Manali/6: Rumsu

No matter how much I plan before a trip it’s always the unplanned part that turns out to be the most unforgettable. I did plan for Thava. I did plan to sit in the balcony of Naggar Castle looking out at Kullu valley. But I did not plan for Rumsu.

After our visit to the village where they worshipped Raja Bali and Rishi Jamadagni we returned to castle by afternoon. The rest of the day was still unplanned and since it was our last day in DevBhumi we were determined to utilize it to the optimum. We chose to skip lunch and went out again after a little rest. The castle had a guide map of Naggar with nearby tourist points mentioned on it. There we found the name of Rumsu. Upon enquiring we reckoned that Rumsu was a village nearby that had traditional houses and ancient temples. It was already afternoon and I wasn’t feeling too ambitious after our tryst in the morning so we first decided to visit the art gallery nearby.

Nicholas Roerich was a Russian painter, explorer, writer, philosopher (and many more) who spent a considerable amount of time exploring the vast region of central Asia including Ladakh and Tibet. He actually did many other things whose accounts are readily available on internet. I stopped reading midway. Later he settled in Naggar along with his family (wife and two sons) and lived there until his death in 1947 at the age of 73. His house and studio were later transformed into a museum that is formally known as Himalayan Estate of Nicholas Roerich. The whole estate has several parts exhibiting Roerich’s and his family's works and collections, with sections dedicating to Russian art and culture. Honestly, it was not my kind of place and I was bored mostly. But one thing was pretty evident – he had lived one hell of a life.

The extensive tour of Roerich’s estate had left us feeling ravenous. We decided to have Siddu, a popular local dish made of wheat flour and yeast. It looks like momo but comes with a different type of filling, usually vegetarian. Many a roadside stalls were selling myriad fast food including our choice so we just opted for one with a cheerful looking young lady. Our siddu came in plastic plates with spicy pickle alongside. It was soft and spongy which was owing to the presence of yeast I guessed. By the time our little afternoon snack session was finished we had zeroed in on our next destination and there’s no prize for guessing its name. Rumsu. Or how it was written on the guidemap on castle wall – the traditional village of Rumsu.

Neither of us had any clear idea about the route but one thing was pretty clear, it was already 4.30 in the afternoon and we had to hurry. Fortunately we found a museum staff chatting in a group at the ticket counter. He told us he was from Rumsu and it was about 4 kilometers from the museum. But the road condition was a tad tricky. 4 kilometers that too on two-wheeler, we started with newfound gusto which was perhaps partly injected by siddu. The journey started and very soon we realized where the catch was in our 4 kilometers journey. It was the road itself. There’s nothing much to elaborate exactly how amazing our two hours’ journey to the village and back was like but while riding I was quite certain about going back home with a dislocated hip joint. Not to mention the journey felt more enjoyable when your pilot wouldn’t stop insisting you to devour the scenic beauty of the valley below while maneuvering the vehicle down a steep stretch.

But what about the destination though? Rumsu was beautiful. Barring a few eyesores (read modern buildings) the village looked as if time had stopped there many years ago. The little amphitheater, the derelict Shiva temple under the ancient tree, the wooden houses and the temples were looking like a page out of a fantasy novel under the decaying light of late afternoon. We were transported back in time when life used to revolve around the harsh but simple realities of survival and death. The USP of Rumsu is, however, its temples. That one little hamlet had at least fifteen temples as far as we could explore; most of them dedicated to Lord Vishnu and one to Jamlu Devta and one to Lord Shiva.

In the evening we roamed about in and around the castle, exploring the castle after it was closed for visitors. Then we sat at the bakery across the street and had homemade cheesecake with strawberry and blueberry jam. Time was running out and my heart was slowly sinking into the pit of my belly. It had been two days and I was already in love with Naggar. The castle, the wooden houses, the stationary shops, the fluffy stray dog whose one leg was disabled, the sign of adventure sports agency, the temples, the old man and his daughter who so lovingly served us lingdi curry and rice. It was time to leave them all behind and go back to a life that I despised so fervently. Although the next day we visited Vashisth Temple before boarding the bus to Delhi from Manali bus-stand but my journey had ended the moment we had left Naggar. When the bus finally revved up I closed my eyes and uttered a silent promise to the gods of the valley that I was leaving behind. I would come back again.

The end