Wednesday 17 October 2012

The Summer Ecstasy

Aditya Sharma, Gold Award Participant, Scindia School, Gwalior shared his experiences.

What could possibly have been the best part of anyone’s summer: a family vacation, loads of gifts out of you good score’s, you latest acquisition of something different and so on and so forth. But what could possibly have been my worst nightmare – sweating out in the sun working for 15 days – turned out to be some of the best memories of this video reel of my life.  Welcome to Spiti 2012!

Set in the lower Himalayas, Spiti is unlike normal places in the valleys. It is a different world all together concealed in the Kaza Valley of Himachal Pradesh. Its flora and fauna and the serene atmosphere leaves everyone spell bound. But what a group of 25 youngsters from Delhi were expecting this place to be, is a different story in itself.

We began this trip on the 9th of June, ascending towards higher altitude (Shimla) on a Himachal Pradesh tourism bus. Reaching Shimla was just 20 per cent of the journey we had set ourselves on. From here, we began a super exciting , fun filled road trip to Spiti. A road trip that took us 3 days to reach Spiti! Interestingly, I had never heard or even imagined a place to be taking this much time to reach. I remember googling the distance between Shimla and Spiti and had expected a 3 digit, but how and when this 3 digits of a distance turned into 3 days of back aching yet thrilling and amazing journey was quite a new surprise to we the denizens of ‘the land of skyscrapers’.

What had brought us to Spiti was basically the 2nd Gold Solar Project, a residential and adventure project for the IAYP Gold Award. This year our project was to build a solar bath for the Kee Monastery which would serve the needs of nearly 300 monks. What excited me more was not the fact there were 300 monks but the fact that we were going live in a place that just looks like the palace in Kungfu Panda and plus it is about 1200 years old!  Yes, the Kee Monastery was our home for the next 15 days.

Work began the very next day of our arrival and we were divided into work groups to ease out purpose and the project deadline. The solar bath room was about 10 feet higher from the ground level. So groups were accordingly divided to construct the path to the room, mix sand to build sand blocks for the walls, dig up a tank to collect used water and a tractor group which went on an adventurous bumpy ride to collect sand for construction purpose. The next few days were of extensive work with loads of fun in the evenings. Having a variety in age group and nationalities, it was interesting to know about their culture and value systems over after dinner talks with a cup of coffee in hand. We also had the experience of using the kitchen to cook food for nearly 30 people. 25 Master chefs from all over the world were split into groups of two for this duty. The Scindians did have an edge over the others in matters related to the kitchen, and of course the labour work!

Soon after a week’s work we went off for a trek. Over the next three days we were on foot, walking across mountains from village to village. 25 of us were the typical nomads with a pair of clothes, a bottle, a lunch box and the nature to make full use of for other purposes. I fondly remember this incident, where a few of us who were left behind on the route, were just about to reach out last destination in the trek. Our tired faces light up with joy when it started snowing. The entire feeling of tiredness was just gone. With snowflakes in hand and the cattle around us looking for shelter, everything around us felt magical. It was a picturesque moment. Every village that we visited again had its own beauty. Some had big houses, small grounds and huge cattle, while some small houses, huge cattle and scenic beauty to die for. Every moment of the trek was to be remembered and cherished.

Being back at the Monastery, we completed the Solar bath with utter dignity and respect for labour. The feeling when monks and priests stood around us thrilled to see the new place in campus operate was of much high pleasure than anything in this world. We were felicitated with shawls and mementos.

But the best part of the trip still remains untold. It was when we were returning from Spiti. Nobody wanted to leave and surprisingly God had heard out prayers. We were on our way to Manali (this time taking a different route) when there occurred a landslide wherein there was a total roadblock to the only way in and way out of Manali. We camped up at a roadside dhaba and had an amazing time. It was a long talks and discussions with friends with Maggie and hot coffee.

Spiti has not just brought us close to nature and taught us the dignity of labour but has also shown us the other side of life and how people live in remote areas, with everything or nothing is limitation. It was the best part of my summer.

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