06 . Chocolates – 01

Hi, is this the road to lamayuru monastery?

No, you’ve crossed already.

Oh, can you tell the route please!!

Go back, reach there turn there, reach there turn there.. there you will find the monastery.

[While the kid was giving out directions, my focus slowly shifted from finding route onto him, wondering what he was doing at this construction site.
Slowly another kid faded in from the background running towards us]

The two had complementing skin tones and the kid’s hat was visually appealing.

Can I take a photo of yours?

They didn’t say anything, but stood focused with frozen expressions.
Is a smile too much to ask for ? should I ask them for a smile?
“Take what there is. Avoid forced expressions!!” told myselves trying to capture their natural best in the cold.

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Moments later, three others joined the party.
Now there are 5  in the frame .. laughing, smiling, giggling compensating for the silence in the village.

They were excited to be captured, to pose. Quite visible

I asked them permission to capture although I knew their answer.

Would you mind if I take your photo? in a Hindi that I knew.

There is a psychological reasoning behind asking permission to capture people.
Not only this grabs the attention but also facilitates comfort in frame.

Developed this new habit from someone close…

IMG_8219.jpg Thank you, I smiled at them and was about to leave satisfied with my shots.

The one in the middle dubiously stepped forward, asking for preview of what I took..

Then there were 5 heads into the lcd monitor of the camera assessing my shots.

they looked at themselves, mocked their friends, and left with a smile giving their approval.

They made sure that I took their pics right… verified, certified OK.

One of them asked softly,  “Chocolates.. do you have chocolates ??”

Sorry, no chocolates. But let me see what I have.. wishing to find something that could satisfy these kids . There was badam pack I picked up at leh market… you like these?

he took a sample from the pack, did QC and then took a handful assuming them for chocolates.

The one in the middle hesitantly took a few into his hands, ‘take take..’ I welcomed them to have it as they wish.. just like that, they almost emptied the pack of badams.

The first one came again and I gave him away the cover. Their pants had little holes that drained the badam in one’s pocket. Op.Save Badam has began.

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It was indeed a pleasure to have lost my way. Otherwise, I never would have crossed these little souls.

Chocolates, chocolates. Like a Nomad looking for food, I was searching for hot water and Chai anywhere and everywhere I go.

The way he said chocolates clung onto me that I desperately looked for chocolates everywhere. At chai stops, at petrol bunks, at restaurants, at dhabas and in the wild but couldn’t find one.

It was cold, and the drive made the atmosphere way too cooler. And I need a chocolate. Chocolate is my new destination.

Sharing some other moments —>


 

Little boss in Lamayuru
IMG_8262.jpg Smile
IMG_8200.jpgHappy to pose
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05. sweet riverine

When we were growing up, many of us were told the stories of how being good, doing good things in life takes us to a place called heaven.

At some stage in life; after the imperfection and obstacles, we find reasons to believe that there is no goodness in the world, that this place is just another rude hell we end up rotting in.

Forced to believe that this is how it’s supposed to be, often translated as reality..
We surrender.

The winds along the river stirred a strange reminder of what I grew up longing for.

A place where even minute feels forever.
Where water rustles spoke music.

Without a hint, I was living in the past. Sep nov 2016.

Isn’t it how it is? Switching to past unconsciously, then pull ourselves into the present.

Past|Present|past|present and then Future (dreams in the dark), wondering if the timeline pattern is same for everyone.

Those moments were so pure,  when I thought of them just remembered nothing but the river itself.

Have you noticed ? the flow of rivers and the uncanny resemblance to humans ?

  1. They break away while flowing, forming meanders on their path.
  2. They break away, but wouldn’t stop.
  3. They may change their course in time, but not the direction.
  4. They leave away their broken parts as lakes and move on to unite the waters of ocean?
  5. The lake / leftover parts of the stream acts to purify itself with terrific stillness.

Inspiration  Travel  Relax.

May be I would never figure out why I am here.

I am in my own company, but there was a feeling of togetherness.

After all,this river is the character that reminded me, helped me realise what I was missing and what I deserve.

I always had this fear of forgetting. Constantly recollecting the memories wouldn’t help, may be its a big deal to my little brain.

