There are moments, when you know, you are- ENCHANTED.
Having heard so much about Ladakh, its landscapes, the Kargil history, water from the glacial streams and the monasteries, I pretty much had pre-conceived notions on what I am in for. It is going to be a quiet place with Tibetan Buddhism and some Instagram worthy pictures.
On my flight, I was reading a magazine when I heard the women sitting next to me scream tears of joy, watching the plane land. I was spellbound. Landing into leh airport is nothing short of landing into heaven for a fairy-tale trip. For a moment, I thought we are landing on the mountains. Profoundly beautiful.
On day one of my trip, I was busy enjoying the view from my hotel room, sipping on to some ginger water to stay hydrated and feeling so pumped to embark on this journey. Preparing to sleep for the day, I was feeling a ting of excitement, as if my soul knew what the trip held for me.
Day two started with a road drive from Leh to Alchi. Crossing the Indus and Zanskar rivers, the melodious sound of the river made my journey free flowing. I lost track of time. Back in the hotel, I knew Maggi and chow mein noodles is all I have for the next 5 days.
I was wrong. The food in Ladakh makes you forget that you are home sick or you cannot survive without western food. I do not think, I can replicate the exact same Maggi taste ever. You won’t believe, the guy who served me my breakfast was an 18-year U.P. fellow. Out of curiosity, I asked him, ‘ Oye, tu yaha kaam karta hai? to which he said, ‘ Mein idhar rehta hu’. I was amazed. I asked him, ‘ Kyu? Idhar kyu? To which he replied, ‘ Idhar sukoon hai, acha hai. Paise kam hai par khush hu’. And here I was, cribbing about my mid life crisis in my 20’s.
Next, I was off to Nubra Valley. Picture this! Deserts and river flowing alongside. What a sight. You keep glancing and all you see is perspective to new things in life. At one end you see water flowing into deserted land and at the other, there are people setting up tents and the breeze dancing in its Ladakhi tunes, it feels surreal. It is the most I must have pinched myself to actually believe if I am here.
My next stop was to the Dikshit Monastery. I know we say we feel calm. But I felt blank. All my thought and stress vanished. I felt a rush of quiet and inner silence. Like everything around me, is fine. As if – life is good. I remember on my way back thinking – This is what life should feel. Tranquil.
Reaching back nubra valley, it was tent night. The bon fire was set and I look at the sky. The stars smiling back, illuminating. That night was something else. To simply stare at the star kissed sky and simply appreciate life. I do not remember when was the last time I was so positive and happy about life that I was appreciating it on a Monday night!Ladakh, just made me hate myself less, organically.
The exact opposite happened to me while crossing the Khardungla pass. My eyes were moving in all directions, trying to grasp as much as sight that I possibly can.
I was wrong again. Ladakh is a silent killer. It kills all your notions; you start questioning your lifestyle and you start trying to learn the simplicity you see around you. The beauty of Ladakh is modest. However hard you try; you cannot boast about it.
The next day we were off to Turtuk. The last village of India. What surprised me about this place is that the silence in the air speaks to you. Throughout the journey, I was introspecting my thoughts. It is an alluring valley; one cannot fully sum up the experience you feel there.
This was the day I was eagerly looking forward to- Visit to the Pangong lake. It was love at first sight. The crystal-clear lake with brown mountains in its hindsight, people camping on one side, nature beaming from all ends, I was mesmerized. When I lifted my phone to take a picture, I could not click more than a couple, because it was not doing any justice to the place my eyes were seeing.
I remember the people being very reserved at first. But once you smile at them and say ‘ Jullay’ i.e. hello or thank you in Ladakhi dialect, it is quite an ice-breaker. For Instance, my driver was quite a snob, that is what I thought, but it all changed when, while returning from nubra valley, our car got stuck due to heavy snow fall and so did other vehicles. I remember feeling chills down my spine. My driver did not panic, in fact he helped clear the jam, reassured me that we will be fine and shared a few stories with me too. I made a friend! My very own Ladakhi friend. The Ladakhi people are super hard working, coy. If you ask for help, they will do everything in their power to help you and comfort you. Lesson learnt : ASK.
The last 5 days, I spent in this place, it took something from me. I felt lighter. Was it the stress I felt in my daily life, or the lack of simplicity I lived with because my greed’s are never ending? If I can merge learning with travel, I would come back to Ladakh every time. Not just to see life differently, but to live life differently.
Reaching home, while I was unpacking, I found Diamox, the tablet you take to help you in case you face breathing difficulty. I realized; I didn’t need it. Because Ladakh taught me how to make 'each breath count, how to slowly inhale life and exhale doubt.'