NCERT Class 11 English Silk Road

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Silk Road

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. 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. 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.”

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. “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.” 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.

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. “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.

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

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. 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. 


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