Mudh: Where Roads End

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June 23rd 2017
Published: June 23rd 2017
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Himachal Pradesh June 2017

“Zen teaches vigilant carelessness and detached involvement. In a more high-sounding phrase, it teaches transcendental ordinariness. In a simpler, more sympathetic phrase, it teaches nothing but ordinariness.”

Yoel Hoffman: 'The sound of the one hand'

Mudh is at the end of Pin Valley which is an offshoot of Spiti Valley. It's a tiny place that has become yet another reachable destination in this moonscape that is Spiti. The road meanders alongside the relatively slow running and dispersed Pin River and one imagines it when frozen in the middle of a dark winter.

On the way here, about 15 km before Mudh, I view a Buddhist monastery up a side road and decide to take a look. Besides the newer monastery building are the original monastery halls full of old paintings and statues. It is a spartan place and the young monks are taking their midday meal in the courtyard (two huge pots; one with chawal (rice) and the other dhal (lentils). I began to think about the different realities I and they came from and lived in, and how this affected our conditioned outlook and reponse to life and the world. Here life is hard and full of disciplined dharma practice, and yet the faces are just those of normal kids finding their way to be. They smile at me and yet what do they think about this foreigner who has the affluence to arrive here on a shiny bike wearing good quality boots with his fancy smart phone and the rest of it? What planet has he come from? I am thinking what planet have I arrived at? Mind you, at least the older monks did have smartphones.

There is nothing special about Mudh and there is everything special about Mudh. At this stage of my trip gorgeous snow capped peaks are becoming a little commonplace, but still they inspire the pristine purity of being. Here is the emergence of several trekking tracks from Kullu District (from Parvati Valley it takes about 9 days across some high altitudes). Here is a point to just stop and rest and sit in the sun. Here is observance again of the ever increasing appetite of affluent Indian tourists to explore their own country, and the frantic activity of locals to best capitalise on new ways to make a buck apart from toiling in the fields all summer and hibernating in winter. Guest houses and home-stays are being constructed in anticipation of yet more tourists arriving here.

I had been given a home-stay contact for Mudh from a friend, and had no trouble finding it and settling into a pleasant room. It has become my routine to just adapt and be in whatever space I find myself in and get on with my own 'being', and I am amused that this is so in this remote place also.

The home-stay owner is a competent young man who is obviously just one generation from the hard toil his parents did in the fields. He grew up in this place but was sent away to be educated and is now a professor in Political Science in some distant city. He is just back in Mudh during the college vacation to run things during this peak season of June. It's interesting to me what these young guys make of the transition from their experiences growing up in a place like this to the 'fast lane' of modern India and then how they then appreciate the beauty and peace back in their home village. Of course this guy is having less peace as his home-stay is booked out and very busy. But will he choose in the end to settle down back here, knowing that a good living can be made within such a beautiful physical setting that is Mudh?

A French lone biker arrives and we connect and talk about many things... particularly the nature of romantic relationships and breaking out of conditioned ways of being attached and not feeling compromised and limited. For unknown reason, I become mindful of the fragility of life and the relative short stay we have on the planet, wondering does it all really matter in the end.

And.... this same biker told me the story about how he once bought a three-wheeler auto-rickshaw in Chennai and spent 6 months traveling though India in it (but not the Spiti Valley as I well could understand).

The stay at Mudh is pleasant. The skies are clear and the views spectacular. However, I was not expecting to put on four layers at night to keep warm here in the middle of summer.

I ride out of the valley late the next morning with my new French friend to Kaza, where we part. At the only petrol pump for nearly 200 km in each direction, I fill up. Both the guy doing the filling and a local who turns up to fill his tank are just so friendly and want to discuss where I have been and where I am going. There uninhibited and simple openness warms me. I won't visit Dankar, Kibbe or the Kye Monastery this trip (I did in 2010) and decide to head for Losar, at the edge of Spiti, on my way back to Manali, and just before Kunzum Pass.


24th June 2017

Our conditioned outlook and reponse to life and the world
Reading your blogs aways makes me wish I took more time to meditate and be introspective. Thank you. Glad you had a pleasant home stay experience.

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