Am off to Palampur and Bir this Sunday for a couple of days - mainly to visit a monastic university, the Dzongsar Chokyi Lodro College of Dialectics, which was inaugurated a couple of months ago and which can accommodate 4,000 monks. Should result in a feature story for the paper, plus a possible travel piece for the magazine if the trip isn’t too rushed. Am feeling a little more confident after getting some basic background information on the various sects of Tibetan Buddhism from a disciple who I met today. Some of it was a refresher course: was reminded that the great university at Nalanda was burnt down in the 12th century, resulting in the destruction of valuable papers dating back 1,700 years; and that much precious learning would have been lost forever if Tibetan Buddhists hadn’t taken copies of some scriptures back to their country before the university was destroyed. Made me think of the final, apocalyptic passages of The Name of the Rose. "Stat rosa pristina nomine, nomina nuda tenemus". All that remains of the rose is its name, and all that jazz. This has nothing to do with anything. I’m sorry.
Anyway, looking forward to the sojourn except for the usual travelling hitches, principally my motion sickness which should come into play during the 4-hour cab journey that’s part of the trip (am taking the overnight train from Delhi to Pathankot, and a cab from there onwards). As the current planning goes, I’ll get just a little over a day in Palampur (Monday morning-Tuesday afternoon) but might just extend my stay if I need more time to look around the monastery or the general region. My last three trips out of Delhi were very rushed: to Chandigarh/Mohali for a software park story, to Shimla for a friend’s wedding (both trips in August, 10 days apart), and then a general outing to Neemrana a couple of months ago. Actually, "very rushed" is a misleading description, because on each of these trips I did get at least one vast expanse of free time that even made me a tad restless (the pleasantest of these expanses being the 5-hour toy train ride from Kalka to Shimla, the worst by far being a prolonged barfing session during one of the cab rides in the hills).
But the trips were rushed in the sense that (with the longest of them being just two days) there was a lot of travel planning to do, last-minute decisions, sleeplessness brought on by the knowledge that there’s a very early morning ahead (I sometimes turn insomniac when I go to bed knowing that I only have four or five hours to sleep; it’s exactly like Chandler in that Friends episode going "Then I thought to myself, now there’s only five hours to sleep; and then after some time I thought, now there’s only four hours left" etc etc) Oh well, hopefully I’ll get some sleep on the overnight train ride, and maybe some reading time too. Haven’t done much of either in the past few days.