25 February 2006

The Baby Factory

That was the scene for our tea-break... oh, and the tea only cost us 5 bucks each - no additional costs for the 'happening'-quotient of the place.

Towards the end of that evening ride to Lamayuru, which is a beautiful monastery-village in the middle of absolutely nowhere, having crossed nothing but one stray cow for 50 kms, we realized that we’d taken the old, abandoned road. We didn’t really mind the long route, it was just another excuse to ride on. The surrounding dark peaks looked like chocolate brownies, and the stratified layers of earth on the slopes kindled memories of those long-forgotten geography classes spent snoring away to glory… sedimentation and all that.

We crossed the first house of the village late that night, and suddenly there was the house-woman chasing us, announcing ‘100 ruppees for a room! Just 100 ruppees!” She actually ran behind us, begging for us to turn back and consider her offer for a room. That was 100 for 3 of us, and they even offered 3 different rooms for the 3 of us to make ourselves comfortable in. Joy was thrilled at the prospect of staying at a place for just 33.33 per head. It gave him a bigger kick than all the beauty that Ladakh could throw at him.

The House went from being the flourishing first tourist place on the old road, to the impoverished fag end of the new road to Lamayuru. It’s amazing how an infrastructure improvement like a new road can affect the lives of some people. The extreme poverty was instantly recognisable.

The Man of the House ran a baby factory. He had kids of all ages and sizes, and the economic compulsions to stop production didn’t seem to bother him much. The eldest of them was a really cute girl, not more than 10 yrs old. She practically did all the work, never once complaining or showing as much as a hint of a frown. Her dad just sat in one corner, smoking away, while her mum was perennially occupied in taking care of all the babies. We were deeply affected by the life of that little girl… such responsibility and maturity at such a young age. I felt really bad for all the kids. They didn’t make any of the choices that led to their state of poverty. They’re paying up for someone else’s irresponsibility. I don’t know if they will ever have an opportunity to get out of the rut, but I dearly hope there is a way out for these kids.

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