take with hot water. It tasted just like cinnamon. The contents of the lunchtime and bedtime packages were less obviously identifiable.

I opened package of the medicine that was to be taken after breakfast. It had brown powder that was to be taken with hot water. Its taste was similar to that of cinnamon. I could not identify the lunchtime and nighttime medicines.


Both contained small, spherical brown pellets. They looked suspiciously like sheep dung, but of course I took them. That night, after my first full day’s course, I slept very soundly. Like a log, not a dead man.

Word Meaning
Spherical Round
Pallets Particles, Pieces
Suspiciously Doubtfully
Sheep dung Potty of sheep, Poop of sheep
Slept like a log Had sound sleep, Did not get up during sleep

Both paper packets had some tablets of brown colour and round shape. They looked like poop of sheep. But I took these medicines. I took complete course of medicines that day. I had a sound sleep in the night.


Once he saw that I was going to live Tsetan left me, to return to Lhasa. 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.

Word Meaning
Pass away Die

Now Tsetan understood that medicines were showing desired result. I will live some more time. So he decided to return to Lhasa. He told me that according the culture of Bhuddhism it does not matter if somebody lives longer or dies earlier. But death of a passenger is not good for the business of tourism.


Darchen didn’t look so horrible after a good night’s sleep. It was still dusty, partially derelict and punctuated by heaps of rubble and refuse, but the sun shone brilliantly in a clear blue sky and the outlook across the plain to the south gave me a vision of the Himalayas, commanded by a huge, snow-capped mountain, Gurla Mandhata, with just a wisp of cloud suspended over its summit.

Word Meaning
Derelict Negligent, Careless
Punctuated by Occurred at some distance to each other
Brilliantly Bright
Gurla Mandhata A mountain peak in Tibet
Wisp of something Very small  quantity

After a sound sleep of the night, the town of Darchen did not look so bad to me. It was full of dust and neglect. Many heaps of broken stones and waste were lying here and there. Sun was shining bright in the clear blue sky. Therefore I could have a glimpse of Himalayas in southern direction. The top of the Himalayas was full of snow. I could also see the Gurla Mandhata mountain, the highest peak of Tibet. Close to its peak, there was only a small amount of cloud.


The town had a couple of rudimentary general stores selling Chinese cigarettes, soap and other basic provisions, as well as the usual strings of prayer flags.

Word Meaning
Rudimentary Old style, Elementary, Simple

Some old style basic general stores were there in the town of Darchen. These were selling cigarette and soap manufactured in China. These were also selling some basic items required day to day. These were also selling flags to be used in prayers.


In front of one, men gathered in the afternoon for a game of pool, the battered table looking supremely incongruous in the open air, while nearby women washed their long hair in the icy water of a narrow brook that babbled down past my guest house.

Word Meaning
Pool A game of cards
Battered Worn out, Shabby
Supremely Extremely
Incongruous Not matching, Unsuitable
Brook Small stream of water
Babbled Flowed

In front of the shops, some men had gathered around a worn out table. This table was looking quite shabby and did not match with other surroundings. The men were playing pool. Women were washing their hair in the ice cold water of a small stream of river. This rivulet flowed close to my guest house.


Darchen felt relaxed and unhurried but, for me, it came with a significant drawback. There were no pilgrims.

Word Meaning
Significant Major, Important
Drawback Shortcoming, Disadvantage

The people of Darchen town seemed to be easy going. They did not hurry up for any activity. But the town had a major shortcoming for me. There was no other pilgrim in the town.


I’d been told that at the height of the pilgrimage season, the town was bustling with visitors. Many brought their own accommodation, enlarging the settlement round its edges as they set up their tents which spilled down on to the plain.

Word Meaning
Height of the season Most busy season
Bustling Full of activity
Enlarging Increasing
Spilled Extended

I was told that during peak season, the town is full visitors. Many visitors bring their own tents. So the area of town increases. These pilgrims establish their own tents. Many times tents are established upto the plain area of the town.


I’d timed my arrival for the beginning of the season, but it seemed I was too early.

I had planned my journey so as to reach during start of the season. I wanted to avoid the rush. But it seemed to me that I had come too much early.


One afternoon I sat pondering my options over a glass of tea in Darchen’s only cafe. After a little consideration, I concluded they were severely limited.

Word Meaning
Ponder Think
Consideration Thinking, Evaluation
Severely Very much

One afternoon I was having tea in the only café of Darchen. I started thinking about the things I could do in Darchen. I understood that opportunities were very less.


Clearly I hadn’t made much progress with my self-help programme on positive thinking.

It appeared to me that I had not improved myself in positive thinking. Although I had read some books about it.


In my defence, it hadn’t been easy with all my sleeping difficulties, but however I looked at it, I could only wait. The pilgrimage trail was well-trodden, but I didn’t fancy doing it alone.

Word Meaning
Well-trodden Frequently travelled
Did not fancy doing it alone Did not want to do alone

I had many difficulties in getting sleep. But I had to wait for my onward journey to Mount Kailash. The path to Mount Kailash was frequently travelled by pilgrims. But I did not want to take up this journey alone.


