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Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Dead soldier going on leave

India is an exotic land ,at same time of the year one could go to a desert burning like a furnace or climb a mountain in the himalayas which would be subzero in temperature or trek in a green forest , lap in the turqouise waters of a" imageanchor="1" >rm sea or speed along a three laned highway dwarfed by highrises in a city . theres so much to see and experience in India ,my children often say they remember best the places they have gone in India over the years .the passes and hill stations we visited are ever memorable . Way back in the nineties we went To Darjeeling a qauint hill station with a toy train chugging its way up ,we stayed put in Ghoom which had the honour of having one of the highest railway station in the world ,it was bitterly cold and the small Gurkha home ucm restaurant we went for dinner had a plumpy matronly lady owner cum waitress who selt rum on the sly for weary nationals to cobat the cold . After doign the sights and munching pastries in the famous deli in darjeeling we sped to Gangtok alongside the bewitching Teesta river white water rafting and canoeing were watersports coming up in a big way in these places ,Sikkim is one of the most beutful states of India with its pristine forests and rare fauna and flora ,Gangtok was like any other hill station foggy and cold with lighten warm rooms inside frosted windows as we alighted from our four wheel drive and caught a maruti van to go to our hotel . We liked Gautam the teen driver of the van immediately he was asuch a pleasant unassuminfg boy he was full of exitement when he talked of th3e places we had to see in Gangtok and informed us that he was ready to take us to lake Psongo 10500 feet above if we so wished ,we said we will think about it . We walked around in the cold dusk visitng a famous Buddhist monastery in the market we returned to an ethnic Sikkim dinner in the restaurant ,with christmas coming the place was all spruced up . Next day Gautam came early as we had agreed to go with him ,we had to elave early as one needed army permission to reach psongo lake ,Gautam first went to a police station to meet his cousin a cop for some much needed recommendation the cop came with us to the army camp and talked for us as the limit fr that day was already over we also added that we have come a long way from Kerala and finally got the pass . the road up was dizzyingly steep and for many hours through virgin forests and snow covered slopes ,we could feel some shortness of breath with the altitude and piled orselves up with all sort of wollens we had taken with us after hours we reached the Psongmo lake 40 km from Gangtok ,the icy blue waters was etherally calm reflecting the azure skies and the tall snowy peaks ,everwehere there was snow on it sbacnks and yaks wandered arond with tourists having a ride ,a few tea shops clutttered aroudn to give feeble warmth ,we were surprised when a rotund paunchy swamiji walked around with just a dhoti and no shirt in the freeze and even posed for some photographs sportively smiling away ! Gautam aksed us to hurry along our way as we still had to cover another steep 14 km to reach the Nathula pass ,we were a bit hesitant on its safety as most tourists stopped at the lake but Gautam assured us he would bring us back safe and sound and it was something not to be missed hew as right of course . the road turned trifle tricky from then with no trees but only snow everywhere on the hard rock like mountain slopes which were threatening and huge our lone maruti van chugged it way up lost in the white wilderness as we huddled in collective togetherness . i almost dozed off and woke with a splitting headache and mild shortness of breath asGautam stopped we were at the Nathula pass itself . the china border was just across and we could see the Chinese soldier standing there he waved too at us !! Gautam took us straight to a mandir called Babajis Mandir this was actually a small memorial temple for a Punjabi jawan who plummeted to his death from a mule during the 1962 war with China ,strangley he is said to have appeared in the dreams of his friends that night and aksed them to build a memorial for himself so that he protects the place forever ,the army took it up as a morale building exercise and it is still maintained by the army ,we entered in with our socks prayed and offered our respects we sat down to be served hot kheer and chapatis by our own jawans themselves as langar or prasad . It seems Babaji the jawan who died is still considered as living ,the army even pays his salary to descendants and every year the youngest soldier in the regiment goes to thier house in Punjab ona months leave and stays with them as if the Babaji himself is on leave and as promised till date no incursion has ever happened in that area . i published this in the Indian express as an article Dead Baba goes on leave !!

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