A Photo-Ethnographic Study, Baltistan, Jammu and Kashmir, Laddakh, On The Road, Pakistan, Photographic Stories, Save the Birdman of Kashmir, The Great Himalayan Road Journey to Baltistan
Comments 89

The Gun Mountains and Other Gods -V

On the Road to Baltistan, continuing from

Call of the Now- I

Life and nothing more- II

Road will tell you- III

Remember me with a Lotus- IV

: ँ :



Before we reach Turtuk, Baltistan; it was important to dedicate an essay only to the journey. My travels that saw me traversing through these dangerous, rough and meditative landscapes that over the years helped changing me, even my cells.

For many years this road has been my road to inner work and of the outside world, and i imagine one which taught me best how to discern.

This National Highway that runs from Srinagar, Kashmir to Leh is called the NH Delta- 1 and is the most important road that joins the valley of Kashmir to Laddakh. La that is ‘a mountain pass’, and ddakh is the ‘King’- this land that is the king of the mountain passes, running along the mighty river Indus, parallel to the most active, volatile border in the world, the Line of Control with Pakistan.

Ever since the partition of India between the Islamic state of Pakistan and Democratic state of India/Bharat in 1947, this Line of Control has taken innumerable lives, blood that only the river Indus is a witness of. It has seen five gruesome wars and one in 1999, Kargil war where the Pakistani army had captured the tiger hill, overlooking this highway, on the other side of the Indus, targeting civilian cars, passenger buses and army posts et all for ten days stalling all activity and mostly cutting the supply lines and connection between Kashmir and Laddakh.


It was in 2011 when i was assigned to teach social science in Baltistan. Upon reaching the village deep in the foothills of Siachin, through the then highest motorable road in the world, that was opened just a few months ago for the first time. We heard that hundreds of Balti students were coming back to their villages from Kashmir and other regions; once they learnt that some teachers from the Indian mainland have come to teach in their own village for the gruesome winters. It had never happened before, as there was no road, and to cross the mighty highest pass was unheard of till then. It was a very big deal for the villagers elders and likewise they gave us so much love that we have not known till then.

But that night the weather worsened overnight, just a day after we reached. The highest passes and roads were blocked, a passenger bus went down the mountain slipping due to heavy snow, killing four students and other people of the village who were coming back from Jammu, 800 kilometres away, stranding hundreds of others midway on the road under severe climate.

And because of such conditions, almost every child in these far flung villages could never finish their education, never went again out of their village once they stopped going to school. Generations upon generations only worked as farmers or informers of the army, carriers of weapons and other supplies on their ponies on the highest posts in the Siachen Glacier.

There has never been no university in whole laddakh region and each student if he or she wanted to pursue higher education, if ever- they had to travel under severe and dangerous conditions along this highway.

It was in 2012 when i started working on this 737 kilometres of life threatening, nerve-wrecking, dangerous and frightening journey following students and labourers, interviewing local school authorities and children, making images along the border areas and villages. I photographed people travelling in local buses, drivers, trucks carrying goods, trenches and high passes under harsh conditions, and above all documenting the tension that looms over people while on this journey of the within and outside.

With more stretches coming under the firing range of the Pakistani artillery and air defence guns, it has been a highway of terror as one bus driver called it out. There are more bunkers than houses here. The narrow winding road is littered with memorials of those killed by shelling in the past. At night, travelling with head lights on is a sure invitation for potshots from across the Line Of Control.

Having spent acknowledgable time myself as a teacher in the state of Jammu and Kashmir, “The Gun Mountains and other gods” is an ongoing project highlighting the severe conditions that people live under constantly, the hardships that children go through to learn, to even have a basic right to education, and generations who have grown under the shadows of a war always looming over them.

I wished to document this work as a proof of the lived experiences of the young students and the elderly, who for years have been putting their lives at risk coming from the far flung areas to study, work or in between getting killed.


: ँ : 


The Gun Mountains and the other Gods, a work of almost a decade that i continued on while teaching, and on my way to many a villages by road transport and few times on my motorbike.

I am happy that i could share a very small portion of this extensive body of work.


: ँ : 

As these chapters are dedicated to Save Rasool and his bird park; these images, If anyone loved them and might think that they would like to see any photograph shared in these chapters up and framed in their homes, in their living room inspiring one and all to be on the road for once; there will be no one more happier than I.

Photographs will be printed in fine art Hahnemuehle studio enhanced archival paper. For Queries regarding print size and shipping, please write.


: ँ : 

If you have anything to share, write or ever feel like saying a hello, do write to me at narayankaudinya@gmail.com

To follow other ethnographical and short excerpts of stories from rural India, find me at narxtara and Road to Nara

89 Comments

  1. Dear Narayan, hope you don’t mind but i re blogged this on my site. You are something special. peace and love from Oz.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So much of the things are yet to be unravelled and so much of things are mistaken about places only heard of. People like you, documenting this by getting on the ground, are doing a great service. Thank you!