Trying to capture every finest detail in words and pictures and hopelessly failing at it,
I kept following the course of river|Life on my borrowed bird.


Connecting dotskarakoram ranges by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

Off Season Greenery

Nimmoo by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com


Easy choice.. Chiling!!
Choice in hand by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

Roads & mountains that guard the zanskar river borders.
Kaatru Veliyidai!!
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Silently, the wind stole water.
Here is the proof.IMG_8449

Finally, the meeting place!
How many colors would blend in to form this!!

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04. Broken backs

Sunrise just as everyday, but special in its own ways.

It was one of the best night; probably  because I do not remember falling asleep.

A couple from Delhi checked-in next door that morning.
At first, both seem struck by AMS.
Later learnt that they revealed themselves to the desi herbs.

Explaining the possibility of nightstay at Lamayuru, left half luggage with the Landlord and went straight to do sanity check of Bullet that I borrowed yesterday.

Not the bullet that kills, the bullets that can take you to places.

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Only two things mattered to me the most that moment..

Leather Jacket & Rayban Shades. All else is in mute.

At first, I  Though the DSLR gives more freedom of expression by having the choice of Aperture, Shutter and manual focus. I was equally fatigued fearing that these pictures might deprive me of my “me time”, that I will spend the most time taking pictures.

Every shot was a challenge. To hold the camera still is a challenge let alone composing a shot. The time spent taking those pictures was worth every little discomfort.

In the process of adjusting, I just got addicted to the breezy expanse. As beautiful as the landscapes were; the more challenging they were to own, to capture, or even to embrace.

I was running short of words. Every frame that I tried to capture, demand me to breathe a little heavier next time ( High altitude, low on oxygen.. duh!!!)

After several sharp curves and mountains, came a straight path, where the mind took turns.IMG_8075

Noticeably, there were sudden strong winds blowing from west..from Sonamarg.

Having someone to bother, to experiment and to dabble in air together.

Should I have agreed to travel together? Was it mistake to go alone?
Flurry of thoughts/ideas floated in my mind until the road offered challenges.

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I kept asking her to pose to get the best shot, but only got it right when she isn’t paying attention.
So were my best shots.

“Wish I could stand by these mountains forever“, a voice said. One among the many voices that reside in me. comfortably forgetting the chilling pains of cold weather.

A few drops of vinegar in 100 kg sugar and no one ever will ever taste sugar.

So were the little discomforts : the vinegar.

so was the experience : the sugar!!

Whom should I thank for routing me here..
whom should I thank for the mystery she is!!

Consciously, I fell for the harshness yet again…


 

Of course, no travelogue is incomplete without the mention of Chai.

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03 . Destination

Travel-and-tell-no-one

There are always two destinations: The one we know and the one we do not know.

This destination I have heard of, read of is much different than I thought.

I was suggested to rest for the day to get acclimatized to the weather.

A surreal mix of fact and fantasy it is.

The rapidly transforming weather confused me. I kept asking my senses what time of the day it is.

“just 10 minutes passed away?” asking myself, kept tapping my watch.

Creative potential of these young fold mountains is intense.

Usually prone to excessive adjectives whenever I come closer to nature;

I became deaf. I couldn’t move a muscle, I was stoned. Plus I was sleepless last night reading to Rumi’s parables.

Closed shutters, abandoned roads welcomed me just like Srinagar.
Only this time, it was the weather responsible for close down, not insurgency.

Perhaps, intense weather could be the greater villain that no one dare challenge.

In a way, going to places during the “OFF” season is a blessing.

Off season = Authentic peace – (Selfie experts + tourist chaos)

While thoughts took time to germinate, I began working on the Map that I took from JK tourism help center, hand-picking the routes and adjusting mind compass.

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After several negotiations with the weather, began my scout with borrowed lens.

Sometimes, you don’t realize the happiness within but you are smiling. The same happens when we get what we long.

I chose to start this journey solo., but karma had something else in its backhand.

I chose to be secretive about this trip. There is no point trying to explain difference between awe awful to people who think both are same.

Nervousness and the hesitation still stayed while socializing. But a comfort has developed with self being.

Of course, every journey is a journey in itself.

