Hiya. So, I am back and so happy to be back. I will post about the trip but break it down day wise. It will help me get into details and it will be easier to read.
But before I begin…. the trip was with KC, his friends and their wives. We have never done such a group trip… the only other time was when we went with his other group to Pune for a friend’s engagement. Hanging out with each other’s friends does not count. Anyway, so I have never met all the people of the group… some I have been out with at one time or the other… but not for more than half an hour at a stretch. Everytime a plan to hang out with some of them was made… I either ditched or left. So, basically these people were strangers for me. I didn’t care… I was going with KC and thats all that mattered. Also, I do not know who came up with ‘Leh Ladakh’… none of us were involved in planning or researching the trip. Lets say I walked into it blindly.
We took a flight from Delhi to Srinagar… everyone else was arriving from Mumbai on the same flight. Flight got delayed by half an hour which was insignificant till we were on the road. The schedule was tight and the delay was going to cost us. From Srinagar we headed to Kargil 204 km away. First thing we learned was that there was no correlation between the distance and time taken to cover it mainly due to the roads. The journey time was supposed to be 7 hours. It was warm at Srinagar but people removed warm clothes from their bags. I had over packed- going by the size of my suitcase compared to others. If it was my friends, I would have consulted with everyone and brought similar sized luggage but guys just don’t do that.
The major shock was when everyone was talking in Marathi. All the 8 people (excluding us) are born and brought up in Mumbai and are post graduates. 2 of us (me and another guy’s wife from Delhi) don’t speak or understand Marathi. One of KC’s friends took up our cause and requested everyone to speak in Hindi but guess what… they REFUSED. Someone actually said; “80% of us are Marathis… we will speak the same… not so comfy with Hindi”. I wanted to run away there and then and that would have been a good decision ‘coz all conversations were in Marathi. I will commit suicide if I hear one more word of Marathi and so hate the language now.
I will come back to the trip later….there are some points I would like to make. If educated, young people… the cream of India will act regional… what hope is there for rest of the country? It is almost like racism and I hate caste ism of any sort. I was born in Gujarat and am a Sindhi. As a kid, I spoke in Hindi at home and Gujarati outside. The switch came easily. When I shifted to a convent boarding in Rajasthan, the language spoken was English and Hindi was spoken only in Hindi classes. We were not allowed to speak Hindi otherwise. I was juggling 4 languages but that came naturally. I think in English and not Sindhi and that makes a world of a difference. When I shifted to B school in Karnataka, I came across the weirdest thing. 80% of students were from South (obviously) but whenever Mallus gathered they would speak in Malayalam without a care for who was around. Even if you were in a group talking in English with a Mallu, another Mallu would come around and they would speak in the language leaving you out of it. All complaints fell on deaf ears. Compare this to my engineering days in Gujarat. There were 30 students… 22 girls and 8 guys. 2 of us were non Gujjus. Even though I was fluent in the language I refused to speak it in college. I stuck to Hindi. Thankfully, my group in 1st year had a mix of Gujjus and non Gujjus and we all spoke Hindi. Coming back to the batch of 30 students… they had all grown up in Gujarat… the Profs taught in Gujju… they would spend their life in Gujarat and had no reason to speak another language. No kidding. But they went out of their to speak Hindi with me. Trust me… speaking Hindi is an effort for a Gujju…. their style of speaking reveals that. And I appreciate it even more. Even when they forgot and spoke in Gujju, they would apologize and switch right back. One day the Head of Department who was a Sindhi asked me why I don’t speak Gujarati in college. He knew my parents and was aware of our fluency in the language. I told him clearly that I study in an English medium college and will only speak either Hindi or English.
Language is for communication… it was to unite people and not to discriminate. Sindhi unites me to my family… English and Hindi to the world… and Gujju is an add on. I have never bonded with someone ‘coz we speak the same language. I cannot speak Sindhi with friends… it is restricted to family and relatives. If and when KC and I have kids… the language spoken will be Hindi and English ‘coz thats our language. Marathi is not mine and Sindhi is not his. I will never encourage them to learn either of the two ‘coz then it will shut out one or the other.
Yes… I feel strongly about language, caste, creed etc. I was obviously in wrong company.
Coming back…. we stopped on the way to Sonemarg to click pics even though the driver assured us that a better view lies ahead. Lunch was at a small dhaba on the way. We did not have the patience to wait till Sonemarg where better food would be available. We did that a lot… ate at the wrong places despite the driver’s warning.
There was some snow at Sonemarg and ponies could take us there. I was excited. We were charged 500 bucks per pony and off we went… over the mountains and wet stones. It was a bumpy ride with my pony acting aggressive and competing with the other ponies. For once, I did not want to compete. After 45 mins of the torture they dropped us some feet away from the snow cave. I was exhausted and decided to give up while everyone else went till the cave. Since we had spent too much time on the ponies, the drive brought the car closer and we had to ride the pony for only 5 mins. We were fleeced… there was a shorter route but deliberately we were taken through the longer one. Also, we were late. Kargil is the highest army base and you can be refused entry after a particular time. The driver was a little concerned about this. There were jawans at every kilometer distance due to red alert on Independence Day. It was scary… the amount of money and manpower we spend on guarding that area has to be seen to be believed.
The road to Kargil is open only for 4 months of the year… it is covered with snow rest of the year. All the rations have to be sent up during this time. If some truck gets stuck at any other time, nobody can help. There is no phone connection and you have to cross a no man’s land to reach it. My camera could not capture this and I gave up after a few attempts. You really have to see it. There was a particular turn where the car could not carry everyone. The guys were asked to walk the distance while the car carried us ahead. Some privilege of being a woman. And it was cold… really cold.
We stopped at Dras for some tea and reached Kargil at midnight. All the views that KC wanted to see… Tiger Hill etc were shrouded in the dark. Thankfully, the hotel had kept dinner for us. I snoozed after dinner while KC spent time with his friends.
Next post… day 2 at Uleytokpo.
Here are some pics:
The snow cave… where we went on ponies
Sonemarg. The river was our companion throughout
Early morning at Kargil
View of Kargil from the hotel
The river and the mountains