08.05.2014 - 09.05.2014
Several of the older boys asked me if I wanted to visit some hot springs, a couple of kilometers up the road in another small Hindu village, Atholi.
I jumped at the chance, and they came and got me at Tashi’s house on their only day off, Sunday. It was a bit further than they said, perhaps 4K, and then a long set of stairs to climb up to the village. When we arrived there was furious drumming going on, and as unbelievable as it seems, the sound of bagpipes. All of this was the beginning of a village wedding. Somehow the bagpipe has made its way here, another legacy of the British, or the Scots in this case. No kilts could be seen. We stayed for a while as the women danced. There were hot springs right on the main street that were big enough to climb in and bathe, after they had been enlarged from a stream flowing down the mountain. As per usual in India, they were dirty, and I was not tempted. Luckily, the boys knew of some other springs, less developed, further around the mountain, and so we made our way there. Though these were far from pristine, and not deep enough to actually soak, the warm waters made for a delightful shower. We all soaped up and took a wash, the best one I have had in two weeks. It was a picturesque spot, with a cold water stream rushing down the pine clad mountain 50 yards or so in front of us. We spent some time drying out in the warm sun, and then went back by a different route through terraced fields, sheep and goats, before hitting the road. The views reminded me of the Andes. We stopped at a small dhaba, and there was a man there who spoke English well, and of course, knew Tashi.
On the way back, perhaps emboldened by our bathing together, the boys asked questions of me.
Did I know this or that Indian movie star or cricket player.
Returning to Gulabgarh, I took them all out for lunch at their favorite restaurant for momos and chow mein. Quite a combo. It was, as is every place here, a very modest eatery.
I returned home to find that grandma had locked the door. Tsering was playing next door with her 5 and 6 year old cousins, but grandma was nowhere to be found. Luckily, Sonam, who lived nearby, and who had earlier invited me to lunch came to the rescue and invited me into his house. He offered me more to eat, and despite having just had lunch, I did not heave the heart to refuse. After a few hours grandma returned, and so did Puti, who had met Tashi in Kisthwar for a much needed visit to the dentist. Kisthwar, you may remember is 10 hours of hard driving, and in the morning, Tashi told me that when he left a few days ago, the road was completely blocked to Jammu. After waiting a few hours, he had to walk around the landslide to the other side of the road, where he was able to get a ride with someone who was returning to Jammu. It was still partially blocked on his return, which is why, he said, that there are few vegetables or fruit left in Gulabgarh. No way to transport them. We have also been without any water for washing or flushing the toilet for about 24 hours, the reasons for which are not entirely clear. Supposedly, there will be water tonight, but I’ll believe that when I see it
Puti left the next day to walk to her village, having heard that a relative had died. Her brother in law had died a few months back by falling off a trail in winter, but she was in Jammu when it happened. Now she will go back to mourn his death, as well as the death of this other relative.