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Across the Himalaya in the late twentieth century, groups of people stopped killing one another for a time. India and Pakistan paused their recurrent wars. China observed the Indo-Tibet border. Nepal asserted royal control over Maoist insurgents. Afghanistan opened for tourists. Cycles of life and death went o,, but automatic weapons played a smaller part.


Travelers flocked to the Himalaya, drawn by their beauty, the spiritual legacy of their inhabitants, and perhaps a sense that this was an opportunity that would not last. Which it didn’t. The peace was like a meadow growing on top of a landfill. Soon martial traditions, God-given rights, and yawning gaps in opportunity leached out to saturate the region in sectarian violence and foreign intervention.


Adventurers visit the Himalaya today knowing they are walking into a region of conflict. That is a good thing; it is culturally aware and has survival value. In contrast, many children of the road during the pax Himalaya were innocents. Their wide eyes fed back through narrow optic nerves only what they sought to find: Beauty, or stimulation, or profit, or just themselves in a Kodachrome slide.


Yes, it was unrealistic. But try to imagine being able to engage the world with such simple faith that airline fares will come down, you can drink the water in the hotel, and beyond that, what could possibly go wrong?


Springtime in Kashmir ©Talbot Bielefeldt 2020.

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