Sunday, October 05, 2008

Desolation in India

There is a quality of silence in lifeless desolation, where a sense of the primeval in nature makes one a part of this universe, rather than the center of it.

One of the biggest drawbacks of city life is the absence of absences. In a city, desolation is nowhere to be found, untrammeled beauty is impossible to imagine, and solitude becomes a retreat rather than an expanse.

 

In desolation, there is no noise, there are only sounds. And there is no dirt, only soil. In nature the colors always blend well, no matter how different or incongruous, ..., the jarring notes occur only in human habitations.

We just finished a marvelous trip to one of the most desolate regions in India: the Spiti Valley at the Indo-Tibetan border.

 

Starting from our home in Chandigarh, we traveled to Manali, and from there, we proceeded to the so-called headquarters of the Spiti region: the town of Kaza.

Our plans to explore the villages around Kaza came to naught because of the unseasonal snow which plunged the entire region into stasis. It took us ten days to finally leave Kaza and get back to Manali, and the many deaths of heedless trekkers and incidents of frostbite were sobering reminders of human limits.

 

But we did manage to visit Kibber, have a trek or two, and see the astonishingly situated monastery at Ki.

 

I have come to the conclusion that people who live in sparsely populated regions are gentler, kinder and happier. They have a quality which can only be called innocence. They still laugh at nothing, have smiles on their faces in the morning, and are generous despite their relative poverty. In the villages of Rajasthan, in the villages near the Great Basin National Park in US, and in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, innocence survives.

12 comments:

sunson said...

Nice post. Indeed, it is difficult for one to realize how desolated the universe is. Civilization is humanity's answer to tackling desolation, I guess.

Anonymous said...

In the villages of Rajasthan, in the villages near the Great Basin National Park in US, and in the mountains of Himachal Pradesh, innocence survives.

That leaves us with the question whether innocence is a good thing or bad. Is it equal to unconsciousness, unawareness or is it equal to a lack of fear and vigorous self pursuit?

harmanjit said...

"That leaves us with the question whether innocence is a good thing or bad. Is it equal to unconsciousness, unawareness or is it equal to a lack of fear and vigorous self pursuit?"

I think innocence appeals to us when we encounter it, so there must be something about it which is good.

As to what it is, it is all of the above you mention, in addition to a being a lack of guile, a transparency of expression, an inherent generosity, lack of self-centeredness and neuroses, not being easily hurt of offended, etc.

Anonymous said...

Perhaps its appeal lies in the fact that we feel secure in the presence of the innocent. Is it the absence of a challenge to the self?

This example suggests stongly that this is the case: a hare and a alligator are equally innocent, yet we would rather keep the alligator away from us since it threatens our own survival.

harmanjit said...

The absence of threat and of any challenge is certainly a comforting factor, but what is also appealing is the state of mind of the innocent because of its apparent simplicity, peace and happiness, which we all long for.

onlyne said...

The Rohtang area was like a laboratory of kudrat--nature seems to be in motion---the uprising and twirling clouds,the singing rivulets rushing down the steeps,the sculpture of rock and ice---as a friend a put it ,a symphony in fire and stone.....one realises the grandeur of existence......but ,ofcourse,the beauty is in the eye,happiness is in the heart... as a philosopher puts it, heaven and hell exist within the five foot frame...

Anand said...

Every village has its own innocence not "only" in the form of poverty. Indeed, Its their Hard Work which always pondering "Live with What you Have!" nature , which is lagging in the cities.. :(

Pramod said...

I felt this many a times,there is something truly erroneous about urban life.Urban citizens work for money and expect to buy most other things they need with that money.So it seems we work for a fictitious value provider, and I believe our engagement with this fictitious value provider leaves its mark on us.
http://openfreeworld.blogspot.com/2008/05/roys-experiments-with-life.html

Anurag said...

Harman,

Back in 1996, I think, DP, Jojo and I went on a backpacking trip to Lahaul area of the "other" side of Rohtang pass. Keylong was our final destination - we stayed there for a few days. We came back just before the snow blocked Rohtang pass.

Did you notice the marked difference in vegetation on either side of Rohtang pass?

My impressions of the region at the time were - difficult desolate terrain, beautiful scenery, very calm and gentle people leading a very, very hard life.

Is innocence a result of realization or acceptance that we are a part of something bigger (in this case, nature)? Does slow pace of life allow for keeping one's innocence? Both of these are rare, though not completely absent, in urban areas.

Harmanjit Singh said...

Hi Anurag, the journey was a memorable one and we did not go towards keylong but towards kunzum pass.

"Is innocence a result of realization or acceptance that we are a part of something bigger (in this case, nature)?"

I think the desolation has a way of taking one's mind away from the man-made world of stresses and career and relationships. It is like peering into the stars and realizing that one's worries seem so overwhelming but in essence there is great silence and peace in the world.

"Does slow pace of life allow for keeping one's innocence?"

It does lead to a less stressful life and given the lack of much stimulation, the implicit and unconscious enjoyment of the world and the universe (instead of, say, the conscious enjoyment of a tourist).

"Both of these are rare, though not completely absent, in urban areas."

You are right! But (my impression is): to find a calm and happy man in a big city is as much of an incongruity as to find a stressed and melancholic man in the mountains. Don't you think?

Swati said...

Awesome pics and scenery! How come you guys never shared these pics?

Di said...

yes..yes..there (in isolated places) the people live with "bhav"....Love in gujarati....

Good one.

:)