India, North, Slice of Life, Spiti

Faces of Spiti

Just like the essence of this land, its people embody the joy and resilience, core to life.

Tsering (right) and Yangkit (left) work the fields against the backdrop of gorgeous snow-capped mountains. The day in these villages start early with milking the cows, cooking, working the fields, and returning to household chores again, including caring for the livestock.
Tsering was also helping around at our homestay in the early and late hours of the day. People here are hardworking to a fault and yet maintain that brilliant smile!

For a good half hour he sportingly stood/sat for us in this kitchen so we could get a good image. Talked about his life in the monastery, his duties and responsibilities, and laughed all through. Later Papak invited us to his home which was newly constructed and still getting furnished, offered us tea and showed what open hearted hospitality truly means.

At break time when other novice monks ran around the compound playing games, these three were always together, just either walking with hands on each others shoulders or hanging out by the wall.

The northern mountains are for the strong willed. You come face-to-face with resilience in every walk of life. Despite her age, this woman was walking past the fields, most likely on her way to work on them, seeing as she was carrying all the necessary equipment along with the prayer beads that her hands didn’t stop at, even as she spoke to us and obliged us with a photo-op.

She was the only child not interested in making a trade but in satiating her curiosity about the cameras we were carrying, where other children were running amok trying to sell a handful of fossils collected from the nearby forests. When the shutter was released she gave the most photogenic look I have seen.

He led the afternoon prayers and chanting as the monastery’s head in a typical gruff Tibetan voice and yet, later he spoke in one of the kindest voices I have heard. Where most monks were happy to stand in for portraits, he declined to be photographed. When I saw him coming through this doorway, it seemed like too good an opportunity to pass – of course he noticed, smiled slightly, and nodded gently as he passed me by.

With the traditional garb from the closet, also came tumbling out stories of his childhood as he recounted the days when his elders used to walk all the way to the big city for work during summer months. Angchuk’s eyes have seen a lifetime of joys and a fraction of history.

Since the time we met him, and all through the hours of talking with us about his life, his hand never stopped rotating the prayer wheel.
Later in the evening while returning from the fields we came across another old man sitting outside a house in regular clothes and requested if we could take his picture. A familiar voice smiled and replied “you just did for an hour, but sure”.
Without the yak wool coat and fox fur hat, he looked like a completely different person 😊

After an hour long prayer session, the happiness and peace was pretty evident on this monk’s face. He was the most enthusiastic and smiled through his eyes!

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