(2015) The district of Kinnaur had only been recently opened to the ‘public’ by the Dali Lama when I arrived. I caught the bus up and was sitting next to the local English teacher. We were chatting , me in broken Hindi and he spoke English. He explained that the only boarding facilities in Chitkul were at a government run boarding house and the rooms were very expensive (for India). I grew worried as my budget was dwindling. The lady sitting in front of us over heard our conversation and suddenly turned and gestured that I could stay with her!! With the help of the teacher it was all settled and I became the surrogate daughter of another amazing family.
Debgiani and I had many adventures as I mucked in with all the routine chores and Kinnauri daily rituals.
The bus came and went daily up and down the valley.The bus driver would stay at Debgiani’s house overnight and leave the next morning early. Often there would be an informal ‘party’ after the evening meal when he was staying. On my second night I was sent down, in the dark, to a house several metres below, with a jug. I had to call up to a trapdoor in the floor of this little shack on legs and a peach-stone faced, old woman appeared in candle light, reached down, grabbed the jug, filled it with some sort of spirit and handed it back down to me, grunting. With the addition of this beverage everyone became very animated. ‘Dad’ would get out his Casio keyboard and we would all join together in a right old Kinnauri sing song by the light of the fire. This is the only song I can remember. I still have my nose pierced and remember well the day that Debgiani did it for me with a needle and wool on the beautiful verandah of their traditional wooden Kinnauri home.