Contributor : Matthew Wheelock.
Shared values are surely one of the fastest and strongest makers of bonds between people. Identified and defined by what is not said. The disclosure of a different set of priorities that act like a secret handshake, after which a great deal is silently understood. You can be close to and know a person for your whole life, but still carry the slightest doubt about them. Or meet someone for the first time and know that they’ll never give you cause for distrust. It’s a strange thing, bigger than age or culture or faith or colour, it’s instinctive.
There is an eclectic range of people here in Sitla, city runaways, educated and adventurous that know what they want. Or who more specifically, know exactly what they don’t want and have given up more than most are willing to in realising it. The rewards of which are implicit, so understood that we seldom speak of them. Being here through choice, making it self-evident.
You see it in the villagers, sat silently in the ‘garami-garami’ warmth of the afternoon sun, their gaze lost to the distant peaks. I see it in Kishan, my local home help, as he takes selfies on a crystal clear morning, capturing the distant snows in stark relief behind him. And when I pass him my binoculars and watch him utterly absorbed in his first sight of the intricate details of our giant neighbours.
I was sitting at my favourite viewing spot on the road from Almora one afternoon when an elderly villager stopped to talk to me. ‘Very beautiful’ I say in my terrible Hindi looking out to the faraway mountains and the valley disappearing below us. ‘If you want to see a really beautiful view of the mountains, you should climb that next peak’ he says pointing to the opposite mountain. ‘Amazing 180 degree view of the Himalayas from there, incredibly beautiful’ he tells me passionately.
The love and admiration for this mountainous beauty isn’t diminished by being born here, like the local villagers. It is a constant and lifelong source of delight, sustenance for the soul and that shared appreciation transcends all boundaries and limitations.
But to outsiders; the people of the plains, we must often explain it in detail. The forest, the clean air, touchable horizons, the pinks and oranges across the snows in the dying light. The pace of life and the grace of bells and children’s laughter.
I have lived here in the hills for nearly two years. In that time, I’ve learnt that the common ground the mountains provide, to us that live here, is as much cultural as physical. Drawn from such a range of origins and for such differing reasons, we all consider it a privilege to have arrived.
Our love of the hills, of nature and the peace and tranquility are not just passing interests, but fundamental parts of our being that reach to the core, as values that bind us.
We are many things here, but we are one Tribe.
About Matthew Wheelock :
Matthew left his job as a management consultant in the UK in March 2015 to move to the hills of Kumaon. He is currently writing a book about a recently completed 21,000km solo motorbike trip across Canada. He writes on a range of themes including, nature, travel, identity, belief and time.
More information can be found on his website www.matthewwheelock.com