SHORT ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS
Q1. Why did the author take the short-cut inspite of high mountain passes?
Ans. The short–cut would take them south-west, almost directly towards Mount Kailash. Crossing high mountain passes posed breathing problems. Absence of snow meant a fairly good ride.
Q2. What did the author notice in the vast open plains after leaving Ravu?
Ans. These vast open plains had only dry pastures. A few gazelles could be seen nibbling the grass. When the plains grew more stony than grass, he saw a great herd of wild asses.
Q3. What sights did they encounter in the rocky wilderness?
Ans. They passed shepherds tending their flocks. These well-wrapped men or women would pause and stare at their car. They sometimes waved. When the track came close to the sheep, the animals would change direction.
Q4. How did the author react to the Tibetan mastiff?
Ans. The Tibetan mastiff was a huge black dog. It stood guard outside the dark tents of nomads. These dogs set their heads erect and watched the car. They barked and ran fast towards their car. They did not fear the car. They calmed down only after chasing them off their territory.
Q5. Why did Tsetan stop the car and jump out of it?
Ans. There was snow on about fifteen metres of road ahead. Then there was dirt trail. There was snow on either side of the road. The bank was too steep for the vehicle to pass. The icy layer could prove slippery. Tsetan threw handfuls of dirt on the ice. Others followed suit.
Q6. Why did the author complain of headache? How did he get relief?
Ans. The author was not used to high altitude climbing. He complained of headache when they had crept past 5,400 metres. He took gulps from his water bottle. This helped some what. His headache cleared as they moved down the other side of the pass.
Q7. Give, according to the author, a description of the top of the pass.
Ans. They reached the top of the pass at 5,515 metres. The top was marked by a pile of stones. These were decorated with white silk scarves and ragged prayer flags. The author and his companions took a turn round the cairn, in a clockwise direction as it was a tradition among the Buddhists.
Q8. Why, do you think was the author perturbed at the loud hiss emitted by the car?
Ans. Tsetan partially unscrewed the top of the car. It emitted a loud hiss. The lower atmospheric pressure was allowing the fuel to expand. The author was perturbed. He considered it dangerous.
Q9. What do you learn about the salt lake on the other side of the pass?
Ans. The salt lake was dry. It was on the other side of the pass. The plateau was covered with hollow areas of low flat lands near water and brackish lakes. These were the remnants of the Tethys Ocean. This ocean bordered Tibet before the great continental collision lifted it skyward.
Q10. What activities were going on at the dry salt lake?
Ans. The shining white lake was dry. It had lot of layers of salt. Workers were busy loading trucks with piles of salt. They carried pickaxes and shovels. They had put on long sheepskin coats and salt-covered boots. They wore sunglasses to avoid the glare caused by a steady stream of trucks.
Q11. Which incident does the author remember as they reached a small town, Hor?
Ans. They had suffered two punctures in quick succession on the drive from the salt lake. Tsetan was eager to have them fixed as they left him with no spares. So they stopped outside a tyre-repair shop. Daniel was returning to Lhasa. He found a ride in a truck. So the author and Tsetan bade Daniel farewell at the tyre-repair shop.
Q12. What is the importance of Hor? How did the author feel there?
Ans. Hor was a small town on the main east-west highway that followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir. The town was on the shore of Lake Manasarovar. But the author does not feel impressed by it. He found Hor a grim, miserable place. It had no vegetation but only dust and rocks. There were heaps of garbage too.
Q13. Why is lake Manasarovar Tibet’s most venerated stretch of water?
Ans. Lake Manasarovar is considered to be the source of four great Indian rivers. These are the Indus, the Ganges, the Sutlej and the Brahmaputra. Actually only the Sutlej flows from the lake. The headwaters of the others all rise nearby on the flanks of Mount Kailash. Being the source of great rivers, lake Manasarovar is considered Tibet’s most respected stretch of water.
Q14. What sort of experience did the author have at Hor?
Ans. The author had to wait for some time as Tsetan was getting the punctures repaired. He went to Hor’s only cafe to take tea. It had three broken windows which let in draught. The Chinese youth who served him tea, spread the grease around on the table with a filthy rag. The author felt that this half an hour was like solitary confinement.
Q15. Why did the night at the guest house in Darchen turn out to be another troubled one?
