[ I have enrolled in a 12 weeks travel writing course with the Matador University. As a part of our course work we have to write articles and publish them in our blog. This piece is part of the fourth assignment which is split into three parts. This is the last part in which we have to write a short piece , one that in meant for regular posting.]
The narrow street of Changspa Road is deserted. I walk by a line of miscellaneous shops with shutters down. Leh is still waking up.
The end of the lane take me past ‘Peace Garden’ Cafe. A few foreigners are huddled at the door smoking. Either they are in for an early morning cup of tea or they are just leaving after last night’s party. One of them suddenly bends over and throws up into the gutter. It is the latter. Confirmed.
I reach the Old Fort Road. There is a lot of activity here compared to Changspa Road.
I pass by a tailor threading his needles. He makes T-shirts with different quotes on it. One of it says ” Hard Yak Cafe, Ladakh’.I must get that for my friend. He gives me a toothless smile and pours hot tea from a canvas into a tin cup. I notice the steam from another half full cup near his sewing table.I half expect him to share the second cup with me. But even before he puts the cup down there is a brown and black dog already laying claim on that tin cup.
I grin at my bad luck and continue down the road.
I reach a Tibetan market place. I stop by a Tibetan woman arranging her ware creatively on a table. The colors are very attractive. I stop to examine her stuff. She nonchalantly smiles at me. I pick up a prayer flag to read the inscription on it. I have no intention of buying it.
“You buy. Number one sale today. Bring you good luck.”
She then goes on to show me a couple of bracelets and says” These look very nice on you. Buy two”. And without waiting for my reply she packs the prayer flag and the bracelets for me.
” No. I do not want to buy”
” No this is boney sale. You tell me price. I give you . You luck for me and me give luck for you. We all happy.”
“Only 300 rupees”, with that she pushes the wrapped ware into my hands.
” No 200″.
“I give you 250.”
“No 200 or I don’t want it”
“Ok I give you for 200”.
I paid her a 500 rupee note. She took the note crushed it and put it into her pocket.
She yelled something in Tibetan to a boy manning another stall. I assumed she was asking for change for a 500.
While I wait for the change I walk over to the other stalls. I see similar bracelets at cheaper prices. I feel cheated.
When I go back to the lady to get my change, there is an American couple at her stall admiring the very same bracelet I had bought.
“Juley” the Tibetan lady says to me as she hands me my change.
She then turns to the couple and says” I give you nice people the bracelet for only 500 rupees”.
Suddenly I don’t feel cheated any more.