Om Namah Sivaya

A Yogurt Story from India with some Life Lessons

Not too long ago in a country far far away……

The Padum trek in northern India is a 7 day journey through the Himalayas with amazing vistas, rivers, fresh air, yaks and many other wonders. The trek starts in the middle of nowhere and ends in the middle of nowhere as well, but a different middle of nowhere. From the endpoint, it is a 2 day bus ride back to more recognizable ‘civilization’, although it seemed that the mountain dwellers along the trek were much more civilized than our society, that can be a whole other essay.

This story begins at the end of the trek. We were a group of 5 westerners waiting to take the two day bus ride back to town. The bus came every few days and we had to wait for it. Once the bus arrived, we got on and found seats for the journey. The bus was half full with ourselves, some Buddhists monks in pristine robes and some mountain folk. As the ride began, more people waved down the bus and got on. It was comfortable by Indian standards, as everyone had their own seat. However, it still felt like a rough ride, as we bounced up and down off the seat, consistently, and not just those at the back of the bus, but all of us.

We were driving through the mountains on a road regularly washed out by rivers and mudslides. Often there was no bridge to cross over streams. At one point, we had to wait a few hours as a van was stuck in a half meter deep current of glacier water.

Yes that van is still on the road!

During the course of the drive a woman came on the bus with a large container of yak yogurt, and placed it on the overhead shelf. Up to this point on the trip, I had not tasted yak yogurt but that soon changed. The bus stopped by a few stone huts and we all got out to stretch and relieve ourselves, each person choosing a giant boulder to hide behind.

The bus driver went to the hut and came back with a big metal bowl, the kind you could serve salad to 20 people in. People started to line up, so I joined in, and when it was my turn I held out my palm and received a large spoonful of warm yak yogurt. It was yummy! Now you might think this is the yogurt story, but this part is just “a” yogurt story, the full story is next.

The woman who stashed her yogurt (maybe 10 litres) on the overhead shelf was quite a riot. She did not speak English, (how is that for a western point of view? To be more correct I did not speak her language), but we had a lot of fun communicating. At one point I was scratching my head through my tuque… yes there was not much heat on the bus, and she motioned for me to lean over, which I did. She took my hat off, poured some water on my head and proceeded to scratch/massage my scalp, and we all had a great laugh.

Now this is where the story gets scientific. The bus ride took us up and over a mountain pass. We went up and up and up. As you go up in elevation, air pressure goes down. That is true for most things, unless you happen to be a sealed container of yogurt. For sealed yoghourt, the internal pressure stays the same as the air pressure around it drops. This can lead to only one eventuality:

Kaboom! Yogurt everywhere.

So what was the reaction of the people on the bus?

People have been bumping around for about 12 hrs, unable to sleep, on a two day bus ride on uneven, unpaved roads. Some were completely covered in yogurt, some partially, monks in their fine red robes were now white, thick yogurt on shaved heads, I had a dollop on my knee.

The reaction was the best part! Everyone laughed. No one was upset! And the head massaging lady who lost her yogurt? She was laughing the hardest!

This was one of the best lessons I learned in India and what I wanted to share. Things happen. All we can do is choose our reactions. Once the yogurt was gone, the woman could have been mad, and been grumpy for the next 12 hrs on the bus, or she could have laughed it off, which she did. The same holds true for the rest of the passengers.

Think for a moment what your reaction would be if someone spilled some coke on you at the movies. Could you laugh it off? Not only was everyone on the bus able to laugh it off, but the laugh was instinctual! Without hesitation, could you find the humour? For some, this is natural behaviour, but it is also something we can learn. To see the situation and accept what we cannot change. It starts with a deep breath before reacting.

Once a situation occurs it cannot be undone. Being angry will only affect you, not the situation. If you can learn to take a breath and laugh or at least let go, then you don’t carry the anger or frustration with you.

Learn to breathe! Learn to laugh! Try some yummy Yak yogurt!