LADAKH – THE LENS EYE VIEW!
Camera bag unzipped! Lens cap uncovered! Blue skies…Fresh breathes…Ecstatic winds…And finally “Hello Sunshine!!!”
I came out of that chocking black bag. It is truly said, “Patience is the key to paradise”. And who can value this paradise better than me. You know I was bought with great enthusiasm. But probably my use appeared to be an unfortunate set of circumstances. My owner boasted so much about me. But it hurts the worst when the person that made you feel so special yesterday, makes you feel so unwanted today! Sometimes being unique, being special can become a curse for you.
Ohh! Sorry I forgot to introduce my self. I am an ‘Ultra Wide Angle Lens’ aka ‘Fisheye’. You all must be knowing DSLR cameras. In the court full of his great courtiers, I am his Royal Fool! In photography and cinematography I am used in capturing wide panaromas and skyscapes where the photographer may not be able to move farther from the scene to photograph it. I can give a wide field of view. Though I have this much potential, it was still needed to find my calling. My owner is a great traveller. But when it comes to photography he always chose state of the art or safe pair of hands. For example portraiture, candids, close ups, zoom bursts and etc. using my respected collegues like standard lens, short telephoto, macro, kit lens and so on. I wasn’t used for so long. Frustration was really set in. I felt like I am waiting for something that isn’t going to happen. I just wanted somebody who will never stop choosing me.
There are two great days in a person’s life- the day we are born and the day we discover why! And that day was my second great one! I got the purpose of my life. My mind was clear…my heart lost all the fear…my nerves were bringing on cheer…because my destination was near!!!
And finally the moment when the shutter button got pressed, click…click…I was amazed and going crazy seeing the beauty around me. I never felt so much happiness in my entire life. A mesmerizing art of nature. Magical, unbelievable and fantastic landscapes, extreme deserts, blue waters, freezing winds, glaciers, sand dunes and breathtaking mountains. I was now getting impatient to know where I was. I wanted to know the name of this stunning, bewildering and outrageous place. I read somewhere ‘ Kushok Bakula Rimpochee Airport’. My owner again clicked, click…click…Ohh, now this is too much…Finally my wait was over when a person came in front of us and said, “ Welcome to Ladakh!!!”
A 25 year old man was standing in front of us. He was short heighted, round faced and Chinese featured with tiny thick nose, small ‘chinki’ eyes and striking pink cheekbones! He introduced himself, “Hello, I am Jinpa. I am your driver cum guide during the tour.” I could figure out his typical dialect peering in his words. The best thing about him was his ever lasting smile! He took us to our car. As we were moving towards our hotel, my excitement was soaring. The road was flanked by mountain ranges on both sides featuring some stunning sand and rock natural formations. I could see the bright sun shine in that semiarid desert. The roads were quiet. The only thing I could here was the sound of those euphoric and fizzing winds. I was so engrossed enjoying the beauty around me that I didn’t realize Jinpa was driving the car so tactfully. Though there was pleasingness around, I had never seen so strange and adventurous roads in my life. I could remember that car racing video game my owner plays where there are extra points for drifting. If it was in real, hitherto Jinpa must have scored a storm! My owner started chatting with Jinpa. He told everything about him. He was a ‘Dard’. The original population of Ladakh are called Dards. He also told us about the Ladakhi culture. Ladakhi culture is a mixture of two main population, the Dards and the Arghons which are the Muslim communities in Ladakh which is a result of connection with the Kashmiris. People of Ladakh exhibit a strong Tibetian influence in their demeanour, language, culture, food, clothing and lifestyle. While knowing the amazing culture of Ladakh, we entered a city lane. What I realized here was that it was not only Jinpa smiling all the time, I could see all the people smiling as we passed that street. I was really impressed with those charming and warm hearted people. We finally reached our hotel. Click…Click…”It’s just a hotel idiot” I murmured to my owner!!!
Wheels of Peace!
“Jullay”! Jinpa greeted with that ever lasting smile. “But it’s May” I thought! I could figure out the same confusion on my owner’s face. Jinpa finally cleared out that he meant “Hello” in Ladakhi language! So beautiful morning it was! As we moved towards our destination, I took a deep breathe of fresh air. Yesterday we slept late as we were wandering in the Tibetian markets of Leh. What a place it was! Calmness in chaous! Hilly streets, intimate lights and smiling people. I gave some amazing wide angle clicks of the market. We bought the famous Buddhist masks and Thangka paintings. My owner also bought some traditional Tibetian and Ladakhi silver jewellery. I don’t know for whom!
Jinpa was explaining the whole day plan. And my owner was constantly chewing the apricots we bought yesterday. By the way apricots here are top of the range. We finally reached our first stop. As soon as we got out of the car, Click…Click…So huge and grand! “Thiksay Gompa!” Jinpa exclaimed. The largest structure in central Ladakh. It was a Buddhist monastery. “We have to walk up” Jinpa said. As we moved up I could see some metal wheels parallel to the path. Jinpa was rolling it while walking. My owner asked him about it. He told that they were’ Prayer wheels’. A prayer wheel is a cylindrical wheel on a spindle. Traditionally the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” is written in Sanskrit on the outside of the wheel. Prayer wheels are used to get wisdom and merit and to purify negatives. My owner also started rolling them. A soothing sound was made from the wheels, which can make you speechless. It was peaceful, pleasant and conducive to the mind. We went up and saw the monastery and of course that amazing view from the top. Click…Cllick… Unfortunately I even can’t say that I saw that view with my wide eyes open! Because it’s already wide! Just kidding! But I am happy that I got so many chances to perform.
