After a long break and other photography blog posts, I’m back to the Leh and Batalik images. Previously in this series. 01. Leh. From the air. 02. Drive. Leh to Batalik. 03. Batalik. Day One. and 04. Batalik. Day Two. Part One. After the short performance and the chai and jalebis, we went to visit the home of once of the locals and later at night, I spent some time under the stars!

above : The day started at around 0730 hours and I woke up mesmerized with the colors outside my window.

above : This ritual is sacrosanct when you’re in an Army field area and especially when visiting after a long time. Even after an Officer retires or moves out on posting, there are strong ties that bind – not only with the soldiers and officers who were part of the Unit when the officer was posted there but also rituals and material things that hold memories. Like the Unit’s “mandir”. There’s a dedicated pandit conscripted in each battallion.

above: We were then taken to the mini-museum. The bust you see above in black and white is Maj. Shaitan Singh of 13 Kumaon who was awarded the Param Vir Chakra posthumusly after the Indo-China war of 1961.

above : Clothing with bullet-holes and splashes of blood still visible on them, preserved and displayed, with names of the soldiers they belonged to.

left & above: Other memorabilia from various war-time and field engagements, including telescopes captured from the enemy, IED mines, mortar shells and gun holsters. You can also see @shadeheart checking out the view from one of the on-display telescopes. As a child, all this held enormous fascination for me. But I have since understood that no one really wins in a war & now I only find myself feeling pathos. Below : The brass lion is called the Russell Lion and is symbolic of the Kumaon Regiment.

above : A lady from the Aryan village on the outskirts of Batalik. The bunch of orange flowers that you see on her head dress, just above the silver head-piece, those are real, as are the purple ones jutting out from stalks on the left. The rest are plastic. We met with locals who rely on the Army for food, medicine and education. The people had put together a small song-dance routine and except for me shoving my camera in everyone’s face, it was quite an enjoyable experience.

left & above: Exchange of headgear. You’ll also see @akanksharedhu trying on the ladies headgear. Below : a boy and his grandmother.

left & above: Students from the only school in the village. Also, the spinning and weaving machine that they use to make sweaters and sell them in the local market. The machine and the sewing shop has been setup by the Army to help the locals fend for themselves.

above : A cooking pot made from stone. These are carved out from a single rock depending on the size of the pot desired. But this practice is declining as more villagers adopt steel and plastics, although, each house will have at least one such stone pot.

Aaaaaaah! My eyes! Will you LOOK at that color! I can’t even begin to count how many images I have with just that color in them! Beautiful!

left & above & below : The typical fauji tea snacks fare of jalebis and pakodas. My Dad in intense conversation with one of the junior officers. The young officer who was in-charge of our caretaking & a totally jazzy painting advertising a STD / PCO booth.

above : @akanksharedhu grinning from ear to ear. It pays to have a photographer around.

above : @shadeheart tasting salty butter-tea. We were invited to the home of one of the “important” people in the village and the lady of the house served us tea. The view from their terrace was, of course, lovely!

above : Dad sampling some grain and helping me with making a better picture in better light.

above : What a clean kitchen she has! And she was happy to show it off! They actually still use pots made of stone – although the practice is declining.

above & left : Rocks, wood and bursts of color. Local dog and goat and mountains in the backyard. A red Honda generator chugging along in the freezing wind. Below is a night time shot of the Milky Way.

above : Then they went trekking. Since I was loaded down with camera gear and the footing was extremely treacherous – and it was brand spanking new and expensive camera gear – I decided to stay back and I don’t regret it in retrospect. Sure we could have planned it better. So I sat and waited for the vehicle to pick me up and take me back to the room. Broken window on the wall of the temporary office they have at the site. There’s no road, no nothing. Just rubble. And a deep, fast-flowing river at the bottom of the gorge!

above : On my drive back to the room. Color dotting the mountainside.

above : Back outside the room, I decided to do what I do best – take some more photographs. A bunch of children were trudging back from school and were more than happy to pose – well atleast the boys were. She definitely wasn’t too happy. In the following images, I got to shoot a slice of night time – my favorite part of the album!

above : I know what you’re thinking – that’s not night. But it is. Moonlight. View from the room we were staying in. It was FREEZING and my army-issue gloves were useless for more than five minutes of holding the camera. [ I have to admit I was amazed at how well the camera and lenses handled the cold – no frosting, no condensation, no noises, it all just worked how it does in the hot North Indian weather. Of course the batteries drained out quick. ]
above : More night time compositions. I tried to capture the Milky Way but the cold was really not conducive to even simple thought. It was tough to just stand around waiting for a long exposure. And I didn’t have the patience for short and repeated exposures. The cold was fierce. Clarity isn’t the best in images with the star-spangled sky and I can blame the temperature. But it was glorious to look at nonetheless. All that glitter in the sky!

above : This is just where I was standing. Asbestos roof of the room and the camera is pointed into the mountainside. Just a small triangle of sky made it into the frame on top right. I wasn’t looking through the viewfinder.

above & below : The same image. Above with a short exposure and below with a longer exposure.

above & below : The same image. Above with a short exposure and below with a longer exposure.

The above is a panorama, but small in size – for a scrollable and larger version, hover your mouse left-right / right-left over the large image below.

I can’t vouch for the history of the villagers – many claim they are of the “Aryan” race and I was told I would also find blue-eyed populace but I found no traces. They definitely have sharp features but then it wasn’t just the Aryans who had sharp features! Eventful day already – we hadn’t even had lunch. And there is so much more to come. Previously in this series. 01. Leh. From the air. 02. Drive. Leh to Batalik. 03. Batalik. Day One. and 04. Batalik. Day Two. Part One.