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The bleeding Himalayas

Published Jun 25, 2013 11:13am


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enter image description hereIt is that adrenalin rush which keeps proding you to touch the peaks, the clouds and be a part of that rider’s group which rode through the highest and the toughest road tracks through the mountains. I too, had been smitten by this bug for a while and finally decided the time had come to give in to it. Planned during the night, we were already on our motorcycles the next morning at 4 am, with the essentials loaded to zoom through a stretch covering five states, including Delhi, Haryana, Punjab, Himachal and Jammu & Kashmir, along the few international borders with our neighbouring nations.

We rode our motorcycles along the rumbling Suru River after having spent a night at a hotel in one of the most haunting districts of the Ladakh region. It was the 11th day of our expedition, which started from Delhi and we had come across a long, thick wall made of rocks on our right side. This wall was blocking our view of the river for the first time during our entire ride. Why was the army concerned about these few meters of the entire 500+ kilometer highway from Leh to Srinagar, was the question abrading our minds? With no readily available answer we decided to continue riding slowly, digesting the varied shades of the mighty and youthful Himalayas.

-Photo by author.
-Photo by author.

This district we were riding through had been the most unwelcoming terrain in our entire journey so far, with every pair of eyes passing dreaded stares at us and no exchange of silent pleasantries. Hesitantly, we had to stop for the night because we had been warned that riding in the night to reach the next station, Dras, through the unpredictably meandering path up and down the mystic mountains was the most life threatening action one could commit to. Another fear which had been pricking our minds was the accidental ride, in the dark across the border into the Pakistani region. Would we be turned into yet another set of prisoners who become mere vegetables traded between the two countries over the next 20 years, when we would anyways have given up on our lives, dying to kiss the hangman’s noose of death?

As our motorcycles tumbled through the rocky landscape intervened by flawless roads, I could already feel the chilling breeze alongside the rain drops which had seemingly decided to be with us till our next station, we were striving to stop for the night in Srinagar. While the nature around us redefined beauty, I was still trying to unravel what kept me sleepless the previous night I spent in Kargil. Was it the heavy blankets loaded on us by the hotel owner or was it the horrifying memories of the Indo-Pak war we had read about years back? It was getting chillier as we crossed Dras but my mind had simply turned into a battleground wanting to find the answers to what had been the 2nd sleepless night after the 1st experience at the highest army transit camp in Pang en route from Manali to Leh. While friends from the army attribute my 1st experience to a lack of oxygen and dryness in the air at a height of 15500 feet, I still believe there was much more to it than just the weather.

-Photo by author.
-Photo by author.

While I tried to recall my experiences of the previous night, I was once again reminded of the horrifying stories I had heard at the army café at the entrance of Kargil. Stories which relate to the tales narrated by the truck drivers at Pang – anyone whose soul is not allowed to rest will keep troubling those who search for peace in the mountains.

One of the truck drivers named Amar Singh told us about the death of a helper who was run over by his driver, while reversing the truck. The driver absconded seeing him dead because of which the helper’s soul still haunts the travellers a few kilometers before Pang. No wonder passers-by leave behind cigarette packets, water bottles and lot more at his tombstone. While I rode further, I could once again see those amoeba-shaped shadows of the army men who have given away their lives on the border, walking behind me. It makes me wonder why two countries which were entwined in togetherness have become such bitter enemies that they sprinkle blood over the naturally red soil in the region, fighting tooth and nail to keep their respective territories intact. Isn’t it the reason behind the fact that the restless souls of the soldiers who died fighting for such a baseless cause are still fighting in the Kargil air, not with each other but with themselves and the newcomers in the region? They still want to know “why”, which leaves behind pungent stares of animosity for all those who travel through this town.

-Photo by author.
-Photo by author.

We were about to start our ride to the Zoji la pass after having crossed Dras which seems to be cake walk at a height of 11575 feet after having touched the Baralacha la (16,043 feet), Tanglang la (17,480 meters) and the highest Khardung la (17,582 feet) in the last week. Our self proclaimed view about Zoji la completely changed during our short halt due to the rain at an army barrier. We were told that Zoji la has experienced the maximum landslides, causing the most road accidents across the region. As the rain slowed down, we once again started riding towards Zoji la. The path was greasy and the slowly falling droplets caused slippage on the track. The terrain had turned muddy and the tyres of the motorcycle were not braking as easily on the zigzag path up the hill. After having slowly crossed the most difficult path, we finally saw some green patches in the valley down under which told us that we were about to touch Sonamarg. A 150 truck strong army cavalcade was about to pass and there was a portion of the road which was being re-laid for safer passage. The entire trail of private vehicles had come to a standstill. I was once again left wondering why there was so much fear amidst the most peaceful and sacred abode in the world, the Himalayas - a place where even the gods have united in togetherness.

