A little less of you return each time, till, eventually, only a shell returns.
At least that was what I started this post with a few days ago. It was meant to be another of the ornate and obfuscated bits of writing that I am normally quite fond of writing. It would have covered a wonderful trip to the high Himalayas, the unexpected discovery of an effortless love and other significant changes.
Yet, I could not bring myself to write a single line after that. Not that I did not try. I did, on multiple occasions, but not even a single word could be added to that line. It is not that I have not had trouble writing before. In fact, it is way too frequent an occurrence; and the blame often can be placed squarely at the feet of sheer laziness.
But, let us get back to what I wanted to write about. First, the trip. It came together rather unexpectedly, which pertains to the ‘who’ of it than the ‘where’, as Spiti has been on the cards for a long time after the difficult passage in 2011 and the multitude of failed attempts since. Spiti was the reason why my white Gypsy (called rather predictably as ‘Whitey’) was acquired and a blown engine and many mountain trips later, she finally had her date with destiny.
The trip was not without its own share of drama. As always, I had taken much longer to acclimatize and by the time we got to Kaza, the altitude did get to me, resulting in a longer layover in the town, which was the nicest way to be afflicted by an ailment. We got going again, crossing non-existent roads after Losar, up Kunzum La and a difficult drive down on its other side to finally head towards Chandratal,
The lake is an experience that cannot be adequately described in words and as my partner is fond of reminding me, it is a lake that does not want to be found, unless you are willing to go the extra mile or two for it. And even then, till you go up another hillock that betrays no existence of a lake, you won’t have any idea that something as special and spectacular as that exists there.
The shepherds there took a liking to us, which was something we were very grateful for. And we found Manga (the one in the photo), Maggi (lovingly mangled to Maggoo) and Grumpy (since she was the grumpiest of the lot). We spent two timeless days by the lake, watching the clouds roll across the beautiful blue skies, sleeping on the shores, with the trio for company. Manga, especially, took a liking to us and we wanted to bring her back with us. But as a soul that flies free in that magical land 15,000 plus feet up there, she won’t survive the heat of the plains, nor the prison that it must represent to her.
After watching yet another spectacular sunset and the lake’s brilliant change in moods, we went to sleep, with the sad realization that the morning will be a time of farewells, to the trio and our gracious hosts — the shepherds — who looked after us like we were family and even sang for us one of the nights in their little shelter that was poor on creature comforts, but rich in warmth, affection and how freely they shared everything they had. When the time came for us to leave, the trio was nowhere to be found, a relief of sorts. It would have been really hard to leave Manga behind. Some goodbyes are best left unsaid.
We eventually made our way through to the by-now infinitely tamed Manali – Leh highway. Since it was past the peak tourist season, we had the roads mostly to ourselves, which was a good thing. Both of us have known the road from a time when it was not much of a road, which is a far cry from the slightly-difficult drive it is now for anyone. In a matter of a couple of years, it will be an all-weather road, four lanes wide in most places and easily doable in a single drive for most drivers.
Leh was mostly devoid of Indian tourists. It was so empty on our way in that we were afraid that something was not quite right. Eventually, we found a nice place to stay, spent a fair bit of time in the market and moved to Lamayuru. The drive from Lamayuru back to Delhi was rather uneventful other than for a monster traffic jam that we found at the Delhi border. It was almost as if the city was doing its best to ensure that it did not want to take us back.
In a lot of ways, we did not really want to return. And, even now, two weeks after our return I do have a tough time adjusting to life back here. As a fully city-bred person the city feels familiar, but the heart feels no connection to it. Every day breaks with the urge to see the pristine blue skies in the mountains and their warm embrace. There is a sense of inevitability to the end of the life here. It is not that I hate the life here. It is a city that gave me hope and a second (and many more subsequent) shots at life later. It is the city that, eventually, gave me the love that I have always yearned for in life.
Yet, it is also a city I have a hard time living in. In fact, I doubt I can live in cities anymore. Without even realizing it, I have been consuming less and using fewer things in life. I keep giving away clothes and things that I own after realizing that it has been years since I have worn most of them, it has to be of better use to someone else. Being not as well off as I used to be earlier also means I have little means of being a spendthrift anymore. And I don’t miss being able to buy yet another pair of shoes that I will forget I own. And it is not that I don’t buy expensive gear anymore, I do; but most of those serve a function than my own vanity.
For long I have known that I needed lesser; and without realizing it, somewhere along the way, I have started wanting lesser too. Within me, I feel that I have everything I need, while for most of the urban world, I have little or nothing. And that is a disconnect that is hard to overcome. There are only a few ways of living the city gladly supports and feeling that you have enough or not feeling constantly irked are not those ways. And I guess that explains the inevitability.