    Liked by 3 people

  3. so you break my dream of having to steal my own identity to work out who had stolen it in the first from me from inside of me…. what does the conscious mind need to feel satisfied while the inside is plundered and who has the will to visit this….

    Liked by 2 people

      • I have stayed within walking distance from my caravan, now I come to understand that man and woman I am, for the she in me can truly see, a balancing force with no self pity…. hahaha… I will whistle a tune for if you’d like.. .. I like the theme from the good, the bad and the ugly and can whistle this well. Well, I hope you hear it too… be Well my friend…. shhh watch out for the wishing well… it might come true doo di di doo wah wah wah… lol lol

        Like

  4. Isn’t it like the divine humanity is dwelling in the hell of evil? The magical heaven of pleasant weather with beautiful mountains and super snow falls is a dream of every one’s wishing list of visit but for those who are living there it’s even more tough to breathe freely. How horrible to imagine that people living holding their breath each moment 💔 😢

    I heard about the struggles of lives in Laddahk when one of my colleagues had choosen the topic to present along with some pics of his visit during some session. I couldn’t remember much but one thing he said said still rings in my heart that people would even struggle with lack of food resources and no oxygen in some parts of the place but people has to travel or live in such places as there’s no other option of their living.

    All your heart captures are stunning with heart touching stories written on many faces of those pics and can be red only by the pure n kind hearts. Especially the one of a kiddo snuggled in mother’s arms n her heart wishperings can only be answered by God. It touched my heart deep. My heart Wishpers prayers to all of them and for my proud Country to be in peace.

    With divine tears and much respects to the serene soul of the author of this beautiful article. I wish these writings must be recognized even with creating new name of awards. My country my pride . “JAI HIND” and selute to you Sir ji ❤❤🙏🙏🙏

    Liked by 6 people

    • O my Suma, you are precious, cherished like each child. Your words so filled with love and sensitivity, that i can only float along with your feelings, this energy that you could exuberate.

      Liked by 1 person

    • That is true, for many a years things were just dormant, like moving with a sleeping pill on, but things have started to change on the ground slowly now dear Suma, people are much more active, their perspective and perception has changed towards the nation as a national, that is true. There is much much more connectivty that there ever was, and with connectivity, supplies are reaching before the run out of energies.

      Like

    • Thank you again dearest Suma, also me reading these words on a day we remember as independence day. Thank you. Jai Hind.

      Narayan x

      Like

  5. Another one post in continuation to your earlier posts on the same topic, where I feel that I have reached to the spot. I imagine that I am there with the Balti people.
    I wish really if I were there. If I could do something for the Balti people
    Mathematics is my subject. If I could devote my time with the students….

    Don’t know. Maybe I will be there someday.
    Narayan ji you are a great man, with great heart.
    I have highest level of regards for you.
    Take care.
    Stay safe and blessed.
    Namaskar 🙏

    Liked by 4 people

    • Arun ji you are still one post and the final chapter away from meeting the Balti people.

      And there is no doubt that you will only love but would want to leave everything and go there for a visit by the time you will end up reading it. And i hope it happens soon as well.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Let’s see how I can make my wish come true.
        Thank you so much for your support and encouragement 🤗
        Namaskar Narayan ji 🙏

        Like

        • Always there Arun ji, you are on a path very few go deeper after retirement, your essays and studies are proof of your humility and love for all.

          Dhanyavad
          Namaste Arun ji

          Liked by 1 person

    • It is wonderful to learn about your subject and of course, you may teach there. We just have to see it prior as these locations are hard to reach and require permissions. But ofcourse it can and must happen.

      I must tell you that there was no full moon in the months that i lived there, i could sleep because it becomes so bright that you can read a book in that night sky, with the sound of Shyok coming, always roaring.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Wow! Wonderful that would be in my life to sleep under the night bright sky. In fact I have great wish to see such sky.
        Let’s make it possible in life. That is my part. Praying Almighty to make it possible to reach to Baltistan.😊🤗🙏🙏

        Liked by 1 person

    • You have a been such a support through this series Arun ji, thank you for all your words. Your wishes and blessings are always needed and accepted with folded hands.

      Narayan x

      Liked by 1 person

  6. This next installment of the author’s heroic travels in the previously inaccessible parts of the mountains is a heartbreaking but necessary read. It reduced me to tears but the world must know about the situation there and help to improve it. The unique author’s goodness and compassion elevate him to the rare part of humanity, and I can only bow in admiration.
    The writer’s ability to write in such a profoundly moving way deserves to be recognised by the world’s highest literary award The Nobel Prize. And it will come to this second Indian writer after Tagore, there is no doubt about it.
    As I have already lost the first review I wrote just after Gary’s, I better post this one.
    The photos are good and captivating beyond words!!
    I will be back.

    Joanna

    Liked by 4 people

    • My loveliest nature, you are the one who is the source of it all, it is just like that lamp giving light in this darkness, that source which lights the wick, and i hope this love, your kindness, hope, that focused faith that you have in the divinity of nature, always keep that source alight.

