Someone undergoing La treatment goes through a rather prolonged and unpredictable journey, to put it very simply. If one were to compare it with any other journey, perhaps the Kailash-Mansarovar (KM) trip will come close, albeit with three major differences:
(1) the La treatment takes 3-5 years; The KM trip takes 4 weeks.
(2) the La journey is something everyone would hope never to have to go on; The KM trip is something every practicing Hindu longs to make.
(3) the KM trip is voluntary; the La trip is forced on the sufferer.
There are several uncanny parallels which offer much to learn from.
I must mention here that my recollections of both these trips goes back several years -- to 2001, in the case of the KM trip, and 2009 -- 2013 in the case of the La trip. Whereas I am told that the KM trips these days are far easier, La trips are still full of worries.
- Both journeys have a lot written about them, but nothing prepares you for the real journey.
- You can only prepare so much. But what you will face and how it will impact the rest of the trip are all unknown.
- Your journey will be molded by many people you meet along the way, they will shape and affect your perception of humanity, even though you spend very little time with many of them.
- Years after the trip when you re-live some parts of the journey - through photos, videos, etc., you will ask yourself - did I go through all that ?
- One learns to live one day at a time, enjoying each sight, in a (at least slightly) more immersed manner than we normally do.
- Both journeys are full of known unknowns, the weather one day can be in sharp contrast with weather the next day, the same person can have different experiences on two days under two seemingly similar conditions, etc. I know of a few Kailash diehards who have been there multiple times, on pilgrimage, with similar experiences across trips. Of course, I am not referring to the sherpas for whom this provides the much needed livelihood. Every group of visitors is accompanied by mostly two sherpas. They help carry the suppliers, but are often seen carrying some of the elderly people.
- Both trips are expensive. The outcome, the total time taken and the costs depend on which route one (is forced) to take which in turn depends on many parameters - there are truly no guarantees.
- While you may be quite absorbed in the trip those who are anxious about your trip can do little, except hope that you will be back home soon.
- During both the trips you come across some fellow travellers who give you a perspective that changes your views of the world or that reinforces a view you have held but had no experience to test its validity.