Passage By India

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Michael Palin has reached the second highest mountain in the world, K2 (8,611m), but there is no passage to India here. A high-level stand-off between the Pakistani and Indian armies means that he has to detour south into the Punjab to the only official crossing point between the two countries. The crossing point, near Lahore, is a must-see location. The daily flag-lowering ceremony has become a hilarious goose-stepping military ballet, symbolising the enmity of the two nations. But it is a border Michael must cross before travelling to nearby Amritsar, the Sikh citadel and site of the Golden Temple. At last he is in India. Taking the toy train, -The Himalayan Queen-, to Shimla (under the British it was -Simla-), Michael wallows in a little Raj nostalgia. North of Shimla lies Kashmir, epicentre of one of the world's most long-standing and bitter confrontations. In Srinagar, the State capital, Michael checks in to one of Mr Butt's houseboats on Lake Dal. It is Heaven and hell - serene, yet deadly. For all its beauty, the place seems like an occupied country, with the omnipresence of the Indian Army, checkpoints and bombed buildings. Michael is heading for Dharamsala for an audience with the Dalai Lama. With a day to go before his meeting, he observes the efforts made by the Tibetan Government in exile to preserve Tibetan Buddhist culture. He also discovers at the Astrological Centre what he was in his previous existence - an elephant. The climax, however, is Michael's meeting with a God King: the 14th Dalai Lama.


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