Driving through the barren mountains of Ladakh, we took a diversion off the highway to enter a valley. It was gorgeous, a stream cut through the valley with huge mountains on both sides and the further we went in, the more wild it looked! About an hour later, we came to a halt. With our backpacks strapped firmly to our backs we walked on the track for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile we came across a house or two and very old monastery.
We set up camp next to the fields, between the mountains. There was an old house which housed the cattle and a new building next to it. There wasn’t any other building in sight apart from the old monastery in the far distance. Wanting to see a typical Ladakhi home, we invited ourselves into the house next to the campsite.
A young lady with bright red hair showed us in. Inside the earthen house, an old lady sat by the kitchen. A wooden rack on the wall behind them housed beautiful arrays of traditional tea cups. There were two small kittens running around the women. I asked the red haired woman if she dyed her hair, she replied only with a smile. They could understand very little hindi and we knew none of Ladakhi. We communicated through one of our guides. The table nearby had a photo of a young man in army uniform. He was the brother and these two women stayed in this remote corner all by themselves. There wasn’t even another house nearby but the all pervading dish tv was present. It is from women like these that I derive courage whenever I am scared.
Meet Sri Angchuk and her daughter Kunsung.
They live in Shang, one of the remote corners of Ladakh.
It was a nice and sunny evening. The sunlight was like what you could call the golden light. Everything looks pretty in that light. It was a very pretty hamlet and the houses even prettier with the most colorful windows. There outside one such house, through the fence, I saw a cute little girl’s face.
“@#!!!!$&&****” What the hell just happened?!! *Thinking to myself*
All I could hear were the loud cries of the little girl who was barely an year old or two. Clutching her face in her cute little tiny hands, she was crying uncontrollably. I was at a complete loss of words while the three men sitting on the opposite side of the road were laughing uncontrollably.
You should’ve seen the lost look on my face to have a good laugh. Out of all that loud crying at last she uttered a word – “photo” “boooooooohoooooo” “photo”. Only then I understood the girl was so terribly upset because I took her photo. I took the photo from quite a far distance and she was just a speck in that frame and yet she managed to understand she was captured. Kids have become quite smart these days I tell you.
Anyway, the kid hasn’t stopped crying yet and she is crying at the top of her voice. I was worried about the events that would follow. Will her dad come and scold me for taking a photo? Will her mom come out and yell at me? Or maybe both of them will come at shout at me! Worried, I tried going near the girl to show her photo but she cried more.
Meanwhile her dad and little sister came out running hearing all the ruckus. The three men who were laughing explained the situation to him and calmly he took the kid in his arms and was comforting her. Since he didn’t say anything to me, I dared to go to them and tried talking to the little girl. I tried showing her photo so she wouldn’t be afraid but she refused to even look at me. I talked to her dad and her sister while the little girl calmed down. I asked him if it is okay if I take the photo of three of them, maybe then she wouldn’t be afraid and he obliged.
She finally calmed down and looked at the camera. I don’t think she still liked being photographed. But it was a very interesting encounter. I thanked the man and left. The memory still brings a smile to my face whenever I think about it.
Meet Tenzing, the little girl to the right who hates to have her photo taken without her permission.
They live high up in the mountains in a place called Dhankar, Himachal Pradesh, India.
P.S – Tenzing could be a boy too. I forgot to confirm the gender amidst all that crying!