A goodbye party sent me on my journey, we took some funny photos and they blessed me with a safe journey. On the road I felt like a bird set free, so weightless and ready to fly. I drove for about 1.5 hours before I stopped to grab a banana and chai. After another hour I stopped in the small town Joginder Nagar at a hotel full of Punjabi Sikhs where a room cost me 100rps ($2). A Sikh Astrologer gave me a reading and invited me to eat mutton (goat) and chapati (flat bread) with him and his friends. He told me not to drive on Saturdays because my opposing planet is Saturn.
The next day I planned to stay in Mandi but once I arrived I realized I didn’t like the towns feeling and decided to continue forward to a small town recommended by a fellow traveler, Rewalsar Lake. The picture below is of the main highlight in Mandi the Indra market which is below the level of the city and going around a big park in the middle. A very beautiful market, with friendly shop keepers. The other photo is from the road.
Rewalsar was certainly the place to be. A small town and major Buddhist pilgrimage with a number of gompas where pilgrims sleep for 100rps. The main activity in the city is walking around the lake full of huge crazy sacred fish. You can not fish them, but you can feed them which makes the fish jump around like crazy and be very fat.
The first day was full of synchronicities, this very nice guy Powan helped me find somewhere to eat for cheap because I was strapped for cash (an atm problem left me with about 400rps). Later that night I decided to take a walk, met a 18 year old boy, followed him up the hill to his house. As I was walking back down a 64 year old man with a giant bag of grass for his cow on his head invited me to his house. I started climbing back up with him, climbing and climbing, he kept saying 5 more mins. I was getting a strange feeling, but not a bad one. He stopped ten times on the way to smoke bidis (Indian cigarettes). From out of the darkness Powan came up and told me to leave this man and come with him. He told me this man was not a bad man, but not a man you should follow. His wife fed me and he asked me to sleep in his guest room rather than climb back down the mountain. The next day I checked out of the gompa I never slept at and went with him to Mandi to take a drivers test. He failed then bribed the office 300 rps to pass. He swears the test is impossible and you can only pass if you bribe. We returned to Rewalsar and took my bags up to his house.
(He has 2 daughters Sasi 4 & Nabu 2 middle and right)
The next day our main adventure was getting Indian cow milk for his pregnant wife. He has a buffalo, a goat and two foreign cows, but his Pandit insisted she drink Indian cow milk to have a smart child. A Pandit is a man who keeps track of families births and marriages and often becomes a kind of guru for family advice. He also said to give an oil puja (god gift/prayer) one Saturday per month. To get this milk we drove nearly an hour outside the town then climbed up a mountain, at the house the family gave us chai and then a super delicious papaya from their tree.
For one day we full power relaxed. Powan’s next door neighbor had a seven day marriage celebration going on so we joined for the following day. I don’t know what to think about Indian weddings, they are usually 3-10 days long and cost 4-10,000 US dollars, this is a lot when building a home is only $4,000, and the guests escape every chance they get. We eat then escape to play cards, eat and escape to drink whiskey, eat and escape to make a dance party, eat one last time, try to keep all the food down and finally go to sleep. Spirits were very high, very colorful, very traditional, very awkward at times. If you are anything like me what you want to know about is the food. First they gave you sweets Barfi (sweet milk square), Gulab ( a bread ball completely saturated in sugar water), and matar (little deep fried dough pieces). They also gave us a pakora snack (deep fried spicy green chilis). From there the meals consisted of either rice or chapati as a base, well actually a leaf as the base, and then liquid mixes put on top one by one, first sabghi (any veggie combo), then a sweet dish (tasted like carmel apples but didn’t look at all like them), a horseradish tasting bean dal, then kidney bean dal, then a spicy dal, then paneer (cheese) curry, then plain dal with curry until you finish but you can ask for seconds of anything. Wow did I eat a lot. Still, I watched the women eat and I felt like I couldn’t keep up.
The day after the wedding I headed for Pathankot in Punjab before going north. I’m so happy to have met Powan. He help me avoid using emergency funds while I figured out bank drama and gave me an Indian experience I’ll never forget.
P.S. play karrom board