Tag Archives: People of the Himalaya

Truly a Tibetian Tigress

This is my submission to IndiBlogger’s  Expedia – Around The World Contest

“Brrrrr…” Freezing cold weather in Darjeeling in November. The Sun setting down as early as 5 PM in the evening. Rising across the Kanchenjunga peak and it’s horizon early in the morning, as early as 5 AM on the North Eastern Himalayan terrains! Yes, that was the time when Darjeeling was to be visited… And thankfully I was there at that very moment. I went there to trek the Sandakphu-Gurdum ranges and hopefully climb the mountains at the highest point of Sandakphu to see the Kanchenjunga & Mt. Everest up close and personal. Before we started our trek, we had a couple of days where we could acclimatize ourselves to the conditions and get to know Darjeeling a little more…

I took that opportunity to tour the city in search of interesting people, stories and certainly take some really great shots of the local culture around. As soon as I entered Darjeeling, everything about it fascinated me. Looking at the small town like manifestation of the entire location felt very close to home and gave a significant amount of warmth in itself. Everywhere I looked around I could visualize the beauty of the North East India that started here. I was told that girls and women in Darjeeling are truly beautiful, but this was the first time I got to see it and indeed, “Seeing is believing.”  Besides their beauty and aura, every girl and even guys had a strong, bold empowering style to themselves. They definitely knew what fashion was and could teach a thing or two to Bombayites like me.

Having said that, another aspect of Darjeeling I really admired the most, was that one could, at any point in time always keep an eye on the Kanchenjunga peak. It’s magnificence bore a stark resemblance to divine feeling of spiritual transcendence. And why not, Kanchenjunga is also called as the Sleeping Buddha, for it resembles HIM sleeping and his features show across. Look carefully and you will see the head, prosperous tummy & feet. 🙂

Kanchenjunga Peak

Kanchenjunga Peak

So the first day we whiled around the town, checked out the local places, shopped for some warm clothes, hung out at a local pub ‘Joey’s’ mostly I was with Mr. Shashi Patel, an American Indian from the Bay Area whom I met while strolling around the railway station at Sunset. So after hanging out with him and talking about travel and my experiences across India, we headed back to our respective hotels. Our plan the next day was to catch the view of the sunrise early in the morning at Tiger Hills.

While returning back we decided to stop by at this local place and check out some interesting items that we could purchase. He wanted to take some gifts back home. Something easy to carry and not too much on his pocket as he wanted lots of gifts for all his friends.

Tibetian Woman

Tucking away her earnings…

We began strolling across and started to scan the place for interesting items. There were caps, clothes, strolls, scarves, glares, Darjeeling special Tea and a lot of other interesting items. But what really caught my eye was this old woman, who was pretty occupied within herself. She looked very busy and had a certain aura about herself. She was very bold and mostly her voice was very prominent. Certainly caught my eyes and ears. But that is not what made me go check out what she was selling… I looked at her, she was around 60-65 years old, had sharp features… Her eyes were certainly a lot bigger than others around. She not only spoke in Hindi but also had a sharp way of speaking in English as well. More importantly, she was out there as if she meant business.

We looked at what she was selling and did find it pretty interesting. They were small purses, caps, scarves and strolls… All of them handwoven with a special pattern that they had about themselves. They were excellent pieces of handicraft. Certainly intrigued me and I wanted to buy a few purses for some of my friends and my mom.

So, I decided to take a look at the items on sale and thought of which ones to pick. Mr. Patel also was interested and we told ourselves, let’s buy 10 of these purses together. She will give us a good deal if we take in bulk.

I asked her “How much does this purse cost?”

“Rs. 30,” she replied, while hastily giving money to her previous customers and sorting out her own sets of the products that were bit off the carpet she kept them on.

“We’ll take 10… How much will they cost then?”

“They’ll cost as much as they cost now…”

“But I’m buying in bulk…”

“That doesn’t matter, the cost doesn’t change…” she replied calmly…

We both looked at each other and smiled. Looks like she needed some more incentive probably for us to get a better deal. So my newly found friend picked up some other products and asked for their price… Surprisingly they also were priced at Rs. 30. Except a couple of the items all of them were priced at that amount.

We asked her again, but she wouldn’t budge.

“I won’t change the price for you, If you want to buy you can buy… It’ll sell anyways, if not today, tomorrow. I’ve been making these purses on my own for 30 years… and never have I gone without selling all off every year. Besides, we don’t work off season cause of the cold.” She smiled at us mischievously. 