Ans. The author had to kill time at Hor. It was an open-air rubbish dump. He went from one place to another without any particular purpose. This set off his cold once again. One of his nostrils was blocked again as he laid down to sleep in Darchen. He could not get enough oxygen to breathe. He had to pass a sleepless night.
Q16. How does the author recount his experience at the Darchen medical college?
Ans. The Tibetan doctor had no white coat or other apparatus. He looked like any other Tibetan in his thick pullover and woolly hat. He felt the veins in the author’s wrist and asked him a few questions. He diagnosed his malady as ‘‘a cold and the effects of altitude.’’ He prescribed a five day course of Tibetan medicines. The author had a sound sleep after his first full day’s course.
Q17. What opinion did the author form about Darchen?
Ans. At first he found Darchen horrible. It was dusty, partially abandoned with heaps of rubble and rubbish lying here and there. It had some simple general stores. A brook babbled down past his guest house. After a good night’s sleep he felt Darchen was relaxed and unhurried. The only drawback was that there were no pilgrims.
Q18. The author says, ‘‘I’d timed my arrival for the beginning of the season, but it seemed I was too early.’’ How does Darchen appear at the height of the pilgrimage season?
Ans. The author did not have a personal experience of it. He was told that the town was bustling with visitors in the pilgrimage season. Many brought their own accommodation. They would set up their tents at the boundary of Darchen. These tents spread out to the plains.
Q19. What options did the author have after Tsetan left him?
Ans. His only option was to wait for some other pilgrims. The route of pilgrimage was welltrodden. But he did not want to go alone. Parts of the route were liable to blockage by snow. He had no idea whether the snow had cleared or not. He hadn’t come across any English speaking person to answer this basic question.
Q20. ‘‘The author gives a picturesque description of Darchen’s only cafe.’’ How far do you agree with this statement?
Ans. Thes cafe was small, dark and cavernous. It had a long metal stove that ran down the middle. The walls and ceiling were covered in striped, multicoloured plastic. This cafe had a single window and a rickety table.
Q21. What did the author learn about Norbu? How did he feel?
Ans. Norbu was a Tibetan. He worked in Beijing at the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences. He had come to do the ‘Kora’. He had been writing academic papers about the Kailash Kora and its importance in various works of Buddhist literature. He had never actually done Kora himself. The author felt happy. They could do Kora together.
Q22. Why did the author’s initial relief at meeting Norbu become diluted later on?
Ans. Norbu could talk in English. He was going to Mount Kailash to do Kora. But he was almost as ill-equipped for the pilgrimage as the author was. He was very fat and found walking on high attitude tiresome. Moreover, he wan’t really a practising Buddhist. All these factors diluted the author’s initial relief.
Q23. Did the author stick to his original plan to make the trek? Give a reason for your answer.
Ans. No, the author did not stick to his original plan. He had originally imagined to make the trek in the company of devout believers. Norbu wasn’t a practising Buddhist, but he was enthusiastic. The author thought carefully. He decided that Norbu would prove to be an ideal companion.
Q24. What qualities of Norbu do you think made him an ideal companion to the author?
Ans. Norbu was an educated person, an academic–who could converse in English. He was a Tibetan and very enthusiastic. He knew about the importance of Kailash Kora. He was practical. He suggested hiring yaks to carry their luggage. He had a fine sense of humour. He could laugh at his own shortcomings.
LONG ANSWER TYPE QUESTIONS
Q1. What dificulties did the author encounter while crossing the mountain passes that led to the Silk Road?
Ans. The first difficulty they faced was during the ascent through the valley. The turns became sharper and the ride bumpier. The author felt the pressure building up in his ears. Suddenly Tsetan stopped the car and jumped out. A large strip of white stuff lay across the track for about fifteen metres. The bank was too steep for their vehicle to scale. They grabbed handfuls of dust and flung them over the snow. When the snow was spread with soil, Tsetan slowly drove the vehicle over it. Ten minutes later, they had another blockage. This time Tsetan drove round the snow. The steep slope was studded with major rocks. His vehicle was lurching from one obstacle to another. Once he cut off a hairpin bend. Tsetan negotiated the obstacles and they reached the top of the pass. The author took gulps from his water bottle to ease his headache caused by rapid ascent. His headache cleared as they moved down the other side of the pass. Apart from two punctures in quick succession, they faced no difficulty till they reached Hor, a small town on the main eastwest highway.
