I had initially planned to visit Puh today. After walking up slightly late in the morning I decided to spend time locally, walking around to enjoy some more the salubrious environs of Kalpa. When I am about to leave a place I normally wonder when I will come back next to it or if at all I will. The same feeling assails me when I take leave of people who matter to me. This makes the moment of parting very somber within me, though I always try to portray the opposite. This day was no different. Therefore, to lift the mood a bit I walked to ‘The Monk’ Hotel to meet Prakash. In some manner this person, who I barely met 4 days ago felt like a soul mate, in whose company I felt light and cheerful. I reached the hotel and there was no sign of Prakash or any others. And the place was open. So I went around the lodging complex and saw that accommodation was being expanded by another floor. The view of the Kinner Kailash was superb from the higher floors of the hotel. When I came down after the ‘intrusion/inspection’ Prakash and his colleagues landed up – they were making tea in the adjoining canteen. Prakash insisted on my seeing the rooms; they were very spacious and well appointed. Economical packages can be worked out for groups and their hospitality has been amply recorded in glowing terms by visitors who stayed in the Camping tents, barely a few kilometers away.
When I mentioned to Prakash that I have some time to spare his face virtually became a lit up LED lamp! He suggested that we take a walk to the camping site. I readily agreed. On the way he treated me to a few home remedies for common ailments. By way of introduction he said that all ailments stem from problems of proper digestion, for which the liver function must be taken care of (In his words, “Agar pet saaf hai to sab kuch teek hai”.). He said that the following remedy was passed on to him by a lady in Kalpa and he had successfully tried it on his own mother. 4 dried apricots should be cleaned and soaked in a glass of water overnight. Early next morning the apricots must be ground into a paste in the glass and the pits extracted (the kernel could be eaten later). The material in the glass should be strained and the liquid should be consumed first thing in the morning. Nothing else should be had for the next two hours so that the concoction is given time to ‘settle the stomach’. This could be continued for three weeks or less till one’s metabolism returns to normal. His next ‘home remedy’ had me staring in absolute disbelief and probably stemmed from the fact that I was laboring for breath as I was walking by his side. For labored breath while climbing or exerting he said the answer is naphthalene balls; yes, don’t mistake me, naphthalene balls. Prakash said he carries a couple of them when he goes to explore the mountains and whenever either his companions or he became short of breath he would pass on a naphthalene ball for them to smell and magically restore their breath. So the next time I pack for the hills the first item that will go into the backpack will be a box of naphthalene balls!
Prakash mentioned that there is a tea made from local herbs in Kaza which is referred to as ‘Tshering tea’. When you feel tired or fatigued a drink of the tea will enhance your stamina, you will feel like walking another 10 kms, he said. There is a herb called ‘Samrak’ which is used to tried wounds. For treating external injuries the herb should be prepared with milk and administered. If the person vomits the concoction it signifies that survival is not a possibility. If he is able to retain it, the wound will heal in good time. For internal injuries Samrak has to be prepared with butter and administered. He lifted the cap he was wearing for protection from the cold and revealed neatly combed back dark black hair interspersed with a few strands of grey. He pointed to the shock of grey that stood proudly atop my head and said that a few years back his hair too was as grey. Then he started using a preparation of ‘Rattan Jyoth’, a root (understand the Dabur Navrattan Oil has the same ingredient, but in diluted quantity). The root is kept immersed in mustard oil for two days and left in the sun. The oil becomes darker than blood in the process. Using this oil for a few months forced the greys to give way to jet black hair. He assured a complete transformation even for me!
These and many other pieces of conversation occupied the walk and we reached the camping site of the Kinnaur Geo Tourism. It is located in an orchard of apples, walnuts, apricot and has numerous varieties of flowers and many poplar trees. The site offers unmatched views of the Kinner Kailash and has tents and huts – the huts are plastered with mud to keep it warm inside. The canteen provides food and hot beverages to suit the campers’ requirement. The remarks of the visitors in the register provide an insight into how well they are taken care of. Repeat customers are testimony to the hospitality of the local management; many entries mention Prakash and Harish by name. There is a small plot within the camping site which is regarded as the original seat of the Kothi Mata before She was relocated to the Temple in Kothi. A slab of granite in the plot is almost in direct alignment to the ‘Shivalingam’ on the Kinner Kailash. It is said that Lord Shiva comes to live in Kothi for three months of the year between November and February – so strong are local beliefs. While having a cup of tea in the camping site Prakash picked up a small runner beside him and asked me smell it. The smell was so strong, a combination of Vicks and mint. He said tea made from brewing the leaves of the runner will sort out any issues with indigestion! Prakash also narrated how he was ‘converted’ from a no-gooder who was addicted to liquor and had forsaken his family to what he is today. He believes that it is a vision he had one night of Lord Shiva that changed him for the better.
Time had gone by so quickly without any realization of it. Promising to stay in touch with this remarkable person from whom I had learnt such a lot of insight into the local life I left for the bus stand to explore options of leaving Kalpa. Prakash asked me to check out the options of taking the Delhi and Chandigarh buses, if Delhi was my destination. It sounded logical. However, the timings of the buses and the number of hours I would have to stay contorted inside the bus made me stick to the original plan to go to Shimla. I then caught up with my contact in Peo and had lunch with him. He also presented me with a bottle of the apricot distillate.
It was time for packing the bags for the early morning trip to Shimla tomorrow. I had this on my mind as I reached the CH. But the interplay of the sun and the clouds on the snow clad mountains was too tempting to ignore and go indoors. I noticed two elderly gentlemen sitting on chairs outside the CH and enjoying the sights. It turned out that they were two retired government employees, septuagenarians both, one Wing Cmdr (Retd.) AK Singh of the Indian Air Force from Lucknow and the other CP Singh a senior scientist formerly with CSIR from Benaras. We quickly became friends; the common thread of retired employees travelling alone probably was the spark. Later in the night, before dinner, we had a session together when we partook of the apricot vodka laced with some savories. While the apricot distillate was the reason for the session, deep philosophical discussions over shadowed all else. It was a time for sharing fears and feelings and trying to find meanings to them. We also shared our experiences of our travels; I also presented them a copy of my book. After dinner the goodbyes were said with the expectation that we would keep in touch. However, as I mentioned earlier what seized me at the moment was the question, “will we ever meet again?” I try and recover from such sad seizures by thanking God for the opportunity He gave me to meet such wonderful people. Interactions of such kind give you opportunities to learn, remain humble and incrementally grow as a human being.