Spiti Travelogue: Day 13

Wheels Back In Motion: Reflec­tions on the way back home

I always feel uncom­fort­able and out of place in Del­hi. I was anx­ious to be on our way back, and we caught the Jhelum Express the next day. The oth­ers from our group were fly­ing back to Pune, while only George was with us on the train. Vidisha and I had a relaxed trav­el back. It was most­ly time for read­ing and reflec­tion.

The world up to Man­ali was the civ­i­lized world, as we knew it. Above that, once you crossed Rohtang Pass, it was as if you entered a dif­fer­ent world. Indeed this dis­tinc­tion bears out even with the sea­son­al dis­con­nec­tion of the upper region. The Rohtang and oth­er moun­tain pass­es are open only after sum­mer, for a few months. For the most part of the year, the Spi­ti region is iso­lat­ed from the rest of the world. The region has remained in iso­la­tion for cen­turies, and hence has an intro­ver­sive cul­ture and life focused around its monas­ter­ies.

What does ‘Spi­ti’ stand for? Si means Mani, Piti means place, Spi­ti means the place of Mani, the jew­el. Rud­yard Kipling writes about Spi­ti in these words: “At last they entered a world with­in a world — a val­ley of leagues where the high hills were fash­ioned of the mere rub­ble and refuse from off the knees of the mountains…Surely the gods live here. Beat­en down by the silence and the appalling sweep of dis­per­sal of the cloud shad­ows after rain, this place is no place for men.”

Our rare glimpses of tourists in Spi­ti were those of for­eign­ers. We nev­er saw any Indi­an tourists. I was sad­dened that apart from the local vil­lagers and the mil­i­tary, Indi­ans rarely ven­tured here. In con­trast, I thought of Kedar­nath and Man­asarovar, where there was no dearth of Indi­ans.

Reflect­ing on the puri­ty of the people’s cul­ture, lifestyle, and reli­gion, I also won­dered whether we were invad­ing the region with our tourist para­pher­na­lia. The civ­i­liza­tion of the val­ley was sig­nif­i­cant­ly chang­ing the lives of the peo­ple. There is now elec­tric­i­ty, irri­ga­tion, and pri­ma­ry school edu­ca­tion avail­able in Spi­ti. Crime is still vir­tu­al­ly unknown. The gov­ern­ment has installed few anten­nas through which many peo­ple are able to watch Door­dar­shan. Tele­phones have reached Kaza. Over­all, the changes in recent years are more than those that took place over sev­er­al cen­turies.

Next: Day 14

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