My heroes do not wear capes, my heroes do not fly above sky scrapers, my heroes do not take pride in what they do. Yet they have the power to make me feel like I can fly.
As usual, I don't know where I will sleep tonight. So I wander around the urban jungle of Rohru in northern India, looking for a host.
I ask a few people who have no lead. And all the sudden a man says hello. And repeats hotel, hotel. I tell him about my quest to be hosted by local people and this whole journey hitchhiking from france to India through some interpreters as he doesn't speak much english. Soon about 15 people surround us. Everyone feels helpless. So I genltly dismiss myself and wish them a good night. Two guys follow me and inquire about the trip. They chance calling a friend of theirs who might host me with no success. After 500 meters, I feel an arm grabbing me from behind. It is that man I first met who is urging me to follow him. With sign language, I understand he is finally fine with hosting me. And raises both hands towards the sky. This praising gave the tone for a great experience to come.
We run through some underground passage. It's very dark and we need some light to make our way. We reach his quarter.
We penetrate into a single room. The walls are painted in pink, the paint is chipped. And I can feel the humidity in the atmosphere. There is one bed. The size of a Queen and a half bed. I feel the happiest that one more door has opened to me.
He asks me if I want to drink. I give the go and here I’m embarked through the passages. And after, stepping over a pile of broken glass, we arrive in a bar. Very minimalist and dark place with a large room. And all around little cubibles with curtains so that people can drink at the discretion of (whoever...). And many people start surrounding us. I become a kind of attraction in a place where tourists do not stop. The language barrier isn't an issue anymore glass after glass. I’m dragged here and there. He tells everyone I am a friend from France. And after telling me I should stay with him for three nights. As it is a custom in Islam when you have a host. He told me an hour later to stay for 5 days. We soon stop in a place where a woman is cooking. As he told me earlier we will eat. I feel delighted. I can hear the veggies singing into the wok and the enchanting smell of the spices.
But we leave. Heartbreaking after witnessing such a symphony. We then go to his room. His nephew is there cooking. Chicken and rice. After eating almost only vegetarian food in India, I’m not so enthusiastic. But the taste of the sauce is devine. I cannot stop eating. We then slept the three of us in the same bed. I thus understood why he thought twice about hosting me.
I think this would simply not happen in Europe. I spent more than a week with Yakub chacha as we call him. Chacha means uncle. He is the double face man man. During day time, this man isn’t very talkative, and mostly just raising a timid grin as you pass him. And at night he becomes almost like a party animal, unstopable machine that speaks so fast, joyful and entertaining. Especially when he imitates the monkey. Under the eyes of his nephew who I cannot really tell if he is amuzed, ashamed or indifferent. He is famous for this in town. My chacha is a clown.
And he is also a caring man. At night he covers me to make sure I’m not cold. Same goes in the morning if he wakes up before me. He would put the whole blanket onto me.
The experience in this town was quite unique as well, I just had to be and I was waived at everywhere. I couldn't do more than a few steps without being invited for a drink, a chat, a hike, a stay in a village.
Or even some food, good laughs, learning a few hindi words, going to the gym
or dancing on Pahari (local) music.
or making a fool of myself
Almost every night, many people came into chacha's home. It was the usual rendez-vous after a full day working where everyone would come to relax and chat. They were all friendly & all curious. Chacha would always call for the doctor time. « Doctor, Doctor » he says rolling his R’s. And I got massages from a toy looking device with 8 wheels actually called the doctor. And people one after another were rubbing it onto my body when they were not giving me a head massage.
The few times I went on a several day trip and came back into town. It was like the return of the child prodigy. And here we go again, I understood that every time I would be back chacha would cook some chicken. My vegetarian diet is ruined. But only him has the secret of the sauce in which all the flavors blend perfectly together. Same goes when Chacha makes eggs. I was watching him pouring a lot of oil into the pan. And then he broke the eggs. And I witnessed the egg drawning into the oil. And in regular times, I would have shouted from the bottom of my heart what are you doing as I was watching the egg sinking. And I would have tried to rescue the eggs from the fat devil. But I picture Chacha as a god. Whatever Chacha does. You must lean and cherish every second. This same man who when I’m gone calls me at least twice a day to make sure I've had food and if I found a place to sleep.
And I'll surely miss when his shows me the tip of his finger. That means you'll go for some little drinking. That's the magic of chacha, transforming one drink into an infinity...of laughters and good moments. That's also the magic of India. Turning life into love. The spirituality is everywhere. And people all call each other brothers and sisters.
One night chacha asked me through some friend who was translating. What kind of magic did you do to us? Since your arrival, everyone has become more friendly.
I often think about how the people I meet leave prints on me. And never really realised to what point I was myself leaving prints. I take no pride into this. But It does make me happy as my purpose is to show that humanity is the best gift ever.
Most heroes don’t even know they are heroes. But I know for sure who my heroes are.
Le Patissier voyageur
On a permanent appointment with humanity