The Daily

Posts Tagged ‘India’

Letter from India: The Permit, Part 2

August 21, 2012 | by

The story so far: Amie and Clancy find themselves stranded in a remote area, in need of a permit before they will be allowed to stay anywhere.

The next day, as we were heading out to get a car, Tenzin, the proprietor of the guesthouse, stopped us and explained that it might take us two or three days to get the permit. He suggested we pack our room, offering to sell it while we stayed in Dharamsala. He said, also, that we could stay until August 6—we could stay as long as we liked.

“I can shuffle rooms around,” he said once, and then later, “We have had a cancellation.” Still later he added, “You will have to change rooms, but your new room will be just as nice.” We shrugged our shoulders. So long as we had a room.

In Dharamsala, we were directed to “District Commissioner” office 111. We poked our heads into a medium-size room shared by four men. Their desks were piled high with manila folders tied together with tennis-shoe laces. We said, “Protected area pass?” in a tone that suggested we might be arrested for asking the question.

The administrators reacted as any American in her office might, should an Indian couple poke its head in and say three words in Hindi.

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Letter from India: The Permit, Part 1

August 20, 2012 | by

We were on our way to a small Tibetan colony in Himachal Pradesh. I lived there for about a year in 2008 and wanted to show it to my traveling companion, Clancy. Also the house where I stayed is very peaceful and nice, and I thought it would be a good place for Clancy to finish the book he is working on. We had about ten days to spend there and were in agreement: no cars, no roads.

I wrote to the manager of the house, which is called Old Labrang. It is a guesthouse, but you can’t really stay there unless you get the okay from the manager. In the past when I stayed there, it was during the off-season. Since my last visit, the place had undergone major renovations and is now, by any standard, a desirable place to stop. Palazzo floors, an interior garden with flowers and orange trees. It costs eight dollars a night, and as a result I had a feeling that this time there would be a problem securing a room. I didn’t want to sit down and write the request.

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Letter from India: When the Cat’s Away

August 7, 2012 | by

The Pin Valley is near the Tibetan border. In fact it was a part of Tibet. It was given to India in the fifties, to protect it. In winter it is snowbound. In summer, at three miles elevation—above the tree line—it is a stone bowl of dust.

Two years ago, I was following a seventeen-year-old around the world, trying to get permission to write about him. I followed him from Kathmandu to India, and that was when I heard of the Pin Valley for the first time. Westerners living in India were going up for the last ten days of a month-long program for the monks in Pin Valley. There were no guest houses there. People who wanted to attend the program would stay in Kaza, the nearest town. They would ride in and out by car daily, an hour and a half each way.

This year, 2012, was different. An enterprising Westerner had partnered with a Tibetan tour operator—a trekker by trade—to build a camp a kilometer and a half from the monastery, on a piece of unused farmland with a well.

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What We’re Loving: Eccentrics, Cult Figures

August 3, 2012 | by

All month I’ve found myself recommending Perry Anderson’s series in the London Review of Books on the birth of modern India. Anderson is hardly a well-kept secret; he is about as renowned as a Marxist historian can be. Still, his in-depth articles—on China, Russia, Italy, et cetera—are like nothing in any other magazine. Imagine the old Encyclopedia Britannica as written by the God of the Old Testament. He lays about him with a mighty hand. —Lorin Stein

I like biographies for beach reading. (And by beach I mean the roof of my building.) Lisa Cohen’s All We Know—a joint study of Esther Murphy, Mercedes de Acosta, and Madge Garland, and a vivid portrait of between-the-wars bohemia—is just the thing: substantive, thoughtful, and juicy enough that you’ll risk a burn to find out what happens next. —Sadie O. Stein

If you are an eccentric, you will be thrilled to know that there is a club for you. It’s called, rather plainly, The Eccentrics Club. It’s based in London, was founded in 1781, and still exists. It sounds like a joke, but it isn’t—it’s patronized by the Duke of Edinburgh, no less. The club’s stated mission is to promote, presumably just among eccentrics, “Good Fellowship” and “True Sociality”—“virtues which,” according to the club's rules and regulations of 1808, “are now getting rare and eccentric; but which it is the wish and intent of this Society to cherish within their narrow circle to the utmost of their power … in the occasional enjoyment of  ‘the feast of reason and the flow of soul.’” If you aren’t quite sure whether or not you qualify, do not fret, as the Society has a useful page to help you diagnose yourself. If you discover that you are in fact an eccentric, don’t get too excited: admission to the club is by interview only. —Arthur Holland Michel

Searching for Sugar Man—the story of Detroit cult singer-songwriter Rodriguez and his unlikely second act—is a solid, pleasurable documentary that I’d recommend to anyone who enjoys crying alone at movies (I do). But even if you don’t catch it, check out the sound track: composed entirely of the subject’s own music, it makes a strong case for his place in the early-seventies canon. I’ve had Cold Fact on repeat for the past week. —S.O.S.

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Letter from India: Rajiv and the Potassium Parmanganate

July 30, 2012 | by

The hotel was five stars but down-at-the-heels. It was the beginning of the off-season, so there were not many guests, and there were not going to be many guests for three months. For twenty dollars, we had arranged an upgrade to the best suite. It probably could have been done for less.

The suite had a lot of switches on the walls. The following morning, when our breakfast came, someone from the kitchen called and said the waiter was outside because of our DO NOT DISTURB sign. We let him in. It was seven a.m., and we had a long program that day. We did not come back to the hotel until two, and only then to get our passports from the safe—they were required for admission to a place I wanted to go.

We were waiting for the down elevator when Rajiv approached us. A member of the housekeeping staff, he was young and handsome, if a little short. His skin emitted light.

He approached quickly, withdrawing a key from his vest, saying, “Are you in room 427?”

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Letter from India: The Best Restaurant in the World

July 23, 2012 | by

My friend edits a travel magazine. She lets me review hotels. This means that I can stay at nice hotels free in return for a short review. (The magazine doesn’t pay either; it’s done “on trade.”) I can write four or five hotel reviews a year. Whenever I suggest more, my friend (who is a close friend of more than ten years) goes silent.

I recently arranged to stay at the Hotel in Delhi for two nights on trade. Rooms there start at six hundred dollars, and (uncharacteristically) they included everything—food, minibar, spa, airport pick-up and drop-off—in the trade. I mean it was all, to use their very polite and reassuring word, complimentary. Alcohol would have cost, they did say, but I am not a person who drinks anymore. I recently lost my privileges.

The thing about a free hotel stay is that you pay in time, in tours, and in the unspoken requirement that you ask questions, feign amazement, and jot notes about wall hangings, historic meetings, and persons who have sat in so-and-so chair. (“How do you spell that name? So wonderful. So he really sat here? May I sit?”)

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