Handicraft, Tibetian Lady, Tibet, Tibetian Handicraft.

Smiling Away…

While we realized, our deal won’t happen, we both admired her headstrong, entrepreneurial sense of ownership. She was a true businesswoman of sorts and I can’t think but admire her perseverance that at the age of 61, which we found out later in our conversation, she had this energy and level headed and amazing attitude about herself. We got to know that she migrated from Tibet in 1972 and has been making and selling these works of art. She is alone and lives in the city below. Every morning she wakes up at 4 AM, finishes her chores and sets off to come here, by walk with her backpack of items to sell. Once people who come down after viewing the sunrise to shop at her place and more often than not, her inventory gets exhausted by 9.30 AM. If not, she takes the remaining ones back home and then goes to a tea shop that she runs outside her house…

Reminded me of ‘The Steve Jobs’, I was reading that book on the trip, but clearly I could identify her sense of feel and value for quality and niche business value add. Don’t go by the price, but her stubborn yet confident decision to not back out of the price for a product that was of true quality. Something that many wouldn’t hesitate to pay ten or fifteen times the amount if it was a designer product, much like this one and in fact made out of the same material, only added with an elitist price tag… Salute to the Tibetian Tigress! For the beautiful work of art, Thuk Ji Chhe (Thank You in Tibet) 

What do you think about her attitude?

Advertisements

The Tiger Kid of Himalayas…

Himalayas, Nepal, Jaobari, India, Travel, Mountains, Trekking,

Jaobari Terrains of HiImalayas

This was a few months back when we were trekking in the North Eastern Himalayas… The Sandakphu trek to be precise. Every once in a while you meet spirits that give you such great vision of your own life that you can’t even imagine what heights you can reach.

Buddhist Philosopher, educator & peace builder Daisaku Ikeda once said

“The human spirit is as expansive as the cosmos. This is why it is so tragic to belittle yourself or to question your worth. No matter what happens, continue to push back the boundaries of your inner life. The confidence to prevail over any problem, the strength to overcome adversity and unbound hope – all reside within you.”

This story is a true depiction of how this really applies. A lot of times we are so overwhelmed by the many tasks which we give utmost importance to, we tend to forget the real reason we are here on this planet. Many times we focus on the tasks which have no underlying purpose or very little importance, that we forget what we can do if we stop thinking in boundaries or shed the limits. This story tells us how we as adults have stopped imagining behind certain boundaries and stopped pushing the envelope when it comes to achieving something.

Buddhism, Monastery, Dalai Lama, Monk, Spirituality, Himalayas

Shange Norbu of Jaobari Monastery

While trekking the Himalayas, we came across a small monastery in the Nepal side on the Indo-Nepal border. Jaobari village to be precise. We decided to visit the monastery and spend some time while catching our breath. We met the monk who lived there, Shange Norbu. Shange is another word for Buddha, he proudly told us. He gave us information about the monastery. He also told us that he teaches the kids there. We could see some kids playing outside eating some porridge in a small bowl. When we went inside, what was most striking was the utter peace and serenity which made the monastery quite blissful. Besides the striking calm, we realized that it was much warmer inside than it was outside. So that was quite a relief as we knew we had to trek a lot more and climb about 10 kms with a steep ascent.

While the others were resting, I decided to take a stroll around and click some pictures around. After getting a few shots of the breath-taking view I headed a little further, I met this kid. The kid was very playful and he was enjoying himself and doing just nothing. Generally this is probably the last point where civilization ends and the terrains start. A few houses here and there, otherwise the whole plateau after this is just mountain ranges. So most tourists who have come, would stop going further at this point while the trekkers move on to climb the magnificent Himalayas.

The Tiger Kid of Himalayas

The Tiger Kid of Himalayas

With a really nice winter cap covering his ears and a denim jacket to keep him warm, he looked very comfortable and was in his own world. His smile was innocent and his brown eyes were like deep ocean. He had a stick with him, which he held on to very closely. I took a few pictures of his and tried to initate conversation. But communication in a common language was a mystery to the both of us. We resorted to our body language and yes, eye contact… He smiled at me, I smiled back… Then he put his hands to his head.. A gesture to tell me something.  Probably, to show me that he had great imagination. Imagination that made his mind greater than the regular one. To me it looked pretty much like the thing Sheldon Cooper from the Big Bang Theory does when he stares at you and tries to get your brain to explode… But obviously this gesture had a different meaning altogether.

