Dating in Ladakh is like a Rubik's cube: the more you play, the harder it gets.
Unlike a city that has volumes of women and the right amount of anonymity, Ladakh has more monasteries and apricots than people (read women), not to mention dust. Boy it gets dusty out there. There is no wifi and no network so exchanging numbers is as useless as skype-sex (btw you’ll be surprised how many couples do this shit). I probably wouldn’t be complaining about the dust if there were girls to make the ride worth it but from the skewed ratio I’d imagine there might be enough virgins in the area to give Richard Branson inspiration. Do I sound like a sexist pig? I’m just a hot blooded young male who loves the company of women. So the lack of them in Ladakh forced me to revel in my own company, which was a first.
A recent work project had me spending weeks on end in this stunning but semi derelict area. Every corner in this region is a postcard worthy view, so it’s always beautiful to look at. But a true blue city boy like me can stare at snowcapped mountains for only so long until he slowly starts craving human interaction.
The cameraman and myself were living in a Rs.4000 a night hotel, bang in the middle of the most popular guesthouse lane, while 90% of people on the same street were living in Rs.300 a night hostels. This was the second leg of a shoot and closer to the peak season, which meant more hippies, explorers and pseudo spiritual travelers than usual. So I was pleasantly surprised to see a new face every 2 days.
The good thing about small bars in Leh was that rum sold for Rs.70 a pop and the cold kept all the social butterflies on the lookout for friendly warmth. The reticent cameraman and myself went to our favorite bar and started shooting the shit with the owner, a 5 ft nothing dude in a grey suit with sparrows inked on his neck.
The bar felt like home – probably the only place that didn’t play Ladakhi and Sufi music. It attracted the people I could talk to. I happened to look across at the table in front of our spot and saw 2 local girls who seemed friendly enough to talk to. I had my reservations but knew it might be interesting to see how they responded. It felt like the cute one was sweet on me, from the way she bit her French fry as I caught her eye. Fuck it, if she throws her ketchup in my face, it’s all gravy. Could be worse.
Ladakh has more monasteries than women
“I want to see you getting thrown out of your first Ladakhi bar on camera. I’m ready to roll when you are,” says my cameraman taking the lens off his 5D.
“Suck on this jack,” I say as I get up to roll into what I thought would be a stroll in the park.
*Walks with a Denzel strut flicking my collar like I got this dawg*
“Jhule!” I announce like it’s my birthday. It was one of the two words I knew in Ladakhi. It meant a standard hello ji. Can’t go wrong with basic shit. I follow that up with some slow English to ensure they don’t ask me to repeat myself.
“Hey girls it’s pretty awesome to finally meet some local girls who know how to chill.”
“We don’t liking local guy.”
“Oh that’s good cause I’m not from here.”
“Thank you very much…we come here two times in week…you from?” asks the one on the left smiling like I would on steroids. I swore I could see at least three inches of gums.
(I look back at Mr. Cameraman over at our table who’s laughing hysterically).
They invite me to drink some Chhaang, the locally brewed alcohol. It’s sweet and harmless at first but after a few glasses, you cannot feel your goddamn face. I regretted calling it a girls drink when I was on my first glass, because by the time the 4th round was on, I was the bitch of a lightweight.
Shit starts getting crazy cause it’s now approaching 12am. The music gets louder, free shots get thrown at us, everyone’s ashing on the floor. Two American sisters join our table and get handsy from the get go. Chhaang suddenly makes the cute Ladakhi speak non-stop. Interesting. The sisters from California verbally “buy” everyone a round and I can see Mr. Camera realise it’s now a party he wants to join. I signal him to come over but he doesn’t want in.
My local Ladakhi haunt
One word: Yoga.
Nestled under the bar was a yoga house of sorts where girls live and practice the intense yoga life as a 3 month course. You know, the eat-pray-love sort of spiritual BS that helps these girls discover themselves. Whatever the fuck that means.
“So why India and why yoga?”
“I just felt so like…insecure about myself and needed to…like…just…like see what else the world was about…and I’m like such a fan of like tantra and finding my chakras.“
The cute Ladakhi girl starts laughing loud and whacks the table with her palm as if nothing less than that was deserving of the comment.
“You Amrika gurls so funny, kwite veryy blondee …want tantra fun?!” The local girls join the banter and the American girls realise the jokes on them. To mitigate the awkwardness, the Americans get their laugh on too. ‘One big fricking circus’ I think to myself. Once the crazy drunken back and forth quietens down, I ask if anybody has something to smoke.
“I have from with Manali trip…many for you buy if want.”
“I don’t want to buy, I just thought we were…uhm…friends and we could spark one?”
“Hahahha…I joking foolish.”
“Come the fuck on…you so didn’t try and make some cash off this, girl…back home its legal so we all on the same side ya’ll,” screams the drunk Cali gal.
By now my lungs are getting itchy for that smoke and American girl 1 seems to want to get towned from the vigorous footsie she’s indulging in. With booze and young hormones, this shit is inevitable whether in Siberia or Ladakh.
I call for the check and of course the American girls have credit cards that don’t work cause Daddy didn’t check with international facilities before sending his princesses halfway around the world. Typical. Luckily the cashier agrees to take American dollars in cash.
Everybody in Ladakh rides motorbikes including girls. These ones were no exception. I rode back with the peddler gal on her bike followed by the rest on their Enfields. Two minutes after we sat around the bonfire back at the guesthouse, the joy was lit and somebody had the bright idea to taxi it. In hindsight I realise it’s a bad idea for more reasons than one:
a) It’s high altitude and low oxygen so it takes nothing to get blazed.
b) This shit is potent.
c) Taxi game is a destroyer of worlds.
As expected, twenty minutes after its all ash, 3 of the 4 girls are disappearing one by one to the loo to puke their guts out. Including the cute local. At one point, she sits down next to me and leans in to sneak a kiss, then says, “I throw again in bathroom place there now I feel.”
She almost pukes in my face when I jump out of my chair faster than sound. I doubt the hotel kept that chair. Lucky for me, the American girl knew her smoke better than her credit card terms. I guess I should have kept the smoke suggestion to myself in the first place. Housekeeping raided the place and decided to throw non residents out a.k.a me. The Americans were leaving in a few hours for bangtown U.S.A. So that’s that.
Now that was an eventful evening in desolate Ladakh where I managed to find a fun bunch to hang with. For what it’s worth, I had a blast and a profound epiphany dawned on me: It’s never as lonely as you think it is. Unless you’re the only one in the room who hasn’t puked twice in the span of fifteen minutes. I finally have something to feel proud of.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By Roshmin Mehandru
Photographs by Yash Bandi