But the real stage was waiting for me. As we went to Shanti Stupa, again rolling the prayer wheels. I felt most alive there as a wide angle was must needed. And then the best performance of my life had taken place!
Our other stops were Hemis monastery with the tall Buddha statue, Jama masjid, Namgyal Tsemo Monastery and so on. Though the day was full of energy, lively and of course hectic for me, the noiseless sound of the prayer wheels made me pacific and had become my wonderwall!
50 shades of clay!
Hello new day! We were ready with our stuff for the next two days. I was very excited as we were moving to one of the most isolated valleys of north Ladakh, Nubra Valley! It was 150 km ride from Ladakh. Using the word ‘ride’ was worth as the hilly roads will make your adrenaline high! The whole journey was like a drama! Drama of the nature! Hilly roads, breathtaking passes, high altitude cold deserts, ancient monasteries and small green oasis villages.
What’s the craziest thing you have ever done for Coffee? Well, I have my answer! ‘Khardung La Pass’! The world’s highest motorable road and the highest cafeteria in the world! It’s a gateway to the Shayok and Nubra valley. So I think having a cup of coffee at the height of 18380 ft is a fair enough answer.
Click…Click…Oh My God! I saw the milestone, “Nubra-15 kms”! I thought nature has used the whole box of crayons there! It felt like mountains have played ‘Holi’! I couldn’t count the number of tints and shades there. That Y shaped Nubra valley was an all rounder! It had got all, crisp air, stunning views of wheat, barley, mustard and pea fields along with fruit gardens, colourful mountains, rivers, rocks and the ultimate white desert! A perfect fairy tale!
We stayed there for two days. And for those two days I was wild! Every single place was calling me! For those two days, my cap was not put on. The Hunder sand dunes were my favourite! We did a double humped Bactrian camel safari there! I also saw some trekkers there. Thus ,Nubra valley was an ultimate experience of fun, adventure and respite. For this fifty shades of clay, I wanna live forever!
I am in Love!
No comments! No praise! No words! I was in love! For normal people the colour of love and romance is Red! But for me it’s Blue! Bewitching mountains, intoxicating sky, fizzing winds and extraordin
ary azure water! Oh ‘Pangong’ why were you so gorgeous!
On that day I was really tired because of the long run of 220 kms from Leh! It was a beautiful and adventurous journey as we cross the famous Changla pass, the second highest motorable road in the world, but my inherent lens nature was waiting for something grand! And as Jinpa said “This journey will take us to a lake.” And I still remember my reaction “220 kms, for a lake? Seriously!” My owner actually brought me to heel! But when I reached the place, I felt like a hero who doesn’t believe in love! And then something happens! Magic! Love! Click…Click! My nerves were not in my control neither my owner’s!
Jinpa told that this ‘high grassland lake’ is situated at the height of about 14,270 ft. And 60% of the lake lies in China! Lucky China!
Hey, Pangong! Meeting You was the best day of my life! You are beautiful! And remember, you will always be my owner’s Facebook coverphoto!
There are some life experiences that change the way you look at life. And that day was full of them! After the thrilling visit of the magnatic heel I strongly believe that life is not measured by the breaths you take, but by it’s breathtaking moments. I mean just imagine, a drum of water when poured on a heel and it climbs up the heel, A car is running at a speed of 100 km per hour without pressing the excelerator! Miracle right? Thogh it has a scientific reason behind it, what I saw there was the power of nature. This kind of episodes make us modest. You see so tiny place you occupy in the world!
Other place we visited was the ‘Hall of Fame’. It’s a museum built by the Indian Army in the memory of the brave Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Indo-Pak war. When you see the photos, things, the last letters written by the martyrs, you get that feeling when you don’t even know what you are feeling! You are filled with emotions of grief and pride with tears in your eyes. Click…Click… we gave a salute to the military aircrafts flying over our heads leaving tri-coloured smoke!
As it was our last day in Ladakh. Jinpa insisted to take us to his home. And we agreed. His house was in a small village near leh. He parked the car at one point, and from there we walked to his house. A walk where all our worries, anxieties and problems were faded somewhere. In the trees… In the breeze…I found nature’s peace and bliss. My irritation and anger of not being used for so long was so callow I felt. We reached his house. Simply beautiful! I was happy to meet all his family members. Jinpa was living with his wife’s parents. I felt happy to see a feature of Ladakhi society that distinguishes from the other rural parts of India. As Jinpa told us before, woman in Ladakh has a high status and emancipation in the society. Also the society is both paternal and maternal, where the husband staying with his wife’s family is not considered a taboo. Wow, I hope my owner had learnt something from them! They were all-hearted people. We were engulfed by their hospitality. And the best part, they were so surprised to see me. I felt that attention is the purest form of generosity! We walked back to our car and I could see them all waving from so far.
So that day was the day full of experiences, emotions, feelings, joy and love! And that’s life!
Time to say Bye!
Bags were packed! Memories were taken along! Blue skies…Fresh breathes…Ecstatic winds and Good bye Ladakh! Jinpa was standing in front us of course with that everlasting smile but tears in eyes. In his eyes, I could see the love and goodness of the people of Ladakh. “Jullay” I whispered with my overwhelmed memory card. We entered the airport. And suddenly my owner stopped, turned around and……… “Click…Click…!!!”
A note from my memories!
I went to Ladakh few years ago and after that I travelled many other places. But Ladakh has a special place in my heart, which is irreplaceable and ineffable.
This is not just a blog. It’s an emotion! An insight! A memory!!!
Have you ever been to Ladakh or want to be? Then share your thoughts in the comment section below!
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