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Old 22nd December 2013, 11:32   #1
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Post A Journey Fifty Solstices Ago – A Remembrance

It was beginning of summer of 2001 and I was itching to climb a mountain. I was living in the foothills and had not been uphill for more than a year. To the north lay forbidding East Tibetan plateau which had beckoned me over and over during last two years of my stay in the area. So one fine morning, I packed my kids in the rear seat of my seven year old but very trustworthy M800. Wife, as always my eager companion on any drive, hopped in and we set off to the mountains of the north.

First way point was 60 km away, with a very fascinating name ‘Bhalukpong’. I had been so mesmerised by the scenic beauty of this place that during my two years of stay in the area I must have come over atleast five times, just to sit the whole day by the roaring Bharali river as it tumbles down from forest covered mountains into the plains. It was the only water body in the country I had seen which had not be polluted with plastics and sewerage, till then.

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Moving on, I flashed my ID card at the check post and entered the innerline, ahead of many mortals who had queued up for issue of a pass. (Minor privilege of the job I was in) Lunch was planned after the first climb, hot steaming dosas were enjoyed at Sessa and we eagerly moved on. We reached Tenga well before the nightfall, dinner was at a friend’s home and as usual was enjoyed with some fortified liquids and chicken legs. His insistence of staying over for a day to see beautiful Tenga valley was overruled by me as we had higher plans for the next day.

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A quick climb to Bomdila and we were on our way to Darang, a very ominous sounding name to me. The road condition was good and I was soon pushing the abilities of my car on the mighty curves of Sela. “Whoa, what a place, glad we didn’t stopover in Tenga”, I told my wife and she agreed. Winds in excess of 60 kmph were blowing across the pass and as our car rocked like a boat, we clicked some snaps in sub zero temp and moved on.

Jaswantgarh saga was not new to me but standing on that soil and visualising the battle brought big lump in my throat. I took my time and savoured some extra moments to see the details.

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Drive down to Jhang and then the final climb was done in a sombre mood by all of us and we reached Tawang by evening. Next day was care of wife as she wanted to see some local artefacts and me and kids lazed around the lawns of the Officers’ mess. After lunch was time for monastery and more photo ops.

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Being the only car parked outside the monastery, it was an object of minor fascination for the local kids, when we came back after visiting the monastery. It was the first of our good luck moments on the trip. We had been locked out, the keys were in the ignition switch, which the local boys had noticed and was the reason for their joy and amusement. It took me an hour to locate a one foot scale to force open car the jugaad way.

Next day was trip to Madhuri lake and BumLa. Sun was shining bright on the mighty hills and even though a Jonga SUV was available to take us there, we decided to press on in the comfort of M800. The climb to Clemta was one test my M800 couldn’t pass and at number of places my wife and kids got down to push the car from behind, it was a great experience for all of us and nobody minded leaving olive green SUV behind. Climb above Tawang was covered on a snow cleared road and it was close to 11’o clock when we reached Clemta.

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I trekked up on the road couple of hundred metres to reconnoitre the road to Bum La. There was no way M800 would have gone there given the condition of road, so took a left turn and headed downhill for Madhuri lake.

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Couple of turns on the road I encountered a lonely civilian vehicle, as I stopped over to give him a head on cross my sight went to the mighty Bum La and there from behind was a massive dark cloud buildup. I, initially, was enchanted by its sheer magnificence but the very second thought was one of the stories from ‘Drama’s in real life’. It didn’t take me a second to realise that I had to run for the cover. Being a little familiar with the mountain weather I could guess that I had about 30 mins on my side. About turn and I was gunning back to Clemta. TCP which had been present on my way uphill was now missing. I tried searching MP guys in the shelters around Clemta and all I could see were couple of doors of empty shelters banging in wind which was now picking up. Not wasting anymore time, I started down for Tawang, an hours’ drive back. Seeing our predicament, the weather god took mercy on us and it started to snow only once we were in the visual distance of the town. It was light snow and my wipers and Bridgestones made a small job of the flakes. Snow lifted the spirits of the kids and we managed to catch the late lunch in the mess.

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Saga of 1962 is written all over the area, next day we had planned a visit to the war memorial. Standing in front of the bust of Sub Joginder Singh PVC made me feel immensely proud of my heritage. It is here that you can clearly understand without an iota of doubt the bravery and sacrifice of an ordinary Indian soldier in 1962. Dates mentioned against names indicate the colossal loss that many battalions suffered against a better equipped foe. They chose to attain martyrdom than to give in or fall back. Moist eyed we spent a full afternoon there, while kids played around quietly, I pored over the names and places of various battles which had taken place in the area. It was an immensely satisfying day. I recommend following two links to those who may be interested in knowing a little more of war history.

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http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-F...War/Namka.html
http://www.bharat-rakshak.com/LAND-F...der-Singh.html

A day later, thoroughly satiated, we headed back towards the plains, plan was to make it back to Tezpur in a day and we were off early. Jaswantgarh was a mandatory stop, couldn’t proceed further without paying off our respects. During the climb back to Sela we watched the pristine alpine beauty of the mountain in full bloom, which we had missed on our way up. I don’t have photographs but the sight has remained etched in my memory as if it was only yesterday.

