Sitting in a train in the city or a plane I often see people whose faces or expressions or language intrigue me. And I wonder what their lives must be like.\nIn most cases their setting is similar to mine \u2013 yet their lives are different.\nThis intrigue is rarely satisfied and I have to satisfy myself with conjectures and theories that I make up\u00a0 in order to entertain myself \u2013 based on the few data points that I have.\nBut sometimes, this intrigue drives me to act and I pursue any lead available that can create a pathway that allows a peep into the lives of these interesting people.\nAnd so it was that I found myself on a journey to the village home of a lady from the Dard ethnic minority group of Ladakh.\n(Please see Introductory note on this journey)\nWe started early in the morning from Leh \u2013 husband & wife, driver & me, in a 4WD. Within minutes we were outside the city limits and into the mountains. Even after 4 weeks in the Himalayas I feel the rush \u2013 the experience of being surrounded on all sides by the Himalayas still makes me awestruck \u2013 I can\u2019t stop staring at every mountainscape \u2013 because every second in the journey is unique. No two stretches of road have the same view \u2013 every 100m of mountain dramatically different from every other!\u00a0 I never saw myself as being impressed by nature \u2013 but these mountains have complete control over my senses as I pass through them \u2013 dumbstruck and starving for more time to study every square meter that I lay my eyes on. They have magnetised my mind.\nSpeaking of which \u2013 we pass a \u2018magnetic mountain\u2019. any vehicle parked here without the hand brakes on, rolls upward instead of downward. FACT.\nThen we pass a\u00a0 cyclist. on this curving sloping road \u2013 a cyclist! And then another and another. Over a kilometer we saw about 6-8 cyclists peddling away making their way to Kargil maybe. Why?\u00a0 All this exercise always shocks me!\nWe are still in Leh District.\nSoon we reach Lamayuru Gompa \u2013 and the stories about that monatsery experience are in a separate article.\nOur road now takes us into Kargil district \u2013 and the landscape and the culturescape changes. Women have veils and the houses seem less sturdy. This region is at a lower altitude and it is not so cold. After a short detour the rough road makes it way back toward Dha and Biama villages.\nThe road now runs alongside the Sindhu river. As we move, the character of the river changes. At some places it is a meek demure\u00a0 stream, being commanded by the mountains. But by the time we reach Biama village, it is a roaring river full of energy and spirit, ready to defy every mountain in its path. The tall majestic mountains have been cut into a deep ravine purely by the power of its waters and the Indus knows its own might.\nThe narrow river separated the two mountain ranges and we are midway up on one side. We have been driving on a road alongside the river that is at least a 15 story drop from the road. And suddenly my host tells the driver to stop in a flat patch of land that is just enough to park the vehicle. I see no houses or settlements. In front of us is the gorge leading to the river with the mountain face rising up on the other side of the river. And on our side of the river I see a forested slope rising behind us. We get out of the car and the host welcomes me to his home, that I cannot see.\nAnd then he points to the forested slope \u2013 and lets me know that it is halfway up to the top \u2013 a point that cannot be seen as it is a steep slope covered with trees. That we could not see it was a good thing \u2013 or else I would have been too daunted to even begin the climb.\nWe begin walking up \u2013 they as agile and sure-footed as mountain goats (including my hostess who is a heavy grandmother).\nAnd I struggle along groping the rocks and branches on all fours, slipping and losing my footing more than once. My hosts smile gently and offer to take my small bag to make it easier for me. My driver has already been entrusted with the job of carrying my little suitcase up. And I find it hard to carry my personal load that is packed inside my skin.\u00a0 But of course I find my amusement by observing my own incapability as a third-person observer. It is alarming and distressing for my ego to meet this clueless avatar of myself who knows so little about manouvering my very own body.\u00a0 And it is a reminder not to judge others when they cannot do things that I consider simple e.g. speak english or use the internet.\nMy host \u2013 a lean man of about 70 advises me to lose weight \u2013 he says it would make this journey easier for me.