So, I have finally finished reading Across Many Mountains – a book based on the true story of a Tibetan family who had to leave their peaceful lives at a beautiful monastery in Tibet to flee the oppression inflicted upon them and the people of Tibet by the Chinese regime. The first few chapters of the book narrate mostly about the early life of Kunsang – from the day she was born until she was left orphaned at a very young age. It really is a heart-breaking story right from the beginning and almost to the end. IT is a happy ending in the end but all the suffering that Kunsang has to endure before THAT happy ending really made me choke in tears several times (well, almost). LOL.
When Kunsang’s parents died, she had to live the life of a nomad, going from one place to another before she decided to go with a group of monks and nuns touring from one village to another to do their spiritual tasks. Well, to make a long story short, after so many obstacles and signs, she decided to stick to a highly respected spiritual leader by the name of Ape Rinpoche and settled at the hermitage that he is based at. It is there that he met Tsering – a monk at the monastery – with whom she fell in love and later had a secret relationship with.
They managed to keep their secret relationship until they (accidently) had a child together. The child died, unfortunately, and since there was no condom at that time, came a second who also died of an unknown disease. But then, in a very conservative Buddhist community that they were in, they didn’t really believe in diseases. Instead, they accepted it as more of a fate and for which they have to do all kind of rituals to ask for kindness from gods to help them heal and recover miraculously and magically. After all, at a time when doctors and modern medications were still not in existence, they had no other to turn to but the gods.
I remember how the third child – who was then the mother of the author of this book since she was the 3rd generation and Kunsang was the first – almost died from a mysterious disease too. Not wanting to lose another child, she carried her child to travel across many mountains and in the snow to go to a holy lake called Basum Tso and skirted around that very big lake – summoning all her strength and will – and managed to do four rounds within four days as required by the ritual, half the time taken by most other pilgrims. That part alone – along with so many other parts within that story – is a very beautiful rendition of love from a mother to a child.
Well, reading through all the description about the hermitage and the surroundings – high mountains, deep valleys, colorful flowers, white snow, pines, birds etc – I could only imagine how beautiful it must be up there at that time. I was made to play with my imagination quite a lot as I read further and further into the story and I gotta say I had goosebumps every now and then.
Source : http://hardyguardy.deviantart.com/art/Tibet-172410391
But above all, it was the part of the story when they had to walk across Himalayas that really made me go OMG. The sheer challenges and obstacles that they had to go through while distancing away from the fast approaching Chinese troops made my heart race almost uncontrollably that I had to stop several times to gasp for air. It really was – nerve-wrecking, as if I was there among them running away from the Chinese troops and stumbling in the snow every now and then while doing it. When they finally made it to the Indian border, I felt so relieved I almost cried. Seriously, I was so damn relieved! I really thought it was over for them, that they were finally in good hands, but no. The suffering did not end there. In fact, it became worse. But I’m afraid you may have to read this book to know what happened next. LOL.
This book really taught me a lot about things – especially about Buddhism and Tibetan cultures. The complexity is unbelievable and yet it is full of beauties. I am delighted to learn a lot about veganism, something that I’ve been so interested in for quite some time now.
Apart from that of course is about the history of Tibet and how China came into picture and things. I wouldn’t really go any deeper into it because it has always been and still is a very sensitive subject. But I still hope that things will get better for Tibetan people.
Oh well, Tibet has always been in my bucketlist – but of course after reading this book my interest in making my way to this amazing country has doubled if not tripled so I may find myself going there sooner than later. Then there are some other places that I had never heard of before I read this book especially places on the north of India which is to me one of the most mysterious parts of the whole world. I can only name Shimla for a starter but there are many other places that are described in this book so – it is quite a long list.
So now, I’m moving to another book called The Road to Wanting by Wendy Law-Yone, a book I bought in Yangoon. There was another book called The Native Tourist by a Ma Thanegi but I found it too straight forward and boring and decided to dump it after a few chapters.