This is indeed, one of the most memorable experiences of any travels in the past for me. I will get to that later. We visited Diskit monastery in Nubra before starting for Leh. It is the largest and the oldest surviving monastery in Nubra Valley, was founded by Changzem Tserab Zangpo, a disciple of Tsong-kha-pa. There is a 100 ft huge Maitreya Buddha constructed here, that sits facing the border with Pakistan. It was inaugurated by his holiness Dalai Lama. It was overcast the morning, but as we went to the new monastery that is situated in the opposite hill of the old one
and went in front of the huge statue, a portion of the cloud parted. And as if the God came alive. 🙂
After some time spent here, we proceeded to Leh, via Khardung La. Little did we know that this relatively simple journey would become one that we would remember often along with the other memories of this trip. It was drizzling. As the roads took us higher in the mountains, traffic became slower. It started to snow heavily. By now, the slow traffic had come to a stand still. There was snow everywhere. We saw the entire trail stuck from high up. Everything seemed to have silenced , even frozen.
By late afternoon, sun shone brightly, it felt glittering and beautiful everywhere. Except the fact that we were still stuck.
But there was no shortage of warmth anywhere. We saw the drivers speak to each other like they were brothers. We saw 20 people coming from nowhere as soon as one of the smaller vehicles started to go off trail, almost at the verge of falling, and save it and go back as if nothing happened. We were no longer a bunch of people, stuck at an altitude of around 18000 ft at the mercy of nature, we were a bunch of human beings, stuck but equally up for the challenge.
I spoke to Dolzan, our chauffeur, and he spoke to me with the same affection, as my father would have spoken to me in similar situation. He inquired if we needed anything, he offered to turn on the heating, undermining the scarcity of fuel in order to keep us warm. He spoke of his wife, two daughters, his family. Even told us some funny stories of the local customs of marriage! 🙂 We laughed and were awe struck at times, but mostly, we felt warm and safe. And at that time, that feeling was the most important thing. I guess, life was teaching us that the secret of coming out of a pressure situation is to remain calm, cheerful and positive. We were stuck there for the entire day and for the most part of the evening. Until the roads were cleared by dozars. When we reached the top, it was dark, and cold. We saw a military Jawan coming to our car. He shouted to our driver: “Zor se chalana hai!” (Drive really fast!”). The two men nodded to each other, and for the next hour and a half, we were sitting in the car running at it’s top speed through the meandering mountain roads. I still remember the sight of the car’s headlight bisecting the deep darkness of the road, the occasional stones coming down in small landslides and running pass just in time…and the smiling acknowledgement of the salute I gave to the military jawan, who were still up there, at the top, where they were still assisting people who were stuck, probably shouting to the next car, telling them “Zor se chalana hai!”