The other side of the Himalayas
Early 80’s, my aunt had a great collection of fiction books. There was this large bookshelf in our hall. Most of the older neighbouring kids would drop in to borrow some books. I figured some of these books had some scam stuff as my aunt would not let the younger ones borrow these. Some experimentation taught me that if I hold one of these scam books by its spine it would open up, spreading the pages almost evenly. If you looked carefully, there would be distinct gaps between some pages. If you open up this page, 90% of the time you would find a scam scene.
Some of the books belonged to my grandfather. Nobody ever borrowed these, so, the laws of natural selection had slowly moved these books to the hard to reach topmost shelf. I was scared of this shelf. One lizard fellow used to live there. Once in a while, I had seen it come out . I am not scared of snake or crocodile or even tiger, but I am scared of lizard (and flying cockroach). So, one day, after making sure that the lizard had gone away, I climbed over a chair and started browsing the shelf. There were several books on politics and history. There was this one book in one corner with a colorful cover. I pulled out this book and climbed down. This was a book on China. I read about the civilization on the yellow river, the dynasties, the silk route, the mongols, western interference and the subsequent takeover by the communists. There were pictures of the taklamakan desert and footnotes on Sven Hedlin (the first known person to cross it on foot) and other adventurers . There were pictures of little round children from inner mongolia and painting like landscapes of pine trees and distant snowy mountains. It did not take long to make another tryst.
Last month, a friend from China was getting married and he needed someone to handle his new DV camera. He invited me to be the videographer. So there I was.
In China I was roaming in a place called Guilin, I met these kids at a park, they asked me to join their game. I joined in and lost the match in ten minutes proving yet again chinese supramacy in sports. The littlest girl was playing with my travel guidebook, she turned to the last couple of pages where the phrase book is and started teaching me some basic phrases. She would hit me if I pronounce it wrong. She would grow up to become a great teacher.