As you enter Spiti, you see life stripped to its bare minimum. The mountains are dry and sandy and devoid of vegetation. The villages, not more than ten houses, remain cut-off most of the year due to heavy snow. Electricity is available only after ten in the night. Wood is scarce, so is water. The quantity of rain in a year equals the amount we receive in a single day in any other part of the country.
You wonder, what made these people settle here in the first place? Why do they endure such a harsh life?
Upon a closer look, you realize that you are observing Spiti with the eyes of an outsider. As you travel more, things start to change.
“It’s not that we can’t afford the luxuries, we just don’t need them,” said a lady who runs a homestay at Langza.
Every village has a monastery, a school, a road, and people to accept strangers with an open heart.
“You don’t go to school?” I asked a kid at the Komic village.
“I do, but we’ve vacations,” he replied.
“Winters are harsh, and you’ve vacations in the summers. How many months are you supposed to go the school?” I asked again.
To this the kid replied, “We don’t have vacations in the winters.”
Later I came to know that the teachers are not local folks, but are appointed from the other parts of the state. In winters, they stay at the village itself.
During the day, most men and women can be found plucking peas, or mending fields for the potatoes which are known for their remedial effects and fetch high price in the market. A typical Spitian man’s day starts with a visit to the local monastery, then the fields, and then to retreat for a mug of Changg – local wine made out of barely.
“I love books,” a kid at Langza told me.
I asked him what more does he like.
“I love to watch TV, and I love to play with Kuzu, my yak,” he replied.
Life in Spiti is impossible without the yaks. They drink yak milk – they also make Gurgur Chai (tea) out of it, they use yaks to mend the fields, and when a yak dies, its skin is used to make clothes for the winters.
The conditions are harsh, but the people are kind. The essentials are few, but the people are content. When you leave Spiti, you are a different person than you were before you came here. Because, Spiti is a land of pure things: pure people, pure nature, and pure life. Should it remain the same, forever.