LADAKH CHRONICLES – A BEGINNING

We had  a scrumptious breakfast and said our goodbyes to the guys from last night. One of them was sweet enough to see us off as we got into our vehicle. And no, we didn’t exchange numbers nor emails.

I remember just before leaving We shook hands and I said oh my name is Swapna and he said my name is Balaji and he smiled and said Too late now! I only said Na, the world is becoming too small, am sure we will meet somewhere sometime.

The beauty of traveling and meeting people, having a good chat is you learn and experience so much, knowing other’s point of view,knowing that some of your arrogance or your myths get busted.

I remember that morning we were discussing the great epics Mahabharata and Ramayana and at one point I said, I don’t like Rama, what kind of a person is he? Leaving his wife because someone said so, telling her to go through Agni Pareeksha (test) as someone said something else, he was nothing less than a jerk.

Out came a calm response. He politely said most of our knowledge is based on TV serials and Amar Chitra Katha or hearsay but if one really looks in detail, the various chapters of the epic, there is a logical reason behind each event.

He meant to say isn’t it unfair to just make a conclusion without reading any of this in detail? It hit me and it was so true. We have a tongue, we have a mind and boy do we have an opinion on everything without even checking bare facts or logic..This was a big big lesson..

We made our way back to Leh which was again long and seemed longer as the inevitable was happening.The  mask that each one of us put up as a front starts corroding, the group now was beyond it’s usual niceties and during this journey you make your stance on who you agree with, who you disagree with, like and dislike.

We stopped at the Gompa – Monastery in Hanle. It was beautiful, just beautiful on our way up. It was also the Ladakh Kings’ summer palace that later became a part of the monastery. It is also rumored that his grave is somewhere in the grounds of the monastery. There was a nunnery too but yup next time I thought when I make a trip on my own.

Our wildlife photographer friend was genuinely enthusiastic now as there would be lots of wildlife like rare birds, the elusive marmot – which looks like a cross between a rat and a gopher, eagles, falcons.

He was a true blue photographer. Wildlife photography and it’s amazing pictures don’t come out the way it does. It could be rolls and rolls of footage and a test of patience.

While he was pointing out those rare wild asses, marmots, birds, everybody was going trigger happy.Within an hour or so almost everyone became wildlife crazy 🙂

At one point, our friend stopped clicking pics and just sat inside the vehicle, When I asked him what happened? He said in his usual gentle way, there are so many wildlife photographers that have sprung up now, he is in no mood 🙂 I laughed out Loud, really Loud!

At one point when the trigger happy crowd was triggering as usual, I walked to the middle edge of the road,sat down and started playing some songs.My friend and the driver Sonam joined in. It was hot , sunny and hot and I really wanted to soak up the feeling of Ladakh, it’s essence.

Dharamshala… that thought was getting stronger..

Finally we reached our guest house, the smiling Chachu Ramji  was delighted to see us. It was really like seeing a family member after being away for so many days.

I had decided by then yes, I will go to Dharamshala provided I am able to take care of stuff at home which was my two girls, Bella & Nora – a big bear of a Saint Bernard and labrador who were with the caretaker. If she could keep them for another 8-9 days then yes am on.

She was totally fine with extending their stay and she got quite emotional when I told her where am going as she was born there and left that place when she was 8 yrs old. I promised to send her loads of pictures.

That evening, three of us went to Gesmos cafe, ate junk food, had beer and crashed. My friend had a crazy idea to do those river rapids rafting the next day. I was in two minds then I truly felt like being on my own and just walking around the market which I usually do on my last days of travel in any city.

The next morning with no one around I felt quite calm, content and loved the silence. Later when I got out, the whole market was closed till 2 pm. It was a Saint’s anniversary so they would be opening quite late.

I made my arrangements to Dharamshala. I would be staying in Delhi for a night and then take a flight.

It was our last evening in Ladakh. We had delicious Samosas at Neha’s Snacks. And believe me, if you happen to be in Leh, don’t ever miss it! Their Samosas and Gulab Jamuns are to die for!

Our photographer friend had to do some shopping so we went off to Shanti Stupa again. It was the third visit during this trip. Pulling us, calling us or maybe we were calling it. It was really the last night of my trip.

I had changed. My perception on a lot of things had changed. And this time we walked back, all the way back to Leh town in the dark. It was an exhilarating feeling. We owed it to ourselves to have this one last walk.

Need I add we had Beers again that night? For all the stuff I said about not drinking too much in Ladakh 🙂

A very early morning and we were already at the airport by 4.30 am. My friends had an earlier flight than me. It was a brief goodbye to them amidst the chaos in the small airport yet eyes do reveal a lot in what one is feeling, isn’t it?

I felt so  overwhelmed when I saw them leave. My heart was welling up and tears came up and shamelessly I cried sitting there.What were these beautiful attachments?

We were together for 2 weeks and what a journey it was. It was not just a trip for me, not just an amazing trip, it was beyond words. It’s how I felt being with them, all of us being together, sharing stories, life, emotions the only way you can with someone whom you are not obligated to.

After all this was Delhi… sigh.. the only relief was that a loved one was there and yup my journey had not ended yet..

This was another beginning…

 

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