The Nepali porter during a trek in Himachal:
“There are no facilities in my village, education is not free, there is no electricity and people have to walk for hours to get water. When I used to stay there, apart from farming there wasn’t anything else to do even if you completed your education. I came to Himachal a decade back. A lot of people from my country come here to work, mostly as labour. I used the money I earned over the years to get my two brothers educated so that they can get a job. My younger brother is in the field of medicine now. He hasn’t come home for the past three years. He doesn’t look after his wife or son. I am taking care of his son and paying for his education as well. Whether its Nepal or India, I have seen that the type of progress that’s happening today is making rich people richer and the poor poorer.”
Ashok, my trek guide:
“People in my village used to say that my grandfather understood the language of the crows. He would know what the birds and animals were trying to communicate and would predict things based on this communication. He knew each of his livestock by name and if one went a bit far from the grazing area, he would just call out the name and the animal would turn and come back. My grandfather used to feed birds and all animals around the house first before having his meal. As a kid, when I used to light a lamp in the evenings, he often used to tell me to put out the lamp and observe the darkness. If one gets used to the light, one will never be able see far in the dark.
Now we are not connected with nature. We are playing with nature and the consequences will not be good. I go with a scientist every year to measure the glaciers. In just two to three years time, the glaciers over that mountain range have shrunk from 5mtrs to 3mtrs in height. A day will come when we will kill each other over water. Humanity will not meet with a swift end but a torturous one.”
An elderly Kinnauri lady who came over to chat with me while I was sitting in the balcony of a guest house in Sangla:
“It took us almost one month to reach Sarahan, we had to walk all the way. A group of us girls were called to perform in the Independence Day parade in Delhi. The entire journey to and from Delhi took us three months and that was the biggest adventure of my life. I have not stepped out much since then. Our community was self-sufficient. We grew everything we wanted - all vegetables and had milk from the cows. We would store everything for the winters as the roads would close then. We never used to fall sick also. Now-a-days, you have medicine shops and people are falling sick too.”
Lama at Shanti Stupa in Leh who had kept my camera that I had left behind at the monastery the previous evening: