Yesterday, I was frantically looking for the videos I got from the Bengaluru Improv Festival (stupid phone! I would throw it this instance if I could afford another expensive phone), when I accidentally came across this photograph and remembered the story that I have been meaning to share for over a year now.
A quick context though:
Chanshal pass is literally a strip of land /road that connects the barely known villages of Dodra and Kwar to the rest of Himachal Pradesh. About 3 kms before the pass is a dhaba run by two brothers, Harry and Hemu, they also run a camping site on the opposite side of the road where you can pitch your own tent.
End of 2016, Chetan and I decide to go the remotest parts of Himachal, well at least the ones where a vehicle can reach. We zeroed down on Dodra and Kwar. The plan was to take a bus from Delhi to Rohru, stay a night there, and take an early morning bus to Dodra. But while passing through Chanshal, on a whim, we decided to camp there for a few days before going ahead and so pitched our tents (actually Chetan did, I was busy chasing sheep and butterflies. Travellers tip: don’t chase sheep if you don’t like to be chased back, cos they will).
Anyway, so here goes the story:
One morning, Chetan decided to go for a walk with Harry, while I decided to stay back and work on the story I was writing at that time. I was sitting on a rock opposite the dhaba, and Hemu kept me company and made amazing masala chai for us. While we were chatting away, a truck stopped at the dhaba and two guys got off. Nothing unusual to happen at a dhaba. They had their tea and started to leave. As soon as they got in their truck Hemu asked me if I was okay for him to go inside because he had a huge pile of utensils to wash. I was more than okay with that since I still hadn’t started working on my story, which I immediately got lost in.
However, 2 minutes later, Hemu ran out, yelling something in the local language. I looked up to see what’s the fuss about, and I saw the truck driver and his friend had parked the truck and loitering around for no reason a few metres from where I was sitting. I hadn’t noticed but Hemu did. He repeatedly asked them to leave (I am guessing, since they were rapidly getting agitated). But Hemu stood his ground, quite literally too, he stood between those men and me till they reluctantly decided to leave. Hemu turned to me and asked if I was okay to sit inside the dhaba till he was done washing the utensils. I asked why (I knew why, of course), he looked at me in disbelief that I would even ask this but without skipping a beat he said he was scared of the rabid dog (a story of another time)and was wondering if I could keep him safe. We both looked at each other and laughed.
That same night, he would turn away a bunch of customers because I was sitting in the dhaba to keep safe from the cold and he didn’t want a bunch of drunk men around.
In the world of blatant objectification, casual sexism or worse outright harm a lot of men cause, I am thankful to God that I met few men who are gentlemen in a true sense and Hemu is quite high on that list.
In the pic below, Hemu picked and brought us a few mountain flowers, including Nesar that smells like heaven.