I am married to a Pahadi and in two short years learnt so much about them. Simple and affectionate to a fault, a pahadi way of showing they love you is by filling you with food and drink till you can hear your innards groaning. Life can be tough in the mountains so you would see them living quite a simple and a relatively honest lifestyle. Relatively I say and you ask why. Fair enough. Well, two reasons. One, that doesn’t concern me much is because every place and community has its share of bad eggs. Reason number two. THE reason. THE reason for this rant, THE reason I have swollen feet and definitely, THE reason I will NEVER EVER ask a pahadi for directions.
Now, I had mentioned that life in the mountains is tough. There are several reasons for that. Lot of times you have to have separate summer and winter homes. Not everything is easily available so one has to commute for miles sometimes, before coming anywhere around any supplies. Lot of times, this commute is on foot. Which is why pahadis get used to walking around. A lot and in all kinds of terrain. Which is why when poor, innocent ole me steps up with a hopeful look and asks for directions, I am misled by a ‘Just around the corner. Another 5 minutes at MAX.’
See the truth is, sweethearts though they are, pahadis are the absolute worst when it comes to distances. In fact they tend to overlook the fact that silly little city rats like me are going to go straight ahead, turn at the bend in the road and at the end of the five minutes, sit down and weep for the ghastly betrayal that was their idea of helping me out. I love walking but halfway across the city for a bloody chocolate!?!
The best (or is it the worst?) part is how eager they are to help you. You ask someone for the way to a particular place and a ton of them will congregate, excited just to be of help. They will ask you where you are from and if you’re having fun. They will all nod amongst themselves and look pleased as hell when you say something nice or a couple of the local words. Then…you come down to the real reason you stopped. DI…effin’…RECTIONS. And there it is! The friendly smiles vanish and the warm eyes glitter with something sinister.
You feel a chill in the air and a breeze sweeps your hair across your face. You pull your jacket around yourself and toss them back, shrugging off the goosebumps as a by-product of the cool mountain air. What you have missed in those precious few seconds, you will never know. Until it’s too late. *Cue for some real creepy ass music here* One of them points in a vague onward direction and says three words that have now started giving me nightmares. Around. The. Corner. And three more words. Five. Minutes. Only.
Now that your ridiculous question has been answered, they lose interest in you and go back to what they were doing. Lounging around with a hot cup of tea in hand. You shove off. Your faith in humanity (and the innocent faces of the locals) quite intact. The spring in your step is still there, the warm tea still gurgling and the delish cream roll still inhabiting corners of your mouth and surprising you with its sweet tenderness. Afsos! You know NOTHING of what is to come your way. You walk. And you walk. And…you walk. You have this awful feeling that you’re in one of those ridiculous horror films where the road never ends and when you turn around, a hairy beast is roaring and chasing you.
Luckily, the only hairy beast after you will be the one growing in the shape of a painful blister on your sole. Or unluckily as it may be. Since you are following the ‘Path of a Pahadi’. You trudge on. You see another bunch of pahadis chit chatting and as always, they are more than happy to help but you know better than that. You soldier on. The sun begins to set. You still haven’t reached where you were supposed to. You know you must stop. You have to do that one thing that you are dreading. You know if you don’t, you are as good as gone. So you take a deep breathe and stop.
You turn around.
And you say….. ‘Excuse me, I need some directions please…’