As a Himachali boy, hailing from a little known village of Tholong in Lahaul Valley, who was born and raised in Manali, and completed his High School in Mussoorie – the presence of the mountains in his childhood and nascent adulthood, though powerful, was plagued with a constant sense of abandonment and change. Rohan, the perfect example of a young confused Indian, has been away from home all his life in pursuit of better things. An artist at heart with an intense potential to express, he lacked direction & discipline. After trying his hand at many things, being a traveller, adventurer, musician and filmmaker; he is finally back to his backyard to explore his roots and seek answers to his true calling, on the 4 month long journey, crossing 7 valleys, he finds his Way Back Home.
There are two types of heating systems that the Himalayans totally depend upon, the tandoor and the bukhari. The only difference is that the bukhari is meant for keeping warm alone, whereas on a tandoor, one can also cook. This is Mr. Panchi Ram, the best tandoor-maker in Manali. The heating systems in Himachal originated from his family, the makers of the tandoor. If they work hard enough constantly, then it takes about 3 days to finish a tandoor with intricate designs on it. He gets close to 200-300 orders in one winter, which gets really difficult to finish since he only has his son to do the work. But they take on Himalayan winters with pride and carry forward the family tradition of craftsmanship and honest work.
Colonel’s Resort is run by a retired colonel alongside his house, a couple of cottages and horses in Bir, Himachal Pradesh. His name is Jotinder Pal but in the army, he’s popularly known as J.P. While he was in the army for about 26 years, he and his wife always dreamed of starting something of their own. As they were deciding what would be best suited for them and their temperament, they arrived at the idea of retiring in a mountain resort, growing their own vegetables in a greenhouse and enjoying life’s truest pleasures.
“Don’t let anybody else tell you otherwise, because it is dangerous. It’s every kid’s childhood dream to fly, I think it’s inherent. Some people grow up and forget it, some don’t. I didn’t, that’s why I do this, says Dhindsa about the sport of paragliding. On trying paragliding for the first time Rohan Thakur said – “You’re completely playing this game with the air, and searching for those points that will keep you high up in the air and airborne for longer.”
They say that the first ever election in India was held here in Kalpa, this is where we met Mr. Negi, who’s almost been around for a century. On being asked by Thakur about the old ways and the new, Mr. Negi said – “After Independence, our country has progressed a lot. There have been a lot of changes. Earlier, we would all live together happily. Nowadays, that culture doesn’t exist anymore. That’s what I don’t like at all. One can’t bear to live in the cold in those (cement) kind of buildings. I prefer these wooden houses that keep us warm.”
“Children are sent to become monks when they are around 8 years old. It is a tradition in Spiti, that from every household the oldest son has to take up farming and the second oldest son must become a monk. In our religion, it is an honour for the parents to send their child to become a monk.”
Rapten is not your average farmer. In fact he’s quite a progreesive thinker and also the owner of Norling Homestay in Kibber – Always finding new and innovative ways to improve the standard of living in these harsh conditions. “There have been a lot of changes – When we were kids, studying in school, we would burn a kerosene lamp after dark. My father told me that even before the kerosene lamp existed, they would make lamps using mustard oil to be able to see at night. It’s been only about 6-7 years since we got electricity here. After that they built the roads and then medical facilities became available. But we still don’t always have electricity so we use solar lights to get by. Generally if you look at it, the plains have more facilities in terms of food and shelter, higher levels of oxygen, places to go out, etc. But the kind of peace you can experience here, you will never find that in the plains. People do have their petty differences, but in times of sadness no one holds back. All the people come together and help each other through it. That’s why I feel very strongly that, even though we might not progress as fast as the rest of the world, the mental peace that I have, I can only get that here.”
On observing the farmers, Cheten says – “The farmers at Spiti sing to the yaks to show their love so that the yaks don’t get too tired during farming. It makes them feel at ease. If you hit the animal and overwork it, the animal will be difficult and will not work properly. The louder they sing, the more at ease the yaks will be. While tilling the land, a lot of little bugs and insects get crushed, so to wash off the sin of taking these lives, they have to chant “Om Mani Padme” everytime they take a turn.” To work in the fields is one thing, it’s hard work, it’s very taxing on your body but it’s another thing altogether to endure this kind of climate, but yet people here sing, they have chai and carry on with their day.
Teacher and Owner of Tanzi Homestay in Spiti, Tsering shares his love for his village –“My village is called Langza, which means “Village of the Gods.” It snowed a lot this year, I don’t think I’ve seen this much snow in my entire life. It snowed every single day during the month of February. For many years it hardly snowed in Spiti and the fields had almost dried up, but this year, everyone in this village was so happy even though there was no electricity and the roads were also blocked because – snow meant a good yield of the crops. We have pretty much all the facilities that one would need. There is electricity, we have phone lines set up, we have land for agriculture. The village is really beautiful and it truly is a home to the Gods. I don’t think I’ll ever leave my village.”
“Today this Shashur Gompa (monastery) belongs to the “Drukpa Kargyu” sect of Buddhism. But in the past this monastery was a small meditation centre belonging to the Nyingma sect. In the 15th century Drupchen Deva Gyatso came to Lahaul as a missionary from Bhutan. He established this monastery as a Drukpa Kargyu centre and spread Buddhism throughout Lahaul. At the end when he passed away, he attained “Mahapariniravana” (complete enlightenment). They say that after his body was burnt on the pyre, his heart still remained intact. The sculptor took his heart and embedded it in the statue you see downstairs. Overtime people have bestowed so much faith in this place, it is believed that if you wish for something here it will come true.”
“We have this small bouldering gym in Leh city that’s also a restaurant – Gravi T Bouldering Cafe. We take people out on climbing tours, day tours mostly. For me personally, I think we put ourselves into such a situation that you have to shut off your brain and let your body do all the work. Once you flow naturally, you come into this meditative state. Because when you’re up there, you’re pretty scared, everything in your body is telling you that you shouldn’t be doing this but you’re overcoming all those fears by challenging yourself. Finishing the climb then is a very sweet feeling. You can learn anything, you just have to get on with it. So we get a lot of first timers and we teach them right here. Apart from all the physical strength, it’s more about natural body movement, how you move with the rock.”
Way Back Home series is the most popular asset of TheVibe Originals. It has been syndicated on television across 5 major territories worldwide ever since its production in 2014 and continues to travel far and wide, it has also made the filmmaker couple Ronnie and Barty – one of the most influential YouYube content creators in the category of Travel and Mountain Filmmaking in the country.
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Showrunner & Executive Producer
Filmed & Edited
Filmed & Edited