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Chapter 8: 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 practicing maneuvers 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, and 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.
dog would make chase for a hundred metres or so before easing off, having seen us off the property. It wasn’t difficult to understand why ferocious Tibetan mastiffs became popular in China’s imperial courts as hunting dogs, brought along the Silk Road in ancient times as tribute from Tibet.
By now we could see snow-capped mountains gathering on the horizon. We entered a valley where the river was wide and mostly clogged with ice, brilliant white and glinting in the sunshine.
The trail hugged its bank, twisting with the meanders as we gradually gained height and the valley sides closed in. The turns became sharper and the ride bumpier, Tsetan now in third gear as we continued to climb.
The track moved away from the icy river, labouring through steeper slopes that sported big rocks daubed with patches of bright orange lichen. Beneath the rocks, hunks of snow clung on in the near-permanent shade. I felt the pressure building up in my ears, held my nose, snorted and cleared them.
We struggled round another tight bend and Tsetan stopped. He had opened his door and jumped out of his seat before I realised what was going on. “Snow,” said Daniel as he too exited the vehicle, letting in a breath of cold air as he did so.
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NCERT Solutions Class 11 English Chapter 8 Silk Road
1. The article has been titled ‘Silk Road.’
The article was titled Silk Road because the author was travelling through the mountains where the ancient Silk Road used to pass, connecting Tibet to China.
2. Tibetan mastiffs were popular in China’s imperial courts.
Tibetan mastiffs were ferocious and watchful guard dogs. When the author’s vehicle entered the property, they chased it down without fear. As a result, they were presented to the Chinese imperial court as a form of tribute from Tibet.
3. The author’s experience at Hor was in stark contrast to earlier accounts of the place.
The author’s experience at Hor contrasted with travel accounts such as those of Kawaguchi and Hedin, who were overcome by the beauty and serenity of the lake and cried. The author observed a neglected Hor with sparse vegetation, a rocky and dusty landscape, and discarded waste in the surrounding area.
4. The author was disappointed with Darchen.
When they arrived in Darchen, the author couldn’t sleep due to a cold, so he sought treatment from a Tibetan doctor. When he looked around the next day, he noticed there were no pilgrims, which was a major disadvantage for his future journey.
NCERT Class 11 English Textbook Chapter 8 With Answer PDF Free Download