Travel is the best form of education. Relating to other people in different cultures, seeing other places and what it means to exist in them as a foreign spirit. Whatever personal growth or spiritual epiphanies any of us encountered over the duration of the Himalaya trip were certainly due to its initial purpose: the kids. We were escorting these happy and hopeful souls to open their minds and hearts to the big world that surrounds the only world they’re accustomed to.
For me, travel is the greatest gift and deepest love, the most amazing thing a person can do. And a close second to travel is hosting foreigners. Our visit to Uttarkashi also included three days at the community centre affiliated with Manav Sadhna- Manav Uttar (sp). Children from the community gather there daily to learn and play, just as our kids do at Manav Sadhna. We came to help the community centre, and introduce the kids so they could learn from each other while enjoying the company of new people from a different place. It was one of the most beautiful, authentic, surreal, amazing experiences I have ever had. I am certain Teju felt the same
Creating a mural on the front of the community centre, seem below from afar
A breath of fresh air literally surrounded by mountains and greenery, a breath of fresh air mentally from the purity of the people. The kids were light-hearted little dancers who taught us every possible schoolyard game. One night they staged a performance for us and their community- dancing and acting. They are very talented and so sweet.
Other than that evening, they wore the same clothes every day. I noticed many of their garments had been lovingly mended with hand-stitches. I managed to get a few photos of these pieces, but every time Teju and I pulled out our phones- the kids would scream “photo! selfie!” and pose for us. I’m not sure they know the proper definition for “selfie”, and I certainly wouldn’t be the one to tell them. I love, love, love how untouched they are by crazy consumerism and the pop culture that’s run rampant in my world, worlds and worlds away from theirs.
Some village women knit wool items for extra income, and for fun- or so it seemed fun, when they gave us a demonstration of their manual knitting machine. Knitting isn’t easy, especially with this machine and its guidebook full of number combinations and intricate instructions. These women operated with ease however, and were rightfully very proud of their products. Most notably, in our opinion, being the SWEATER VESTS that many women in the surrounding villages wear regularly. It gets cold in the mountains. Teju and I both love the cropped style, and when asked our opinions of the marketability of these items we asserted hands down- the cropped style in muted colors. (maroon, navy, black, brown). The perfect wardrobe staple with a beautiful story. Once they get the production power-we said- get these in those boutique “ethic” shops, like the Whole Foods Goods market. A cropped fair trade Himalayan sweater vest for $45? or maybe even $60? Done.
In general, the traditional mountain dress was beautiful. Obviously this isn’t so much “fashion” as it is a way of life, a way to denote which village one belongs to while shielding oneself from the elements in a landscape of varying weather patterns. Comfort and functionality in my opinion are the most important aspects to any garment- but there is no reason to sacrifice the aesthetics (unless you want to, personal choice! another reason I love fashion really. we can curate whatever and whoever we want to be within the context of our worlds) And these people? Proud of their heritage while using the best colors - seemingly playfully as well. Win win.
After spending three beautiful days at the Uttarkashi centre and other significant locations in the area (a school, the homes of some children and and the Swami Sivanand ashram in Ganeshpur) We were descended the mountain and spent a day relaxing in Rishikesh before Teju and I hopped on a bus for the next part of our adventure- New Delhi.
Gorgeous Teju. and off we went.