Luck favors the brave.
Tonight it was going to be a full moon night. For a month before that day I meticulously planned the trip to detail so I would spend this day by the shores of the glorious Pangong Lake. The moon would shine in all its glory and so would the lake. It was a dream since my first visit to the lake way back in 2008.
I was thinking about this while I saw the storm gaining momentum high up in the mountains. A traveler has no fixed plans, even more so in the mighty Himalayas. Weather played spoilsport. All my meticulous planning was blown to dust as the weather created havoc. With great difficulty the trip even took off. Today I wouldn’t be going to Pangong after all. I was visiting the Aryan Settlement of Ladakh, a village called Dah.
As we reached the checkpost at Dah, I asked the guard at the gate how to go to Dah and he replied with a curious alacrity “up this mountain”. I asked him how long it would take, again with a cheeky smile he replied “we do it in just about 20 minutes, you might take much more time“. Well I respected him for the job he was doing else I would’ve really told him off, in my mind of course. It was still raining and if we go ahead, it would be into the troubled land of Batalik. My parents said they will sit in the car and if I wanted I could go up and come. But the only problem was, there did not seem to be a path to the village and what if I get lost on my way up.
Well anyway, the weather didn’t look any better than it was before and it showed no signs of getting better either. Well trekking up a muddy mountain with loose rocks everywhere, in the rain, so close to the Line of Control, all alone wasn’t something I fancied to do. But I kept saying to myself that you cannot turn back after coming all this way neelima, go ahead. Dar ke aage jeet hai, hai na?
In the rain I started to climb up the mountain. Since there was no trail, I followed the stream which was flowing down. It was quite a steep ascent, but as I went up, the rain stopped. Then I saw some plastic lying around, so I was close to civilization after all. After some more climbing I finally saw a house, and then the village.
It looked deserted. The village was on top of the mountain, where they had houses and fields in front of the houses. There were higher mountains all around. There was another stream which was flowing wildly in the valley. I see no people yet, till the sound of drums broke the eerie silence. I went ahead to find a huge gathering who looked quite colorful and it seemed like they were celebrating something. All the ladies were dressed in some sort of colorful traditional attire with huge flowers on their head. The men were wearing colorful caps. Happy to reach the village and see the people I went and sat next to an elderly man.
He smiled at me. He told me today was Budh Purnima(which falls only on a full moon day), a very sacred day for them and they are celebrating the festival. They were transferring some holy scrolls from the village of Dah to another village Biama. The people of Dah, Hanu, Biama along with two more villages are said to be descendants of Aryans, or maybe those left behind from Alexander’s army or people who migrated from Gilgit of Pakistan long back. Well they certainly don’t look like the rest of Ladakhis. Their features were distinctly Caucasian and they have been preserving their racial purity by marrying strictly within the community. Apparently their language is different too. Well what do I know about their ethnicity and background but they sure are an interesting lot. Someday I should start bothering about people I meet during my travels too.
Two days later I was at Pangong and the night was almost like a full moon night. Except that it was so freaking cold I couldn’t get anywhere near the lake after dark and spent the night warming up in the blankets. Few more days later I came to know that the villagers of Dah don’t wear the traditional headdress and costume everyday. They only do that upon request from the visitors and they visitors apparently have to pay them for doing so.I took a lot of photos too, for free! Well, wasn’t I glad to have taken the chance and going upto Dah the other day? And things happen for a reason, don’t they? For instance, like the trip schedule being goofed up so I land in Dah on that particular day.
Luck surely favors the brave.
, by Neelima Vallangi