Thursday, October 25, 2012

A Tribute to Jaspal Bhatti

The favorite comedian of masses died yesterday. Like many others, I also thought it was just an act of fun and I'd soon find myself laughing at his newest gag. But it wasn't.  Can’t believe he’s not coming back. 

I grew up watching Flop Show on DD and its subsequent reruns on all the major channels, and still loved it so much that I downloaded all its episodes. The enormous data meant I had to buy an additional hard disk, but Flop Show deserved it. I have quoted dialogues from the show on countless occasions, and still can't stop breaking into laughter at the simplicity (but intelligence) of this brilliant human being who had the God-gifted talent to make everyone breezy.

Jaspal Bhatti gave the gift of clever comedy to the Indian cinema. No person has ever inspired such creativity or set such high standards for this beautiful art. Our laughter originated from Jaspal Bhatti and his spirit will forever be the foundation of humor.

Jaspal Bhatti in action

I still hope this news of his dying is bogus, but if this is what the world-drama wants, let the soul depart into its new birth peacefully and continue to spread its cheerfulness. God bless his family.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Amazing Leh and the Indian Army

Indian Army Kargil-Drass War Memorial
Secluded terrain, long (unbroken) roads and clear blue sky – this is Laddakh – the lost paradise, no doubt. Here, on one side the wind makes you shiver as you regret not packing an extra jacket and on the other it leaves you breathless because of the altitude – a whooping 11570 feet above sea level.  On the outskirts, Leh is just like any other village but when you enter its boundaries, the modern town melts into a crumbling old city of timber and mud bricks.

Indian Army Kargil-Drass War Memorial Indian Flag
Reaching Leh by road for a first time traveler like me wasn’t easy. We took the Manali route because many said it’s more picturesque than the Srinagar-Leh road. And they were correct. The beauty of the mountains paired with endless waterfalls made the route amazing. We crossed Kullu, Manali, Solang Valley and Rohtang peacefully. The trouble started after we crossed Keylong which is at the height of 10,000 feet. Manali-Leh road gains height faster which sometimes results in altitude sickness, but the presence of Indian Army makes the journey endurable. My first interaction with the Army Medical corps was in Pang Valley  which is completely isolated, penetrated only by barren mountains. Because of this isolation, the valley has not become the residential commuter area as like the rest of the region, but that doesn’t take away the beauty it offers.
Indian Army Drass War Memorial Indian Flag
There are Medical Camps at every manageable post, which are maintained by the Indian Army. (It has a large military base in Leh to patrol the borders with China and Pakistan). At these camps, I got a chance to interact with officers whose main job sometimes becomes providing medical facilities to those feeling frizzy on this route. The dedication with which they work is really inspiring, especially because the posts they stay in normally touch temperatures below 20 degrees. The commitment towards service is awesome and truly reflects the spirit of their motto ‘fight to win’.

Pang Valley wasn’t the only place where we had to take army’s help. We saw them again while on the way to Pangong Lake, Khardung La, Kargil and Drass war memorial and at every place, the interactions with the men in uniform were better than before.

The Scenic Leh

Barcha La Pass (Manali-Leh Highway)

Like the days before, we began our journey early to make sure nothing misses our eyes due to sunset. The Manali-Leh highway is as amazing as you can possibly imagine. Here's an image of a small pond just below BarchaLa pass.
Barcha La Pass 
Sarchu Camps

On the way to Leh

When you come from Manali, the green mountains with green pastures of Rothang slowly pass you by and you find yourself in the company of the beautiful Chandra river. The drive is pleasant with scenic tiny villages. After you cross Jispa, get ready to meet the mighty Barcha La pass which remains in snow almost whole through the year, which makes it absolutely white with no distinction between the sky and the earth other than a tiny stretch of bump-less road. From here, we drove down from snowy mountain peaks to plain lands and reached Sarchu. Here, you can camp for a night and wake up to majestic mountains and scenic river running in a deep gorge.

With the elements of greenery leaving you for a snow covered mountains, the road climbs up or down endlessly to show you some of the nature's best scenery. The huge solid mountains at distances that looked unscalable are only minutes away from being driven on.

Barcha La

It was our first stint with snow after years and we didn't want any moment to go waste. Since we went in late September, there wasn't even a single tourist around, which made the whole trip more amazing.

The rivers don't want to left behind, so they follow you everywhere you go!
Leh route

The journey to this range of Himalayas is full of contrasts and extremes with a beauty than lies mainly in the variety. Here, its only mountains, sky, wind and you!
Mesmerizing contrast of mountains & sky 

People here are so friendly in the rough terrain that you just can't help smiling when they greet you with an affectionate "Juley".

The wilderness of Leh

Beautiful lakes, Bro-maintained highway, stunning mountain passes, a LPG pumping station, century old monestries, a golf course and lots of have all these stuff here that you wouldn't find anywhere else than Laddakh.