Karma and Soni from Pin village believe that their duty in this life is to help others. ‘People do not have time for the elders and the old people are lonely. We want to keep them busy and healthy. By staying together they have company of one another and do not feel lonely. We want to create a community of old people so that the young can learn from them and listen to their stories. They should not be forgotten or made to suffer during their old age, ’ says Soni.
In winter Soni and Karma take the elders from Pin valley to Rewalsar near Mandi where they are more comfortable.
In Rewalsar they keep themselves busy by taking koras of the lake and visiting the monastery. Soni and Karma rely on donations and you can meet them in Sagnam (Pin valley) to know more about their project. They are open to new ideas and welcome volunteers. They have plans to start a homestay to fund their project.
The enlightened monk
Lama Gobind has been living in different retreats in upper Kinnaur for over fifteen years spending about years years at a time in a retreat. Having studied in Chandigarh lama Gobind gave up the worldly life and went to his first retreat in Malling, near Nako.
Believed to be a reincarnated Tulku, he says, ‘When I see others I feel we are all the same – inside and outside. Because of my meditation people think I am special. Meditation has made me compassionate and when I touch/bless others I feel I am sharing my compassion.’ ‘In meditation there are many hurdles and these obstacles help us. It is possible for everyone to attain realization if we work at it’. ‘We talk about the mind but we cannot show the mind. For that we have to try the Dharma way. Millarepa way is of mantryanna – of mantras. It is very easy to say that god is like this or that. But to feel and experience god you need to practice meditation.’ ‘I have no connection with the body. I am not scared of death, this is a big achievement for me.’ ‘ If you control the mind then everything is possible’.
His mother says that at the time of his birth two or three lamas possibly from Ladakh came looking for a boy who was supposed to be the reincarnation of their guru. HOwever at that time there was a shortage of boys in their family she lied to the visiting lamas and said that no boy was born in her house.
Currently lama gobind lives in Pooh in Kinnaur
Helping the old and young
Norbu and Nawang are the driving force behind the Kachen Dugyal Memorial girl’s hostel and old age home in Spiti. From administration and funding, to the daily running of the project, Norbu and Nawang’s selfless work has positively impacted lives of girls within their community.
‘We hope our work inspires others to think about those who need our help’, says Nawang. The old age home takes care of the neglected and poor from the local community and the girls hostel provides an opportunity for girls to finish their high school who otherwise would not be able do so because of financial reasons. There are about forty elders staying in the old age home and between ten to fifteen girls every year who benefit from the hostel.
Michael joined the two in 2011 by teaching computers at the hostel. He brings in money from Canada from his family and friends and also puts in his own. Because of the scholarships that Michael provides the girls from Spiti get an opportunity to pursue college in Shimla and Kangra. He also employs them when needed for his archaeological work.
Michael and Norbu are also responsible for Spiti’s first museum. For the last 4 years both of them have been exploring Spiti for petroglyphs (rock art) which has helped local people better understand their own history. This project is funded from their own money and has broken lots of myths associated with the area.
You can meet the 3 of them at the Girls hostel in Kaza to understand more about their work.
The 100 year old nun
Evi Pomo has been living a solitary life in the cave at Gangchumik for more than 35 years. She moved to the cave after the death of her husband . In 2016 Evi was said to have turned 100 years. When her husband was alive she had a strong desire for spiritual practice though she continued performing her household duties. After the death of her husband Evi gave her land away to her family and to the villagers of Pooh , retaining only a fraction of it. Nuns from different nunneries take care of Evi and her needs. She spends most of her time in meditation and sometimes meets devotees as well.
Evi Pomo believes that by leading a solitary life the mind is drawn inwards and made quiet by the repetition of mantras while by living amongst people the mind is drawn outwards and towards materialistic things. In 2016 Evi’s health deteriorated and she now lives in Pooh village where the villagers take care of her.
