Sunday, January 07, 2007
Before coming back to adventures in Rajasthan, I'll make a brief detour back to the Himalayas, this time on the western side of the country.
This week I went up to Chandigarh, the capital of Haryana and Punjab states, to meet with one of our dealers, and so gave Shimla another try on the weekend (I got rained out the last time). This time the weather cooperated beautifully---it was crisp and cold with great visibility all weekend. I stayed at Wildflower Hall, a luxury hotel that was once the estate of Lord Kitchener, a British general who served as the head of the Indian army in the early 1900s, after leading British forces during the Boer War.
The picture at the top is the view from my hotel room. The hotel was deserted after the long holiday, and I didn't see more than a handful of other guests. Wildflower Hall is a bit of a drive from the main action in Shimla--probably a half hour or so---but it is surrounded by beautiful woods and there are plenty of walking trails. I tried out one of the shorter ones, and was glad I didn't attempt a longer one---the altitude (about 8500 ft here) quickly tires you out if you're not used to it. Wildflower Hall has all the amenities--a fitness center, pool, steam room, and spa---along with great food. And---something I just haven't been able to get anywhere here---a decent martini! But it's the scenery that is really front and center.
During my trip to Darjeeling, one of the Australians I met had also traveled to Kashmir and highly recommended a book with the provocative title, Jesus lived in India. The premise is that Jesus had come to India during the so-called "lost years" and then returned here--to what is now Kashmir--after having survived the crucifixion. (It is fairly widely accepted that Thomas, one of the disciples, did come to India and that he is buried near Madras). Funnily enough, although I haven't seen the book in Chennai--it was written a number of years ago, so isn't widely available -- the Wildflower Hall bookstore had a copy. I finished it on the plane-- it is very well researched and makes fascinating reading--if totally destroying Christian theology in the process. In addition to detailed analysis of the crucifixion and its aftermath, the author contends that many of Jesus' actual teachings (as opposed to the later doctrines created by Paul) are derived from Buddhism, which he studied in India during the "lost years".