12 years ago, I came to Manali as a tourist. Visited all the places in the tour list.
Back in Manali. Nostalgic. But this time things were different. I again visited all the places in the tour list, and a lot more. Walked thru the streets of Manali… New and old… Walked thru the villages. That’s how you truly explore the place, get to know the lifestyle of the locals.
On the way thru a Village, I met a lot of people, some working in the fields, some in their homes, some walking to run errands, some simply going home. But not a single tourist nor any outsider.
It is here that I met Pankaj. Pankaj was on his way home from school. He is in 7th grade and carries a bag which is heavier than my 45l rucksack. He claims that half his books are at home and if he carries them all no one will be able to lift it. Pankaj showed me the way to reach the main market. Pankaj and my conversation was short-lived as he was called in by his relative or maybe his dad. I overheard him shouting at Pankaj for talking to a stranger, rather a modern looking girl who is definitely not from Manali. Pankaj explained that he was just giving me directions. I dont know why these locals doubt the non locals. Not all of them were the same though. The farmers did speak with me nicely.
Today i can say that I truly saw Manali and learnt a little bit about the locals. I do have a lot of pain in my legs. But going back, trying to forget old memories and making new ones that are truly unforgettable.