The homesickness is getting real in Kaza. This is the second day in a row that I have woken up with the thought of going back. To Delhi. The crowded noisy capital with its big trees and wide roads. The love for plains and its people is calling out quite loudly to me. The barren silence of Spiti getting to me.
Then I pulled myself up and drew the curtains aside in my room with a view at Spiti Heritage in New Kaza.
I would go back but I need more stories. So I hope the road carries me forward. And I make a mental note of going to Kolkata after this to soak in its busy streets smoked with the smell of tele bhaja. Aah. Home, even when it’s not. I won’t feel homesick there. It has network, humidity and fish. Ingredients so difficult to find in these parts of the Himachal.
The obnoxious man is in the Kaza bus stand, selling a stock of China made rubber shoes, cheap rip offs of Crocs. He’s from Panipat and says he runs a khaadi manufacturing unit that supplies blankets and bed sheets to Indian railways besides making jackets for DTC. There was the logo alright, but jackets for DTC is something I don’t quite relate to. I’ve never seen anyone wear these. Does he make it for the driver and conductors? I don’t know. His name is Deepak Verma.
I saw the firangi version of Suveer Dhyani today. Standing in awkward confidence near the unpredictable SBI ATM at Kaza. Wearing clothes a size too small for his size.
Today I leave for Khibber. The bus starts at 4.30 in the evening. It’s 3.40 p.m. I’ve secured the first seat of the bus to Khibber. The solo seat next to the driver. The ticket cost Rs. 30 and I’m yet to buy it. The bus is in shambles. There’s a metal box right at the entrance, beneath it a thick layer of grease. Shattered glass adds some shiny contrast to the black grease base. I don’t think this bus has been cleaned in the longest time. This same bus returns to Kaza at 8.30 in the morning the next day with all those who must wake up and have an early breakfast before they head to Kaza.
The Kaza bus stand is an eventful place. It’s as though the entire town is powered from this center. Every walk leads to this crowded platform. Almost everyone is walking towards the bus stand. There are relatives coming to see off those who are going away, there are those who are coming to pick up goods that have made their way from different parts of Spiti to reach them on the clattering buses. And there are those who are waiting to go away to where they belong, away from Kaza – the neuro center of Spiti Valley with its fickle electricity connection, occasional wifi and markets selling glass products. Glass is big here. Dare you to leave glass paned windows open in windy Kaza as you go away for a walk. You are bound to hear a polite request to not do that ever again, as glass is costly and difficult to source.
The Kaza bus stand is also where you find the most entertainment. There’s a girl of about 11, who is in charge of that. She’s a constant performer, even when she isn’t performing. Yesterday I spotted her, unwittingly, beneath a black shroud and squatting on the ground; swinging a bruised and bald doll head. A black lump with a scary, inanimate, doll head. Two worn out slippers by her side. A green stool behind her with a deflated stuffed tiger. Collecting money in the name of worship. Much like the Saturday paganism that’s commonplace in Delhi with kids roaming the street with aluminium cans lined with sarson ka tel asking for contribution to placate shani devta.
Today as I wait for the Khibber bus to start, she’s dancing with her partner. They are the jhamooras. There’s an ustaad too near a table which holds the stereo playing hit Hindi songs to which these two dance. After the show is over, and enough money has been collected, they head to that non-descript tea shop I had discovered the other day and walk about its entrance sipping tea. High with confidence that public performance brings. She, particularly, owns the place and the show.
The girl has gone back to her somewhat dirty white pup. She had been mollycoddling it for quite some time before the performance began. Flinging it on to her shoulders, holding one paw. Then the other paw goes around her neck. Like a baby that hugs its mother’s neck. I’m marveling at the strength of that pup’s arms. I thought it would rip off but it didn’t. Then she sourced a paper plate and poured out some water for the pup. It refused to drink it so she pushed its head into the water plate. Reminds me of Tuco from Breaking Bad.