Friday 30 July 2010
Morning in paradise. The sun shines from 6 am onwards. Sitting in the garden on the handkerchief of grass allocated for the compact dining table, the sky is all around one. You feel you are living in the sky! The blue is different to the colour it is in Islay. This is because the air is drier and the light is not refracted so often before it reaches the eyes. Also, one is closer to the outer atmosphere up here. It feels very strong and secure. The mountains fill your vision, but the enormous, open aspect of piercingly clear blue sky expands your heart and mind.
Breakfast is homemade individual, round flat bread with homemade apricot jam and homemade unsalted butter. Mint tea for me and salt butter tea for Ama-Le and other hardy souls.
This afternoon I explored Leh town itself. There is an old town area and a new town area. The old town has narrow, winding medieval streets lined with old, mud brick buildings. The buildings comprise one room open to the street with old, wooden shutters forming the wall to the street. The wood is old and green and the planks are splintered and rounded at the ends.
The shops are silversmiths or metal smiths, cheese and curd makers. Dusty rooms with red and brown and dark blue striped folded wool blankets. There are also rooms containing raw, skinny carcasses with flies buzzing around. A single old man sits in each room working at making curds in a large, shallow metal basin, or stitching something or talking to his friends. There are many shops selling metal work items. The traditional Ladakhi house cooker is a magnificent, enormous oblong L shaped metal stove with an area for a fire and a bit for a stove pipe. The more expensive ones have intricate metal designs welded on the walls of the stove. If the stove is a dark colour the designs are in silver and gold metal. I think traditionally the Ladakhi people exhibited their wealth by their kitchen utensils. An old fashoined Ladakhi home will have dozens of different sized silver basins. Some the size of a soup bowl, some large enough to bathe in! The first time I saw the kitchen of my family in TackmaChik I thought they did catering for weddings! But it was just Stanzin's own kitchen utensils. They also have copper bowls, and many brass and gold coloured goblets which are filled with apricot oil and used as lamps on the alter, which is in every home.
That evening, outside in the garden of green villa, I had a yoga lesson from Baljit Singh. Baljit is a tour guide - and a classical guitarist! He has a battered old guitar with the varnish worn off the fretts from continuous playing, and he is GREAT at playing it. His tour company takes people to places where they can reconnect with the natural world and remember what it feels like to be whole and at peace. Which is all very well until disaster stikes! There was not much peace or tranquility ahead for Ladakh over the next few weeks, but that evening we were blissfully unaware of this.
Link for Baljit's travel company. (Just now the pound is roughly equal to 70 rupees.