In My Hands Today…

A Passion for Killing (Inspector Ikmen #9) – Barbara Nadel

1079766A serial killer is stalking the streets of Istanbul, seemingly targeting gay men. A man is found dead in a hotel room, a single stab wound in his heart. Could he be a victim of the “Peeper?” Inspector Mehmet Suleyman is assigned to the case, and is shocked to discover that the victim’s body has been delivered to forensics entirely “clean.” Has someone tampered with vital evidence? Meanwhile, a young carpet dealer, on the brink of a huge sale, is discovered in the mangled remains of his jeep, a bullet between his shoulder blades. The deal would have made him—the carpet he wanted to sell used to belong to Lawrence of Arabia. Did the young salesman know too much? Inspectors Cetin Ikemen and Suleyman uncover an incredible story and quickly realize that behind even the most respectable facade lurks passion, savagery, and madness…

I’d Love to Visit….Mount Kailash and Manasarovar Lake

I just finished reading Colin Thubron’s ‘To a Mountain in Tibet’ and the book reignited one of my life bucket lists. The book is an account of his travel from Kathmandu to the foothills of the sacred and mystic mount Kailash, which is revered by Hindus , Buddhists, Jains and the followers of the Bon religion. Hindus believe that Kailash is the earthly incarnation of the mystical mount Meru, which is the supposed to be the centre of the universe in Hindu mythology. Buddhists and Jains also believe in the sanctity of mount Meru and therefore Mount Kailash and so for members of all three religions, circumambulating or doing a parikrama of the mountain will wash off all sins. Hindus also believe that Lord Shiva, the Destroyer, one of the three Gods who form the trinity of the Hindu pantheon, also resides at the top of Mount Kailash.



Mount Kailash Parikrama Map. Source 

This post is neither about the book nor about Hindu mythology. What it is instead is about Mount Kailash and Manasarovar Lake. Ever since I’ve heard of these two places, I want to go there. Both are in Tibet, which is now in China. But most importantly, both are at very high altitudes, around 15,000 feet above sea level. For someone born, brought up and living in areas which are at sea level, I need to be extremely fit to attempt climbing this high, for my lungs to be able to cope. I still want to do this, preferably before I am too old, but one can only hope.



Mount Kailash is extremely ancient, even predating the Himalayas according to the book. The mountain is probably an island in the ancient Sea of Tethys which was what the whole Tibetan plateau was before the Indian subcontinent (India was a continent then) collided with what is now the rest of Asia, the tectonic shift that was caused gave birth to the Himalayas. It is said, even today, fossils of marine animals can be found in Tibet. The four faces of the mountain also correspond to the four cardinal points and four of India’s rivers, Ganges, Sutlej, Brahmaputra and Indus also originate close to the base of the mountain.



North face of Mount Kailash Source

The Indian government has a lottery where certain people get selected for the Kailash Manasarovar Yatra which is a pilgrimage officially sanctioned by the government and which enters Tibet through India. This trip is a longish one, through Himachal Pradesh and so pilgrims have a chance to slowly acclimatise themselves for the high altitudes. But I’ve heard that it’s quite difficult to get into this pilgrimage and also many people drop out during the process. You can also do this via private operators, most who are based in Nepal. I understand they fly you directly to Tibet from Kathmandu (huge amounts of elevations in altitudes in a matter of hours) and then you use vehicles to get as far as you can, and the balance is done by foot.



Manasarovar Lake with Mount Kailash in the background. Source

Manasarovar Lake and Rakshas Tal are two lakes found in the base of the Kailash Mountains. They lie around 15,000 feet above sea level. Manasarovar is a fresh water lake, probably one of the largest at that elevation. Rakshas Tal, which lies next to it is, however, a salt-water lake and there’s a natural channel which connects the two of them. Hindu mythology has this lake as a manifestation of Lord Brahma’s mind and so is quite sacred. It is said, anyone drinking the water of this lake will be cleansed from sin over a hundred lifetimes.




Yam Dwar or Lord Yama’s Door. Source

The first step or the start of the parikrama is a small door called Yama Dwar or Lord Yama’s door. Lord Yama is the Lord of Death (like the Grim Reaper in western thought) and the reasoning is that by going through this door, you get reborn. Another reason is that all of us have sinned at some point in time in life and it’s only a newborn who is pure of heart. So when you are reborn, you become pure and can complete the circuit without much difficulty.




Gouri Kund Source

Then you start the parikrama. It is said a very fit person can complete it in 15-16 hours, but realistically speaking, for a normal person, not used to the high altitude and thin air, it should take at least two to three days to complete it, taking into account frequent rest stops on the way plus a camp at night. The average altitude for the parikrama is around 16,500 feet. You also see the Gouri Kund along the parikrama. This freshwater lake can be found during your descent from the Dolma Pass and is said to be a sacred place where Goddess Parvati seduced her husband and also the place where the Sky Dancers or Dakhinis in Tibetan mythology play and take bath in.


