Ladakh – Uninviting, grotesque faces of the never ending mountains to a magical stretch of white sand that seamlessly merges with mounds of snow. Gory land where nothing is as how you know it. Every element totally defies rules of the world. One can’t tell between clouds and fog, snow and white sand. A phantasmagorical land where you can watch clouds form from the floor of snow capped mountains and your senses seem to belie you. It’s a place where one has to unlearn and relearn. The sun beats down hard on the bleached land and the whooping wind is unsparing; you cannot but flit between indoors and outdoors like a fly. You could say it’s not a place for the faint hearted but I say that’s an inappropriate usage. No man can duel with nature in all her rawness;- she’s unmatched, unforgiving and relentless beyond human competence or comprehension. Nature, untamed and unconquered is no Mother, she’s an unfathomable, pitiless force where to think of duelling is suicidal.

Pangong Tso, a body of spectral colours, too beautiful to be real is indeed a devilish fairy. She is kept out of bounds with two contrasting and equally formidable barricades of stifling heat and chilling winds. The blazing sun suffocates if the wind is shut out but out in the winds is not where a tropical frame can hold its own. The night sky is how it would have been on the whole of earth when man had not known of the engine. But you can’t get more than a peek at it. It’s not wind but a tornado raging all around. But that stretch of water with zillions of blues and greens whose equals the computer can’t produce was mesmerizing. The one thought I penned down in that moment was this – The vast world feeds the hunger for ever widening vistas of the ravenous mind that is akin to a famished leach sucking up the very last drop of blood. The more I saw the more impatient was I to see. Numbed fingers but all the more keener mind. It was all consuming but I felt born anew like a Phoenix. “Very many fantasy worlds spun but not one as close to what I’m seeing now.” The intoxication was of a nature I had never known before and so deep and strange to be scary.

I’m not a mountain person. I did not expect to feel at home but the tortured face of the mountains completely sanitized of anything living felt like a dreadful prison hole, only that it’s not a hole and much worse for that. The lone bird you see far far away is pitiable for it is denied communion. How would it feel to be the only representative of a specie and not know what one looks or feels like? But again, habituation makes even captivity feel like home. How is it beauty that which is lifeless? Not to me, it’s strange, magical, a wonder but not beautiful. There’s no certainty. All five elements keep you constantly on tenterhooks. You are always gripping your seat in trepidation. The loose earth portends to give away any time, the rocky mountains threaten to hound you any moment, the sun disappears behind clouds giving full rein to the biting winds, the sky is unpredictable in its precipitation. There’s not one thing dependable, it’s like being on the lurch and hopelessly bracing yourself up.

That was Ladakh to me, the so called paradise land but nothing short of a stricken desert.


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