It was an eye-opener to a life so simple yet so happy, it becomes a life less ordinary.
We had hitch hiked in an Indian Oil Truck from Parkachik to Zanskar. After a day-long journey and an enforced night stay in the truck, we reached Sani early in the morning.
Communal tensions had however brought Padum to a shutdown. Which meant we had to put up in Sani.
We headed straight to the Sani monastery and dumped our bags in the monastery premises. It was getting all decked up for the big festival.
People of the village Sani
The shepherds had set out in the hills early morning with their flock. The schools were shut too, for the monastery festival. Everything seemed to proceed in slow motion.
Life was as basic as it gets and the inhabitants mingled together as one big family.
Living in the midst of such harsh nature, it was not really surprising!
Our homestay in Sani
But who needs any commercial setups when the locals are so warm and friendly? The owner of the lone shop in Sani agreed to host us for the two days of the Sani festival. He charged us a pittance for a cozy room and an unlimited supply of fresh, local food.
The terrace is an essential part of every house. This is where wood, dung, grass and any other source of fuel is set to dry for use in the winter months.
What these houses do not have, is a bathroom (or a toilet). A drainage system is conspicuously absent in the entire valley. What they have here are dry compost blocks. Lack of good bathroom facilities is not very rare in Indian villages.
But being denied any means of a clean shower after a long tiring journey is something we hadn’t anticipated at all.
We had our first (and only) cup of the famous yak butter tea here, in these cute little ceramic bowls. The taste was a bit too strong for us and we resorted back to regular tea.
Fresh local veggies with chapatis or rice were the brunch and dinner.
Once, the mother chaffed about taking her daughter with us, and finding her a suitable boy in Mumbai! It made us wonder if they had an idea where Mumbai actually was. We would often ask the school going kids we would meet if they knew of Mumbai. They would always say yes. On asking where it was, the answer always was “very far off from here”!
Mumbai, Delhi, or any of the other countries they would have visitors from, it all fell in this “very far off” bracket.
To them, it probably was all the same!
Dolma’s deftness in rolling the chapatis just with her hands (without the help of a rolling pin) was striking! I couldn’t help asking her for tips. And some impromptu cookery lessons ensued.
Being close to the valley headquarters had its perks. Sani enjoyed non stop power supply sourced from a hydroelectric power plant. Cooking gas was easy to reach.
People were overall much better off than their counterparts in the deeper inaccessible parts of the valley.
Attending a Zanskar wedding in Sani
“Welcome, have some Chang“.
This was our introduction to the staple drink of Zanskar – the Chang. It is made by fermenting a local barley like grain and is an essential component of their everyday lives.
Large tubs filled with Chang were kept ready and jars of this local brew were doing the rounds.
We had a few sips of this Chang, couldn’t bear much beyond a couple of sips. (Later, we tasted a more evolved version of Chang, named Arhak, made by distilling the Chang. We must say, we quite enjoyed the Arhak!).
No person in Zanskar willingly says a no to Chang, ever!
Later in the night, we would experience a bit of this craziness in our homestay.
The house was filled with the family’s relatives who were in Sani for the festival, and a big noisy family gathering was on. Denying several “Juley, Chang”s (hello, have some Chang), all of us “outsiders” stayed cocooned in our room.
Later, one of the younger guys came to our room and asked us to hide the car keys away from his uncle, who was drunk but insisted on driving!
It was an amazing fun-filled night! We were glad we hadn’t proceeded to Padum.
How else would we have been a part of a family reunion in the remote Zanskar valley?
22 thoughts on “When less is more or a Simple life of Sani in Zanskar”
Hy i am from sani zanskar…
When you been there??
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HI Sandeepa and Chetan i would like to know which DSLR camera and lens you people use the photos are amazing it literally takes us to that places
Sai Kiran, we use the Canon 5D. You can check out the details of our gear.
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Beautifully narrated story.. Loved reading it..
Thank you! This place and our time in Sani holds a very special place in our hearts!
Awesome read – Sandeepa and Chetan. The Tuthot looks so pristine. And the picture of the bride(?) so captivating. Which month is the Sani festival held? And did you guys go in your own car?
Hey Shibaji, the Sani monastery festival is held in the summer, typically in the month of July. The exact dates change every year. We used public transport as much as we could – except for the last stretch of our journey to the Zanskar valley where we hitchhiked in an Indian Oil truck.
The people are really beautiful.
Your images have transported me to another world !
Loved ’em all….
Thank you so much, Hameed. Sani – and the life in the little villages of Zanskar – did really feel like another world. Life there wasn’t like anything we had ever seen before.
Thank you for your visit. For your beautiful pictures and for the article. Please visit my village again Julley from Sani Zanskar.
Aap ka zanskar valley ke bare me likha hua mene patha bahoot hi sunder he puri jankari he aap dono ka bahoot hi aabhari hu pranam??
This is incredible !
Very inspiring; great post and blog:)
Thank you so much Rashmi! Glad you liked our Sani story.
You both are great story tellers, please keep on and thank you for sharing. Karol
Thank you so much Karol, for such a generous comment. Highly appreciate it.
superb. pics, story. everything! Go travellers go!
Thank you! The encouragement means a lot to us!