The kora was seasonal because parts of the route were liable to blockage by snow. I had no idea whether or not the snow had cleared, but I wasn’t encouraged by the chunks of dirty ice that still clung to the banks of Darchen’s brook.

Word Meaning
Seasonal During a season only. Intermittent
Blockage Obstruction
Chunks Small pieces
Clung Stuck

The pilgrimage to Kailash could be done in a particular season only. In other seasons the route used to get blocked by the snow. I did not know if the snow on the path had cleared. Some pieces of ice were still stuck along the stream running near Darchen. This was a discouragement to take up the journey alone.


Since Tsetan had left, I hadn’t come across anyone in Darchen with enough English to answer even this most basic question.

After departure of Tsetan I did not meet any person in Darchen who could speak English. So I could not know if the snow along the way had cleared. This information was important to the author.


Until, that is, I met Norbu. The cafe was small, dark and cavernous, with a long metal stove that ran down the middle.

Word Meaning
Cavernous Having many parts

This was the situation till I met Norbu. The café in Darchen was small. It did not have enough lights. It had different section. A metal stove was put in the middle of the café.


The walls and ceiling were wreathed in sheets of multi-coloured plastic, of the striped variety— broad blue, red and white—that is made into stout, voluminous shopping bags sold all over China, and in many other countries of Asia as well as Europe.

Word Meaning
Wreathed Covered
Stout Strong
Voluminous Large

Walls and ceiling of the café were covered by the sheets. These sheets were made of plastic strips. These were of blue, red and white colour. The material used was same as that used for making strong big bags that are sold in China. Bags made of this material are also sold in other countries of Asia and some countries of Europe.


As such, plastic must rate as one of China’s most successful exports along the Silk Road today.

The highest export by China along the Silk Road is of materials made of plastic.


The cafe had a single window beside which I’d taken up position so that I could see the pages of my notebook. I’d also brought a novel with me to help pass the time.

This café had only one window. I used to sit near this window. This helped me clearly see pages of my notebook. To pass my time I used to bring novel with me to the café.


Norbu saw my book when he came in and asked with a gesture if he could sit opposite me at my rickety table. “You English?” he enquired, after he’d ordered tea. I told him I was, and we struck up a conversation.

Word Meaning
Gesture Signal, Indication
Rickety Unsteady, Shaky, 
Struck up Started , Initiated

When Norbu came in the café he saw my book. Through a signal he asked me if he could sit at the same table. The table was unsteady and shaky. He asked me if I was from England. He ordered tea for himself. We soon started talking.


I didn’t think he was from those parts because he was wearing a windcheater and metal-rimmed spectacles of a Western style. He was Tibetan, he told me, but worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, in the Institute of Ethnic Literature. I assumed he was on some sort of fieldwork.

I had a doubt that he did not belong to area around Darchen. He was wearing a windcheater. Rim of his spectacles was made of metal and of western style. He was from Tibet. He was working in Beijing in Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He had come here to do some field work .


“Yes and no,” he said. “I have come to do the kora.” My heart jumped. Norbu had been writing academic papers about the Kailash kora and its importance in various works of Buddhist literature for many years, he told me, but he had never actually done it himself.

Norbu said that he had come to perform Kailash kora. I was surprised. Norbu used to write many essays and reports about Kailash kora. Since many years he has been also writting about importance of  kora as per literature and customs of Budhist religion. But he had never done a kora.


When the time came for me to tell him what brought me to Darchen, his eyes lit up. “We could be a team,” he said excitedly. “Two academics who have escaped from the library.” Perhaps my positive-thinking strategy was working after all.

After hearing from him, I told him the purpose of me coming to Darchen. There was shine of hope in his eyes. He told me that we could form a team. He called us as two scholars who had run away from library. Now I realized that my positive thinking was giving some result.


My initial relief at meeting Norbu, who was also staying in the guest house, was tempered by the realisation that he was almost as ill-equipped as I was for the pilgrimage.

Word Meaning
Tempered Disturbed

My relief of meeting Norbu was soon disturbed. I understood that he did not have required equipment to complete the kora. I also did not have all the required equipment.


He kept telling me how fat he was and how hard it was going to be. “Very high up,” he kept reminding me, “so tiresome to walk.” He wasn’t really a practising Buddhist, it transpired, but he had enthusiasm and he was, of course, Tibetan.

Word Meaning
Tiresome Something that will tire someone
Transpired Become known
Enthusiasm Passion, Eagerness

Norbu told me that he was fat. Therefore it was difficult for him to climb. He reminded me that at more heights one gets easily tired while walking. He did not completely followed Bhuddhism. But he was passionate. He was certainly a Tibetan.


Although I’d originally envisaged making the trek in the company of devout believers, on reflection I decided that perhaps Norbu would turn out to be the ideal companion.

Word Meaning
Envisaged Planned, Thought of
Devout One who has strong faith, Religious,
On reflection Thinking again, Considering again
Companion Colleague

Originally I had planned to complete kora with those who believed in Bhuddhism. But I again thought about it. I decided that probably Norbu would be a perfect person to travel with.


