Sneha Christall
4 min readMay 17


When in Dharamkot…

Far from the din of the city she called home — with grey, smoke-choked skies, more people than permissible per square foot, where history, politics and commerce rubbed shoulders ever so simply,

Her mind had been called to Stillness, bewildering as it seemed.

Perhaps, it had something to do with— the fleeting view of snow-clad mountains (mist permitting), the sun’s decidedly capricious nature, the constant twitter of sparrows, the sheer effort it took to walk uphill, the tea that tasted so much more special (how?), or the lanky trees that greeted her at every bend?

No wonder then, visitors from near and far, found themselves extending their stay, some going so far as to call this village their home.

There was the long-haired, bearded, bespectacled man, his most differentiating feature being his uncanny height. In his lap, snuggled a diminutive girl with bright eyes and two nose rings. Her eyes darted across the room to the young man playing a guitar and the crowd surrounding him, but they always came back to rest, to gaze upon her lover, as they told each other sweet nothings —

The language that couples in the first flush of love find most suitable for shutting others out, much like a warm blanket on a chilly night.

And then there was the fast-speaking American woman with the tattoo of a phoenix all over her back, a suitcase that could have easily fit two small humans, toned arms and legs that gave away her fitness penchant,

Who in the middle of a divorce, had decided that she would backpack solo for the first time ever, and discovered — quite serendipitously, an old friend; learned that ‘hostels’ in India meant ‘dorms’ too, that she adored Kerala paratha, but despised the lachha variety,

And that she was far braver than she gave herself credit for.

At nighttime, as the hostel dog curled up against her door, shivering silently, she found an old jumper to shelter him in,

Soon after, she slept soundly.

The next morning appeared, grey and rainy, and in the space between night and day, walked a woman in a crumpled blue raincoat. With long, measured steps, she made her way to the meditation retreat. A doctoral student from Finland and a longtime student of Buddhism,

Her curt smile did little to give away her anticipation of meeting the Dalai Lama later that week.

Atop a hillock overlooking the village below, there sat a young man and his companion (for a while), a furry black and white dog with an animated tail. He (not the dog) took his time to roll a joint and politely offering it to me, also offered up his poetry.

A man who wrestled with numbers for a living, quoted Hindi verses on life’s apparent ephemerality and held dreams of becoming a grandfather with a lifetime’s worth of memories,

Never staying too long in the same place, making friends of everyone, yet bidding goodbyes the next day,

Round the corner, he disappeared, the setting sun behind him.

Rationing time between her shifts to see more of the mountains, was the girl who ‘worked in IT’, but would much rather disappear and open up a bakery in the woods.

Would she do it though?

Like the boy from Hyderabad, who quit his big city job, set up shop next to the local grocer’s, where cows and goats grazed in the mornings,

And he could be found, smoking a cigarette, till his first customer appeared, hungry for some fresh dosa, that he would prepare while watching Suits on his mobile phone; a friendly sign above the sink reading, “Help me by washing your plate”.

Like Mowgli, the ‘jungle’ had become his home.

And then there was the young woman dressed in a mish-mash of both Himalayan Hemp and Nike, here to soak in her last few months in India, before she left for the US,

Like a transient bird, she had nested here awhile and now — was just “passing through”.

All of 60 years, walking downhill while chatting with ease, was the wildlife researcher, who much preferred to live solitarily in the distant village above (with birds and monkeys for company),

Till he didn’t, so he could talk about why God doesn’t exist, about the virtues of staying unmarried and why there’s no creation more beautiful than a woman.

Hands in his pockets, a thick shawl wrapped around his neck and a glint in his eye, was the writer on commission to complete his first work of fiction, ready to offer guidance to this fellow writer,

Who it appears, can describe others — strangers even — in great detail, but is at a loss for words when it comes to describing her own self.


‘Sonder’ is a neologism coined by John Koenig in his Dictionary of Obscure Sorrows. His definition of the word reads — “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own.”

I hope you enjoyed my attempt at prose poetry, this was an exercise in describing a few of the wonderful people I crossed paths with, during my visit to Dharamkot. Did you enjoy this style of writing? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below or drop a line at



Sneha Christall

Wanderer, writer, memory collector.