His hands grabbed the loose ends of the saffron attire that kept falling off. On one ear hung the double-rounded golden earring. The bereaved tattoo under the sleeve. The main priest of an unadorned temple somewhere between Kullu and Manali.
Dadour, a place of no striking contention. ‘Can I pitch my tent somewhere?’ The whole family would inquire, ‘Are you alone?’ ‘Yes, I just need a piece of land’. Several attempts rolled out. A woman looked up from the heaps of clothes she was washing.
‘Walk for 10 minutes, take a left. Walk over the culvert. You will see a temple on a huge playground’, her answer, curt and precise.
‘Would it be safe there?’ This a question I never fail to ask.
‘Yes. Two Sadhus live there.’
The Trishul rose above the culvert. The main priest displayed no unintended curiosity about my whereabouts. He pointed at the vast field where the village kids were playing football, and to the washroom. His smile broadened, from a flicker to an assurance, and he slowly entered the temple.
Should I trust him? I pitched my tent a few meters away from the immediate temple ground, intentionally. Should I trust the red-eyed Sadhu?
As the evening appeared thick and thin, a drunk Himachali man started howling around my tent with a torch, pestering me to stay the night at his home. Nicety ended when his request turned into a preposterous persuasion. From inside the tent, I yelled strong and harsh words that suited his moronity and held tightly to my pepper spray. He kept coming back. Once, twice…
The second priest knocked on my tent door at around 9 pm. ‘Your dinner is ready!’ The main priest, half-reclining on the dirty floor, was feasting on a bong and weed. ‘We have cooked Khichdi and Paneer for you, prepared in local ghee’.
He devoured himself back into his semi-slumber.
‘Please have dinner with me
‘No no, we are happy with weed. This is for you. Maybe we will eat later. Who knows!’ He let out a hearty laughter.
The morning revealed itself with the pet parrot on his palm, and the parrot, binge-eating bananas. The morning breakfast ended with the growing curiosity around my tent. ‘This is like a house! We should also get a tent’, the priests mumbled.
Ipsita is a travel writer and a solo female traveller. She has been on the road for 2+ years, hitchhiking and volunteering her way through. She believes in slow and sustainable travelling that imbibes local traditions with minimal carbon footprints. Find her travel stories on her blog www.nomadenroute.com.