This is Leela devi, the woman who runs a home stay in a village called Najang on the Kailash Mansarovar road. She has a room wich she lets out to pilgrims and tourists during the season. We were lucky to find her place when we were searching for a place to sleep after getting stuck due to a massive landslide on our way back to Dharchula. Otherwise we would need to survive the night out in the cold with nothing but our survival blankets.
Leela’s husband expired a few year ago. Her two sons stay in a boarding school in Dharchula as she struggles to make ends meet while saving money to pay for their education. She sees her sons twice a year during the holidays. When we asked her how much would her room cost us, we expected her to quote us an exhorbitant amount, given the fancy motorcycles we were riding and the pickle that we had put ourselves in. I was shocked to her her say, “Ek aadmi ka 80 rupees, bhaiya. Khana ka extra hoga”. That’s 80 rupees (approximately 1 USD) per person not including food. The food wasn’t priced exhorbitantly either. It was simple roadside dhaba style food at dhaba prices.
We got talking to her and learned that due to the pandemic, she was in severe financial distress. She desperately wanted to keep her kids in school. But that was becoming increasingly difficult. She could have easly quoted us a ridiculously high amount and we would have paid it without batting an eyelid. She knew that, but yet she quoted us her regular price. Her conscience didn’t allow her to milk us for whatever we were worth.
Today oxygen concentrators and cylinders are being sold at exhorbitant prices in India. The sellers aren’t in financial distress. In fact, their business is doing great and they are extracting maximum benefit from the current supply-demand situation. And here was a single mother in deep financial distress for over a year struggling to survive and keep her kids in school who was charging us 80 rupees for a shelter for the night with warm blankets.
Before leaving we paid her bill and then we offered her some money. She hesitated. I told her it was for her kids. Her eyes met mine for a brief moment and we could sense the emotions running in each other’s minds. She acepted the money and thanked us.
I asked her to pose for a picture in front of her home stay. I told her that I would be creating a place on Google Maps for her home stay so that more people could find her and know that she was offering food and accomodation.
Leela’s Home Stay: https://goo.gl/maps/pDepmsJpkFY6yFzX6