Note: this actually precedes the previous post, but I didn’t have it all written up yet.
It’s nice to be in one spot for a couple days in a row. Ranbir and Tripura (Brighu’s siblings) have been very welcoming in letting us stay at their house again, even during construction work. In the morning, I woke up to the sounds of Tripura chasing a cow out of the garden. Then she taught us how to make Kulluvi-style rajmah (kidney beans), and Ranbir drove Nisha Number 2 and I to Kullu. First stop was Mr. Dorje’s house, piled with books, caps, and pictures of him with nuns, crossing glaciers, etc. Then we went to a thangka school up above the town. The school is mostly closed at this point, but he still has a few students. It was lovely and calm—in the room where the students were working, they were all just sitting on the floor, silently dabbing away at the details of various paintings. He showed us a large piece that has been in the works for several years, and which he has to unroll over a half-cylinder in order to work on different sections.
Then we went to Bhuttico, the largest weaving co-op in the area. We met the managing director in a big marble office with portraits of politicians and former directors on the walls. He gave NN2 and I Kullu caps, in which we looked utterly ridiculous. We of course had to wear them for the duration of the tour. We toured the grounds, which includes housing for the weavers and their families, gender-segregated factory buildings, a training area, and an inspection lab with all sorts of equipment to test dyes for light-fastness, fibers for resistance to abrasion, etc. It was, shall we say, a far cry from Malling and Pooh. All the patterning was still done by hand, but the base twill sections were done with a pulley system to throw the shuttle, so the weavers could do about 1 pick per second.
The next day, Nisha and Ranbir went off to another thangka school. I stayed in town and puttered for a while. We met up for lunch at a roof-top pizzeria, then Ranbir and Tripura insisted on taking us to the Krishna temple. We hiked up through the jungle (their word), where NN2 accused me of finally acting like an American by taking pictures of monkeys. We hung out at the temple for a while, and when we came back down the power was out for repair work, so we were trying to figure out what to do with our time. Ranbir was very excited to take me to a “zoo” nearby, which was actually a trout farm with geese, ducks, and a large cage with parakeets and cockatiels. So there we were, two vegetarians watching the fish get fattened up. The place was nice, full of plants and rickety little paths. On the way back we stopped at another temple, this one dedicated to Shiva. NN2 had bought some vegetables in the morning, so she and I worked on dinner and then packing for the long ride back down.
Down down down. We left early in the morning, and as we descended I watched the mists part and the pollution settle in. So long, Himalayas. Don’t go anywhere. I’ll be back soon.