Moving down the memory lane I realised, how much I had, to write about. Leaving aside melancholy, only the happy and sweet remembrances could keep me busy forever. This very thought brought a smile to my lips. I wrote to be happy. And how wonderful it would be, if I could pen down my buoyant reminiscences! When I was a kid, I loved fairy tales. I really believed in the existence of fairy land. As sense and complexity of mind increased with years, I started fighting with my own belief. Every thing had to have a proof!! However, nature did give me a proof at last and confirmed the existence of what I called a “fairy land”!!!!
Our magical journey to “Leh Ladakh” was a tour conducted by “make my trip”. We were quite content with the kind of facilities they provided to us, considering the remoteness of the cold desert we were in. Adding feather to the cap, our room had a jaw dropping view of the magnificent Himalayan range as well.
However no expedition can be meaningful and satisfying, without harmonious relationship with co-travelers. And it was pretty evident from the way the group was split, that the agency had given considerable effort in doing so.
As we landed in Leh airport, animated and bewildered after first look of the Himalayan and Karakoram ranges from the aircraft, we spotted a short, stout Tibetan guy waiting with six names on a placard. We moved towards him with our eyes set on those names. Heaving a sigh a relief, we both looked at each other, yes we had rightly identified our names on his placard from a considerable distance, confirming that our eyesight was fine!!:-) Almost immediately two other couples joined us. And then the Ladakh group (as we called it later) accompanied by this guy headed towards our ‘chariot’ aka car. This mean machine was supposed to be our companion in the entire expedition, leading us through the rocky and sometimes precarious roads of Ladakh. The Tibetan guy, was the chariot rider aka driver.
Phunsuk Wangdu our driver was a jolly good fellow. His name reminded us of Amir Khan in “Three Idiots”, however Phunsuk clarified that this was a very common name in the region. But looking at the hilarious side of his nature, even today I doubt whether it was a joke or he was actually named so by his parents!!! The harsh rays of the desert sun and chilled weather of the place had left early wrinkles on his face. Yet he managed to look cute and happy.
The journey from airport to the hotel was that of eerie silence. None of us conversed with each other. The ice broke only, after dinner that night. Starting from a formal “hi …hello” the conversation translated into jokes, leg pulling, giggling and fun. That moment marked the beginning, of transformation of six complete strangers, to become dependable friends in future.
As the cold desert kept unleashing different colors of its enigmatic self, our friendship kept budding. Nilesh and Shalaka is a lovely looking, amicable couple from Mumbai, both are professional medical practitioners. While Bhagyesh and Priyanka, is a cute and happy go lucky couple from Pune. Bhagyesh is an IT professional while Priyanka is into marketing.
That morning we were supposed to start early. The awaiting journey was long, eventful and tiring as well. We were to cross Changla pass and after a brief time of leisure there, we had to continue for Nubra valley, our destination of desire. After having breakfast of bread and omelets, we set forth for an experience of lifetime. We reached Nubra valley just before lunch, extremely satisfied by what we had, to treat our eyes, on the way. The chilled mountain air, the enormity of the snowcapped ranges standing tall and the vivid vastness of the blue sky we had it all.
But when we reached the camp in Nubra valley, I immediately recalled the fairy land of my infant dreams. A lush green patch of land, surrounded by fearsome grey mountains, a striking contradiction. The vast greenness occasionally interrupted by exuberant mountain streams, flowing in a rhythm almost audible. Wooden bridges across these water bodies, gave it the fairy tale touch. And there stood our little white tents. We could almost smell that the day was going to be super exciting.
After having a filling lunch, six of us went around exploring the place. I always knew Ladakh is a cold desert, but literally did not expect to witness a place where heaves of white sand is surrounded by snowcapped mountains. Nature has created a distinctly divergent topography here, onlookers are left wondering on what forces might have come together to create this illustrious painting. After a ride on double hoofed camels, typical of cold deserts we strolled back to the camp.
Darkness descended with a strange intoxicating air that night. As tribals, dance merrily in full moon nights, intoxicated and unaware, they let their spirits loose. We also were in cloud nine then, totally unaware of the existence of a materialistic world outside our fairytale camp. We danced around the campfire as a mark of celebration of Priyanka and Bhagyesh’s wedding anniversary, totally inebriated by not only what we had but also the aura of the place. The guys played loads of childish pranks; the child in each of us confirmed its existence strongly. Shalaka, Priyanka and me talked our hearts out, while the guys were busy doing the wackiest things they had ever done. The most bizarre conduct was, at mid night, we found them seated on the wooden bridge, dangling their legs merrily in the chilled air. Outwardly we pretended to be angry but it was freakish and fun to watch. Our comfort with each other actually grew to the utmost that night, which marked the formation of a wonderful, comfortable and long relationship.
Leh Ladakh has etched enough images in my mind and soul, which I could paint forever. A creation which can almost reciprocate, your admiration for her. The serene paradise is epitome of natural beauty. However the serenity is best appreciated in the company of compatible co travelers, who have the urge and ability to imbibe the creations’ uniqueness. Who have the lust to explore the unexplored overcoming all odds. Nubra gave me and my husband not only memories to cherish but also souvenirs in the form of life long friends.
Thank you Shalaka, Priyanka, Nilesh, Bhagyesh and Avishek for helping me create these memories!!
Aritra Chakrabarty Sengupta