On my second day in the barren Spiti Valley I decided to scale a further 500 metres and sleep at a monastery (Ki Gompa). I don’t exactly know what prompted me to spend the night at a monastery up in the mountain with hundreds of monks on the other side of a flimsy wooden door. Oh I know why. Because, I didn’t have a plan.
After a brief interaction with the monks and dinner in their ancient soot smeared kitchen, dusk quickly transformed into night and all noise died down. This is the time when one feels truly alone and uncomfortable. I couldn’t fall asleep at 8 pm yet, and decided to step out into the courtyard. And I stood stunned.
I had never seen so many stars in one uninterrupted sky. Thousands of them shimmered against a pitch-dark background. It is surreal how different the world looks at a height of 4165 meters above sea level. The sky could be touched with one big leap; and the star-studded ceiling could fall off at any moment. You gaze so much you begin to hallucinate that the sky is communicating with you and trying to unite you with them. If wasn’t for the chill in the air I’d have thought I was a star myself.
Big twinkles, small flickers, starbursts, constellations and the Milky Way! The next line will make me an idiot but – I had no idea that the Milky Way was real. But it is, and I saw it stretched across the sky like a stairway to heaven. They say it is made up of tiny indistinguishable stars but for me it is a fairy’s wand filled with stardust.
The vastness around and above me diminished me into a speck of dust; someone who may be let into the living room but may not touch anything. It could be that we transform diamonds back into coal with our mortal hands. But you don’t mind because in that brief spell of time all you feel is thankful.
Back in my room sleep eluded me and the only flickering bulb was giving up. The wind breathed up and down the monastery walls. I held my breath and curled my toes. The quiet was deafening. In the end when the light went completely off I feverishly began counting my numbers backwards.
Outside a million stars slipped and came down as snowflakes.