It was a sunny day at the beginning of May in 2015. Having travelled to Vashisht, a village in the Kullu Valley, three friends (for they were friends by now, despite meeting just over a week earlier) were heading back from their walk to the waterfall. It was a beautiful sight. The waterfall at the top of the mountain divided into several smaller cascades of glittery, frothing ice water, each tumbling down the mountain over obstacles of rocks and pine trees. The snow that capped the mountains on the other side of the valley was pristine and white and the trees were lit up and outlined so beautifully, it was as if you could distinguish each one from the rest, among the green blanket smothering the hills.
The friends made their way through the silent forests, where nothing but the sound of crashing water could be heard. And then, a different sound. A white sign thanked them for respecting the silence in this area, and gave way to a bright yellow shelter, beneath which a group of people were talking and laughing, sharing stories over hot cups of coffee and chai. A black sign informed the friends that they could find chai and crepes here. Beaming out from under the tarpaulin was a man’s face, the owner of the establishment. His smile was wide, the creases at the corners of his eyes were deep. The friends felt hot from walking in the sun, but the man wore a warm puffy gilet over his several layers of clothes.
“Come in!” he called, gesturing towards the one small table he had.
The friends couldn’t resist his cheerful face, and sat down on the bench at the table. The friendly man was Vicky, from Nepal. He had built and lived by this shelter for many years, after leaving a life of selling his wares at markets in London. He had made jewellery from coconuts, inspired by the woman he loved. But since they were no longer together, he couldn’t find joy in making them any more. He decided he would open a cafe. He found the small space, set up his tarpaulin and stove and was open for business. Passers by loved to come upon Vicky and his cafe, and he would make them chai and sit with them for hours, sharing cigarettes and charras until they had to leave.
He told them he didn’t make a lot of money. He couldn’t really move, even if he wanted to. But he liked it here. A simple life. He woke up to the view of the glistening snow-capped mountains every morning, and was lulled to sleep by the sound of the river every night. He enjoyed feeding travellers with steaming chai and freshly made crepes, filled with the sweetest bananas and the most delicious chocolatey hazelnut spread.
“So what’s your aim now, Vicky?” asked one of the friends.
Vicky closed his eyes and held his hands out in front of him, the image of something spectacular in his mind.
“The whole world in a crepe.”