Q2. How was the author’s experience at Hor in stark contrast to earlier accounts of the place?
Ans. Hor is a small town on the main east-west highway. The highway followed the old trade route from Lhasa to Kashmir. The town is located on the shore of Lake Manasarovar. This lake is Tibet’s most venerated stretch of water. The Sutlej flows from the lake. The head waters of the Indus, the Ganges and the Brahmaputra, rise nearby on the flanks of Mount Kailash. Ancient Hindu and Buddhist books regard Manasarovar as the source of four great Indian rivers. Earlier travellers had spoken in superlatives about their experience on first glimpse of Lake Manasarovar. Ekai Kawaguchi was Japanese monk. He had arrived there in 1900. He was so moved by the sanctity of the lake that he burst into tears. A few years later, the holy water of the lake had similar effect on Sven Hedin. He was a Swede. Moreover, he was not sentimental. Hence his reaction was quite noteworthy. The author found Hor a grim, miserable place with no vegetation. It was just dust and rocks. He was disappointed to notice heaps of rubbish lying dumped here and there. He calls Hor an open-air rubbish dump. Thus there was vast difference between legend and reality.
Q3. Give a brief account of the author’s experience at Darchen before he got treatment at Darchen medical college?
Ans. It was 10.30 p.m. when the author and Tsetan reached a guest house in Darchen. The author was tired and hungry. The drive in dusty Hor had started his cold again. The herbal tea did not help. One of his nostrils was blocked again. He was not sure that the other would provide him sufficient oxygen. He lay down to sleep. He started breathing through his mouth. Then he switched to single-nostril power. He got enough oxygen. He was about to sleep when he woke up abruptly. His chest felt heavy. He cleared his nasal passages. He felt relief in his chest. He lay down and tried to sleep. He was about to fall asleep when something told him not to. He sat up once again and felt better. But as soon as he lay down again his sinuses filled up and his chest was strange. He supported himself upright against the wall. He could not sleep at all. He had another troubled night due to his breathing problems. He could not give any single reason for the lack of sleep. A little voice inside him kept saying that if he slept, he might never wake up again. So, he stayed awake all night.
Q4. Give a brief account of the author’s visit to the medical college at Darchen and the effect of the Tibetan medicines on him.
What do you learn about Tibetan doctors and medicines from reading the travelogue ‘Silk Road’?
Ans. At first the author was impressed neither by the building of the medical college nor the Tibetan doctor. The building looked liked a monastery. The consulting room was dark and cold. It lacked the paraphernalia of a doctor. The doctor himself appeared like any other Tibetan in a thick pullover and a woolly hat. He had no white coat on him. The author explained his sleepless symptoms and sudden aversion to laying down. While feeling his pulse, the Tibetan doctor asked the author some questions. He diagnosed his illness as a cold and effects of the altitude. By now the author had developed some confidence in the doctor. He asked if he would recover enough to be able to do the kora. The doctor assured him that he would be fine. The doctor gave him a five-day course of Tibetan medicine in fifteen screws of paper. The after breakfast package contained a brown powder. The author took it with hot water. The lunch time and bed time packages contained small spherical brown small pills. They looked like sheep dung, but the author took them. He found the medicines quite effective. After his first full day’s course, he slept soundly at night.
Q5. What impression do you form of the author, Nick Middleton, on the basis of reading ‘Silk Road’?
Ans. The author was a bald headed English knowing gentleman. He was keen on performing Kailash Kora. He undertook the hazardous journey to Mount Kailash for this purpose. He hired Tsetan’s car and took Daniel as companion for escorting him upto Darchen. He seems a lover of adventure who is not at all afraid of taking risks. This is evident from his ascent to undertake a short cut through high mountain passes involving the risk of slipping on snowy roads. He is a keen observer of men and manners. He has a sharp eye for details. He describes the hilly people quite sensitively. He gives a graphic account of difficulties faced during ascent. His headache and loss of sleep are caused by cold and high altitude. His observations about Lake Manasarovar and Hor reveal the difference between legend and reality. He dislikes dirt and shabbiness. He faces communication problem after Tsetan leaves and before he meets Norbu. However, he waits and takes correct decisions. He approves of Norbu’s practical suggestion to hire yaks to carry luggage. In short, he is a sensitive and likable fellow.