Tuesday, February 23, 2010

across the mountain

first day was very exciting.....we planned to travel from kolang to leh on motorbikes...the very idea of this adventurous trip was exciting us..idea came to me. ..on one fine sunday sipping hot tea at ga tashi's dhaba ..we have a small but dependable group of friends for such ideas to emerge freely.our group is not bound by common age factor but by common interest.so..proposal was immediatly voted upon and passed.dates were fixed...a couple of liquor meetings to check the preparations ..and we were ready.i had this desire to travel to ladakh and spiti since the time i was appointed here ...two great places to visit being a lahuli and a buddhist.so ....one of my dream was coming true.there is some "thing" about these places that seems attractive to me..a mystic attraction.so my idea of this journey is not that of a tourist..visiting a new place with amusement and wonder,i wanted to discover myself...the source of my mystic attraction,a desperate attempt of an uprooted buddhist to search his religion or whatever that was present there .on the fixed date..the dependable bunch of people began on their journey..across the mountain...or we can say across the chain of mountains..beyond pir panjal and zansker ranges..a true greaterhimalayan journey. crossing baralacha we had tea at bharatpur(as they call it)and by night reached sarchu.a warm welcome with butter tea awaited us there.it was a dhaba run by two ladakhi ladies..a mother and a daughter..who spoke only bhoti language.my friend tanzin who belonged to jispa came to our rescue and interpreted for us.this also gave him the exclusive privilege to talk to that beautiful girl .for the first time i felt sorry for not knowing a language.we rented a nice cozy tent for the night.
we had to start early next morning.it was a long journey from sarchu to choglamsar where we concluded the day.i cannot forget that day of my life.great passes,majestic peaks,wonderful valleys,and a bunch of cheerful bikers.crossing tanglangla ... one of the highest motorable road..i was thinking of the people who first built road on this in inaccessible pass. but driving on pang grounds ...was by far the most memorable moment of the day.it was breathtaking...a bikers paradise..for the first time i realized what a high ground or plateau is.there can be a vast,unbelievable plain area on a mountain...amazingly unreal .
after satisfying all our biking fantasies we entered ladakh ,the spiritual land.a night's rest and we were back in business.visiting monasteries , meeting common people and monks..taking pictures.people of ladakh are truly professional in their business.leh looks like a paradise built in desert.the feeling comes when we go just few kilometers outside the city.the scene changes in minutes.few minutes ago you were in a busy shopping mall..and now you are walking in a deserted area where no chances of civilization is possible.they are using uplifted river water for most of their needs and that too with remarkable efficiency.i never found a shortage of water in four days of my stay.
ladakhi people sell every possible thing related to buddhism.they have preserved everything including their culture,tradition,history and religion.now they are offering all these items on a single plate with some beautiful garnishing on top.i witnessed a great example of commercialization of religion.they have many things to offer to a tourist...spiritual tours..museums..antiques and markets.i remember an interesting incident.in a gompa..i saw a bunch of foreigners surrounding a tourist guide...they were asking him the meaning of a complex thanka painting.the explanation of the guide revealed that he doesn't know much about any of those paintings.but he kept on explaining...and at that moment,for the first time i felt really disappointed about the whole matter.i felt the futility of the whole exercise.what were we presenting to the whole world...our religion??and if the answer is yes ,are we presenting it properly?what am i searching for??i came here for some answers.but this shining tour package concept of buddhism is beyond my comprehension.
after three days of hectic site seeing,we started our return journey.the early excitement of the tour was absent.i remember a large hoarding outside the town saying"spiritual leh".driving away from the town..different thoughts were striking me..ladakh is the mirror of buddhism to the outer world..people come here and return with enlightened ideas of the religion.then why am i returning empty handed?the grandness of this religion didn't attracted me to the extent that i've earlier estimated.
i have studied life and teachings of buddha in early stages of my life.for all my life,i find it familiar and close to my heart.but this travel didn't took me any closer to him.the grand presentation of ladakh was not familiar to me.this form of buddhism was stranger for me.it lacked a deep effect.though i had learnt a lot of new things...but at the end of the day...i came here for some answers and all i had was ...more questions.