Komic, a village at an altitude of almost 15,000 feet and a population of 114 people. Or so it said but what I saw were just 6-7 of them.
The beauty of Spiti during summer is that the sun would set late. It was 6 pm, it was bright and the weather? Very cold. At 3 degrees centigrade this was summer for them. We got into the only cafe there and the room was incredibly warm, cosy and small. A group of villagers including a monk were playing Carrom board.
The smiling friendly guy who welcomed us was Tenzing. He got us steaming hot Chai and it warmed us instantly. I took in the surroundings. A photo of Dalai Lama, glass bottles in different colours as hanging lamps, a pretty local hand knit shawl hanging from the ceiling and a 2019 Calender with Goddess Durga Devi on it. The last one was unusual as Spiti predominantly followed Buddhism.
Bhim spoke to Tenzing about a room and we got a fantastic one right above the cafe. With a beautiful view of Komic facing the monastery, a cosy room filled with thick blankets and a bathroom as big as the bedroom.This was luxury to us!! It also worked out well for us budget wise as we could share the cost.
Thanks to awareness programs by organisations like Ecosphere, the place was ECO friendly which meant no plastic bottles, no plastic wrappers or bags. It was actually the tourists who created trash everywhere they travelled, not the locals. The cafe served local Spiti food made with local ingredients.
The village was quiet and we were the only outsiders. It was peaceful. We were truly away from the rest of the world. We got out and Tenzing told us to check out the old monastery. He told us if we asked one of the monks, they would open it. The door was locked and right then a monk who was physically handicapped, opened the door and right when he did that, we got a fright!
There was a huge stuffed snow Leopard hanging mid air right when we walked in. It was a real one. The monk said this was a female leopard. The monastery was 800 years old and this one was 600 years old! It was eye catching and fascinating. There was a small prayer room with lamps and a sign that said ‘ WOMEN NOT ALLOWED INSIDE’ and above that leading to wooden steps was the main altar. It was nice and warm with the butter lamps burning.
We got out and thanked the monk and asked him as to when the prayers started. He said we could join in at 8 am tomorrow but I could not enter the prayer room, I could sit outside the room and listen in.
Bhim explained that maybe having a woman there could have been a distraction to the monks in the olden times and so the ritual still continued. I imagined sitting outside the room with the stuffed female snow leopard as my only companion, I guess we women had to stick together, alive or dead! 😁
We got out of the monastery and gasped looking at the landscape. The sun was setting showing different colours of blues, yellows, grays. Below us was the main hamlet of Komic, a few more houses with patches of green.
What could one do but sit and watch Nature’s miracles? The colours of the sky ever changing, the clouds with its shapes, the blue hues, even now when I close my eyes I go back to that moment.
Right then we heard a small Woof! Right below where we sat was a small furry black puppy tied up with a long chain having his own house and seeking our attention. Bhim went down and played with the little rascal. Just like little Noorie in Key monastery, this fella was teething so he was going after Bhim’s leg. We were amused because the moment a Zebu( that’s what bulls are called there) came to graze there, the little one got scared and went inside his house barking from there 😊
When I asked the monk his name he said, his name is ‘Kalu’( black) because he is black and has a pure heart. The cold was biting yet we couldn’t pull ourselves away from this view. Tenzing came to us and sat with us. He told us about his life and the village. He was born here, he looked like a 25 year old but he was 32 yrs, married, had two children. All his life it was this village and he couldn’t imagine living anywhere else.Even Kaza was too noisy for him.
He pointed us to his house below, he ran his own homestay and in addition managed this one. During winters, the temperature dropped to -35 to -40 degrees, yes you heard right. And that was the time for festivals, celebrations and weddings in the villages. Snow leopards were a common sighting that time, they would come down towards the villages and there were wildlife enthusiasts who would specifically visit during winter.
I asked him, how could they manage to get out during winters?He simply said they would walk, all the way to Kaza and back, and to other villages. He was content with what he had and he was also aware of the rapid changing world and he knew Spiti wouldn’t be the same in a few years, his village wouldn’t be the same. I remember him saying looking at the skies, ‘Pata nahin ki Komic aisa hi rahega, sab kuch badlega'( I don’t know if Komic will exist like this, everything will change).
Time and again Himalayas and it’s people have shown contentment, awareness and their reverence to nature, I was wondering with tourism hitting here big time, were we corrupting these people bringing in our gadgets, our materialism, our way of thinking?It was a catch 22 situation.
After sometime we got up, it was time for dinner, by that I mean mountain time and since we were the only travellers we didn’t want them to stay up late for us. As we got up to go to the cafe, a monk was carrying food for little Kalu.
Bhim ordered a local Spiti meal. There was cottage cheese (Paneer) stuffed in Tibetan bread pocket, Dal, porridge and rice while I ordered fried rice. The local homemade chilly Chutney was so good I asked Tenzing if I could get some more.
Tenzing kept warning me that these chillies were very hot and would burn me up, he had no idea how much spice I could take! As I kept adding more Chutney into the rice, kept sniffing, tears rolling down my cheeks and relishing it totally, Tenzing shook his head saying, Aap Bahut Spicy khaatein hain!(You eat really spicy food). The nature calls I had to attend to later that night was epic! 😁
We finished it with hot chocolate and believe me when I say this, with the cold weather outside dipping below 1 degree, sitting in that cosy room, it hit the spot. We kept chatting with Tenzing as we ate. A really pleasant guy, he gave us company throughout our meal.
He showed us pics of a starry night in Komic, it was ethereal. You could see the Milky Way crystal clear. We asked him if he would go down to his house or stay back here. He smiled and said he would decide later, maybe around 11 pm. For all our concern of finishing up early, we could see the villagers engrossed in the carrom board game and it would continue late night.
Tenzing told us to give our bottles,he would fill it up with water for the night. On another note I would always suggest, more like pleading this to anyone who travels. Whether you are travelling in your town, in cities outside or in nature, please carry your own reusable bottles always, this is the least we can do.
It was time to call it a night. It was so cold when we got out to get to our room we were jumping up and down to get some warmth! We sprang into the bed and covered ourselves up with layers of blankets.
A night of absolute silence and blissful sleep.
To be continued..