Nonetheless, after a few exchange of glances and communication through our eyes, he said something… something which I didn’t understand but I asked Shange to translate, who was standing nearby. He laughed when he heard what the kid said. That made me even more curious as to what was this kid saying. I asked him to translate it to me and this is what he said.

“If you go on top, the tiger will come and kill you… But don’t worry, I’ll help you and fight him off with this stick.”

I’m not kidding, that’s exactly what he said, according to the monk. Hence the laugh. But I was blown away, blown away by the astronomical level of thinking and ultimate confidence within himself. Now, I’m pretty sure, he was told stories of great white tigers in the Singalila National Park stretch of Sandakphu. One that ‘we’ know do not exist, stories of great ‘dragon warriors’, which we think are myths and kings who have slayed tigers with their bare hands. Considering that, using a stick to kill a tiger is definitely something which is easy for him, now isn’t it?? Something he believes in and in his world, that’s how the ending of this story is. Him emerging victorious and a saviour to my life. The great hero of Jaobari as I’d like to call him. Come to think of it, it could be achieved scientifically if you hit the right spots, but that’s a different point altogether.

Do you remember as kids we had so many dreams and for us boundaries meant nothing. Do you remember as kids we wanted to go to space as astronauts, we wanted to become actors, we wanted to become cricketers and a lot more… What happened to those dreams? All that was possible and for some it became a reality. For a those who couldn’t get there, well, it’s never too late…

We have to stop putting boundaries to our thoughts, limitations, and stop compromising by just saying, life is a compromise. Actually when I recollect this story, I truly feel it isn’t… As Daisaku Ikeda says, The confidence to prevail over any problem, the strength to overcome adversity and unbound hope – all reside within you. How many of you have realized this?

Mhane Chandra – What Future Holds??

Freezing cold at Sandakphu base camp was something we managed to get acclimatized to. After climbing 14000 feet from the other side of Nepal and feeling on top of the world we had embraced the joy of the cold weather and at the same time the soreness of climbing such heights was quite a battle. Having said that, we had also embraced one downhill descent from Sandakphu to Gurdum. That was a bit of an ordeal, especially for those weak in their knees… No pun intended 😉

During our entire duration of the trek, Gurdum base camp was one of the best ones as most of us managed to climb down quite easily, though nurturing some levels of knees and joints pain, time taken and the stress plus energy burnt was much lesser than earlier ones. The flipside of it was since there was no ascent, most places we had to be careful of our stepping and ensure that we didn’t lose our balance at certain stages.

We stayed in Gurdum overnight, enjoyed delicious soup and fantastic veg momos for snacks! Even the dinner was one of the best and it really felt like we had a sumptuous meal after our arduous journey had been completed. Now we just had to alight Gurdum and reach our final destination (Rimbick) This was again a descent and there was hardly anything that we thought would bother us during this trek. Having said that, sometimes it’s just not your body but also your mind that takes a toll during this trek. It’s something that we think we can manage, but a lot of times struggle doing the same… I guess that’s why trekking is not just a physical but a mental challenge too.

Nonetheless, once we woke up in Gurdum, early in the morning, we decided to go down soon and camp at the final destination. Since it was the last destination of the trek, we wanted to make the best out of it. At least that was the plan. So we quickly started descending the mountain and the terrains called for some really amazing and breathtaking views. Although we did stop at places to ensure we got to enjoy the view, we didn’t wait for a long while…

After trekking for about a couple of hours we could hear a few sounds. We were surprised as mostly very few people came on top from this route… But nonetheless, we thought there might be some locals who wander off here or come to cut trees… We imagined it could be a wood cutter. Someone who has come on top and probably climbs day in and day out to cut wood. So we didn’t think about it as much. We told ourselves in a joking manner, imagine how much weight the person would be losing everyday and how many calories he would be burning. As it is most of the times we go on a trek, we end up losing a few pounds, and once we resume our sedimentary lifestyle, we end up getting all that back. I wonder how fit that person would be who would come to cut wood here climbing at least 11 kms everyday, I said…

As I said that, I just saw someone climb on the hairpin bend across the mountain below… I was looking elsewhere and slowly my glance went towards him… What I saw was something that made me think, ‘What did I say?’ I felt so bad that I even thought about something like this… Although not my fault, I really felt guilty at making assumptions about something or someone whom I didn’t even know. And what I saw wasn’t something that pleased my eyes as much.

