Monday, 23 November 2015

The People of Spiti Valley.

The innocent children of Spiti.
I had travelled to the Spiti valley, in India in June 2013. The splendour and magnificence of the mountains and the place was matched only by the simplicity and warmth of its people. One must go there to believe that such simple hearted people still exist on Earth. I was a recipient of their kindness and warmth right from the first day I arrived in Spiti. 

On my first day in Kaza, the main town in Spiti, from where I was to travel to the villages, I was severely ill with altitude sickness. I had puked 5 times and thought my head would explode. And there was no one to attend to me. But I decided to take one moment at a time and opened the door for some fresh air. And a man staying in the adjacent room asked me if I needed some help looking at my red face. He informed the guest house owner who brought medicines for me. Though the guest house didn’t serve food, he still cooked some dal (lentil)-rice because I was too ill to go out and eat. The food came but I couldn’t get myself to eat more than 2 morsels. When I was to check out 2 days later I asked him for the bill and noticed that he had not included the amount for dinner. I was surprised when he said that he had waived off that amount because I had not eaten more than 2 spoons. I insisted that I pay him but he just refused to tell me. I, of course, tipped him an approximate amount, but here was a man who had not taken into consideration the effort he had put in to cook a meal and whatever xyz costs business demands!! Later I was to discover that all Spitians are too simple-hearted, almost unbelievably so.
The kind woman who invited me for breakfast as I was passing by her house. 
Wherever I went people would greet me with a genuine smile and say ‘Julay’ (hello). From a group of little girls who invited me to join them when they realized I was traveling alone, to women who invited me to come and eat in their homes when I greeted them while passing by their homes, or several others (monks, nuns, shamans, medicine men) who took time out to meet me and talk to me, all of them won my heart.
I noticed that everybody in the villages knows everybody else. I saw children from other homes come and have tea or breakfast. Even when we went out to work on the fields the doors were never locked. Everywhere I went, be in homes or monasteries, I was welcomed with copious amounts of tea. I saw the lady of my home-stay carry extra tea and breakfast/lunch and give it to other villagers working in their fields on the way to her own. After a long trek from Komic to Demul, I arrived at my home stay, tired and stiff from the cold. When the lady of home-stay noticed that, she so lovingly and affectionately wrapped me up in warm blankets, brought a huge flask of hot milk and made sure I rested well .I thought to myself that probably this is how life was meant to be lived on Earth. But somewhere down the way, we have terribly messed everything up.
 
My hosts at the home stay in Langza.
My heart just went out to the kids in Spiti. They are so innocent and unspoilt, unlike city kids. Everywhere in Spiti, kids greet and smile, just like their elders and also wave out, especially if you are in a vehicle. They are extremely well-mannered and say ‘thank-you’ whenever they are offered something. By the second day, I too had caught the ‘waving bug’, and soon I was waving out gleefully to kids, toothless grannies, shepherds, cows, goats, sheep and bikers, and motorcyclists on Harley Davidsons and Royal Enfields. In Langza and I’m assuming in other villages too, kids return home from school at 4 pm, change over and go into the grazing pastures to fetch the cattle at sunset. Every day at Langza, I accompanied my class 7 host, Tenzing, puffing and panting and pleading with him to go slow (it’s amazing to see how even little kids in Spiti go scampering in a jiffy over steep climbs) to the pastures. There Tenzing introduced me to his other classmates and friends. The kids asked me many questions….where I lived, why am I traveling alone, how it was in the cities…etc. There the kids would simply run behind lambs, chase goats, ride donkeys and do cart-wheels. Such simple pleasures of life. They had no access to toys or games like city kids, yet the fun they had was unmatched. Once I told them I wanted to take a picture with a cute little lamb. The boys chased the lamb for 10 minutes leaving me rolling with laughter on the grass. Whenever I distributed chocolates (Luckily I had carried a huge packet to give it to kids in the villages), they made sure that everyone in their group had received and that really touched my heart.
The loving lady at Demul who took good care of me.
Another incident which moved me happened when I was traveling in a car from one village to another. There was some work happening on the road and so the car slowed down. I looked out to see an old toothless granny with a flask of tea sitting on the side of the road, taking a break from the road work. When my eyes met hers, she gave me the most beautiful smile and asked me to come and join her for tea.  Here was a poor woman earning a daily wage and yet she was rich beyond measure to offer tea to a complete stranger like me. In that moment my heart expanded manifold. Each time I experienced the magnanimity of these gentle, peace loving people, my heart too expanded with love and warmth, which gets rekindled every time I fondly remember them and their kindness.





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