      Liked by 1 person

    • It is always an author’s loss to learn that the favourite reviewer has lost her review 🙂 just like i know it is not required. Just your grace is enough.

      Gratitude
      Narayan x

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I thank you for this reminder that all of our world’s children do not have easy access to an education. Do you have plans on publishing your project, The Gun Mountains and the other Gods?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Rosa, yes i had thought of publishing this work, but i guess it would more be a Photographic book carrying people with images more than the text. Please share if you have any thoughts on it.

      Liked by 1 person

    • And yes, that is so true, more so what has started happening around the world in various regions is something we are going back to where we started, fights, all kinds of warfare. But in our own small way, let us see what can we do around us.

      Thank you so much Rosa. for your words are important.

      Narayan x

      Liked by 1 person

    • Dearest Cornelia, i feel an awe as i read your words, coming from you as you have been probably the oldest witness to my work here, means a lot for me.

      Like

    • It could be true as you point out Cornelia that you feel an affinity with these landscapes, also as you are so close to many a Indians, having visited, travelled yourself around India- i am only happy to share the deepest most works that bring you here, and hearing gives me joy.

      Like

      • Thank you Narayan , you are indeed so right in your comment. Yes I was a tourist in India, but on the other side I have felt so much inner feelings for the Indian People and their traditions and at some point I felt like I am the same.

        Like

        • 🙂 wonder isn’t it. And there is no doubt you would like if things permit to explore all what you haven’t. Hoping for it dear Cornelia.

          Thank you
          Narayan x

          Liked by 1 person

  8. Michael Graeme says

    Thank you, Nara. As always, I was deeply moved by your words and your exceptional photography. You broaden our perspective and bring home the dangers, and the struggles of others living in such remote regions.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Michael thank you, your presence affirms my effort in a way, may be it is your every watchful eyes behind those glasses even as you say you are not him.

      Like

  9. I am back for the third time as this is my favourite writer whose work’s greatness I, and all the
    commentators, recognise. You have captured our hearts and our minds with this incredible,
    powerful story, complex in the subjects covered. We are all behind you, and we will help to publicize the issues, you feel so strongly about. Good to know that there is another part to look forward to next week. Thank you, Narayan, you are a very special man,

    Joanna x

    Liked by 1 person

    • Your support, your care means everything. And as you know the journey has only started, there is a lot to do.

      Thank you is never going to be enough, yours.
      Narayan x

      Like

  10. I have just come across your blog and wow, these photos are absolutely incredible. I love how they accompany your beautiful writing style. Thank you so much for sharing your talents with us and I can’t wait to read more.

    If you are interested in stories about travel around Africa, then please take a look at my blog where I’ll be sharing my stories as a former safari guide, however living up to your posts is certainly not an easy task!

    Liked by 3 people

  11. KK says

    I had read this post twice, but I had no words to write. My heart goes out to the people who live under such difficult circumstances. And your dedication to work with them is really heart-touching. Pleasant weather, clean air and beautiful mountains and landscapes may be attractive for tourists, but living there is a different thing altogether. My elder brother had fought Kargil war and his tales were really horrible. My regards to you and your cause, Narayan ji. Stay happy and blessed!

    Liked by 2 people

  12. My highest regards are given to you for your dedication to convey your knowledge of the social science profession amid this most difficult situation. Have you ever thought of contacting the BBC or CNN to publicize a documentary on this momentous part of your life?

    Like

  13. Narayan, I am so very happy that I found your blog and can read your totally fascinating articles. I thank you for the incredible and authentic photos, which touch the heart and show me an impressive, strange landscape. These photos are completely awesome! Narayan, You are a brilliant, wonderful journalist who shows me another amazing insight into this vast and magical land.I am looking forward to read about your expeditions!
    Narayan, thanks very much!
    Rosie from Germany

    Liked by 1 person

    • Narayan Tushar Kaudinya says

      Thank you so much Rosie. The day you wrote i had already left for the Himalayas. It was important as i was leaving for a place i had not experienced before but it was other worldly as it was a walk through the mountains filled with all the medicinal herbs and flowers.

      Your words are like them then, a potion. Thank you for this Rosie

      Liked by 1 person

    • Narayan Tushar Kaudinya says

      Also, please share your email if you could. It would be great to speak and share photographs.
      Hope you are doing well dear Rosie

      Nara x

      Liked by 1 person

  14. Beautiful pics. Of hard work and the hard life. You have done great service with the noble work you did there. I can see the difficulties you underwent, and the passion you have in your heart. Congratulations, my friend, on a job well done.

    Liked by 2 people

  15. Narayan Tushar Kaudinya says

    Dearest Charly, it is delightful to have you here, and your words. It is as much wonderful to know about your life and works, and this blog that you have been writing and sharing on for so long. Thank you.

    Like

  16. Narayan Tushar Kaudinya says

    Yes, may be that time was difficult but it never was pain, neither i felt at unease, its probably came and left like breath.

    Thank you again and look forward to see and read all further.
    Nara x

    Like

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s