Some faded memories ⇓⇓⇓

clasped by mountains by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

Leh city bus stop by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

 

School students by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

 

 

Dryfruit mart by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

Gompas by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com

uninvited by Samuel Reddyprogu on 500px.com


 

02 . Layover

Layover of 6 hours facilitated me to breathe normally and prepare for another cabin atmosphere.

This could be my last trip!

That’s what the thought always was.

We often get stuck, get out of it, then restart/start hoping that this would be the last time.

Nothing finds us on a trip, there isn’t a hidden treasure.

How could there be a treasure when the treasure itself is oneself?

—–

As I roamed around passing through each and every gate my boarding pass has access to, a group of people wearing most typical Indian attitude with vegetables and rice satchels in their hands caught my attention.

In no time, the thought that came across my mind “why are these people here, they look so poor. How do they afford this”.

Retracing back those thoughts with guilt,
I cussed myself for reducing those people on grounds of appearance.

But the thought of where they are going kept me fascinated.

……Thousand words, thousand water drops and some thoughts later..

As soon as the first announcement for my flight was aired, a long strolling queue was formed by the same people mentioned before.

It was the most defining moment. There was a Ladhaki family, few Indian Army personnel, countable outsiders like me and the whole charter been occupied by people with rice bags and vegetables as their cabin luggage.

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Another round of personal judgement has begun. I was more curious this time.

What business do these guys have in there? the question traveled along until there was an answer.

The usually welcoming Air-hostesses were visibly grossed out to welcome these people aboard.

Such racists!! I thought. Who am I to judge the crew for the similar thoughts I had earlier.

I haven’t paid attention while check-in. “any window seat with good view please” I asked.

In a way, my wish became true,  but wings/engines kept obstructing my view.

While the flight was taxing towards the runway, I was examining the rudders, cabin design, wings pattern and this..

the little breather hole.

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Flight safety instructions began, air-hostesses were growing insensitive to pitch the people about emergency door exists.

“If there would be any complications in this flight and have to use emergency doors, we would disappear in these mountains”,I thought.

While I took out camera to do what I came for and asked the possibility for a seat change, the air-hostesses suggested I stay at my seat as the flight was full.

Immediately, the person sitting beside me asked,”kya bola tha janaab aapne usko?”(what did you ask her ,sir?”

I responded to the eagerness, “for a seat change.. to take photos from the window seat” in my most polite tone.

In close firing range, I shot my questions to them like a reporter as to how why they were travelling by flight.

They responded very humbly, for every word I spoke, there were head-turns which turned exciting from being scary.

As rough as they seem, they were extremely polite.

May be that’s the thing living in harsh environment that leaves them polished; leaving no scope for inner-harshness.

After 48 photos and heavy turbulence due to the mountains’ echo, reached my destination.

Some moments form >40,000 ft altitude :

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PS : Unedited images : Please bear with the sensor dust in the images.

 

 

9. Ek nadi thi

8. The Story teller

Note 1 : I made a promise to self not to speak of anyone explicitly on this blog, but here I am breaking my rule 1. Now that I have warned you, proceed at your risk..

Despite the continuous ongoing drama in the valley, the journey never stopped surprising me.This time, a company in chaos.

With her by my side, what was turning into sleepy groovy bass turned into an unpredictable hi pitched synthesizer beats.

We settled down at Wani restaurant after early sunrise where the lorry drivers were smoking.

She pulled out a cigarette cursing the smokers in mute and took one long shot saying “smoking takes away lives faster, do not smoke.. EVER” as if its her last breath and passed it on tossing away the ashes.

Taking the cig into hands, what she said and what she did was a head-scratcher..

I looked at her shifting my eyes from the cigarette onto her. She  was already wearing an evil smile.

Somehow I secretly began hating the recent developments : having a company being #1.

I only chose to travel alone so that I have all these memories associated with me, just me.
But silently she nudged her way into my moments, disqualifying this for a solo trip.

This doctor had the unswerving wisdom that can destroy any romanticism left in cupid, responding loudly to emotions with reasoning, science and fluent sarcasm.

At breakfast, we fed ourselves with left over insults from last night.

