23 August 2005

The Army...

Those mountain goats caused a traffic jam at 16,000 ft.... there was a truck, our bikes, these goats, some chaps carrying rations from kullu to leh on horses... one of the horses died for whatever reason, so they just sent the others forwards and dragged the carcuss along to the edge of the road and pushed it off the cliff... it didn't fall far enough down the slope towards the frozen lake... so a couple of them climbed down and pushed it further down.

I'll write in detail about the Indian Army some other time... the army guy in that photo took the enfield for a ride... he was impressed with the handle-bar. That camp- Sarchu, is a strategic transit camp for all army troops heading to the forward posts along the border with Tibet and Pakistan (including the Siachen glacier). The camp is at around 14,000 ft., our highest stop-over for a night... learnt all about altitude sickness, with very little sleep that night.

I've seen a good number of open toilets, but this one is really OPEN.... there aint a tree in sight, no rocks to hide behind... interesting experience.

The sand is so soft... it puffs out when you walk on it... like landmines going off... very beautiful! Felt awesome when the sand sneaked thru my toes while walking.

The other army guy was the one who saved us when the enfield's air filter got clogged... he came out from his camp with a brush and some waste, stood under the high altitude for like half an hour, cleaning the air filter like it was his own... he got his hands dirty, pushed the bike and ran behind it to get it started... man, I had goosebumps-more like goosehills- when I saw him running behind me pushing the bike and giving me instructions to get the bike running properly... why did he have to do all that... the kindness of strangers.

When I wanted to take a snap of him, he felt bad because he had hurried out of his tent wearing slippers... he felt genuinely ashamed to be photographed wearing slippers while in his uniform... I can't describe what I felt then... just deep, deep respect. We had to move on, so we just thanked him and rode off... the image of him standing there under the blinding sun, waving us goodbye is etched in my memory.


Anonymous said...

Most of the citizens take the Indian army for granted and never realise their role in the nations security.

Moreover they just get sensationalized by some random shooting event based on which every tom, dick and harry comments on their capability.

Your experience definitely is a example of the humaneness which is lacking in most of normal metropolitan citizens.

Wanderer said...

You said it- "...the humanness which is lacking in most of normal metropolitan citizens."

Since a vast portion of the country is so cut-off from Kashmir, people don't have a feel for what's happening there. Most write-ups and news are just bullshit. It's amazing how they keep their spirits up under such trying circumstances.

One of my friends pointed out that, these guys are perhaps some of the mentally toughest people around... the US army went beserk when under hostile environment, isolation from family etc... they basically lost it.

My point in this comparison is this: when we look at the kind of respect and public space that the US army guys are given in their country... and turn around to look at the depressing state of things at home... it hurts me. How often do we get to experiene unconditional love... these guys are just wonderful... and I wish I could make people get a deeper understanding of their lives. That's all.