Hidden Gems   // jeff

We plodded up the wide trail past the waterfall, climbing higher into the jungle. A few minutes later, the signs announcing the approaching village began to appear. A concrete water drainage, terraces covered in newly cut grass drying in the sun, then the first sound of voices carrying through the trees. We’d arrived, after a wonderful two hour walk along the banks of the Ganga, following vague directions from the owner of the guest house where we’ve been staying.

The village was beautiful, terraces contoured around the hills in every direction, there were flowers growing thickly next to the path and, uncharacteristically for India, there was almost no garbage littering the ground. Stopping at a cross roads in the path we looked left and saw a smiling face. Matthew piped up, “Chai malega?” Is chai possible here? The elderly gentleman smiled and shook his head to confirm. As we approached the simple home his wife came outside and spread a blanket on the ground for us. From the shade of the house we admired the neat rows of flowers all around us.

A few moments later his wife appeared again with a small tray of chai. As we drank the tea, we asked questions about this tree or that and about the tiny village. After each question the man would smile and respond, with broken but very clear english. We finally got around to asking if many foreigners make it up to the village. His smile grew larger and he said that yes, many foreigners have come. Then he stood and walked around the corner of the house.

When he returned, he was holding two photographs. They were pictures, quite recent looking, of himself, his wife and two foreigners. Matthew asked when the photo was taken. The man, misunderstanding, replied that the photos had arrived yesterday in the post. We all smiled, me wondering that the post could even find the place, and fell back into silence.

When we had finished our first tea, the man smiled and said, “Just one more tea, then you can go.” He disappeared around the corner of the house again just in time for his wife to appear from the kitchen, this time carrying bowls of caramelized sugar and semolina with fresh coconut grated on top. A sweet treat for each of us.

Her husband returned, holding a binder. As we ate he began to show us photo after photo of himself, his wife and the numerous foreign visitors that they’d had to their tiny mountainside village. The pictures were wonderful; smiling happy faces, standing or sitting in the exact spot in which we were now sitting. As we flipped through the faces, he would point out the tourists that returned every year, some staying for a few days each time. As we moved closer to look at the photos, we saw that the “kitchen” was just a nook in the side of the house that had a small open fire built in the corner. The man’s wife was squatting next to the fire, pouring our second round of tea through a small strainer into glasses for us, smiling broadly at what must have become a common occurrence: Her husband showing the latest batch of tourists who stumbled into their village his collection of photos while she made them tea and treats.

Tags: , , , , ,

Comments are closed.