The Ladakh Reflections - Day 9

My last day here has come. I had gotten used to the idea of not having to check my mails or my facebook account or for that matter the gyrations of my stock portfolio. Life sure is peaceful here, whether it is easy or fulfilling that is a different matter all together. Had Ladakhi bread for breakfast, which is pretty much like a roti except that it is much much thicker. In the summer sun, I scribbled some notes that would form the basis of these lengthy reflections.

Around noon i left for the market for one last session of photography and a round around the town. I climbed halfway up the hill to Namgyal-tsemo for some B&W shots of the temple above. A leisurely walk in the city besides the ice hockey ring currently a marshy swamp, besides the old dry fruit seller on the pavement, besides the young girls washing hotel bedsheets in the icy cold stream, besides the Kashmiri bread maker working for his bread, besides the narrow and empty lanes near the main mosque, besides the women selling turnips on the sidewalk, besides the now empty cheap tea stalls, besides the expectantly aapsu sitting in front of a meat shop. I stopped by couple of antique shops and though the stuff looked nice, it found the art pieces rather expensive. In one, the owner rotated the spatula around the rim of a dull em-blossomed thick bowl and it created a smooth and constant frequency. Couple of backpackers asked her to do the same on a separate bowl which created quite another frequency. It seemed interesting though. Right across the street i checked out the bookstore. I wanted to buy one, but found travel books prohibitive. I had spicy rajma and roti at the nearby Punjabi restaurant to silence my craving senses before going back to have one last good afternoon nap.

(empty lanes of Leh town)

(The local women selling home grown vegetables on the sidewalk)

(The tea stalls serve informally as cheap rendezvous point)

(The dry fruit seller resting on the pavement)

(different shades of stupa, besides polo grounds)

(different shades of stupa, in front of Leh palace)

(human devotion rising to meet the Gods above)

Some more trivia and observation, The Ladakhi homes traditionally have been made from stones, wood and mud. Cement turns very cold and hence older houses used to avoid it. The mud roof is laid over rows of smaller thin willows supported underneath by thicker poplars running perpendicular. The kitchen is usually large and glassed and sun facing so as to warm up quickly in the sun. In fact kitchen is akin to drawing room and the guests are usually seated in the kitchen itself while hot kawa is poured from the thermos. In fact Nawang has two huge kitchens, the one on the top for winters and below for summers. The flooring is usually wood and covered with carpets and rugs to keep warm. The walls have colorful thangkas of Buddha and Tara. Mutton seems to be the preferred delicacy out here. Tourism is the only employment generator and the peak season is hardly four months (May-August). After that the frozen passes reduces the visitors to a trickle. The accommodations are priced okay, though traveling around in taxi is expensive. But when you consider that they have only four months to earn and suffice on that earning for the rest of the year, you don't fret about it. Everything big like construction or revamp has to be done during the summer months when the labor is available. All shuts down to a halt in winters. The trek guides, the taxi driver, the antique seller, the labor. It is the way life is out here. Electricity and water is regular. In winters there is no piped water as pipes would burst, instead it is distributed using tankers. Internet is very expensive & Beer is cheap. BSNL is only operator far & wide. Airtel is spotty at best.

Everywhere you go there are holy symbols around, the prayer flags, the stupas, the stones arranged one over another, the monks and the prayer wheel. Once you start recognizing the eight sacred signs, you see them every where. Painted on the walls, welded on the gates, em-blossomed on the grille, printed on the scarf. The Gods are everywhere here. This is their country.

I came again to the market in the evening with Sami & Aunty ji who are going to help me out with the apricots. I pondered over what to take and for whom and how many. I packed some apricots, some apricot nuts, couple of bottles of home made apricot jam and beautifully colored wall hanging made from layers of cloth sewn together depicting those eight holy signs. I think that would be enough.

This place has a lot going on for itself, besides being totally unique. If you are looking for spirituality, it is here. If for peace, it is here. Adventure sports, Yes. Culture, Yes. Even bore subjects like history and geography are interesting here, not to talk about the beauty. You probably would have guessed it by now. I probably will come down to Ladakh again, i promise that. When i don't know, but i will. There are couple of things (actually more than that) that i would like to do/see someday.
- A Ladakhi traditional festival (missed it this time, need to see the dances, the dresses, the colors and the masks).
- A expedition to Stok Kangri and a trek as well if possible.
- Lamaryu monastery midway between Leh and Kargil.

An early dinner with all and i was back in my room packing my bags. I felt like not going back into that madness and the heat. I wish i could take the sights and the sounds with me and the weather. I so wish. I am glad that i came here and i am glad i have a good friend here. Thanks to Nawang for all the good times that he showed me. Thank you my friend. I will always remember what a fabulous journey we together had under the big blue sky.

1 comment:

  1. Yeah, you promised on your return.... your return for Markha Trek and Stok Expedition. I hope to see you not single then, but would love to see you (here) home again with your partner.