About this website
"Masala films of Indian cinema are those that mix genres in one work" - Wikipedia
The Journeys section of HimalayaMasala grew out of journeys I made through the Indian Himalaya in 1992 and in 1996-7.
Much of the material in Journeys was written in the period 1997-2000. It is published here for the first time. I have made some minor revisions out of respect for the web format and the passage of time.
My journeys would not have been possible without the goodwill of people encountered on the way. Many of my conversations were conducted in Hindi, a language I barely speak. I have reconstructed them from fallible recollections and sketchy notes and pummelled them about to fit the needs of my story. They should not be read as items of social research or journalism.
The names and circumstances of a number of people have been changed lest they be expected to shoulder the burden of my inaccurate reporting. If you think you recognise someone beneath an invented name, you are mistaken. No such person exists.
I apologise to everyone who has been dissolved from my narrative. Their undeserved and un-asked for disappearance is entirely my fault.
People who could not but be recognised appear under their own names. I have reported what these people told me as accurately as I can manage, but the words I have attributed to them are my responsibility, not theirs. I'm sorry for the inevitable errors and infelicities.
The best way to travel Himalayan paths is exactly the same as the best way to travel the paths of the Scottish Highlands, the European Alps or the Australian bush. You don't employ proxies to do the job for you and have your fun for you. You walk on your own feet, you carry your own belongings, you make your own enquiries about the terrain and you find your own way. That's the way I travel. It may not be your style. Or you may not be greatly interested in the manner in which feet move over ground. That's OK.
Style is everything, said Susan Sontag. But it isn't quite everything.
The simplest reason to travel through mountains is to get to the other side. My journeys were directed at no such thing. I set out to travel along the ranges, staying as close to the high peaks as I could. The current interest in a Great Himalayan Trail will perhaps make such journeys commonplace. For the moment, Nepal's Great Himalayan Trail seems to have a more definite existence than the Indian sections of the route.
Borders are the antidote to travel. India's Inner Line - its invisible internal frontier in the Himalaya - seems to be losing some of its malignancy. The border between India and China continues to be a source of tension. The other great Himalayan fault line - the Line of Control between Indian and Pakistani-administered Kashmir - was the scene of a modest war in 1999. In 2002 it caused India and Pakistan to mobilise on an epic scale and swagger towards nuclear war. The mellowing of this border, as of so many others across the world, remains a dream.
The 1990s - the decade of my travels - happened to be a decade when the government of my own country chose to wage war on travellers. Britain's new asylum and immigration laws obstructed and criminalised many kinds of travel. The war has subsequently become still more vicious. As well as criminalising travellers, the British government has itself turned criminal by assisting and probably procuring the torture of British people travelling overseas.
Some of its victims were young British men who happened to be Muslim and who began their travels through Muslim countries - and especially through Afghanistan and Pakistan - around the same time as I made my journeys through India. They were still there when the drums for the so-called "war on terror" began to beat. Then they had the ill-luck to be caught in the round-up of putative enemies of the USA that followed the US-British attack on Afghanistan in October 2001. Where would an invasion be without enemies and what better enemies could there be than young Muslim men with a trans-national lifestyle? Their subsequent illegal confinement and torture by the US and various other governments had the blessing of their own government and mine. No British traveller should forget that or forgive it.
HimalayaMasala is a website made in Scotland about the Himalaya. Some of it may strike people who live closer to the Himalaya as rather odd. I hope the oddities provide enough amusement to make apology superfluous. If you find anything that is flat-out wrong, please let me know.
HimalayaMasala is dedicated to:
Dave and Jane, who began it all;
Julia, who shares it all;
Every victim of borders;
Everyone who has triumphed over borders.