Oct 25, 2011

Malana Diaries Part II: The D Day, Going Primitive and the unforgettable experience..

(Warning: Pictures G-A-L-O-R-E)

I woke up at daybreak and crawled out of the tent to mountains looming all around me. I grinned to myself as I looked at the snow-capped peak in the distance. The altitude sickness gave me a bit of breathing problem so I decided to go for a short walk alone and exercise my lungs while enjoying the view in the crisp mountain air. And as I climbed uphill, I walked with that lump in my throat. The sunrise, the fresh morning air, the greenery, the mountains, the valley. It was too beautiful that it was almost painful. 

The majestic view from the camp

Another view

The tentmates... some quite not awake!!

Light moment after breakfast!

Since to the Malanis, all outsiders are impure and untouchable, we were not allowed to stay inside the village. But we got permission to camp outside the village in the village school compound from where the nearest water source was half a kilometer away. It was quite something to wash up in the icy waters of the clear mountain stream. But sadly, we were not allowed to pitch an outhouse which brings me to the most hilarious part of our trip.

A group of 30 young people who all need to answer to nature's call. What do we do?

Yes, we have no choice but to go primitive and disappear behind the bushes. Friends played their part during such activities. "Yes, go a bit further. No. I can still see you. No. I can still see your head. Yeah! Sit... I can't see you so that's a good place. Don't worry, I'll stand guard". But there are a few who picked 'all the wrong places' and went without 'guards' and I am glad I'm not one of the others who walked into them during the act! On such situations, it's only fair that you make a huge noise when you walk into 'those areas' so that a shout can warn you to stop in your track! But then again, there were certain confessions from some who asked their 'guards' to sing or close their ears so that they won't hear anything! Sigh!!! Going primitive indeed!

Standing Guard!!!! (Forgive me, Ricks)

So anyway after breakfast, we went into town for the medical camp and the sanitation work. We were divided into four teams - the medical team,  the health awareness team, the prayer team and two sanitation teams. 

The medical team consisting of 6 doctors and 2 nurses were joined by the staffs from Manali Mission hospital. Together, they checked 169 patients including the school children. Since it was harvest time, most of the women were in the fields and there were only a handful of women who came for check-ups. I was particularly impressed with Dr. Suzie who held the wound-dressing corner all on her own. The Malanis, in general, are very backward in health concerns and sanitation. And since most of them are illiterate, some of them don't even know their ages. So, Engkimi and Chhungpuii, the nurses did a lot of guessing work with their ages.

The Medical Team

School children standing in line for the medical checkup. The temple stands at the background . Did the photographer know that photographing the temple is prohibited??
Suzie in action

I was part of the Health Awareness team and we were armed with posters and charts aimed at childcare and pre-natal care. Yet we ended up doing hardly anything because we didn't come across a single pregnant woman in the village and only a few nursing mothers. So after a while, we split ourselves up and joined the other teams helping with medicine inventory and sanitation. Jeffrey was particularly so good with handing out the medicines in the end  that we were tempted to nickname him an Asst. Dr. Whatever that means!

The Health Awareness Team
The prayer team went around the village praying. I was told curious eyes followed them wherever they went. And when they knelt and prayed in one corner of the village, they were asked if they're performing a pooja. It felt good to know that, there was a team who intercedes for us while we went on with our different work. The team was also in charge of all the devotion and intercessions throughout the trip.

The Prayer Team got into action before any other team did!
If I have to give an award to the best team, the award would definitely go to the sanitation team. I will not be lying if I said that the Malana town square is a huge garbage dump. No offense intended. But I have seen a lot of slums in Delhi but even those slums are cleaner than Malana. Waste water overflow on the roads and garbage sat piling everywhere. And the garbage looks like Delhi garbage - potato chips cover, empty coke bottles and gutkha covers!!!! It's surprising considering how distant and isolated the village stood on the mountains and how difficult it is to get up there. I was puzzled with how the people in the village can stand that much garbage just next to their homes and their surroundings.

And then, the sanitation team went to war! 

And then there was a clean town square and even a little Nulla appeared under all the garbage for the waste water to flow through! Funny thing was, the team didn't even know that there was a nulla under all that garbage when they first started working.

The Sanitation leader satisfied with her teams' work... :)
We got back to camp in the afternoon and after a late lunch we headed down to the valley. Yes! The very same path which almost killed me. But this time it was a downhill hike except for the last half a kilometre. Then we caught our bus in the evening from Buntar to Delhi. When I woke up to familiar highways and roads in the morning, I know that Malana is far away already but it will never be far from my heart and mind.

Malana, apart from the killer uphill climb, the beautiful 'Lord of the Rings-esque' view, and the crisp mountain air woke up something in me. Sometimes, you need a trip out of your own comfort zone to take a journey to the inner self. Sometimes, you need to be thrown into something different for you to be grateful for and appreciate the things in life that you already took for granted.

Yet, the conundrum of the Malani culture is something that still left me very very puzzled. 

But then that, like they said, will take another post all on its own.

My favorite pic of the trip! The very handsome dog followed us down the valley till the creek. I felt as if he wanted to make sure we didn't tumble down the steep trail! :)


Anonymous said...

thiannu,i didnt kno u are very thu leh hla misa...great job...very kzp

Anonymous said...

Buntar lawm ka nau

Senmami said...

Noted and corrected! :)

diary said...

In medical team a mi te khi -Ronald, Evelynn, Diki leh Padma from Ladakh a va ang ve. Padma khi a thawk em ni?

Senmami said...

@diary Diki leh Padma khi chu Manali a Lady Willingdon Hospital atanga team min rawn zuitute zinga mi anni e! :)