Leh, one of three
“I love you darling but not so fast”
6 of us, college mates decided to make a detour to Leh, from Bombay and Delhi. 2 of us actually made it. Joined by 3 more people, including blood, we decided these 8 days were going to be special, and disappointed we were not.
You can be guided by infinite maps towards Leh, but the places unexplored are the best ones, at least that was my opinion of it.
We got down to Manali, spend what seemed like an eternity looking for rolling paper there, and eventually got a beautiful car and an amazing driver, called Mukesh, to get us to Leh.
The beauty of Leh lies not in Leh, but in every single moment around it. To name a moment, let’s call it Jispa, specifically Jispa Journeys.
According to me, the vacation started at Jispa. Jispa is this place, around 100 kilometers from Manali, towards Leh. Essentially, it’s a collection of around 20 tents, parked proper and some even with a commode dug into the ground right beside your bed. Those are the expensive ones!
We started from Manali at four in the morning; don’t get me wrong, Leh is a no-nonsense trip. You don’t just drink and smoke your way into paradise, now do you?
We stopped for the night at eleven in the morning at Jispa, specifically Jispa Journeys.
There’s lush green grass all around, speckled with a few clusters of trees, the land slopes slightly and the tents are out of sight. Pretty flowers, blue, white and yellow, coloured in bright sunlight with a chilled breeze swaying only the loose leaves at the top. Pitch quiet, the only sound you can consistently hear is that of a brook a little further. A small stream flows prancing into the river right by where you sit under the tree, staring at the snow capped mountains so shockingly close, it literally terrifies you.
That is Jispa, specifically Jispa Journeys.
Sethji was busy with his SLR, making sure we didn’t miss the flowers and the birds, while Varun, my brother, Pappu and me sat comfortably on rounded stones as we made ourselves appreciable glasses of neat bourbon and one of those wonderful paper rolls filled with tobacco and more.
Surrounded by peace and fear, all of us after one of the most memorable afternoons of our life, walked back to what existed of civilization and had a hearty meal and a hearty nap, good dinner and good sleep; leaving again at four thirty the next morning to witness the magic of Mukesh.
“Don’t gossip, let him drive”
I was out of stuff and needed some, madly. Although I’m an addict, a place like Leh did bring out the best in me. Mukesh told me that I could have as much as I wanted, but couldn’t purchase any, which filled me with enthusiasm and despair simultaneously as I thought of the code.
Every driver, and I mean every one, carries a miniscule amount of stuff with him, enough for a couple of J’s; no more, no less. They share without prohibition, laughter too, and are amongst the most insane drivers I have ever seen. The way Mukesh pulled us out of the muck at Rohtangla, I’ll remember that piece of driving. You can’t buy stuff though or that was what Mukesh made me believe, until we got to Bharatpur.
Bharatpur was our scheduled stop, next morning and we did follow schedule. A collection of half the tents, on the highway itself, the café and hotel greeted us with a bottle of Old Monk, Fake Green label and Original Thunderbolt on the counter. I obliged with a small shot of rum; Ankan and Amarendra obliged the mattresses, blankets and cushions, Paps and Varun, the maggi, eggs and the hot coffee.
Nothing gives a person a better kick than morning rituals surrounded by a talkative wind, though Mukesh had a surprise all in store, half a T for a fraction of the price, the road which followed never seemed more pleasant.
Mori plains as they came, the uncounted waterfalls and the beautiful music surrounded, at six in the evening that same day, we reached what would turn out to be the place I’d never wanna leave.