14-Aug-2008

Ladakh - Hundar to Leh

Another early start for the day. We woke up, packed, drank our tea and paced around waiting for Stanzin to show up. Meanwhile, the guruji of the camp was awake. What is it about foreigners, especially women, who can get conned by any Indian guy in traditional clothes and with longish, graying hair? The previous evening, at dinner, we had noticed him sitting at a table with three wide-eyed women. I overhead some bits of the conversation. The stressed out Handyman had already begun to draw up his schedule for the morning. He checked with the guruji and the foreigners what time they would like their tea to be served. Guruji had assumed a wise smile and intoned ‘What do we know what time we would like the tea’. In a voice reserved to say things like ‘What time do we know when death approaches’. Surely, morning tea requires a little less pomp and more planning.

Waving bye to Nubra felt a little sad. I had really enjoyed everything – the walk, the monastery, the stay and the overall relaxed pace of that segment. The journey back did not take too long. Khardung La was a brief halt. Everyone tried walking up to a small temple there and felt completely out of breath.

We were well in time for lunch at Pumpernickel. Contrary to what we had been told earlier, Pumpernickel had existed and we had found out serendipitously. There was no electricity as we sat in the dim room, lit by small bulbs run on a generator. The menu, however, had me salivating. Between us, we ordered enough continental and Middle Eastern food to qualify as foreigners. Silence followed, as we dug into the Schnitzels and Shakshukas.

Sandeep had decided to watch a documentary on Ladakh at the Women’s Alliance Centre. I decided to go along. It turned out to be a dated one, made in the early 90s, urging Ladakhis to be mindful of losing their precious culture to the western influence. A viewpoint, that I have always found slightly unrealistic and biased. How do you convince a poor man wanting to move beyond butter tea that aspiring for a Mars bar will prove to be worthless in the long run?

We walked back to our guesthouse, debating on this topic and taking in the view in those parts of town. Evening brought more walking, as we explored some more streets. Dinner was to be at Pumpernickel again, but in a spirit of inquiry, I convinced everyone to try out the much recommended Ibex restaurant. A disasterous choice as it turned out. Oh well, one lives and learns.

1 comment:

Bharathis said...

You have done some people watching too! Guruji must have played for his Western disciples! The sombrous tone must be his trademark and he couldn't afford to lose it even for a second, I guess. What a burden for him!