Sunday Herald: Mountain of beauty or love?

Sunday Herald: Mountain of beauty or love?

While looking for a mineral-rich clay, a traveller discovers a heart-warming relation

Mountain of love

Leh-Ladakh — the mere sound of this word created an aura of excitement at my place. Everyone in the family had heard about the picturesque places and ‘seen’ the now-famous Pangong Lake in the film 3 Idiots, but a visit to Ladakh never figured on our bucket list.

My neighbour, who had recently visited Leh, apprised us with all the necessary details and before bidding adieu, casually remarked, “Don’t forget to see the multani mitti (fuller’s earth) mountain!”

For the uninitiated, multani mitti is a mineral-rich clay material, and is known to improve skin tone and erase blemishes when mixed with rose water and turmeric. There are several branded multani mitti packets available in the market today. However, its purity remains questionable. Here, I had the rare opportunity to dig into fuller’s earth in its natural form, even if it meant travelling till the China border to find this ‘mountain of beauty’.

My agenda for this trip was crystal clear. Soak in the sight of this unique mountain and then dig in with full force!

Our guide-cum-driver in Leh was well- informed about the sightseeing places but was quite stumped by my enthusiasm for a ‘nondescript’ mountain. “Madam, woh toh last mein jaayenge.” (We’ll visit it in the end). He is saving the best for the last, I presumed.

My better half, who has an uncanny knack of reading my mind, said, “Stop looking so glum and feast your eyes on these snow-capped mountains, and enjoy our ride to the highest motorable road in the world!”

Khardung La, Tso Moriri and Pangong Lake were undoubtedly the most picturesque places in the world, but my puerile wish of visiting the multani mitti ka pahad grew in gargantuan proportions with each passing day. “Aaj toh last day hain. Mujhe woh pahad pe leke jao,” was my plea to the driver when he arrived to pick us up.

Trying unsuccessfully to hide his laughter, he said in Hindi, ‘what is left now is probably a rubble, not a mountain, thanks to the onslaught of pollution and tourists’. Unmindful of his words, I grabbed two bags to fill up my bounty and sprinted towards the car.

My husband and kids were tickled to see my childlike enthusiasm but did not utter a word fearing a fiery retort from me. It was almost dusk when our driver spotted ‘my dream destination’. I had visualised hordes of ladies digging fervently on the hillock (it was not a rubble, after all!), but the site that greeted me brought a smile to my face.

Besides a handful of tourists, there were many army personnel who were carrying tiny bags of mitti for their loved ones. “This mitti is a great gift that I carry home every time I visit my wife,” remarked a soldier who, I believe, was getting a well-deserved break from guarding our borders. I keenly joined this eclectic crowd that was unified by love.