A month in Kinnaur & Spiti. Part 2: Chitkul - अरे यायावर रहेगा याद?

Photo of A month in Kinnaur & Spiti. Part 2: Chitkul - अरे यायावर रहेगा याद? 1/1 by Jaidev Jamwal

The morning of my second day in Chitkul, I wanted to just laze around doing nothing. Weather was sunny, so I thought that I should go sit on the grass and read something. Even with a bright sun outside, it was a bit cold, so I covered up and went out on a patch of grass in the guesthouse premises. But a stiff breeze made it impossible as skin on my exposed hands and face went numb within a few minutes. Even though the temperature was around 5-6 degrees, the wind chill made it feel much colder. So the plans of reading outside had to be shelved. Even wet clothes set out to dry in the sun froze if exposed to wind, so one can guess the conditions if not familiar. After reading for a bit indoors, I walked down the village to see if I could get something for lunch. Most of the villagers were still busy with their festival preparations and rituals and all shops owned by the locals were closed. I had a cup of chai in one of the most hyped ones, the so-called last dhaba of Hindustan near the bus stand last time, so stopped there to see if they had something. It was nearly full and had rajma chawal for lunch. Rajma were pretty bad and rice half cooked. Tried chai and it was surprisingly awful too. I wasn't expecting much, but it takes special skills to make it this bad, that too in Himachal. Its clientele cares more about facebook checkins and selfies more than the food, so I suppose it's alright for them.

Almost every single place had rajma chawal as their main dish and even I got bored of it, more so with the flavourless gruel they tried to pass off as rajma. One hotel run by Bengalis had a bit more varied menu and I had most of my meals there. There were not many options for food in the village, let alone good ones. The Bengali guys prepared a few Bengali dishes like fried fish, chicken and one potato dish with curd. So it was not too bad overall. The village itself was an interesting place for just walking around and taking pictures of old wood and stone houses, animals and scenery. There were a few noticeable changes from last time. Instead of wood or stone, many houses and storage sheds were using metal sheets for roofs. 

There were a few houses constructed of brick and cement too. Apparently, it is cheaper to construct those compared to traditional stone and wood houses even with extra cost of transportation. The old fashioned locks were much harder to spot and there was a lot more plastic trash everywhere. More on that later. People seemed a lot more used to tourists too unlike last time. Quite often one could see some dumb tourist asking asinine questions from the locals and getting patient answers. Even I had to answer a few like if it was possible to drive a motorcycle up to the ridge with that flag on it. Some Said that they thought that I was a local. What thought process led them to this result is still a mystery to me.

The next day was Holi in the rest of India and another day of festivities in Chitkul, though they celebrated Holi with colours the next day. V arrived in the morning for some maintenance work and said that there was some kind of fight the previous night involving some people from a neighbouring village. Not for the first time either, by the looks of it. Later as I was walking towards the market, villagers were organising a dhaam (community feast In Jammu & Himachal) in the village temple premises along with some singing and dancing by the women. They were not very happy to have outsiders taking pictures, so I moved on to take a walk towards the riverside. There were a lot of tourists in the village that day, yet no one was being allowed to enter the village at the time. It was a good move too. A lot of these tourists were playing loud shitty music, getting drunk and acting like asses to "celebrate Holi".

I got annoyed and walked back to the guest house soon enough. Next day I walked down to get something from a shop only to find it mobbed by 4-5 women with Holi colours in their hands asking the owner to come out and get some. Upon noticing me standing around confused, they asked me to see if the shopkeeper would open the door which he didn't. I guess he really hated colours and/or baths. Since he was not coming out, the women asked if I was OK with them putting colour on me. I already had a pretty bad sunburn but couldn't say no. On my way back to the guesthouse, there were 15-18 people of all age groups who first asked if it was OK and then applied some more colour. Some of them just put on a tilak while the rest, especially children, rubbed it in my beard. They thought it was funny. I was very thankful that they were not using water like a lot of children in Manali I saw last year. Getting wet in that cold weather would have been very uncomfortable. Running water in bathrooms started after 4-5 days after my arrival. They just had a flexible pipe running from a stream up to the building. It worked fine when the weather was comparatively warm, but froze more than once.