August 16-22, 2010
Brian and I returned to Leh to find a much different place than we had left three weeks ago. The city had been devastated in places. Entire neighborhoods had vanished under the slides. The Indus flowed everywhere and anywhere. A horrid town filled with tourons had been reduced to a merely horrid town, for most of the foreigners had been evacuated by the Indian military to ease the pressure on the feeble infrastructure. Ish and his family were safe, as were our friends at the Old Ladakh Guesthouse. One would have thought that the lack of tourons would have dropped the frequency of car horns, but it seemed unchanged. The town was just miserable as before, but it now had a sadness about it that brought out more pity than scorn.
We had several days together as Brian got ready for a summit attempt on Stok Kangri while I killed time waiting for my flight to Delhi, where I would have to kill another two days before flying home and being reunited with Shauna. Ladakh and Zanskar were not the places I had expected; they were places that had changed for the worse under increased tourist pressure, places that had not adapted as Nepal had to tourism. I was glad to be going home. I had little to do other than buy souvenirs for loved ones at home and once Brian left I had a full day where I said almost nothing to anyone with white skin. I did, however, have a long talk with Ish and with several thanka dealers. There was not much else that I wanted to do.
Delhi was little better, though I made only one foray outside of my air conditioned room. I had no more desire left in me to seek out the unique, interesting, and best of the culture that I was spending time in. I made no attempt to visit any of the tourist attractions or spend time in the local markets seeing how much I had in common with people on the exact opposite side of the world. No, I sat in my air conditioned room and worked sudoku puzzles and read The Fountainhead and drank cheap Indian whiskey. Occasionally I went outside to eat a meal or check email. But mostly I hid from the world. I didn't think I would be returning to India and didn't really want to see what I was missing. My sole excursion was to walk around the neighborhood to buy whiskey. Oddly enough, I made friends with a Nepalese man who showed me around a bit on his way back from work. He used to live in one of the villages that I had spent time in nine long years ago. I so shut myself up that on the day of my flight I went to the airport twelve hours in advance of my flight, just to get away from my room.
A part of my life was changing,
and it was a change that I was quite aware was happening and one that
I was actually helping to happen. The days of wandering and roaming
and seeking those quiet corners of my country and the world were
coming to an end. I was going to be a householder for a while and to
remember the days of long adventures, rather than planning the next
one. I was going to work on a relationship that mattered very much to
me and possibly start a family, something that a few years ago would
have seemed quite unlikely. It wasn't that I was through with
visiting remote parts of the globe or living out of a backpack and
sleeping on the ground for a month on end. But for now I was focusing
my attention on another person. Another being. Another Mind. There
was another world of experiences out there to be had. And as a friend
of mine is fond of saying, life is about experiences, and I intended
to have as many quality ones as possible.