Spiti reminds you to step back. Tells you to slow down. To hear your heart, feel the wind. So caught up are we with our daily routine that we are either dwelling about the past, anxious about the future or our agitated mind is trying to find excitement in new things.
In Spiti you won’t be stuck in traffic and there won’t be internet to waste time on Whats app. Like it or not you will be forced to slow down.
My travels in India and outside have convinced me that our core nature is to help others and be kind. In South America, South East Asia, East Africa and more recently in Iran, generosity was shown to me by complete strangers with nothing expected in return. In Spiti you’ll experience the same. Give yourself time, talk to strangers and you will see how people who have much less than you are ready to part with more than you will for a stranger.
When the Tibetan Guge kings came to Spiti around the 8th century, people living in this Trans Himalayan range were nomadic pastoralists. They understand the difficulty that outsiders and those travelling face in this harsh terrain. Despite tourism increasing every year in Spiti the attitude of the locals towards those visiting is extremely welcoming and hospitable. Having lived as nomads till not too long ago people here are understanding to the needs of outsiders and some are still surprised that people living in cities with the comforts that they do not have here can be so interested in their way of life.
Time spent in Spiti will inspire you to look at the goodness in life, in people and in yourself. You’ll find pleasure in small things and not just getting trashed on weekend. In Spiti you’ll find simplicity isn’t boring and life can be lead with joy without materialism.
Sunlight bathes us in far more energy than we could ever need—if we could just catch enough
Sustainability is a loosely used word. An advertising gimmick. You don’t need to live in California to utilize the power of the sun. Solar power is free, natural and cost saving. Generating up to 100% of our own clean electricity with solar is an investment that we had decided to make when we started Hotel Deyzor.
Karanbir and Skalzang from the beginning had decided to invest in harnessing the renewable elements of nature to provide an experience to their guests.
SOLAR PANELS FOR ELECTRICITY
Deyzor now is the only hotel in Spiti valley and probably amongst the handful in all of Himachal which runs entirely on solar power when regular government supply is disrupted.
If you’ve been to Spiti you would know 5 hours of uninterrupted electricity for a week is a luxury.
Our hotel now has installed a 1KW solar panel, 250ltr of solar water heater, solar cooker and a green house.
For us at Hotel Deyzor working towards sustainability was not only a commitment to the environment, but also a great economic choice. The solar panels convert sunlight directly into electricity by converting light particles into electrons negatively charged particles.
When light strikes the PV cell it causes the atoms to release their electrons in a way that produces a direct current similar to the energy from batteries. The 1KW solar panel allow us to provide 2 LED bulbs, 1 for the room and 1 for the bathroom in every room. Besides this our refrigerator, WIFI, and lights for the restaurant and the 2 corridors are also supplied from it.
SOLAR WATER HEATER
Solar water-heating is a cheap alternative and produces massive savings as well as cuts CO²emissions. Hot water is a constant requirement for any hotel and this system can reduce the need for conventional water heating by as much as two-thirds. Our intent is to minimize our environmental impact and carbon footprint by making Hotel Deyzor energy efficient and reducing our reliance on the practically nonexistent government electricity
SOLAR COOKER AND GREENHOUSE
We use the solar cooker to make rice, pulses and boil veggies. The solar cooker was made using mud and straw from Spiti, a poly-carbonate sheet and a metal sheet also bought locally.
The green house was added in 2015 and while there is still lots for us to learn, we are growing tomato, mint, spinach, cucumber, zucchini, bronchiole, cauliflower, radish amongst other veggies.
We recognize our commitment towards maintaining a greener and healthier environment and our vision for a green world. Our programme encompasses local participation, creating awareness among employees and guests.
Evi chomo (grandmother nun in Tibetan) as she is referred to, has been living in her cave in Gangchumik above Pooh for over 35 year. Evi is from Pin valley and at the age of 61 donated her land (in Pooh village) to the villagers and went into her solitary life. A living example of the spiritual life devoted to realize the Self and a strong indication of what the Buddha dharma means to people in this valley.
