Hamburg, 3 November 2009
Here I am, trying my best not to succumb to the relentless grip of what tries to impose itself unto the mind as the one and only real reality. I returned to Hamburg on 12 October and, as anticipated, immediately got sucked into the wormhole of first world life style - clean air, slick cars, a clock-work normality both reassuring and stifling the senses, and the particular demands of intellectual work so hard to leave behind you at day’s end. So this is, well, a kind of escapist flash back:
Flying out of Kathmandu - the pictures taken there will still have to follow - I found myself riveted to the seat as we kept on gliding along the Himalayan peaks for a good two hours, marvelling at the sharply defined line etched along the cloudless horizon, like an arrow pointing me to somewhere: East or West? West it had to be on this occasion.
Our trekking tour up the Modi Kohla Valley and into the Annapurna Sanctuary was moderately strenuous, but overwhelming and mystical, taking us through tropical vegetation right up to about 3500 meters with glimpses of the Himal peaks time and again. And then, after a further 600 meters of gradual climbing, we found ourselves at the bottom of the Annapurna Sanctuary - an amphitheatre of stark and uncompromising beauty of such wild and promising harshness that it reduces you to zero and, at the same time, takes you in and makes you feel like you are part of everything: tat twam asi.
One single moment sticks out in memory: Lying at the rim of the plateau above the Annapurna glacier Angela and I listen to the avalanches rumbling down behind a curtain of mist, the demarcation of forbidden territory. How can you be up there and not be tempted to proceed further, in the full knowledge that “dangerous” is a concept too timid to capture what you would be in for?
If India was interesting and a challenge to the senses and your desperate attempt to remain who you are, then Nepal offered me an unexpected encounter with another I hitherto undiscovered. Perhaps it is the utter lack of a longing for judgement - which is something different to passive acceptance - that struck me most: and I am not referring to the Nepali people in the first instance, though I did experience them as a very humane and open people; welcoming, quiet and soothing after the constant madness of India which resembles a 24/7 roller coaster ride on an insane mixture of speed, acid and a massive downer. Rather it is the way the place and the people changed me and my own longing and habit to compare and measure. It’s good to realize you can do without that.
Head stuff, of course, romantic, romanticising - be my guest. But it all boils down to a simple question: Do you dare to be moved? .