Tallo came to pick me up on his motorbike a little later today, around 9 am. We first went on a hike to Taw Tibe Farm, which involved climbing a hell of a lot of steps, but I am accustomed to uphill climbs by now. The farm itself is considered to be its own village, home to only two families.
There wasn’t much to see on the farm itself, but the view overlooking the farm and surrounding area was scenic enough:
There was also some nice artwork depicting traditional Apatani dress hanging in the family home, which we were allowed to enter.
It’s pre-moonsoon season in the northeast, so it’s been raining here in Ziro and in Guwahati. We got caught in several downpours today—even with umbrellas, we had to duck under roofs to wait until it passed (with chai in hand, so no complaints from me). Other than the hike, we also visited a government-run arts and crafts emporium, where you could watch the construction of the goods being sold in the shop.
We also looked into booking my way back from Ziro. After some legwork and a few phone calls on Tallo’s part, we found out that the train was fully booked on Friday night. This unfortunately leaves me with my last resort: the bus. Fuck. Knowing now what to expect, I can at least mentally prepare myself for the ordeal. I also know that a cozy room and amazing food in Guwahati await me at my guesthouse, which helps.
The most wonderful part of yesterday was entirely unexpected. Tallo and I went to the dancing and singing competition held by the Apatani Youth Association in recognition of its 44th birthday. Before the show began, a few of the organizers introduced themselves to me, the lone foreigner in the celebration hall. They told Tallo that they would present me with a gift, which seemed like unwarranted special treatment given that I was only a tourist, who literally walked in off the street in muddy shoes (I might as well have been a bum) and played no role in the event itself.
As the president of the association made his speech in Apatani after a few performers opened the show, I suddenly hear him say, in English, something along the lines of “We have a special guest from Canada visiting, and we would like to invite her to sit in the front row”. They sat me in a plush chair alongside the sponsors (including Kampu, my homestay host) and judges, including Miss Apatani 2016 and two prominent singers from their society. As an honorary guest, they served me tea and refreshments, and then proceeded to call me onto the stage with the other VIPs to shake my hand and present me with a traditional Apatani scarf. People cheered. Many photos were taken, and the local news channel filmed it all. Tallo also managed to capture the moment:
This has to be up there with the most random, amazing experiences I’ve ever had. This demonstration of kindness is above and beyond what I could have imagined here—I was just happy to witness the traditional song and dance style of the Apatani. Although I’ve been lucky enough to avoid sickness my entire trip, I think I’ve got a touch of fake celeb syndrome over here in the northeast. Strangers have asked me to appear in selfies with them more than a few times by now. I’m happy to humor people on this trip, but I think I couldn’t be a celebrity as a full-time gig.
After the event, Tallo and I said our goodbyes and I returned to the homestay with Kampu. After another delicious vegetarian meal, I retired to my room to unwind my thoughts after the surreal day.
I am reluctant to leave this wonderful place, but the time has come for me to ready myself for reality. I will leave India in a few short days and want to ride out the rest of my time here by relaxing, especially after the impending hellish bus ride, which I will have to relive tomorrow night.
Bring it on, Bus.