A Travelogue by Siddarth Dudheria
I started my Ladakh Trip in style and pomp!
There are mountains and then there are Himalayas. The mountains are nature’s creations that sober you down and make you feel like a tiny part of the universe. On one such trip to Ladakh during the peak of winter, I felt my ego burst, my self-importance go away and my sanity, mental peace return. I learnt, un-learnt and re-learnt a few things on this trip of self discovery and mental peace.
You are not the master of the universe
When you are busy working the corporate life, you stick to a schedule and no matter what comes you stick to it. You start believing that you can control time. If you want to have breakfast at 8:08 am, you have it at the appointed time. You feel that you are in control of life. But on this trip I discovered that of all things that I had control on, my life surely was not one. At 17000 feet and -3o degrees, the mountains shape your life like never before. One moment the mountains allow the sun to warm you and in another, they hide the sun and leave you at the mercy of the cold. I was humbled because I had no choice and sometimes when you are left with no choice, you start using that brain of yours. I had to accept the superiority of the mountains over me and it was only then that I could conquer them. If you love the mountains, they love you back and let you explore their inner crevices like nobody else.
Everything is frills. Everything
The idea of visiting Ladakh in the winters was to experience how humanity survives in probably one of the harshest climes world over. Ladakh is an interesting place because it is the highest desert in the world and also is very cold in the winters. Very cold. I trekked through quite a few villages and discovered the following
- People do away with showers. All they do is wash their face and put on a smile.
- They harness the sun for electricity and when the sun sets, the electricity lasts for a while and they enjoy the darkness and the cold.
- The toilets are just a hole in the ground. The poop becomes manure that goes into the farm.
- The food is a simple stew of vegetables
- The houses are made of wood
- Walking is the best mode of travel, allowing them to appreciate nature
Whereas this is what I do in the city
- I buy the most expensive shower gel and the loofah.
- Forget to turn off the geyser before leaving for work
- Use the western toilet that has a heated seat and auto cleaning mechanism (you know what I mean)
- Visit one fancy restaurant or the other for dinner and then complain
- Ride expensive bikes/cars, pollute and then buy more cars to create an artificial air conditioned atmosphere within
The list is endless but you get the drift. All our vanity, our so called lifestyles, our cars and phones are all frills that come in between us and life. The ladakhis have none of these in the winters yet have a smile and a heart wider and warmer than most of us.
Mental peace is the beginning of something great
While most of us spend a lot of time getting stressed about the color of our tie or the boss’s mood or the color of the biryani served as lunch, there are a few people who have *mental peace*. I have been very envious of them. When the whole world was going bonkers, these individuals would see through the crap and live their life. Live their life. I wanted mental peace like a kid who wanted his favourite candy at any cost. I did not know where to find it and quite frankly did not go to the Himalayas to find it. I would rather say, it found me. Not under a peepal tree because Leh Ladakh has only trunks for trees in the winter.
I found mental peace when I stared long and hard at the mountains and found that they withstood everything thrown at them. I spoke to them and they echoed back to me. I realized that the problem was not outside but inside and I could solve it. Not only did they stand it but they also stood tall and brave without flinching a muscle. When I left for the trip, I was a bundle of nerves and contradictions. I had my own devils to face and my doubts to challenge but the city life with its pace never allowed me the time to face them. The mountains slowed down my sense of time and once you realize that time has slowed down, there is enough time for everything, even for you to challenge your worst fears.
Incredible people are met on incredible trips
Not many take the risk of showing up at Leh Ladakh in the winters for reasons already described. Those who don’t show up are sane, thankfully and those who show up are insane, like me. The insane ones are the people I like. Folks who follow their passion right up to other people’s asses are the ones that get me going. On this trip and trek, I made friends with some wonderful people. Some of their perspectives to life have stuck to me like fevicol to a piece of paper, not willing to let go. And in the end, life is all about having met some wonderful people and lived with different perspectives. Most of whom I met were city slickers but had the spark of life in them and they wanted the spark to go on and on and on.
Hat tips to Archana, Jalaj, Swapnil, Sneha and the rest of the gang for allowing me to peep into them and steal some of their energy!
And lastly, travel is not discovering the place; it is discovering you in that place.