Thursday, February 27, 2014

Dras, an unforgettable day

My earlier posts from Leh trip are here

Day 12 : The Pangong Tso Lake

Day 13 : A ride in snow on Chang La

Day 14 : On the road towards Kargil

We were all sleepy as the cab rode towards Srinagar from Kargil. Somewhere during the journey I just glanced out of the window and saw the Indian flag swaying to the tune of air blowing over the mountain range of Tololing in Dras. Just when I wanted to show this to those dozing off, I realized we were passing in front of the Kargil war memorial. The vehicle was stopped right away and we jumped out of the vehicle. We were in Dras, the coldest inhabited town in India. It was a sunny day. It was difficult for us to imagine this snow-bound land during winter where snow storms are so frequent and the temperature drops to as less as –30 deg. A must see place when you are here is this Kargil war memorial built by Indian Army.


The previous day’s Vijay Diwas celebrations were very evident with the floral decorations and the military crowd in the place. It was around 8:30am, the breakfast from the canteen was no good to eat but least we were there for it. Without wasting much time, we started exploring the place. The martyr of the soldiers on the far end of the memorial wrote the story of each soldier on a stone which will stand there as long as the country continues to protect her crown from her two deadly enemies. Perhaps they will remain in each of our hearts forever.


Towards the right is a war gallery which takes you through the facts of Kargil war. The deadly war which has made deep scars to our nation, killing so many lives of our great soldiers. Reading those facts and figures gives goose bumps on your skin. You’ll have tears in your eyes seeing the images of a wife showing her last respects to the dead body of her husband & a father proudly saluting to his son’s sacrifice. The pictures showing the soldiers celebrating their victory brings a sense of accomplishment right there in you. It’s a proud moment for every Indian standing on the Vijay path (Path of Victory)


Few amongst us had the privilege to click their picture with those soldiers. They all stood proud posing at us. I took the charge to click few more pictures of the Indian flag and just when I retire to get back towards the vehicle parked outside I see a tilak on one of the soldier’s forehead and look back to the face as it seemed so familiar. Without a second thought I realized who it was. I see his name on his uniform and my heart leaps with unbound amount of joy. It was a long lost friend of mine whom I loved, adored and respected so much. I could not digest this sudden rush of mixed emotions running through my veins & I dint know how to celebrate this moment. The childhood love came alive and in no time I could recollect all those sweet memories I had cherished for more than a decade now. I went to him and introduced myself as he hardly knew my existence. I had to tell him hundred and one things from the past to help him recollect who I could be. A decade is too long to keep people in memory so I wasn’t too disappointed about the fact that he could not remember anything about me. More than anything I was way too happy to see him, for my prayers were answered the best way possible. We took each other through a quick recap of our lives. He listened to me like he was listening to a child reciting a crammed poem. He was amazed of how I could know and still remember so many things about him. I had no answer to this. I could only smile at my child like love I had for him.


I could not ask for more time from my friends as we had a long way to go. We said bye to him after clicking pictures and sharing our contacts. I left the place physically but for the rest of the trip I could never bring myself back from Dras, for that matter even today. The rest of the journey was undoubtedly the best part. It gave me all time to go back in time and re-live every day and every moment of life that belonged to him. An undying smile and tears due to the overwhelming emotions kept me graved for a very long time. I could not understand if I were happy to be in that state but I was little worried to stay like this for a long time. I still don’t really know that feeling.


While the rest of the team slept, I still gazed outside the windows at those tall mountains on the zojila pass. I just could not sleep for even a single second. We stopped for lunch at a local dhaba where again we found time to pick up few kashmiri salwar kameez materials and strolls available for sale at cheap rates. We would reach Srinagar by evening so the team was busy planning for the stay and some shopping that they would want to do after reaching the place.


Imtiaz bhai by now had become a good friend of Raja after his previous visit to Jammu Kashmir, he met us in Srinagar. We checked into a boat house at Dal lake with a good deal of Rs1600/- per head incl dinner, breakfast and Shikara ride in the lake. Imtiaz bhai took us around the city which was almost shut for Roza for the day. We visited Chashme Shahi gardens and Shalimar Bhag before it got too dark. Local shopping for few bags, dry fruits and dresses near the Dal lake got us to the end of the day. Back in the hotel, the owner of the boat dint spare us from another round of shopping. We hunted for the last notes in our wallets.


On a lighter note, according to the local dialect the meaning of Dras is “Hell”, so I met a long lost friend in “Hell”…. Ha ha… Well…. it was Heavenly!! I slept thinking of this day of my life which was one of the best days so far. The cozy bed of the boat made it feel even more lovelier.

On the road towards Kargil

My earlier posts from Leh trip are here

Day 10, 11 : Around Leh

Day 12 : The Pangong Tso Lake

Day 13 : A ride in snow on Chang La

Our host served us hot yummy porridge as a complimentary breakfast on our last day in Leh. Dried apple & honey added to the rich taste. We shared our contacts, facebook IDs with them before we bid bye to Vishnu & Boxer Bhaiyya (he was a national level boxing player). We loaded our bags onto the vehicle and started towards Kargil. As we passed by Hall of fame, we noticed that the tankers and the military battalions were all lined up, we could sense the celebrations in the air around the place but we hardly knew the date to realize it was Vijay Diwas.


The driver refused to cross 60kmph on those wonderful roads. We threw looks at each other expressing our frustration. We could not help but to bear with the monotony of his driving. We started small talk with him & realized he dint know the way to any of the monasteries we intended to visit on our way. This irritated us little more. But finding a place in & around Leh is never an issue. Thanks to the direction boards & also the people around directed us rightly to reach Likir Monastery. This one is about 50kms from Leh.


The view outside this monastery was captivating. The inside too had a colorful prayer hall. It was filled with study tables, books and manuscripts. The wall was covered with glass showcases with huge statues of Buddha and an endless collection of manuscripts.


I was attracted to an artistic prayer bell near the Buddha idol.       

There is a huge statue of golden color Buddha outside the monastery. It looked all the more wonderful against the dark mountains & deep blue sky in the backdrop.


From here we next stopped at Khalsi town for lunch. Mike, a solo traveler from Seattle had been in Leh and was on his way to Kargil. We agreed to offer him a ride with us till Lamayuru. Post lunch we headed towards Lamayuru monastery.


We occupied ourselves in an endless conversation with Mike while he shared his travel experiences in India & Nepal. By now we were cutting through barren mountains which resembled moon land. Hence this place is as well famous as Moonland. At a distance, the moonscape revealed the Lamayuru monastery on a small mountain.


The view from this monastery was spectacular. We spent sometime wandering around this gompa and we got back into our vehicle. We left behind innumerable mountains as we approached Kargil. It was evening when we made it to Kargil. Hundreds of war stories quiet naturally will occupy your thoughts from the very name of this place. We halted in a hotel which charged a high tariff and served an expensive bouquet. The month of roza does not encourage too many people on the streets, there was hardly anything we could see functioning here. We sat back and relaxed for the day to end as there was nothing interesting to see in Kargil.


Mike at Lamayuru Monastery