Battered and bruised. Physically and mentally. Yeah, I survived the Chadar. It has been an experience beyond words. Too intense. At some point in time, it will all “sink” in, no pun intended. But right now, I can only sit back and wonder at the miracle.
I will write a longer post about the Chadar, later on…
I was looking through my images to pick one image that epitomized the Chadar for me. One definitive image that would stay with me forever, come what may. And I found this one. To me, Chadar is not just the walk on the frozen Zanskar river, and dealing with the challenges. To me, Chadar is about the beautiful and simple Zanskari people who take care of all of us who go on the Chadar. Those Herculean characters who put their lives at stake, to make sure that we outsiders are well taken care of.
This image (click to enlarge) of Dorje on the Chadar, carrying a load of firewood that he had gone to collect from several kilometres away, by climbing some mountain (yeah, firewood is that scarce), and dragging an entire tree trunk behind him on a sledge, is very special.
The previous night, I was battling a stomach infection, fever, vomiting and exhaustion. It was decided that I would stay back in a cave (the black hole you see in the image, was my abode for the previous night), and Dorje and a 16 year old kid, Stanzin, would look after me. Even with so limited resources, Dorje took it upon himself to feed me, talked to me and kept the cave warm, by lighting a fire till late into the night. This next day, after making lunch for me, he had set off in search of firewood. Stanzin, the 16 year old kid, took me to the other side of the river where there was a bit of sunshine. As I was soaking in the sun, I saw Dorje walking back to the cave on the Chadar, with all the firewood he had collected.
This image, summarizes, my experience of The Chadar.
Chadar. You have done your magic on me…