Tosh is a small village. Even Penelope Chetwode did not travel here, and that is saying something, she preferred Kheerganga. Discovered partly because of Tosh Cream ( a variant of Hash) and partly because of its seclusion (all my guess), Tosh now forms one of the major stops on the Hippie trail of Parvati Valley.
When I say small, I truly mean it. You can travel through the entire village in less than half an hour. But the serenity, vistas and peace is unmatched. Under the shadows of the mighty Himalayas, it is this heaven where people come when they want to break away from the city life. Israeli tourists especially form a big chunk, fresh out of Military acad, and can be found staying here for weeks. This has obviously sprouted a number of guesthouses with their own cafes serving cuisines from all over the world and with all the fancy ingredients in place.
It is surely a contrast you are bound to notice. A little village trying to adjust to modern life. It is midday, the sky is cloudy and there is a chill in the wind. You can see women and children, men and boys retreating behind doors, with a stream of smoke emanating from their chimneys. You realise they are happily ensconced in what is called a Tandoori room – a room or kitchen with a fireplace/tandoor in the middle, keeping everyone warm. The village goes still and you feel unwanted. You too retreat, to a cafe in one of the guesthouses. A gaggle of tourists come in, a language you don’t understand, a second culture you don’t know. They have been living here for some time. They know the rituals, the processes. They light up the fireplace and voila you have your own tandoori room, apart but still together. Opening the menu is a disappointment, where are all the local delicacies. All that is found is Hummus and Pizza and the likes. The only concession is that your server is wearing a Himachali cap.
The night falls soon and you hear wafts of music, some group of Indians are making music. It is surreal, the moon shines bright, the wind bellows and snowy peaks glisten in the moonlight and leftover sun rays that only reach them. No other noise, as people have not yet come out or rather have retired for the night. All you see are people from across the world, not native, but definitely more imbibed than you are.
It is surprising actually, to wonder why would people spend months in a foreign land in small villages away from their loved ones. They make friends yes, but wouldn’t they build staunch relationships even in their hometown. It is incomprehensible to Indians, we would not do that. Concepts like summer jobs, gap year etc are foreign to Indian teenagers. While some might think about pursuing any of these options, the society does not accept it and even the lightest of the thoughts are extinguished. But it is a tradition worldwide, an initiation to an adult world. These young kids are encouraged, even cheered, into taking some time off and discover the world. It is believed that this makes them more open, understanding and some even take home an added skill. This exposure is important to make them think, understand the different culture the way other people live. Maybe that is why when Indians go to another country, we are awestruck, and do not know how to behave or what to do. Our only exposure to how other people live is through international movies or other form of art, and we can all safely agree it is not the best medium to understand how a local lives. That is why when we go to any other country, our expectation is that of what we saw on the silver screen, or even worse, we only seek out what we already know. There is no urge to look beyond, afraid of what me might see. And this carries on to other aspects of our life too. Living in our cocoon, we are oblivious to the world around us and that reflects.
So is it actually bad that these young, fresh out of military academy, people can be found travelling to such faraway place like Tosh, which I am sure even Indians might not know of. Is it actually bad that they want to immerse in the Himachali way of life. We call them hippies, think that all the men are addicts and all the women a thing to lech at. I know I am generalising here. But the truth is we have not been able to fathom why and how they manage to travel. And in this lack of understanding are quick to stereotype them in our minds, categorise them in our minds based on their skin colour and home countries. Therefore, a Nigerian is always running a drug cartel and a Russian is always a prostitute.
But it is time we should look beyond and maybe open our minds, see what they really are. Young people who have had enough of living in the cocoon and eager to discover the world around them. People who can distinguish different nuances of different culture and who are far way ahead in understanding the world that we would ever we.
As these thoughts came to pass, the music slowly ebbed away. The night was getting darker, the chill more evident. It was time to say goodbye to the snowy mountains, the furry mountain dog. It was time to say goodbye to my melancholy thoughts, because tomorrow, a new dawn, a new place remained to be discovered.