“You say you thought Spiti is hostile? And it’s not got anything to do
with the people. How’d you explain that?”
Even before I put up my first post – the photo essay
– on returning
from Spiti, I’d been struggling to first, articulate and then find my own answer
to this vague but looming vibe I seemed to have picked up.
That. Of all the other possible vibes.
And then there’s whole temptation to not go meta with an explanation.
What’s Spiti like? If I were to paint a picture of words --
Rugged, never-ending mountain ranges
Within them are housed the monasteries of Dhunkar, Tabo, Kee
Carpeted mostly in greens but sometimes azures, crimson or splotches
Snow-capped peaks as the backdrop
Tufts of white woolly clouds to adorn it
Still and not so still waters running both deep and wide
Unadulterated clean air everywhere (happy lungs if you discount
trouble one may encounter courtesy the altitude)
And here's what the Spitians are like --
My week in Spiti wasn’t without the homestay experience. I had two - one at Demul and then at Komic. (I’m a big proponent
of homestays. Read: the post
on my reasons why). The Spitians leave no stone un-turned
in ensuring that you have the warmest and as comfortable as possible a stay.
Hot piping food
Farm fresh fruits
Huge yet soft and clean quilts
Locally brewed arak during meals
And tea when you walk in unannounced.
And they tell you their stories --
Stories of taking their cattle to graze in the mountains
Of festivals they celebrate
Of life during the winters when they’re shut off from the rest of the world
Of how the local medicine man learnt his way of diagnosing you (and
your medical history) in flat 30 seconds by merely studying your pulse
And you begin to see them as they are --
Happy, like the big statue of Buddha at Langza
One might be led to think that they are oblivious to the opportunities
that exist outside of this valley. I think not.
There’s television (even though there’s sporadic electricity) as much
as there are folk like me and you visiting that informs them of things we deem to
What’s this got to do with hostility?
I figured that out on a Friday evening when relating the same
inexplicable vibe to a friend when bam! it struck me.
Spiti by virtue mostly of its topography compels you to look no
further than your immediate next step. Your immediate now (almost).
And you begin to see it’s a tough life out there.
Villages sprinkled very scantily over the valley
Populated in, mostly, just double digits
Roads, conspicuous by their absence
Therein I saw a land that refuses to be tamed
In spite of the years of human habitation
It remains impenetrable and coarse
And hence hostile