Rather this is who I saw.

Sikkim, Darjeeling, Sandakphu, Gurdum, Rimbick

Mhane Chandra

Meet, Mhane Chandra! To him, this sickle is going to be a life, a life full of what his parents told him about. A life full of dreams and a life that will provide him and his family what they need.  But who will guarantee that these forests and the trees will last long? A question that I wonder for his future…

I felt so bad, that I promptly removed a packet of biscuits that the camp leader had given earlier and handed it over to him. At that time, that was the best I could do for him. I tried talking to him for a bit, but he wasn’t the kind who would speak a lot. Must be that his dad was behind or maybe not. Couldn’t really talk to him for he didn’t know our language. He just said, that he’s going up to get some wood to take home. Then he smiled and walked away…

Rimbick Basecamp

After having spent more than a week wandering across mountains of Himalayas, with a hope to witness the beauty of the Kanchenjunga we had hoped for a better ending especially when we had reached Sandakphu. Bearing the freezing cold of Sandakphu at 14000 feet was all worth it and could have been a complete experience, had we witnessed to see the Kanchenjunga peaks up close and personal especially from the top most point of that beautiful location. Nonetheless, we salvaged some of the situation after our alighting to Gurdum was truly enchanted by the stay there. Since we got down sooner than on other days, we had a lot more time to spend in Gurdum and we had made the most of it with the beautiful, serene and silent cottage at that camp.

While we did that, we were really hopeful that there was a lot more to the Himalayan trek than just this… Sadly, the time for the trek was about to come to an end. We were to alight to the final destination on this trek after Gurdum camp. Yes, of course, there would be civilization, local markets, hot water to shower, lesser cold and very little clenching of teeth… But that was all worth it when you come up to these heights. A world of it’s own, you began to be enchanted and somewhere deep in your mind make up a world of your own… Something that you would always want to enjoy without having to let go of the experiences that you underwent. We all had that kind of a feeling. The place was much more relaxed, by this time all of us had began to understand each other a lot more. Some had drifted from their regular group and joined others… We had bonded very well in a span of this week… Once we reach the basecamp, we knew all that was going to be over… With our goodbyes and farewells, we knew we may not be able to spend much time later. So I guess, this was that one last trip as they say… One last shot at making the most of our entire journey.

With that thought in our mind, we set off on a journey towards civilization, a last descend downwards to the chaos of life. One that we all had missed for days, but never complained. Such was this journey and such are treks of these kinds, especially in the Himalayan terrains, terrains where there is peace and redemption.

Himalayas, Sandakphu, Darjeeling
The final journey begins…

We started our last trekking bit on this expedition with a stride in our step and a heavy heart… Nonetheless, we had to make sure that this last journey was going to be full of great memories and beautiful pictures. We were hoping this terrain to be a bit different.

Villager Farmboy
Mhane Chandra

On our way we met Mhane Chandra. He was going up to cut firewood. To him, this sickle is going to be a life, a life full of what his parents told him about… A life full of dreams and a life that will provide him and his family what they need… But who will guarantee that these forests and the trees will last long? A question that I wonder for his future…

 While there was descent, we had to walk through some of these paths, where we had to carefully tread along the sides and worry about not slipping down the cliff…
Norgyal Sherpa Memorial

Norgyal Sherpa Memorial

While alighting, we found a few small villages within the mountains. There we also found this. And this was something which took my breath away and held my head high and hands close to my forehead, to salute the heroism of this small village within the descents of the great eastern Himalayas. This is a great story of a local lad, who gave his life for our Country… It’s a War Memorial in this Sherpa’s name… of the Gorkha regiment… A salute to Norgyal Sherpa.

Srikhola River
Srikhola River

This was one of the popular landmarks on this route. Once you know you’ve reached the Srikhola River, you know you’re 5 kms away from Rimbick.

Bridge over Srikhola River
Bridge over Srikhola River
Nishing Leng
Nishing Leng
Nishing Leng
Nishing Leng

That’s Nishengleng, cute kid… we were walking past her school and she saw my camera.. She said, take my picture… We did and she said Namaste to us… besides the picture, she enjoyed some great candies which we dished out 😉

From then on, it was just a little bit for us to walk to the base camp… And that would mark the end of a journey, beginning of a cherished memoirs something to remember for…