By Elita Almeida
What if, after a ten hour intense journey through the ‘world’s worst road’, your driver turns around and tells you, “We may be a little lost as it is my first time here. I suggest we halt. We’re very close to running out of fuel too. So we may as well try to call someone and arrange for both fuel and accurate directions”
That’s exactly what thirteen of us co-travellers heard on Day 1 whilst en route to Spiti.
The back story:
We’d departed from Manali earlier that morning in a Tempo Traveller with destination Kaza (in Spiti) on our mind. For anyone who’s familiar with the route, the road from Manali via the Rohtang and Kunzum Pass is not called the ‘worst road’ without reason; especially if you have the privilege of being seated right above the rear two wheels of the vehicle; and definitely more so if you have a driver who’s driving skills demand more than a fleeting mention.
Visualize the look on our faces moments after he (our driver i.e.) revealed to us the situation we were in.
It was close to 5 PM with no human life (or any life for that matter) in sight. The sky was blue with tufts of white clouds adorning it. The road was nothing but a dusty pathway. On the one side of the road there was a river. And on the other side of the river seemed a relatively populous village (read: human settlement that seemed to be comprised of about 50 houses from afar).
Stepping out of the vehicle tired, weary and hungry from the arduous journey we found that our driver seemed to have disappeared momentarily after his solemn announcement. Probably to locate some help is this barren deserted place, we reasoned amongst ourselves. With no mobile connectivity on our phones some of us decided to be brave and venture around in the hope of finding someone who could be of some help.
After a couple of minutes the driver did return letting us know that he had managed to establish contact with someone he knew and that fuel had been arranged for. We used his phone, as it was the only one that had connectivity, to reach out to our contact in Kaza (who also then assured us that she was on her way).
Light ‘before’ the end of the tunnel…
While we were assured of both, fuel and directions, we were still a bunch of hungry travellers. Amongst the brave who’d ventured out knocking every padlocked door, someone struck gold. In a seemingly deserted village there happened to be a home that welcomed a bunch of thirteen strangers. It seemed unlike anything I’d personally experienced before but there we were being warmly ushered in by this man who could only be heard saying, “Aap toh humare mehmaan ho. Aur mehmaan to devta sammaan hote hain.
“Guests are godlike and so I have the honour of welcoming god into my abode…”
Little did he realize that he was our godsend.
The house was quaint and warm; a sharp contrast to the crisp wind that blew outside. Besides our host who had busied himself into preparing some chai (also known as ‘tea’) for us was a little kid – probably his grandson who kept stealing glances at us from the hinges along the door.
Before we knew it there was hot piping tea for all of us along with a lot of ‘sattu’ for us to eat (that we would soon learn was more than just an acquired taste). We’d spent a good half an hour to forty-five minutes inside sipping our chai and uncramping our bones from the journey before we received a call that both fuel and our directions to Kaza had arrived and we could finally begin to make our way for the destination we’d set out for earlier that day.
To open your home to a group of completely unknown people so wholeheartedly and unassumingly, to provide them with whatever you have no matter how little and to wish them well as they departed without the slightest hint of any expectation but goodwill is reminiscent of a part of India I miss experiencing in the cities.
About the author: Elita is Nondescript. Nonchalant. Observer. Witty. Sarcastic. Skinny. Nomadic Thunker. Square Peg. Sporadic Blogger. Solo Traveller. Blogs at nomadicthunker.blogspot.in; skinnygenus.blogspot.com. Tweets @ellelogical.