Marhi. 15 October, 201o, 9:03 a.m.
After paying my obeisance to Maa Hidimba at Doongri temple we started from Manali at about 7 a.m. in the morning. The road was wide and open. River Beas on my left side added to the scenic beauty. The Sun had just arisen and its morning golden rays were reflecting on the snow covered peaks in distant mountains. The driver of our vehicle kept on saying that we’ll stop at Marhi to have breakfast. I looked at the milestones and noted the distance of Marhi and Rohtang Pass from Manali. 38 Kms. from Manali, Marhi is a picturesque main stop in between Manali and Rohtang Pass..
The 38 Kms of journey from Manali to Marhi passes through shadowy patches where the tourists are seen getting themselves clicked atop rocks or near water fountains gushing through the hard solid rocks. The road seems endlessly meandering and sharp U-pin like curves. I could see the caravan of vehicles moving atop the hilly terrain and the big vehicles looked like ants moving up in a line! It was the movement that made me register them to be moving vehicles otherwise they seemed like specks of colours dotting the rocky and dusty mountainous terrain.
This picture was taken from the moving vehicle when leaving behind Marhi we were gradually etching towards Rohtang Pass. As I have said earlier that when we reached Marhi, I thought we had reached Rohtang Pass and it was when I got down and noticed the milestone that it was Marhi. The shacks and kiosks on the roadside were stacked with woolens and eatables. The cover-ons in myriad hues of bright colours, fur coats and gumboots were aplenty in all the shops and the torists were busy taking on rent these put-ons.
The woolen scarfs, socks and caps made the place vibrant with colour. The chilly wind had started to blow even though it was morning time of the day and the colourful scarves and mufflers moving along with the wind presented a wonderful sight. Not much away from the shacks and kiosks was a Boddh place of worship which was conspicuous by the colourful cloths hanging around it. The flags in deep red and white colour against the deep blue background of the clear sky was no match for the more famous “red and white” cigarettes advertisements! Or for that matter red and White bravery awards.
The boy who served us tea in big mugs was clad in just a Tee shirt and a very old jacket. His nose was blood red. This is what chilly wind does to your skin at high altitude. I asked him to be careful about his skin as the skin was sure to rupture and turn black gradually. I advised him to use a sun screen creme to protect his skin but then felt like Queen Anne who had said why don’t they eat cake when she was told that people don’t have any bread to eat. I felt sorry for the futility of my advice. I wondered what might have been his compulsions and family circumstances. Why would he otherwise be working as a helper in a tea kiosk at Marhi where the chilly winds drives you nuts because of its intensity.
I sincerely hope that the Red and White awards instituted in 1990, to honour courageous people in Indian society would keep in mind the selfless and courageous people who provide the basic facilities at Marhi and Rohtang to people who come visiting. As the award intends to recognise the ordinary citizens who have selflessly performed extraordinary, little-known acts of physical bravery and social acts of courage, thereby setting an example for others to follow. I think the red-nosed boy who was making cups of steaming hot tea for people like us who shivered despite being clad in woolens, the labourers packed in the pickup van, being taken upwards, to keep the road clear for us do deserve to be considered for their services.