When we returned back to the hotel, Sheikh Bhai asked her about her stay with his infectious smile, “as long as it pleases”, she replied looking at the mountains.

There goes the commitment phobic“, I said.

She turned back and tried to look serious.
Instead, she broke out smiling turn back towards me to shut up.
Dimple left her cheeks long after smile has left.

This wasn’t the first time I have seen “her smile”. It was during one of my poor joke the other day that earned her first smile.

One thing led to another and we began discussing what led us to the Kargil despite the insurgency and its sad state.

When I summarized my life story and what has built me to the moment, she was sitting opposite to me with a terrific stillness.

Unable to comprehend, I took my chai glass for warmth. Then began music in background.. “emotional atyaachar” from DevD.

And she grinned like a donkey.

I was angry the moment and smiling the next. She had a infectious thin air laugh too cute to watch.

“template life wouldn’t suit you”, she said.

In her words, “we wear a practical mask. we make excuses with this practical mask; the worst being “Afterall, I am a human being” thing. Being a human being doesn’t entitle one to play with others emotions or time. You need not live in everyone’s perspectives. There’s no wrong in being wrong. You are not 50, but precisely half of it.
Live your age….. love is noble,courageous only in fairy tales while in real life, its a cover for one’s selfishness…… (a good 5 min monologue)… +rumi metaphor 

“Live your age” is what stayed with me.

From then, the “emosional atyachaar” has become my ringtone.

The chotti Eid in Kangan with sheik bhai’s family, the wazwaan cooked together, the improvised movie conversations, serious puns exchanged, sharing playlists, listening to just released ADHM, Mirzya.., playng with sheikh bhai’s kids, she fighting to read my unpublished wordpress drafts in onenote., … and many little little moments which felt like an era lived too soon.

It wasn’t a dream, for the place is already a dream.

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Sindhu river in moonlight

While I was contemplating on taking up the job back in hyderabad.. she spoke while watching night tv..

“You earned it… there’s no glory in throwing away what you achieved. That’s not disgracing yourself, but your effort. You’ve did it once years ago, don’t do it again..”

With a sponsored ticket, flew back the very next day with lot of hesitation to leave the place with a fear that we may no see each other.

Zendagi Migzara… I’ve told myselves.. life must go on.

Farewell is an event when a closed one becomes stranger again,
this farewell has made a stranger into closed one.

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Our rooms

8. The Story teller

←07 : The nature’s game

At first, I was Jaded and wondered what possessed me to this sleepy little town.
My senses took its own time to adjust to the accentuating silence, the grassy meadows and mountain cleavages.

Cars whiz past, heading east on NH1D, hoping to cross Zojilla before trucks clog up the ghat section. Tired motorists heading west look eagerly to arriving at Srinagar.

All doubts were gone when the clear blue skies and gorgeous mountain vistas reveal themselves posing existential questions before me.
Sun glanced over the peaks pumping a strange sense of strength and creativity.

Cold river banks in mountain cleavages welcoming us to sit on and watch the world go by.
It felt like the town was designed for us.

Strolling on the meadows of the valley along the curvy waters,
hiking the steep(almost vertical) mountains with cold sweats and grunts.

We kept our eyes fixated on the gorgeous mountains.
Moments later, the poignant story-teller came along.with his troupe under the supervision of the lonely eagle, the sun and the passing clouds.

The wedges of sunshine, the symphony of silence and the shadows of clouds were the lead artists.

The rooms we stayed were unsung heros of the story, with the roofing sheets responding to every nature’s call: to every minute weather change indicating signs of sunshine, rain and power switching with different alerts.

You hear a story that you already know.
Even with no thrills, no twists and no surprises you hear it again.
You knew of the tragic moments. Moments of love,pain and sufferings.
Yet you want to revisit them, re-dream the known dream and drool over it.

Perhaps,the art of story-telling does not lie in the story but the nonchalant ways of representing the story. Its the way story has been perceived.

Sonamarg for me is a great charming story-teller presenting itself in a new way everyday.
And the reason it stayed special for me is because I lived there.

Like an unexpected smile from a newborn, this journey has been full of surprises.

Like the perennial “Sindhu” river, things just started rolling for me, in my way!!