Evi meets locals and others who seek her blessing and she does not speak hindi. From Pooh village its a 3hour trek to her cave. If evi is in her sadhana then it is not possible to meet her.
There is an unmistakable aura around her and evi is helped by nuns who stay with here and take care of her. Travel is the most rewarding when it broadens your perspective and inspires you. Feel for yourself Evi’s presence.
1. It’ll makes you slow down and pause
Travelling makes you realize that the most precious things in life are to be savoured slowly. In Spiti you will have to come down to the pace of life Spiti lives in. No emails to answer, only BSNL works here and the locals are always ready to talk at length over tea. Wake up late, explore the landscape and at night stare at the milky way. It’s good for your harried nerves and frazzled mind and is absolutely a great way to relieve stress.
2. Travelling makes you step out of your comfort zone
Electricity is still a dream for many in Spiti. While at our property, Hotel Deyzor we have now installed solar panels providing 24hour electricity to our guests, till last year we were running a generator but everywhere else that you go to in Spiti you will not have electricity and wifi.
Travelling in Spiti will force you to think outside the box. Depending on where you eat food may or may not br to your liking. While its generally not the case, here in Spiti valley too you could come across inconsiderate and rude co-travelers who make life difficult for you, but they will only make your tolerance for others stronger. Travelling will make you step out of your comfort zone and compel you to get used to different tastes, people, and situations that would usually make you cringe back home.
You’ll have to adapt to unfamiliar realities and discomfort stretches your mind and gives you the mental workout that was missing from your previous day to day routine. Becoming more adaptable and tolerant will only strengthen your soul.
3. Spiti will teach you to embrace change and accept uncertainty
Uncertainty is most certain when you travel; embrace it and enjoy the trip. Carry this attitude back home, and go through life expecting nothing to remain the same.
Nothing is constant when you are away from home and hopping from one place to the other. The scenes change, the people change – their behaviour, their language, their culture and customs are constantly changing as you continue along your journey.
When you travel, you never know what you’ll find once you turn the corner. As much as you think you can plan ahead, there will always be bumps along the way. When you travel, you are in unfamiliar territory. Embrace uncertainty let go of control and enjoy the excitement, freedom from worries and peace of mind it brings you.
4. Become mindful after travelling in Spiti valley
‘Mindfulness means maintaining a moment-by-moment awareness of our thoughts, feelings, bodily sensations, and surrounding environment.
Mindfulness also involves acceptance, meaning that we pay attention to our thoughts and feelings without judging them—without believing, for instance, that there’s a “right” or “wrong” way to think or feel in a given moment. ‘
Being mindful while travelling means enjoying the sights and sounds without worrying about the mails lying unread in your inbox. Being a mindful traveller means you appreciate where you are without comparing it—favourably or unfavourably—to what you’re used to back home. Mindfulness travelling lets you discover hidden joys and simple pleasures that otherwise remain hidden from view when you look with judgemental eyes and compare with prejudiced views.
5. Travelling in Spiti will teach you gratitude.
There is something about being on the road and hopping from one exciting place to the other that loosens our inhibitions and unveils our true essence. Travelling helps you appreciate the present moment, period. It fills you with gratitude.
When you travel, you open your heart to strangers and new experiences. You learn to accept change and be at peace when things are not delivered made to order. Travelling gives you new insights and alters your perspective. Travelling is always an enlightening and spiritually uplifting experience.
6. Most importantly, it teaches you to live in the NOW.
How can you bring calm and peace to the middle of a stress-full, chaotic day?
The answer is simple, though not always so easy to put into practice: learn to be present. No matter how out-of-control your day is, no matter how stressful your job or life becomes, the act of being present can become an oasis. It can change your life, and it’s incredibly simple.
Travelling embeds in us the fundamentals of living for the moment and not taking life for granted. It teaches us to say yes more often and not be afraid of what others might think. When you are on the road, every second of every day is a new journey, so you must take advantage of this opportunity and seize the day!