I loved writing this post and this has really allowed me to live through a virtual pilgrimage. I hope that in the near future before I am too old, I can actually do this physically as opposed to living it virtually!

In My Hands Today…

A Journey in Ladakh: Encounters with Buddhism – Andrew Harvey


Now considered a classic among readers interested in Tibetan Buddhism and pilgrimages of the spirit of all kinds, A Journey in Ladakh is Andrew Harvey’s spiritual travelogue of his arduous journey to one of the most remote parts of the world–the highest, least populated region in India, cut off by snow for six months each year. Buddhists have meditated in the mountains of Ladakh since three centuries before Christ, and it is there that the purest form of Tibetan Buddhism is still practiced today.

Being a Woman…

The past few weeks have been quite frankly, disturbing to me as a woman. Like probably most people on this planet, I’ve been following the US Presidential elections and the news it throws up makes me very disturbed. It also doesn’t help that my Facebook feed is filled with news about the elections and mostly about how one of the candidates is so misogynist about women in general.

Then I read another bit of news, this time from India. Apparently, a couple who applied to divorce has had a judgement from the Supreme Court that because the ‘woman was trying to separate the man from his parents’, divorce should happen. What was so wrong about this judgement was the judge who decreed that after the wedding, in a marriage, when a woman said she didn’t want to live with the man’s parents, she is wrong and this is against the Indian, Hindu culture and so the man asking for a divorce is right and the divorce should be decreed. This is so wrong from so many angles. I, along with many Indian women worldwide have been incensed with this ruling. This turns the clock on so many decades of women empowerment in the country. This belittles a woman as nothing else can and makes parents of women little less than dirt.

Yes, the world over, patriarchal traditions insist that when a man and a woman get married, a woman leaves her home, her family and in some cases in India, even her name, to go and live with someone who is essentially a stranger.  A woman’s parents, who have brought her up and lived with her for the 20-30 odd years pre-marriage, have no rights over their daughter, whom they have brought up equally to any son they may have, have to hand her over quietly and when she raises any objection, tell her to be quiet and adjust and live with her husband and in-laws. In many cases, the woman who is a highly educated, career woman who has subordinates at work, has to have someone who has probably never done any work outside the home telling her what to eat, when to sleep, when to work etc.

There’s a Chinese saying attributed to Mao Zedong that says “Women hold up half the sky”. What does this mean actually? My interpretation of this means that in order for society to achieve anything, women should and must contribute their share of the hard work. Women, who account for half the world’s population (49.6% according to the World Bank), in reality, do not really account for even a fraction of that percentage.

So what’s it like to be a woman?

Being a woman starts young, young girls are told at a very early age that they are women in the making

Being a woman means covering yourselves up, just so you do not inflame the lustful eyes of men around you. Men don’t get taught to lower their eyes when talking to a woman.

Being a woman means that every word, deed and action is scrutinised, if you are assertive and know your mind, you are called arrogant and stuck-up and a bitch while a man is praised for this (as an example of this, please watch the US presidential elections).

A woman is supposed to pure and chaste while a man can sow his wild oats. A woman talking in a sexual way is a slut while for a man, it’s just boys talk or locker room talk and ‘boys will be boys’

A woman walking alone at night always has some pepper spray in her bag, but in many countries, this rarely happens as women are almost never allowed to go out at night.

A woman walking alone, irrespective of the time of the day will invariably attract catcalls and lewd glances, but a man has to never face being the object of sexual attention and feel people undressing him with their eyes.

Being a woman means having to listen to off colour jokes and sexual innuendoes at work and school and laugh it out with the guys as otherwise you are considered ‘not sporting enough’

It’s time, we as women started taking care of our kind. We are mothers, grandmothers, aunts and sisters. We nurture the next generation of both men and women. It’s up to us to make sure that this inequality stops with this generation. As we bring up the next generation, let’s all teach our daughters to be strong and not take any shit from anyone. Let’s, more importantly, teach our sons how to be good human beings, one who respects women, one who knows the line they should draw internally when talking to women. To teach our sons not to allow anyone around them to belittle women and make them feel any less than they deserve, to listen to them actively.

Most importantly to make women feel that they are really “Holding up half the sky”

In My Hands Today…

A King’s Ransom – Sharon Kay Penman

18079806This long-anticipated sequel to the national bestseller Lionheart is a vivid and heart-wrenching story of the last event-filled years in the life of Richard, Coeur de Lion. Taken captive by the Holy Roman Emperor while en route home—in violation of the papal decree protecting all crusaders—he was to spend fifteen months chained in a dungeon while Eleanor of Aquitaine moved heaven and earth to raise the exorbitant ransom. But a further humiliation awaited him: he was forced to kneel and swear fealty to his bitter enemy.

For the five years remaining to him, betrayals, intrigues, wars, and illness were ever present. So were his infidelities, perhaps a pattern set by his father’s faithlessness to Eleanor. But the courage, compassion, and intelligence of this warrior king became the stuff of legend, and A King’s Ransom brings the man and his world fully and powerfully alive.