The River

To leave my whole life in the UK I took almost all of the Piccadilly line to the airport. As I entered the tube (metro) almost in the end of one end of the line to arrive to almost at the end of the other side there was enough room to seat and spread my things around. I took the line mostly in silence. Haiko sat next to me and in my head I apologized for all that I felt I should. In my head I wished him all the joy in the world. As slowly it was downing on me that that was it: it was the end of a phase I had tears that gently washed my face. I really needed that ride. We both did. We were proud of it. The ride was long and it was so in mist of my silent prayers and thoughts that i fell asleep. I slept only to be gently awakened by a lady who asked me whether i could let her older husband have a seat. I was so removed from the whole reality that i had not noticed that the tube had become completely full. I stood up and insisted that they both sat. When there was finally room again in the tube I sat next to her. She looked at my big backpack and asked whether i was going to the airport. I confirmed it, and as she looked south Asian, I did something I usually do not do (out of fear of choosing the wrong nationality). i asked her whether she was from India. She nodded, smiled and said ” Is that where you are going to? ” It was not so much of a question but more of an affirmation. I smiled and said that I was going to Ladakh”. She looked deeply into my eyes, she had dark dark eyes and suddenly said ” You are lucky. i have always wanted to go there. I have traveled the world but I still have not arrived in Ladakh. You must go to Man Sabor Lake, it is now in China. I am happy for you. Only those called by god arrive there. You are lucky, and I am happy for you. ” She had woken me up, woken me up from my concerns of where would I go now and she was now giving me a path I though. I looked in her eyes and I said she did not understand how much it meant for me for her to say that. She just smiled and said she knew. People around were a bit shocked byt the whole interaction. It was trully strange. Haiko who is an atheist was impressed. She hug me and wish me luck. ” Jules, it is like the Universe talks to you. That was incredibly strange.” Having Haiko tell me this comforted me even more. ” I guess it is true I will be fine. There will be people there, I will be there for others as well.

Today I received a couch surfing message from someone who is in Leh and read my profile. ” In case you decide to visit Leh I ll show you around” . I wrote back immediately telling him I was in Leh. My phone does not work here, I dont use a watch, I never have a plan so fixing a meeting seemed so distant. It seemed like something you do in the west. So I did not put much effort on it. Instead I walked with my friends to organise our Nubra Valley trip. As I was walking on the street, I heard someone call my name. I found it strange after all I do not know anyone who drives here. “Jules, it is me from couch surfing. Come I ll show you around.” I go. I apologise for my poor ability to fix a meeting. He tells me it does not matter. His uncle owns the most important hotel in town. He starts to tell me all of the projects his family does. they are all modernisation projects. Not even 24 hours earlier I had seen a documentary on Ladakhi culture.

Ladakh is a desert mountain region. Most people are buddhists but there are also muslims and some Hindus here. According to Ladakhi main scholar Ladakhi traditional life style is based on buddhist philosophy. “Everything come into existence through interdependence and relationship”. In traditional Ladakhi life style 95%of people own their land. they farm. They collective tend for all animals, and for the land. There is not rubbish, and even though they have an incredibly harsh environment with harsh winters they are able to live and maintain themselves. The documentary focused on how modernisation has been disastrous for the region. it was a classic anthropological critic, it showed the pollution of the area, the rubbish, the disruption of social cohesion, the deligitimazation of local culture, and how much more vulnerable they become when changing into a money economy.

I hear my new friend speak. His plan is to create a factory to produce oxygen. How would it run I ask? On diesel, he explains. I tell him about the documentary and ask his opinion. He, not surprisingly has a very different point of view. He tells me he lived most of his life in Nepal.” i was important there, close to the royal family..but then the maoist came. the day the king returns i ll go back.” I say nothing. i ask him what he thought of the inequality. ” There wasn’t any. What have the Maoist done?” I am curiously listening it all.
This conversations takes places in sandy mountains. Every now and then I see a stopa. a horse, and of course mountains. Occasionally there are green patches, mostly it is desert. It is Afghanistan to me. Rocks and rocks. The air dries my nose. How can people survive here? It is a true testimony to human ingenuity. He is polite. I hear his thoughts. I do not agree with his developmental view but I am thankful to hear his thoughts. He stops the car. We are now in a complex with Buddhist colorful flags. it is by a river. I walk towards the river. the sun is unforgiven. It is hot as it never is. I kneel down close to the river and touch the water. I feel it refreshed my hand. As I am in silence listening to the humming of the river my new friend suddenly says: ” This water carries too much history. it ends in Pakistan.” “Where does it come from” I aks ” From a sacred lake in Tibet, it is called Man Sabor”.

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