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We were soon below Sela and on the last bend while overtaking an army truck I pressed the brakes and the pedal went in all the way to the floor. I kept quiet and brought the car to halt by up shifting, opened the bonnet but found the brake fluid reservoir to be full. It implied that brake master cylinder was gone and there was nothing I could do. My wife got suspicious of my behaviour and confronted me and I had to inform her that brakes are gone and there is nothing I could do. Assuring her that I am a capable driver and will be able to tackle the climbs and descents ahead we pressed on to Darang. Upon reaching there we were informed that the only mechanic over there had left for Tezpur to pick up his monthly quota of spares and we had no choice but to stand there and enjoy paddy fields of beautiful Darang valley. The place was living up to its ominous sounding name. I mulled the options, put the kids and wife in Army truck or tow the car behind one of those stallions. I chose to drive on as wife had regained faith in my abilities.

Bomdila was still at least three hours drive away and being a ‘La’ it had a serious climb and a descent. We reached Bomdila and the motor market was on an incline I couldn’t take my car. Locals told me that the best place to get the car repaired is Tenga, so another roll down the hills in a brakeless car saw me in Tenga in about an hours’ time. I was relieved to see a confident sounding mechanic there, though he didn’t have a new BMC but had the rubber bushings which didn’t seem original. I couldn’t be a chooser so went ahead with his exhortations about the quality.

It was getting late evening and we decided to stay put in Tenga for the night. Just then a souped up MM 540 of a friend came over, he was DFO Sessa, he was local to the area where tribe affiliations change every 50 kms. He told me that he was going to Tezpur and asked us if we would like to tag along. We accepted his idea as ‘gethometitis’ had also hit us by them. He waited while the car got repaired in an hour’s time.

The lights had come on when we started from Tenga, confident of brakes we clipped at super speeds in Tenga valley. Suddenly, the brake paddle went down again, I was doing in excess of 80 kmph on a wide road in the valley and could see the climb ahead. My car slowed down working against the gravity and I honked madly and flashed lights at the jeep ahead.

Thoughts about analysing the problem did not occur to me, I assumed that duplicate kit in the BMC had given away again. It was not the case, my friend’s driver had a look at the paddle, walked upto my wife and asked if she had a hair pin, my wife took a pin out of her hair bun and gave it to him. He went down to the paddle and came out soon informing that the car had been repaired. Split pin meant to hold the connecting pin in place had not been put in by the mechanic at Tenga and paddle had got disloged from the BMC lever because of that.

Soon the last of the mighty climbs to Sessa started and living up to its name of misty mountain it was nicely wrapped in a blanket of cloud, cloud as thick as one can imagine and I was just following two meagre red lights of the forest officers’ MM 540. It was a perilous journey by any standards. It was about midnight when we crossed Bhalukpong. We sighed a huge relief that we were out of the mountains and into the woods. The road ahead passed through Nameri Forest Reserve and at 12 o’clock in the night that area is not dominated by pachyderms but by gun toting sapiens. True to expectations, militants had put up their check post by putting logs across the road. As our two vehicles came to screeching halt at these obstructions, my friends’ driver shouted through his window in his native Bodo language, some ghosts emerged from behind the trees and moved the logs and we hurtled to Home Sweet Home in 45 mins with kids sleeping most peacefully in the rear seat.


PS: I apologise for poor quality of photos, Firstly Iam not a good photographer and secondly these snaps had been lying in musty wooden boxes for last 12 years.

Last edited by PGA : 24th December 2013 at 18:34.
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Old 25th December 2013, 18:52   #2
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Default Re: A Journey Fifty Solstices Ago – A Remembrance

Thread moved from the Assembly Line (The "Assembly Line" Forum section) to Travelogues. Thanks for sharing!
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Old 25th December 2013, 20:20   #3
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Default Re: A Journey Fifty Solstices Ago – A Remembrance

Nice description.

How many solstices in an year?

Regards
Sutripta

Last edited by Sutripta : 25th December 2013 at 20:23.
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Old 28th December 2013, 15:37   #4
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Default Re: A Journey Fifty Solstices Ago – A Remembrance

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sutripta View Post
Nice description.

How many solstices in an year?

Regards
Sutripta
Thanks for the appreciation.

That was typo that occurred while I was trying to parallel process my memory with recollections of with the journey, some news about Mr Kejriwal and the fact that winter solstice was due the next day. My attempts at editing this mistake (reducing the solstices by half) proved futile as I had already punched in save button once and the system wouldn't accept this change.

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Old 28th December 2013, 20:53   #5
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Default Re: A Journey Fifty Solstices Ago – A Remembrance

Quote:
Originally Posted by PGA View Post
My attempts at editing this mistake (reducing the solstices by half) proved futile as I had already punched in save button once and the system wouldn't accept this change.
Report your first post to the moderators, asking them to make the correction.

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Sutripta
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