Saturday, August 29, 2009


In the region of Yuksom, all the people I meet seem to be busy with some work. In any case everyone has a task to carry out. The four kind of workers I meet are: peasants and farmers who are bringing up animals (chickens, cows, goats, yaks) and cultivate cardamone, sugar cane, rice, millet ; The construction workers who clean the road of land slides and fallen rocks, and repair or build roads ; People (of 5 to 80 years old) sitting on heaps of pebbles which they break with a hammer in smaller pebbles, again for construction ; I also encounter those who are carrying bunches of herbs and plants on their backs. The burden is held by a strip around their head which they hold with both hands. From behind we can only see there legs and it is a funny sight to see those running bushes tumbling down the mountainous slopes. There again, it's a job you can get at any age.

In all my journey, I've never thrown so many "namaste" as during my stay in Yuksum. I was trying to compete with the sincere politeness of the inhabitants, unsuccessfully. My "namaste", if I can say it before the people I cross, invariably meets a genuinely happy smile and a warm "namaste". The children do not hesitate to repeat the greetins several times, the same children who were throwing joyful "bye-bye"'s towards our Jeep.

In Yuksum and its suroundings, we greet by saying "namaste" and joining both hands in front of the chest, with the wrists in an almost 90° angle. Otherwise, only the left hand can assume this position, or, even cooler, be positioned on the forehead. In this last case, the wrist is folded at 45°. We can also join both hands before the forehead. Children sometimes greet me with an amused (and amusing) "namaste tourist!" ; They also call me "dada" (older brother) or "uncle". The younger ones are invited by their parents to join hands on my way.

People from around here have a genuine curiosity to the tourists, and they are always delighted to converse with me, either in English or Hindi. In 2002, the Khangchendzonga Conservation Commitee launched a program of Home Stay,a community-based tourism program that allows the curious traveller eager for cultural learnings to stay with locals in a village, for Rs500 per night and per person. Home stays operators are chosen from houses which are not large enough to be hotels, but are clean and comfortable and it provides the locals who cannot afford to build a hotel or lodge with a sustainable source of income. The inhabitants are also trained by the KCC and are handed a guidebook which explains what a tourist is, and how to welcome him in the best way. The first two pages give a clear definition of a tourist and tourism. Then, the textbook goes through everything from cleaning and tidying up the tourist's room to cooking in an hygienic way, and describes full menus. It emphasises on having the tourist getting a taste of local culture. For instance, it recommends that the family should welcome the guest on the first day with a local celebration, if possible with the other villagers, because "the first contact is an essential part of the whole experience" (page 12 of the textbook).

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