-Photo by author.
-Photo by author.

The road finally opened and we were heading towards Srinagar. There were army men on top of every roof on our way and along the road after every few kilometers. We were told that the fear of landmines, bomb attacks, firing and lot more was always in the air. As we stopped to ask for directions to our hotel in Durganag, we were told that we were on the highly sensitive Bandipora Road which is unsafe and that we should cross the area as soon as possible before dark. We decided to race through and finally reached our hotel after crossing Lal Chowk and Hazrat Bal.

Having stayed two nights in Srinagar, gone boating on the Dal Lake and visited the Shankaracharya Temple and the Chashm-e-Shahi under the strangulating army scanner, we started our ride to Jammu the day after. As we rode through the valley, we were once again a witness to the men in green marching along the road both on feet and on a fleet of army vehicles through the valley.

I have physically reached Delhi a while ago. Back from where I still am. I am pondering, what should I call them – the blazing Himalayas or the bleeding Himalayas? Even after covering 3400 km, I am in two minds.


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The author is a freelance writer and the co-author of his upcoming work titled “White skin, Brown mind”. He can be reached at

The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (28) Closed

saroj Jun 25, 2013 12:08pm

Very good article. My mind and heart always goes to my brave Indian soldiers who did proud to Mother India and became victorious against invaders. You are lucky that you visited sacred peaks of Kargil where Indian soldiers gave supreme sacrifices and won.

arpan Jun 25, 2013 12:23pm

@saroj: I think you are missing the point here. It is not about sacrifices but about the mindlessness of all that violence.

Rai Jun 25, 2013 02:27pm

At least now the mastermind (Musharraf) who caused the deaths of hundreds of Pakistani and Indian soldiers in Kargil is facing the force of justice in his own country, although for a different alleged crime. The only closure possible for the Kargil tragedy is if the perpetrators (Musharraf included) are punished for their crime. But it will never happen. Saddest thing is that many Indians also hold Musharraf in high regard.

Dr Mohsin Kazmi Jun 25, 2013 05:12pm

The land you visited is more exciting than your hurly burly narration.

Ahmed Jun 25, 2013 05:26pm

Good and balanced piece from someone from accross the border. Thanks for being neutral - this lack of hatred for Pakistan is much appreciated !!!

Samar B Jun 25, 2013 05:43pm

@arpan: Mindlessness is closing one's mind to the realities of today. Mindlessness is your mind's refusal to understand the Taliban's mind who view India as unfinished business that even after 1000 years has not submitted. Mindlessness is hallucinating even when you are being bled to death.

BRR Jun 25, 2013 07:31pm

Security is a luxury in the neighborhood, freedom is expensive and demands sacrifices, and the air you breath has been paid for by the lives of others. easy to be glib about lack of peace and how things should be different, but the road to peace is paved with the dead bodies of a million toiling soldiers. Don't take the relative calm in recent days for granted - it has been paid for by human lives.

madhugiri ramesh Jun 25, 2013 07:52pm

@arpan: mindless violence on whose part? india or Pakistan? as an indian, I believe that we do not go to war, even when we should.

madhugiri ramesh Jun 25, 2013 07:57pm

mindless violence on whose part? as an indian, I believe that we do not go to war even when we should. we are not courageous, aggressive, etc. to face the bad neighbours we have.

hammad Jun 25, 2013 08:34pm

@saroj: and my mind and heart goes to our brave pakistani jawans who fought the indian oppressors and defeated them on the highest battlefield there is on earth. Pakistan Zindabad pak army paindabad

Sam T Jun 25, 2013 09:02pm

Mr. Gupta:

You have offended me and all those soldiers by saying " all those who died fighting the baseless cause". Do you really know what was the cause of the war fought at Kargil?. If you really knew you would have not written these words. By the way what was the real purpose of your journey to the region. Pleasure or dirty analysis of your liberal mindset.

