The Land of the High Passes, a splendid display of archaic terrain and landscapes, curated by the expert artisans of nature’s forces.
The sun bade a silent farewell to the barren browns as the clock struck five in the evening. The floating streaks of sunlight seemed to have unanimously decided to flee from the desolate desert of this cold terrain in search of warmer climes. For, this was the Land of the High Passes, a splendid display of archaic terrain and landscapes, curated by the expert artisans of nature’s forces.
I was in Ladakh — the cold desert, cut off in place and time from India’s mainland. It was the unforgiving nature of its unending vastness that weighed down upon my human mind, evoking a weird mix of emotions — a strange sense of awe, respect for the forces and a penetrating fear of Mother Nature.
It was the last leg of my excursion that I along with my group embarked upon to the locale of “3 Idiots” fame — Pangong Tso, the famous salt water lake of Ladakh, 180 kms from Leh, the capital of Ladakh district. 10 days of romancing the roads, kissing a curvy and bumpy terrain almost 10 hours a day were announcing their presence to every bone and muscle that held my body together. And yet the fresh waters of Pangong Tso beckoned.
I looked forward to enduring this last set of winding roads through the Upper Himalayas in expectation of a miracle of beauty. We set out with the first rays of the sun, our hearts and souls warmed by those gentle streams that returned from their previous night’s escapes. I know not what filled my heart with euphoric anticipation as our vehicle sped, cutting through the narrow tracks, my mind transported to a different world as the wind played with my hair. Maybe it was the thrill of being close to the China border, maybe it was the hope of encountering a fairy-like realm, far removed from reality. The terrains changed from boistering cityscapes to tiny valley-hamlets dotted with refreshing cobs of barley and streams of prayer flags — the only dash of color for the eyes and assurance for the heart in the otherwise monotonous bareness.
The hours passed by as fast as the receding terrain and with it my thoughts flitted, topsy and turvy. We arrived at Marmot Land, the first welcoming signs that we were close to our destination. My eyes scanned the velvety bumps of ground in search of the cute rodents and my heart leaped at their sight, scurrying happily from home to home in search of their perfect morsel!
The vehicle trudged along those last few miles. The earth seemed to have immersed in a gigantic mud bath, caked in hues of brown — from the dusty pale tints to the richer reddish shades. My eyes ached for the smallest signs of life in the barrenness — they ached for the hint of blue that would announce our mecca for the day.
And then it happened. Out from the crests and troughs of brown, a small speck of the deepest blue did a peek-a-boo! What a sight it was! I stared with gaping mouth at the unreal beauty that confronted me.
Surreal. Out of the world. Beyond beautiful.
Certainly words could not do justice to what my eyes behold.
My gaze transfixed on the barrage of blue, I felt a warm ripple of happiness and excitement cuddle my soul as every winding turn brought us closer to this scintillating spectacle of nature. A place long lost in the folds of the Himalayas, discovered by man, an appeasement for his every sense.
In a state of happy stupor, I had arrived at the gates of heaven. For heaven, only, this could be, nothing lesser than the Abode of Gods.
I alighted, engulfed in a warm fuzziness, even as the sharp cold winds whiplashed against my even colder skin. My eyes trailed the edges of a vastness so blue and mesmerizing, it was blinding. Fixated, I stood numb, soaking in the serenity.
The majestic colors threw my mind into a tumultuous whirlwind as my grey cells tried to decipher ± which was the real blue?
The afternoon rays intermingled with the crystal clear waters, dancing with a love so uncharacteristic of today, it created wonders of light and shadow that tricked my mind into a happy trance! I stood there, a spectator from outside, privy to this marvel of nature. The only sign of life was the gentle rippling of waves and the occasional gull crying out for companionship.
The depths of the lake, visible to the naked eyes, coaxed my mind into a state of emptiness that it had long forgotten amidst the city din. Here, far removed from the realities of life, my brain seemed to mirror the calmness of the azure surface, a myriad of emotions coursing through its folds, somewhat akin to the myriad hues that defined the very essence of this inanimate water body.
You name it and it was there — a deep azure, a grim cobalt, a furtive sea-green, an innocent sky blue and a happy cyan. This was nature’s canvas – freedom to paint as per one’s whims and fancies, imagination run amok! An openness to experiment, design, and create, without the shackles of manly skirmished and constraints, biases and colored opinions.
Yet these colors, so diverse, existed in perfect harmony with each other, decking themselves up to exude a peace and warmth unlike the complexity of human life. This supposedly inanimate body spoke wonders about blending in, yet standing out as the blues, greens and browns seemed to harbor their own identity, yet gel in with their surroundings.
A veil of peace and pleasure enveloped everything — the winds and the ground, the people and my very being. As my mind boarded this train of thoughts, I found myself floating in a world of my own, a world replete with hope and peace, caressed by the gentle breeze. Surely this was how the Mighty One meditated.
We arrived at our camps, at the farthest end, near to the China border. The tranquillity of the elements seemed to rub off on the people, their streams of prayer flags breaking the monotony with vibrant colors, verses of “Om Mani Padme Hum” preaching the basic tenets of human existence. An existence marked with simplicity and the joy, contentment and the power of giving.
As dusk fell, I sat along the banks of the lake as she, the mighty Pangong, shed her colorful exuberance to don a graceful garb of sheer silver and cobalt. I saw her transform from a bubbly princess to a gorgeous queen, so alluring yet elusive. The last rays of the sun hurriedly escaped this dazzling diva, lest they ignite her fury of the night. And yet I saw her calm and composed in her renewed garb, sparkling and emanating a halo of wisdom and worth. As night descended, the starry skies were her constant companion for her waters. The entire realm took on a dream like sparkle.
And I revelled in this newfound love.
Love for these tranquil trails and tales…
Love for this stillness, the simple ways …
Love for this peace realms, a mindful escape.
Love for the “true me”, I discovered, I embraced…