The Mansarovar odyssey began with a fascinating discovery for me and that was that Aamir Khan is the most famous Indian in Tibet and, indeed, in China itself. His popularity stems from Three Idiots to PK and now even Dangal. All these Aamir Khan starters have been dubbed into Chinese to cater to the China market which is a huge entertainment industry in itself. Indeed, Aamir Khan has travelled extensively in China to understand the film market of the country and also promote his films here in the local language.
As I walked into a local store in Lhasa to buy a packet of cigarettes and an ice cream, I got into a conversation with the store owner “You know, I have no huaan. Do you take dollars? By the way, why doesn’t Facebook and Google work in Tibet and mainland China? Have you banned these guys?” the storekeeper smiled “Yes sir, we have our own versions of the same. You from India?” I nodded to affirm. “Well, PK Aamir Khan, my best actor, I see all his films. Indian films are just like our films, all song and dance, huge sets and lots of drama.” I picked up a pack of cigarettes and Sinker bar, “So you know Aamir Khan? Wow, you have YouTube. Let me show you some trailers of his latest film Dangal. Here he is an Indian wrestler who has ambitions of making his son a wrestler and win the Gold for India but unfortunately, he is blessed with two daughters. So he decides, what the hell, he will train his daughters to be wrestlers and get gold for India. These girls make him proud at the end of the film by winning Gold for India in wrestling.”
The store owner showed me the poster of Dangal on his computer and then showed me the reviews of PK, his favourite Aamir Khan film.
My Mansarovar Yatra started with this revelation. I had flown from Delhi to Kathmandu to join my Isha group at the Radisson hotel where we all had to assemble. The entire two week trip across the Tibetan plateau covering Mansarovar and Kailash was costing me Rs 2.85 lakhs but I was impressed with meticulous arrangement and planning of the Isha team who were taking us on this spiritual journey across Tibet. Lhasa being the first stop as it is the Capital of Tibet. Here we stayed in Hotel Mansarovar. As a rule, we had Guru Puja in the morning for half an hour followed by a morning and evening health check up to monitor blood pressure and the level of oxygen in our blood. I had to take Diamox every day to originate the blood but, all in all, I was in good health and soon became the chief photographer of the entire group as I flaunted my Canon Mark 5 camera and my mega zoom lenses. The Chinese have built a very good and robust infrastructure with great road and communication facility right up to Kailash and Mansarovar. China telecom delivers calls and wifi right to Kailash. We were whisked off from city to city in luxury AC buses which were very comfortable as everyone had come packed and prepared for the trip.
At Lhasa, we enjoyed a day of sightseeing at the local Norbulingka Monastery, one of the retreats of the Dalai Lama. It is a kind of antique museum that stores the knowledge, heritage and cultural roots of Tibetan religion and Buddhist ideology. The golden Buddha adorns the place with old fashioned rickshaws and carts kept in the centre of the hall. This was indeed a peek into the Tibetan past and a flavour of Buddhist history. The gardens and the walkways gave the place a special texture as I got engrossed in photography and captured the people and the building of the city.