Humbled in the Himalayas

Leh, India.

I am in Leh, Ladakh. This is in the Himalayas! Can you imagine? I am behind my laptop on the rooftop terrace of my hotel. It is very silent. I hear some birds here and there, there are two workers painting a shed and behind me in the kitchen I hear the cook quietly talking to his collegue. I hear a dog barking in the distance. When I look in front of me I see snowy peaks. When I stare at them they feel majestic, noble, silent and old. They make me feel humble, calm and quiet. This is what I see:

I am taking it easy today. Leh is situated at 3500 meters and it is necessary to let your body acclimatize to the height by taking a lot of rest and by not engaging in any exercise. I take this very seriously because I had Altitude Sickness once and I was deported from the resort – where I was supposed to have a snowboard trip with my buddies – by ambulance. Only when I was back home I found out it is deadly. This was strange because I learned that I had been in serious danger when I was already safe again. But I got a good scare and will do the things that help prevent to get sick again.

I am amazed about how different this place is compared to Mumbai or Delhi (although I have spent only 36 hours in Delhi). First of all it is cold of course, about 33 degrees colder than what I was used to. But more interestingly, the people are a lot less submissive. Until now it was hard or even impossible to connect with waiters, rickshaw drivers, maids or street vendors. It almost felt they were a different species; the poorer they were, the more stripped from their humanity and dignity. Many of them had looks in their eyes of wild and abused animals: hollow, exhausted, afraid and powerless. Here it is different. People are friendly, helpful, and polite and try to get you in their shops in a charming way. I wish I were a better photographer because they all do great in pictures (i will try to capture some faces soon, promise).

By the way, the weather is changing rapidly as I type this: quite impressive and a bit intimidating to witness. Half an hour ago it was a beautiful summer day and now I hear the wind howling and see dark clouds packing.

The thought that comes up is “what is the influence of the climate on our personality structure?” I can imagine that when the weather can change this fast there is no time to complain, you can’t afford to be a victim. You need to be flexible, self reliant and adaptable, I assume. I can imagine it creates strength, endurance, resilience and humility. Perhaps a very hot climate allows people to be lethargic and to survive even without home and shelter and with hardly any money because food is cheap and relatively abundant. You can survive without much imagination, even if you are treated unfair and unjust.

I have no answer. But the thought that I am having over and over again is how fortunate I am to be born with the right skin color and the right gender at the right side of the world. I am white, I am male and I come from a decent family from a wealthy Western European country. It is not an accomplishment, it is a coincidence. And because of this coincidence my life is easier than that of billions of others. If feels so humbling to realize that. Would it be because my ancestors lived close to the sea and were tired of being wet, cold and hungry?


  1. Pausha Foley says

    Is it be possible that the closer to nature one livers the more confident, strong, present one becomes? There seems to be marked difference between how people carry themselves out in the wild versus out in the big cities.

    • says

      Now that you ask me I think it is the combination of outdoors and a spiritual practice. But I am not sure. I have seen fishermen who one could hardly call present or empowered but I see strong people here. I guess it is is safe to say that cities are not so healthy for any of us.

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