It didn’t take us long to make friend with Tashi Tukchu, forty-five, a man full of anecdotes and the owner of our two-days homestay in Leh. We were offered gur gur cha (butter tea), which is a regular part of their lives and particularly suits at high altitudes. It tastes an interesting concoction of tea leaves, butter, and salt, which a few would prefer. As I loved it, my friend hated it. Our chit-chat over the salty buttery tea with Tashi was intriguing. His stories took us to hilarious incidents from his days in Sainik School (Nagrota, J&K). He also made us aware of his experiences from the Kargil war, when he was appointed in the military telecommunication department. We could visualize the war zone from his narratives and had goosebumps through-out listening to the 19-year-old stories from the pages of ‘Operation Vijay’.
A pause to reminisce the past
The Ladakhi land, as Tashi told us, was first visited by the Dards- the mixed Indo-Aryan in the 1st century. It started being influenced by the Tibetan culture during the 7th and 8th century. From ethnicity and religion, from crops consisting of barley, and the food inclusive of barley-based tsampa flour and the alcoholic chhang, etc., the Tibetan influence remains strong. The traditional meals in Ladakhi homes, thupka and tsampa, both hail from Tibet. Thupka is a dish of noodles, often vegetables and broth, while tsampa is a grain most often eaten in the form of porridge.
If you thought Leh, with its bluest of the blue colored sky, looked stunning during the day, I suggest that you wait for the sunset. The evening was magical. The countless stars dotting the ink-blank canvas of the night sky is definitely one of the rarest of sights, especially for us- the NCR dwellers. The first day indeed marked the perfect beginning.
As I surrendered to sleep, I noticed a poster on the wall quoting Soren Kierkegaard “Life is not a problem to be solved, but a reality to be experienced”. I took a pause, mused and realized- this was the time to live, to experience, and to be a sincere audience to the grand show that was being played before us.
The tired eyes barely able to withhold’ started counting sheep. Ninety three, ninety two… fifty seven… thirty two… Zzz!
A few glimpses captured in and around Leh: