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Malana – A trip to the forbidden village
Do you know that up there in Himachal Pradesh there is a village whose inhabitants are extremely orthodox and believe that they are direct descendants of Alexandar the Great?
What? Get out of here!
My friend told me this knowing that I come from Macedonia, the ancient empire of the world’s greatest conqueror though which is merely a handful of mountains today.
The name of the location is Malana.
I had to go there. I had to see this people. I needed to see their land, their hair, their eyes. I needed to touch them.
I had no idea that touching them will be out of question. Literally.
It is been 2 years since I got this piece of information from him. It took me another 2 years to finally put this place onto my travel map. Being happily married with my Indian startup does not leave to much space for roaming around.
The day has come. We made a small band of 3 people – myself, Sanchit my co-founder and the evil giver of the idea.
We hopped onto a bus to Chandigarh. It was a familiar sight reaching to Sector 43 Chandigarh and witness the cheerful bulky faces of Punjabi sardaars behind the open ticket counters, surrounded by crowds of travelers.
This time it took us merely 30 minutes to get the ticket.
Next station – Kullu, on the way to Manali. From there we will get a local bus to Kasol, spent the night there and get a private vehicle to the point. As soon as the bus dropped us, we were greeted by a heavy mountain rain and pristine fresh air that makes you cry out of joy. That same air opened our appetite and made us rush to the local market where we relished the mixed Tibeto-Indian cousin. Little did I know that at the same time next day I will have to rush but for a different reason.
Three hours later. We have reached to Kasol.
Aah. Kasol. You must be thinking what I am thinking.
The nature around captivated me completely. Clouds hanging above the hills as if just descended from the realms of Indra. Small refreshment, a sumptuous dinner a smoke provided by our new friend whom we met in the bus few hours ago.. And a small stomach pain which I attributed to the change of climate. Next day we were almost jumping on the thought of starting the trek that will take us to the mysterious Malana.
Well all of them but me. My stomach pain heralded a diarrhea which only turned worse as the hours went by. Yes. Diarrhea. Go on, laugh at me. The half ton of Tibetan noodles I had last night mixed with momos and dzalebi took an unexpected twist inside me. A private taxi driver took us to the spot where the trek begins. A challenging 3 hours climbing waved above us. Malana lies on the other side of the mountain. Wild and untamed. Isolated. Precious.
The trek took us to dense forest and soon opened itself to lush hilltop valley where local Himachalis catered their herds and collected plants and roots. Their small sparkling eyes resembled a coin dropped in a wishing well by a young bride praying for good husband.
Up there. Just a little bit longer. After the round, Malana will be there.
My diarrhea showed no sings of stopping. I was left with practically no fluids inside me. However months of yoga practice endowed me with extra resilience. Let’s see for how long. Green pastures were soon replaced with snow hills. Sanchit, my co-founder was mind blown. This Banarasi babu was seeing snow for first time in his life.
Muddy road and and a hill slope featuring the littering ground of Malana was the first panorama we beheld from the ancient village. For the past few kilometers a local was kind enough to give us company and give us a crash course of do’s and dont’s of Malana.
- You do not touch a person
- You do not touch a person’s property and walls.
- You certainly do not touch the temple or enter inside it.
His words soon materialized. The locals of Malana were jubilant in seeing our small band though not utterly surprised. Some travelers find there way to the village, mostly hippies from abroad.
A local was soon kind enough to grace us with “the stuff” in hope that this act of his will make us ask for more. He left the tiny chunk on the ground for us to pick it up. No physical contact.
For obvious reasons, guests to Malana were hosted in extremely minimalist hostels above the village. Electricity was irregular. Almost no amenities. Melting snow across the narrow pathways. Divine looking Himalayas all around us. This is far more than we expected.
We took a short rest, and decided to proceed towards a nearby hill where few abandoned cottages rested, completely abandoned. My strength was fading away. However I persisted. Every now and then I did few asana stretches to massage my digestion system and stimulate it’s healing.
However no physical discomfort could prevent us from achieving almost an out of the body experience of walking the isolated hill above the village and the waterfall which popped out of nowhere. Was this an astral projection or a reality? Were we dreaming now or before?
We stopped there and just laid our bodies on the grass. A welcoming moment for my suffering condition.
A sudden drizzle forced us to mobilize and proceed back towards the village while the rose colored sunset pierced its grace through the evening clouds far on the West. As soon as we reached, my mind started taking the better out of me. My diarrhea did not stop so far, though I was fortunate to be able to climb a 4 km mountain and trek another 6 km around Malana.
What if it gets worse? We are far from a medical shop. How long can I persevere in this condition and no food intake? The hygiene of the hostels was worse than the average a person could hope for. Clouds descended on top of the village and the drizzle continued. The area became almost mournful and dark. This further added to my mental distress.
Eventually I decided to surrender. My yoga will either take care of me or not. She has contains the recipe to my well being. See, I enjoy a very deep and intimate connection with this discipline. Yoga endowed me with health I have never experienced before. It has helped me discover depths of my mind I was unaware of. I see it as a mother personified, as a most intimate friend. This is the hour to prove my faith to my personal god and maintain a strong faith.
With such thoughts I sank into a deep sleep. I did pray that I won’t have to wake up in the middle of the night in a pitch dark and deep snows surrounding the old wooden stars and further lose my liquids.
I woke up next morning after heavy and dreamless sleep of 12 hours.
Freshness and well being surrounded me. I went outside and took the deepest breath of mountain air I can. A white peek from the last night’s rain turned into snow, blinded me. It was one of the most beautiful sights in my live. Was that Shiva, the ultimate yogi staring at me with his tapasvic gaze?
My stomach was well and calm. I thanked my inner guardian by performing few light asanas and Surya Namaskar. Invigorating energy flocked inside me. I was OK.
A warm breakfast awaited us. I kept to restrain myself from spicy food choosing only pancake and lots of soup to re-hydrate. The place was jolly with locals and few tourists gathered together, taking heavenly puffs. Children were rejoicing the fresh and sunny morning of Malana.
We made another run to the upper hill and the waterfall. This time I was practically running up on the trail light and healthy. Full of gratitude.
Surge of unknown devotion towards Mother Nature lurked inside me on the repeated sight of the waterfall. My lips uttered prayer without my consent.
We came back and spent few more hours in rest and contemplation on the drama unfolding around us. Half literate people, strong, with deep lungs and eternal smile. Children barely educated but happy nevertheless. And elder transmitting an eye salutation to another elder reminding him of the good old days of their youth.
A place so far away from pollution, from civilization, from the trivialities that suck out the live force of the common man. I do not know if the legend is true. I had no chance to look at their physical features. My gaze got stuck examining their hearts instead.
I meditated upon the innocent happiness of this simple tribe. Me, a mere untouchable.
I still do.
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