Thursday, April 17, 2014

Ladhak & Kashmir 2010 - Day 3 - Khardongla Pass

2nd July 2010

The destination was Nubra Valley. On the way was Khardongla pass, world’s highest motorable road.

What I noticed newly this time was the part of the mountain road that looks like some sort of a gateway. Gateway of Ladhak. Two towers of rock flanking a narrow mountain road in an ostentatious way.
It’s a poster picture used by travel books. In fact, my book has this picture. I don’t know how I missed it the last time.
Oh yes, the last time, I was in a bus looking out of a side window and not out of the windshield.

The taxi driver stopped for this and asked me to take a picture of it. It was, as far as I remember, his only good deed in those 2 days he was with us.
A most uncooperative, rash young fellow he was.

I learnt a lesson. Never to hire a young driver ever again.

My father of course sang his praise for his efficient driving, meaning it for sure, but expressing it so often, just to spite me for all those pictures I took way beyond his patience limits.

My father knew of a small military shop giving free tea to all visitors at Khardongla. I don’t know how he found out about this shop. We went in and drank 2 cups of tea each I think.

The whole place was wetter and dirtier than I think it had been during the 2009 visit – but I am not sure.

You want to touch the snow, make a ball of it in your hands, throw it playfully at one another, only when you see it on television. When you are in the midst of it, these ideas are unthinkable.

There being not much to there, we drove on.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Ladhak & Kashmir 2010 - Day 2 - Sindhu Ghat

1st July 2010

From Stok we drove towards the one destination that my father looked forward to with reverence in the entire tour. The rest for him was sightseeing. This one was a pilgrimage. It was the Sindhu river.

The most important river for Hindus, not because it is the origin of the word Hindu but because it was on the banks of this river that the civilization of India dwelt and flourished. In the Vedas, it is the river Sindhu that’s mentioned again and again along with Saraswati, not the Ganges, nor the Yamuna.

He even wanted to take a dip in it. But didn’t.

This Ghat was inaugurated by Advani in 2001. This was a notice I had missed during my 2009 visit.

We all stepped into the water, but not before sprinkling a few drops of it on our head with reverence. The water was shallow close to the banks and inviting.

After taking a few pictures of my parents standing ankle deep in it, I stepped in.
One step at a time, I went further and further, to repeated shouts of caution from both parents, until I reached a rocky mound that stood out of water. I walked on it back and forth feeling the wind in my hair while my parents kept shouting from the banks for me to stop, the rocks might be slippery, I might slip, and if I did, it would be a very bad sprain.

I giggled and laughed and shouted and even performed a little dance on that mound in the middle of the river.

My dad took a few pictures of my antics but too bad he didn’t have a digital camera.
Cutting small corners cuts out huge portions of our experiences of living.

And then I decided to return. I didn’t remember which way I had groped to this point from the banks.

You cannot leave footprints on water.

But I surely took a different path now. For, after a few steps, the water was deep and I couldn’t find shallow ground for my next step and my heart missed a beat and the colour of my face must have changed too.

My father, sitting on the banks asked me if he should come and fetch me.
I said I would try myself and I somehow reached close to the banks, where he stood with an extended hand.
I curled my fingers around it, once again, after 25 years.

Rare and fortunate are those occasions in my life when I am relieved of the burden of my strength and independence, rendered somewhat helpless and someone feels like taking care of me.

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Ladhak & Kashmir 2010 - Day 2 - Stok

1st July 2010

After Thikse, I think we drove up to Sheh – literally up because the Sheh palace was situated on an elevated plane – a mound – and there was a sort of path leading up to it.
My parents did not get down the car. I remember going up and taking a few pictures of the scenic stretch of grassland below. The grass was different shades at different places and I tried my best to capture that. There was some water here in small pools here and there and from that distance it looked good.
After that there are two pictures of the Stok Kangri – meaning Stok peak or summit?
We reached the palace – this, I believe is where the king of Ladhak now lives at present, removed for a few generations from the Leh palace which is in ruins.

From the restaurant on a lower terrace, I climbed on to a projecting roof that was level with the terrace, taking pictures and walked all over those stones with engravings on them until someone shouted they were sacred, get off! And then I walked back.

This must be one of the best located restaurants in the world. The view from here is panoramic and you see the endlessly stretching spaces, and poplars and whole mountains base to peak from above. There is no sound except that of the breeze. There is a sprinkling of toy like buildings far far away. This is Ladhak in a nutshell.
You could spend the whole day here, sipping some tea or having a bite of that and keep looking at that grand picture, wishing you had a thousand eyes. And a camera that could capture it.