\nIn my other world, every topic has its own taboo and stigma and everyone wants to be politically correct rather than just plain correct. And so I find his direct and unsweetened articulation of his thoughts very very refreshing and endearing. What a lovely world this is.\nWe finally reach the top. A field filled with flowers and vegetable patches. And a quaint stone house just behind the field \u2013 set against the mountain wall! What a view \u2013 what a lovely home to live in!\nTHE HOME\n\n\n\n\n\u00a0 \n\nView (left) from the top of the mountain. The Host\u2019s family was halfway down this mountain.\n\n\nThe family room\n\n\nMy host goes to the car twice more to pick up all the wares he has brought back from the city. He says they also carry gas cylinders and furniture up so they are used to heavy loads!\nHis daughter-in-laws and their children arrive and we all gather in the little kitchen and sit on the carpeted floor. Sweet tea and salted butter tea are served with biscuits. And they talk in their own language called Dokskat. They have not met each other for over 2 months and there is a lot of news to be exchanged.\nAs we sit and chat and have chai, people from the village come over to the house to meet my host. They have heard of our arrival. And by late evening we have a full living room with many guests.\n\n\nThey all talk to me with great warmth and entertain my curiosity about their magnificent culture.\u00a0 One tells me very matter-of-factly that he is uneducated and he doesn\u2019t know much. I disagree about him not knowing much. He has led a successful life, farmed, raised children, has a happy and well fulfilled life \u2013 so I could not see how his statement of \u2018not knowing much\u2019 could be true. I point out that he obviously knew all the things needed for a good successful life. He might not know the latitude and longitude of Argentina or the current president of a world power (face it \u2013 how many of us know the name of the current PM of Japan!) but then these are not directly important anyway.\nAnd so the evening proceeded with a\u00a0 lot of talking, a lot of listening and definitely a lot of enlightenment acquired through this peep into a world that is totally different from mine.\nFAMILY TIME IN THE COSY KITCHEN-CUM-DINING-CUM-LIVING-ROOM\n\nTHREE GENERATIONS TOGETHER \u2013 CHATTING, ENJOYING EACH OTHER\u2019S COMPANY. THIS IS THE WAY THEY PASS EVERY EVENING. TOGETHER. CHATS & CHAI.\n\n\nMY HOSTESS WITH HER YOUNGER GRANDSON\n\n\nMY HOSTESS & HER GRANDSON WHO WORKED ON HIS 12TH GRADE HOMEWORK WITHOUT FEELING ANY DISTURBANCE FROM ALL OF US OR THE TV. YOU DO WHAT YOU HAVE TO TO!\n\n\n\nDINNER THAT NIGHT \u2013 MOMOS WITH LAMB\n\n\nVIEW FROM MY BED \u2013 NOT TOO CLEAR IN THIS PICTURE \u2013 BUT I SLEPT IN THE CRADLE OF MOUNTAINS THAT NIGHT\n\n\nGOING BACK DOWN THE MOUNTAIN TO THE CAR\n\nA video taken on my very frightened iphone on the way down \u2026..on youtube.com\nEND NOTE\nTheir lifestyle provided a very refreshing contrast to the lives surrounding mine. It is this contrast that I am after. It is this mind-opening experience that keeps me grounded and down to earth. Meeting these simple people who have beautiful complete lives in spite of their \u2018seeming\u2019 hardships teaches me much more than the people in cities. These people energise me, they stimulate thought and leave me with experiences that I will remember forever.\nThe single-course dinner on that nameless mountain in dim light eaten with all of us seated on the floor chatting and talking about simple things. It was a luxury meal eaten not to the sound of light club music but to the sound of the roaring Indus; Lit not by candle light, but by dim 0 watt bulbs and bright spirits. Not a skyscraper-top view but a mountain viewed from less than 500m. Not cooked by a chef trained in Paris \u2013 but cooked by a grandma whose recipes are shared by less than a thousand families. How much fancier can a dinner get!\u00a0 Ironically in the people providing me with one of the fanciest meals of my life, did not really care about such superficial events as a \u2018fancy dinner\u2019 at all.\nIf I had to choose only one of these two lives I straddle, I have no doubt that I would choose life in rural India. Preferably in the Himalayas. In the biting cold. On that mountain that sniggered at my lack of fitness. I would still trade my whole life happily to live that Himalayan life.\nMore about the costumes, their lifestyle, their mindset and their beliefs in the\u00a0 in-depth articles to follow in the next few articles\njm\nOct 2013\nThe post Living with a Dard Family appeared first on The Art Blog by WOVENSOULS.COM.