In Tialing too, like in Liktsey and Turtuk, I wanted to spend time with the younger classes, singing nursery rhymes with them, teaching them Turtuk’s favourite ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’. I couldn’t do that though, as the school was tiny and the children were huddled into makeshift class rooms in the corridor. I distributed mini M&M packets to the younger children and as I turned to go back to the classroom I heard a rattling sound.
The children had mistaken the candy packets for rattles and were shaking them and creating a ruckus. I opened a packet, and popped one of the colourful little candies into my mouth, to show the children that they were edible. The children quickly followed my actions, and were very happy to discover that their rattles were actually very delicious.
We then decided to instead attempt an advanced version of ‘Head Shoulders Knees and Toes’, with the higher classes. Slowly but surely, we made our way through the booklet and videos of the Human Body Module, and then proceeded to begin making our Human Body Chart. We had one of the students lie down and be our model for the Human Body outline, an activity which unfailingly drew out giggles and shy protests from the children, just as it had in Liktsey and Turtuk.
Soon enough the children were engrossed in drawing the individual body parts and also writing three sentences about each of them. It was difficult for them, but by this time they had really got into the spirit of things, so with some determined effort they managed to do a really good job of it. While drawing, however, we had a brain bigger than the head and a heart smaller than a bangle. Let’s just say, our proportions were slightly off.
I watched as each child eagerly put down their sentences on to the chart, their faces contorted with concentration. Each one was handed a lollipop and a chocolate from us as a reward for their amazing hard work, and when school finally finished, they all left with beaming smiles on their faces. This put a smile on my face too, knowing that I had given them something, intangible but still very real, which they were going to hold on to for a long time.
Was it the way they photobombed the pictures we were taking of them? Was it the way they giggled so silently that the sound almost got lost even before escaping their lips? It was everything about them that made us grow close in just a matter of a short time. However, before I knew it, I was not only leaving Tialing, but Ladakh as well.
It was almost a ten hour long journey back to Leh, back for the last night that I’d be spending in Leh, and as we bobbed up and down, closer to our destination with each passing second, I felt myself urging time to stop. But as was written on the walls of the school in Liktsey, ‘Time and Tide stop for none’. My time there was over, and though I was leaving with a heavy heart, I was also taking with me some irreplaceable memories, a piece of Ladakh and all the people I’d met there.
In a flash, the night was over – us eating Kashmiri food together, me making horrible jokes as everyone threatened to kill me for it. I was in a plane again, headed back to what I knew as home. I joked saying that I would now need to take Diamox to get used to the Delhi altitude again, but my heart longed to stay on in Ladakh.
Floating over the same clouds, the ones I had seen, once before, on my way to Leh, but this time leaving them behind me; I said goodbye to Ladakh.