It was a cold, rainy day when we set off yesterday towards Rohtang to visit a village with the promise of a beautiful view and homemade rice wine in a quaint little wooden house tucked up in the clouds. Our holistic fitness trainer for the crew, Abhishek, wanted us to get an experience of a world still protected from modernity on our first day off shoot. So we went.
Abhishek, Fiona, Mehera, Deepika (Padukone), Adithya, Ranbir (Kapoor) and myself, a bunch of urban junkies in branded jackets and sunglasses, stepping into the pure habitat of a people perfectly one with the land. The journey began with skepticism, all of us tired from the previous day, and not particularly happy about the drops of rain on our heads or the mud seeping through our shoes.
We met Meherchand, the smiling 65-year-old man who was as local as one can get (he has never used an ATM and he has never been on a train!). Meherchand first took us up a steep hill to see the view, he hopped along and the rest of us tried to keep up as we crossed a stream, jumped some rocks and slipped through sludgy paths.
Eventually we reached the summit of our mini trek when we noticed that we were missing in number, we had started with seven people following Meherchand and ended up just five. We looked down the slope and 30 feet below was a sweet sight. Two fully-grown men, the same ones who diligently go to the gym everyday to build up their strength, were crouched in the mud, huddling together and making no move towards us.
From what I gathered later, Ranbir slipped, and Adithya mentioned the danger of climbing back down this treacherous little hill, which clearly could not be underestimated, and the two decided it would be wiser not to go up at all. But we won't dwell on the matter.
Eventually Abhishek, four ladies and an old man came back and helped our two heroes climb down to the village of Burua. Burua, though not as quaint as we had imagined it (people had cars and mobile phones), was still an experience worth the trek. Meherchand's family greeted us with warmth and hot lemon tea.
Outside the streams of Rohtang flowed past; it is the water they drink, the water that forms a natural gutter and the water that creates momentum to grind flour. Similarly, the food they eat is the same one they grow. The clothes they wear came from the wool of sheep they kept outside. If we wanted to learn about organic and sustainable living, we didn't need to look West; this was it. The ride back from the village was a thoughtful one. Life outside Bombay, Bollywood and Box Office did exist. And it was worth living.
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Tomorrow: Arjun Rampal