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A group of 7-8 boys aged between 10-12 were scaring each other by lighting a match stick in front of a bottle of spray/perfume and some girls nearby were sitting sincerely under the sun dropping their heads into the textbooks. I woke up that morning and sat across the window to have a flashback of my own childhood. “Deshek home stay” in Kibber, (Deshek, being the name of adorable kid) had a govt school in front of it.
I was busy gazing at those school kids, reliving my own school days when Deshek came running from another door. We both watched outside but with one huge difference: I was looking at my worn past and he was having a look at his concealed future. And then I realized, we can never run back to anything, anything that’s already done.
I was lost in my own thoughts when Didi came (Deshek’s mom) and she had made delicious aloo paranthas and oats for us. And Kunal could not resist the paranthas (even after being told how much he will be regretting it during the journey further).
We called the taxi from Kaza and decided to visit Dhankar and Tabo that day. While we were getting ready to leave, I realized that I dint actually want to leave the place. Be it the magnetism of Kibber or the warm feelings associated with our host family, I wanted to live some more dreams, make some more memories, then and there.
But nothing stops and we kept on moving too! While we were continuing on our way to Dhankar, we got a hitchhiker, Al – a novel writer and a frequent traveler (who had been to more than 20 countries at the age of 28). We were so amazed by his stories that we listened to him all over our way. It hardly clicked us that we had reached Dhankar in around an hour and a half.
Dhankar is the ancient capital of Spiti, situated at 12,774 feet, and a rather bigger village having a monastery, fort and a lake. The original monastery structure is prone to deterioration because of soil erosion and other environmental factors. Hence, a new monastery has also been constructed in the village. However, an NGO is trying to raise funds to protect the original structure.
The monastery is built in multiple height levels and some of the rooms might demand you to stand bended due to the less ceiling height. There is plenty of peace around, also a meditation room to seek solace. We stayed there for some time, listened to monks, read some inscriptions and felt grief about the deteriorating condition of the structure.
There is a café in front of the monastery and most of the travelers relax there to share their stories. No one feels isolated. Everyone has the same destination, everyone lives the same dream. And that’s where you get the sense of belongingness!
Our next stop was Tabo and Kunal was pretty excited about it because he had all the answers I asked questions about. He had once done some R&D around Tabo for his assignment and this was his only chance to turn out a ‘legendary’ hero (which he could not afford missing at all). Permits, border roads, monastery timings – no type of queries were a case of concern for us now.
Tabo is located in the plains and possesses a wave of familiarity. It was around 4:30 and the monastery closes at 5, so we made it quick. Tabo is one of the oldest monastery and we could also make it out through its structure which was made of high mud brick walls. There are multiple temples which are weaved in the form of caves and hence Tabo monastery is also known as the Ajanta and Ellora of Himalayas.
There was a kind lady sitting in front of the temple who showed us all the temples one by one once we asked her some history about the monastery. Every temple had large murals decorating the walls. There were meditation caves nearby over the hill structure which were used by monks to keep peace with themselves.
We found one home stay for ourselves to dump the luggage and to send off the taxi driver because Tabo had already trapped us in its invincible labyrinth. Resting for around half an hour, we again came out on the streets of Tabo to trod down the valley paths. There is a hostel for monks adjacent to the monastery. We talked to a monk, who told us about the political system of Buddhists, the laws that monks have to abide by, the education system they believe in and the life towards Nirvana they will be spending throughout.
We were losing the track of time but it felt so good, for a change. Looking at the monk children who were busy playing, some studying.. hardly do they know what kind of life had been chosen for them.
Tabo has lots of cafes and we decided to savor the taste of nutella momos, a craving to satisfy. And the clear sky starry night in Tabo made our after-dinner stroll a bit longer. Kunal, who was not ready to come out earlier was not settling to let the night end there then.
We had to catch the 5:15AM bus the next morning for Kinnaur and that’s how I got him convinced to get inside.
That was our last night in Spiti.. another travel fling stricken off from our bucket list! But that was not the reason I was happy about, I was glad about the lifetime I had lived in the 5 day span, the hell lot of wonderful memories I was bringing back and the selfless social attitude I observed imbibed amongst the people there and wanted to carry some of it home for myself.
As Kunal says, Spiti is an experience that stays with you for the rest of your life!
Life works perfectly without smartfones, watches and all the other gadgets, because when it comes to living, you need nothing more than a cozy company, an understanding companion and a warm hand to hold to cross paths across!