The first word uttered to us when we landed in Leh was “Juleh” (also spelt Juley, Jule or Julay and pronounced “joo-lay“). We figured it probably means hello. Curious, we asked the manager of the inn we stayed at what it actually means. “Juleh is a magic word”, says the manager. “You can say juleh when you want to say hello, goodbye, thank you, how are you, nice to meet you and you’re welcome”.
It really was the ONLY word we learnt while in Leh and the only word we needed! People in Ladakh are incredibly friendly. A smile, a head nod and an exchange of “juleh” are always offered as you walk past anyone in the town.[bq_right]It was indeed a “magical moment” every time we exchanged “juleh”, the magic word, with the people of Leh.[/bq_right] Honestly, we were not sure what the people in Leh would be like before going to Leh. Having read the travel advisory about the dangers in Jammu and Kashmir, we couldn’t help but wonder if the people of Ladakh would be less friendly because of the hostile environment surrounding them. But we were pleasantly surprised at how sweet, friendly and welcoming the people were! We felt totally safe walking around town late into the night and were always greeted with a “juleh” and a smile everywhere we went. We fell in love with the town because of the people!
On one of our walks around town, we stopped to say hi to some people selling vegetables. We asked them for permission to take a picture of them and they happily obliged. All of them giggled when we showed them the photo we took of them on our camera. We didn’t talk much but the exchange of “juleh”, the photo taking and the giggles were an honest exchange between different cultures. We hope we’ve “enriched” their lives that little bit more as they have ours!
We then took a photo of a man from whom we bought dried apricots from (yes, we ate the dried apricots sold on the side of the road. Friends cautioned against it, in case we got sick but we couldn’t say no after the man packed a little bag of dried apricots and handed it to us! We didn’t get sick and as it turned out, the dried apricots were a delicious snack!). We again asked for permission to take a photo of him and he too happily obliged. His friends gathered around and looked at the photo we took of him on our camera and they all had a good laugh.
On our return walk, we stopped by a camera store and printed a copy of his photo and then handed it to the man when we walked by his apricot stand. He smiled and looked very happy to have a copy of the photo. He nodded at us. Juleh, we said. It was indeed a “magical moment” every time we exchanged “juleh”, the magic word, with the people of Leh.