His prematurely grey hair had hardened with the harsh cold winds he faced for the last forty five summers. His left eye had a patch of white and his face was full of wrinkles telling tales of people and places no one else had seen A large stud on one of his ears stood out as he put on a genuine but wry smile for the camera.
She had something different in her. A glimmer of home and the fire of determination. She was ready to take on the powers that be and achieve milestones she has set for herself. Her smile infectious and she projects the picture of the woman that’s ready to arrive.
His was a demeanor seen only in men who have fought through the difficult times and lived to tell the tale. He stood there knowing exactly what needs to be said unlike the rest of us who are still trying to find our feet in the neck deep cold water. His voice was booming, his tone polite. He gave out the message louder and clearer than ten of us together could’ve managed.
Vignettes such as these have been as much a part of my time in Arunachal Pradesh as the magical mountains that envelop much of the area. Often the two come together and bring me face to face with a parallel reality I’ve never known or experienced. I’ve come to see a life I completely missed when I was traveling. A life that is so mesmerizingly beautiful and incredibly hard, it makes wonder.
Should I really be here?
But first things first.
Arunachal is a magical place. It is unlike any of the other Himalayan areas I’ve been to. When God started working with Arunachal, he was left with only one colour – green. So he splashed the entire place with all the shades of green he could lay his hands on. And when it rains, the place becomes resplendent with vigour and freshness. This place is as different from Nubra or Spiti as chalk and cheese. These mountains are alive.
Weather is very finicky here. It can turn from nice and sunny to super wet and cold in minutes and without warning. Fog tends to envelop entire mountain ranges even on the best of days. And all this rain on rather young, and therefore unstable, mountains mean landslides terrifyingly treacherous roads than elsewhere. Which also means that this in a way is a way more exciting place to ride than the mountains in, say, Ladakh or Himachal. I’ve got to come back here on a bike. That’s for sure.
…to be continued.