Jyoti Johar Jethi Jun 25, 2013 10:54pm

Detailed, informative and enchanting..picturesque perils..reflects essence of life

ruzlan Jun 25, 2013 11:39pm

i am told the dead bodies of pakistani solders are still lying there on pakistani side of LOC as pakistani govt refuses to claim them for fear of getting exposed that they were involved in kargil ....what a shameful humiliation

Shado Jun 26, 2013 02:40am

My friend Saroj, patriotism is good however I think the author meant something us to see something other than just mere patriotism; indeed we are all blind in this senseless was... We have the most concentration of peaks call Hindu Kush and Himalayas, and we have turned them in battle ground....

In the end, please let us all yound & old try to figure out how to fix this mess

Your bro from the other side of the fence.

ahmed41 Jun 26, 2013 07:40am

This article does n't say much, does it ?

kamran Jun 26, 2013 08:40am

@Rai: from across the border, Rai sahib, I fully agree with you,and then he came to Agra for talk before he didn't like Nawaz approach to Vajpayee(I am not Nawaz supporter),I just want to know why he wasted so many lives?

Shubs Jun 26, 2013 09:13am

@arpan: I'm sorry, but neutral words like "mindlessness of all that violence" conjure up a kind of moral equivalency between the two sides in the Kargil conflict. It is as if two irrational enemies engaged in some kind of childish brawl in 1999. This is farthest from the truth and it is also exactly what Musharraf hoped the world would believe, when he tried to execute his ridiculous fantasy of planting the Pakistani flag in Srinagar. One can only hope that military adventurism of the kind that Musharraf espoused is a thing of the past with Pakistan, with the military generation that still bore the humiliation and dreams of revenge for 1971 slowly fading away, and a new more pragmatic, forward-looking generation taking up the reigns of their armed forces. I'm all for political correctness, but we should be careful not to brush the facts of history under the carpet.

xeroxus Jun 26, 2013 11:29am

Unnecessary use of adjectives and phrases along with grammar mistakes

Saroj kapoor Jun 26, 2013 11:35am

@arpan: I respect your views. Please remember that India was the victim of mindless violence. You can read articles of top Pakistani columnists and videos on youtube.

Niraj Jun 26, 2013 01:36pm

@hammad: Thank Clinton and Saudis who managed escape for Mush's Bandits. And feel sorry for Pak soldiers who were not even given respectful burial by their masters.

Vineet Jun 26, 2013 02:19pm

It is a confused article. Mr Gupta, you have written this article without any background of history. Had you been aware of it, your mind would not have asked these questions. Even then, you should be lucky and thankful to those soldiers who laid their life to save that portion of Mother land on which you just completed your journey. Without them, you would not even be able to visit these places.

And yes, I even as an ordinary citizen, am offended by the term "baseless cause".

yusufkhan Jun 26, 2013 02:21pm

Mr Gupta 'Baseless Cause' is the article you have written. The blood of scores of soldiers has levelled the violent road on which you travelled. It is easy to write articles with a mindset of Masiha of Peace but it is difficult to remain on the ground of facts.

harish Jun 26, 2013 05:59pm

@hammad: But your country did not even give them the final rites of respectful burial. What a shame ! Pakistani soldiers killed on Indian side were still fortunate to get the respect even in death.

Jehangir Khan Jun 27, 2013 02:03am

The article is mediocre at best and incoherent rambling at worst. It is unreadable owing to the poor writing skills of Mr.Gupta. But,the pictures are breathtaking. I am really surprised a reputed publication like Dawn allowed such poorly written article to be printed. Looks like they have laid off their proof readers due to Budget woes.

Shankar Jun 27, 2013 06:32am

Why don't the well-wishers from both sides of the fence demand a no war, no intrusion, no interference, no hate mongering pact amongst the neighbours to start with?

Hindu Kush Jun 27, 2013 10:49am

@harish: ' Harsh!' or may be Harish, "HAR MULK MILK E MA AST KE MULK E KHUDA E MA AST" . All the lands and countries are ours because they belong to 'ALLAH.'

khawar Jun 27, 2013 11:35am

Simple and awesome by SK.

zak Jun 27, 2013 12:55pm

All this whinning from the Indian side can stop if the UN resolutions are implemented on the Indian side and the suffering of the Kashmiri's under Indian occupation can come to an end. Delhi is an occupying government and cannot dictate the fate and futre of this proud kashmiri nation. Pakistan soldiers defend kashmir whilst Indian soldiers brutalise them.