One of the biggest mistakes we made in our film was not giving Tulku ji adequate space. Especially since we have the most amount of footage with him. He is the reason why we spent most of our time in Tabo and didnt just go hopping all around spiti.
So here goes
Everything about Tulku ji is dramatic. The first day we arrived in Tabo we asked around and heard about this guy Tulku ji who teaches music and who lives in the village Lari some 5 km away. So we decided to instantly head off and meet with him. We walked the 5 km as there were no buses around and no vehicles to even get a lift from. You know the basic story from our previous blog.
A day later when we were sitting in the restaurant above our room in Tabo in walks a guy, sits and orders tea. After a few minutes tea arrives with the news from Tashe the owner of the restaurant that the man sitting in front of us is Tulku.
We instantly jumped to our feet. No cameras. We left them downstairs. Before we could even think of getting the cameras we found ourselves totally taken by this mans personality. We fixed a meeting with him the next day at the same place.
In the morning we wait. Batteries charged. Cameras aimed.
We heard from someone that he has arrived and has gone wandering around the village. We instantly rushed out and found him getting his shoes polished and chatting up every person he can see. He is a total people magnet. The magnetism particularly affects the lips and makes them curve upwards when you see him.
In the 6-8 hours we spent with him that day every single person walking by the hotel would hop in to say hello and have tea and chat with him a while. Atleast ten other people picked up music instruments and jammed with him. The jam sessions were particularly painful in some instances. But that’s because they are all learning. From him. =)
There is nothing to do in spiti in the winter. It gets atleast 6 feet of snowfall and temperatures of about -30. Most of the roads get snowed in. so this time is party time. From oct to dec they celebrate all birthdays and from jan to march is marriage time. Its in these 6 months that this man travels around village to village teaching music to people. He says its our tradition that makes us and it is that that people come to see.
There is not one quiet moment with him. Its always one song after another, one story after another interspersed with loud laughter. Oh and here is a man who loves the camera, and it turns out the camera loves him too. =)
In the picture below you can see how the mal wood is used as beams in the ceiling. That bucket you see hanging behind him, well it stores the milk. They don’t keep fridges. The likelihood of food spoiling in the fridge is more than keeping it outside. Power cuts you see =)
He told us many stories, real and mythical. He did his schooling in manali. At that time there were no roads and him along with other students would undertake an 8 day trek through the mountains carrying all their school stuff along with provisions for the journey. One story that he is particularly proud of is ages ago in school a film crew came to shoot a hindi film. They needed some student to act as extras. Tulku was chosen =) the film was called boond jo ban gaye moti. And had jitendra as the lead. It was for a song sequence, the song was sung by mukesh and is called yeh kaun chitrakaar hai. Apparently his family didn’t believe he acted in the film so he pulled many strings (no pun intended) to get a copy of the video tape. It is however available on youtube.
All the students were paid a grand total of 30rs. The school took away 10rs for general repairs of the school and gave these 30 kids the remaining 20rs. Which lasted them a month.
Since then tulku ji feels a special connection with the film industry. he would quite often tell us where to stand and how to shoot and most of the times his suggestions were brilliant. I have experience in the film industry he would proudly say. =)
We tried to catch hold of him during the budh jayanti in kaza but missed him as we had no signal and didn’t know how or where to find him. So we went and spent half a day with him at his house and at his apple and mal orchard in lari.
Its been two months now but the memory of this man is still quite strong. The raspy baritone voice, that sense of humour, that magnetism and all those stories. All of this along with his music. Truly unforgivable for not sharing that with all of you this time around. But all in good time =)