Describing the ‘now’, Chitkul, Himachal Pradesh, India, 1994.

“To describe the “now” is so difficult! What will seem so extraordinary in the future, seems so ordinary now.

The Himalayas are of wood and stone and ice. The people,leather-faced and ruddy from the wind and cold. Black eyes twinkle through a maze of etched wrinkles and dirt. It is too cold to wash too often up here.

Dry earth and thorny scrubbery against the clearest of skies.

The tough way that even small children stand and stare, moving slowly and yet always busy.

When I wake up it’s normally around 6.30am and outside the thick (amazing!) cotton ‘eiderdown’, it is freezing cold. My nose is blocked and dry. Cold air invades my lungs.

I sleep in all my clothes, as is the custom, and fumble about for my boots and glasses.

My new found didi (sister), fresh as a daisy offers me chai. I point towards the toilet area, cross my legs and make a face…she understands…later!

I fill an old tin with water and walk down the steep, wooden steps outside.

A tumbling, earth-rock path winds through the old, pine, ramshackle mish-mash, along a low stone wall. The path is clean except for numerous, single, broken shoes, big and small.

I come to some more open ground and thorny bushes,,,with many hidden rocks on the glacier-water smoothed sea of small boulders. The most beautiful toilet in the world.

The mountains loom around, snow bound and dramatic. The early sun is not yet in the valley, but catches the peaks. The mountains here are so big that I don’t see them very often, caught up in these wild people and completely ‘different’ culture here.

A man in traditional costume trundles past with two yak.

Whistling, I return.

Drinking strong wine, smoking bidis, sitting with the twinkle-leather people and eating meat. Smoky in the wood-fire kitchen, yummy smells and laughing conversation. getting drunk and the cold disappears.

They have such expressive faces, just to watch them is a song.”

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