He suggested we hire some yaks to carry our luggage, which I interpreted as a good sign, and he had no intention of prostrating himself all round the mountain.

Word Meaning
Yak An animal found in mountains and used for carrying luggage
Interpreted Considered,
Intention Desire
Prostrate To become weak, To feel tired

Norbu suggested that we should hire some yaks to carry our luggage. I thought it was a good suggestion. Norbu did not have any desire to walk in the mountains with luggage. He thought he may get tired or start feeling  weekness.


“Not possible,” he cried, collapsing across the table in hysterical laughter. It wasn’t his style, and anyway his tummy was too big.

Word Meaning
Collapsing Lying , Spreading
Hysterical Of very high intensity
Tummy Stomach

He said in a loud voice that he did not want to get tired. He started laughing very loudly. While laughing he spread his hand and body on the table. This was not his usual style. I observed that he had a large stomch.


Father to Son – Explanation

Poet – Elizabeth Jennings

This poem is about relationship between a father and a son. The poet has expressed feelings of a father through this poem. Also expressed is the need to have a good communication between family members. Lack of communication may lead to several misunderstandings.

I do not understand this child

Though we have lived together now

In the same house for years. I know

Nothing of him, so try to build

Up a relationship from how

He was when small. Yet have I killed

Poetic Devices
Though we have lived together now Alliteration
In the same house for years. I know Alliteration
He was when small. Yet have I killed Alliteration

Father expresses that he has not understood feelings of his son. Though they have lived together for a long time in a house relations between them are not healthy. Father realizes that he knows very little about his son. He wants to make one more attempt to build a healthy relationship with his son. He wants to recall all the time he has spent with his son since his childhood.

This stanza represents the gap between thoughts of a father and a son. Each of them wants to maintain his own thought process. They do not want to listen views of each other. But at a later date father realizes the pain of not having enough communications with his son. Now they are probably not talking often. Father feels the need to build a good relationship with his son.


The seed I spent or sown it where

The land is his and none of mine?

We speak like strangers, there’s no sign

Of understanding in the air.

This child is built to my design

Yet what he loves I cannot share.

Word Meaning
Sown Planted
Poetic Devices
The seed I spent or sown it where Alliteration
The land is his and none of mine Metaphor
We speak like strangers, there’s no sign Simile
This child is built to my design Simile

Father accepts that he was responsible for creating the communication gap with his son. Now the son does not expresses himself so father does not know what is going on in the mind of his son. They do talk to each other but do not express their feelings. Hence they are behaving like strangers. They do not try to understand each other. The child has a physical resemblance to his father. However the father does not know anything about likes or dislikes of his son.

This stanza expresses the helplessness of a father. He takes all the blame of lack of communication on himself. He accepts the importance of communication and the pain lack of it can cause. People can live together but still be far away from each other. This situation is very painful.


Silence surrounds us. I would have

Him prodigal, returning to

His father’s house, the home he knew,

Rather than see him make and move

His world. I would forgive him too,

Shaping from sorrow a new love.

Word Meaning
Prodigal Spending too much,

Using something in large quantity

Poetic Devices
Silence surrounds us. I would have Alliteration
His father’s house, the home he knew, Alliteration
His father’s house, the home he knew, Metaphor
Rather than see him make and move Alliteration
Shaping from sorrow a new love. Alliteration

Because of lack of understanding, father and son speak less to each other . Father wants his son to speak more and more to him. Father wants his son to return to the house that was once a home for him. Father would prefer this rather than his son making a separate home for himself and live there. Father is ready to forgive his son. Father wants to forget all the sorrows of past and initiate love into their life.

In this stanza father has expressed his willingness to correct his own ways. He is not blaming his son. He takes all the blame on himself. Father wants to develop a new way of understanding between them after forgetting whatever happened in the past. He does not want that both should live separately. This separation could be physical as well as emotional or only emotional. Each of these situations is bad.


Father and son, we both must live

On the same globe and the same land,

He speaks: I cannot understand

Myself, why anger grows from grief.

We each put out an empty hand,

Longing for something to forgive.

Word Meaning
Globe Earth, Universe
Longing Desire, Wish
Poetic Devices
On the same globe and the same land, Repetition
On the same globe and the same land, Metaphor
We each put out an empty hand, Metaphor

Father wants that he and his son should live together in the same house. They should also be part of the same universe. This sentence expresses need of emotional attachment. Father is sad that his son is away from him. He cannot understand why this sadness is causing anger in him. He wants that they should extend an empty hand to welcome each other. They both have a strong desire to be in the company of each other and to forgive each other.

In this stanza father expresses his wish to move ahead to forgive his own son. Living in the same globe and the same land has a deeper meaning. The word ‘land’ represents living under one roof. The word ‘globe’ represents the thought process or the emotional aspects of living. The father wants to have emotional interaction as well. Father wants to welcome his son into his abode once again without any pre-conditions. This is the meaning of ‘putting an empty hand’. He blames himself for lack of communication and is ready to forgive his son.




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