The Sudden Peace

23 Comments
Siachen Base Camp, Partapur. The sinking sun brings its own miseries here. It’s end August and the mist swallows and vomits the road like a gluttonous tunnel demon. The drop in temperature is so sudden that it seems someone’s suddenly slammed the freezer door on you. Evening also falls suddenly as the sun disappears behind the last village on the border.

We are lodged inside a dorm of corrugated metal sheets. There are two rows of beds inside. This is where the soldiers break their journey, to and from Siachen, the world’s highest battlefield. This is just weeks after ‘Kargil’, the war that caught us unawares. The soldiers are still not used to the peace, that came as suddenly as the war. Conversation revolves around friends’ families, who now have to live without them. Someone’s young kids, someone’s ‘just-married’ wife, old parents; everyone is remembered. The departed friends are just mentioned in passing.

Sleep descends like anesthesia. We’re all very tired. The soldiers from their downward journey to the base camp. And we, from riding our bikes uphill from Leh. It’s too cold for mosquitoes. A lone naked bulb is our beacon of civilisation in the middle of a cold and dark battlefield. Everyone, soldier and civilian, sleeps deep and soundlessly.

Morning at the base camp is pleasantly warm. It seems there are some advantages of being hoisted up at over 11000 feet, above sea level. Morning brings its own intrigues.

Out on the flat, drill field—possibly also the world’s highest—the base camp dogs have collected. They’re about eight in number, variously mixed but mostly thick-furred Bhutias. They’re barking at the smell of some as yet unseen excitement.

Then four soldiers walk to the middle of the field with four steel cages. Inside them are big fat bandicoots.

The dogs circle around the caged bandicoots, who’re now beginning to crawl desperately inside their meagre cages, which are actually biggish mousetraps. The barking has now transformed into clenched teeth yelps, like muffled ‘attack signals’. The soldiers swing the cages over the dogs, to get them acquainted with smell of bandicoots.

And then the cages are opened. The dogs move back, the barks stop and ears stand up like snake hoods. They know going close to the cages would mean an end to the game.

The bandicoots are cunning too. They may not be able to smell the dogs as well as they can smell them but they know escape from the traps won’t be easy. But they are fooled by the silence. They come out gingerly, sniffing the air. The dogs are dead silent. The bandicoots begin to run towards safety. There are no bushes, no places to hide. And the bandicoots aren’t fast enough. The dogs, on the other hand, are trained for this.

In no time the special ration-fattened bandicoots are torn to shreds by the base camp dogs. All eight get their trophies, which they drag and maul against the gravelly field till the carcasses look like wet woollen socks. The game ends there. The dogs are whistled away for breakfast. And the bandicoots lie dead under the warming sun, waiting to be picked up by passing birds of prey.


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23 comments:

  1. Dhiraj, man, that was an *intense* post.

    Dogs of war indeed.

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  2. I had goosebumps by the end of the post. Brilliant.

    I loved Partapur though - was there last summer as well.. drove down from Leh, gorgeous place innit?

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    Replies
    1. I am being sent to work in Partapur for a longer duration. Pls tell me how is the weather? Can my spouse stay with me?

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  3. I dont know you at all but since you biked up from Leh my respect for you grows ten-fold! Very well written post. It's rare to read about travel experiences that are sans all the trappings---that go beyond a mere travel experience.

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  4. wonderfully chilling, I love the opening paragraph, I think you should do the voice overs for documetaries about your travels, I for one would be an avid fan

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  5. KM thanks man. It was an intense thing to witness.

    Scout thanks. I think the whole of Ladakh is amazing. Very other-worldly.

    Bloggerhead, will your respect for me grow more if I told you I biked all the way from Delhi? Thanks for your comment :)

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  6. intense yet tastefully understated! What a strange paradoxical combo, there's such beauty in this balance....incredibly potent to achive in writing or any other form of expression!

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  7. Hey that's an idea Sue! Will try it sometime soon :)

    Lemony, u'r a sharp reader :)

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  8. sounds like great entertainment to me, definitely intense, but more than a vent to repressed rage, the soldiers need a diversion after a frigid night. Also wont you tell us of the lavish barbecue or did the vultures really swoop down?

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  9. ur right, it could've been a scene straight out of the colosseum.

    And the BBQ was xcellent... but how did u know? Guess u must've loved the taste urself :D

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  10. svetlana and then dogs of war. if i wasn't such a believer of normal things, i'd imagine that there're 4 vastly different ppl writing this blog!

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  11. Methinks, me is a closet schizo... :) Shite... nudder tag... gimme sum time.

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  12. yes yes! the next time you take one of those biking trips and feel like a travel companion leave a comment on nmy blog:) I'll pretend you don't exist--that i'm hitching a ride to someplace else. travel is the only constant in my life and i totally get people who feel similarly.

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  13. I like the fact that "travel is the only constant" in your life. Now I am impressed :)

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  14. Well, this high arena of death is envisioned as if it were an otherworldly outpost.

    But bandicoots are unfair game even for e pack of chihuahuas. Imagine if they
    were badgers or wolverines. The vultures would have been eating hot dogs.

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  15. Finnegan, but ultimately aren't all games about timing and deception, though it may seem that size or the power of one's tooth or nail is what matters. And that's fair, isn't it?

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  16. Hey Dheeraj.... a nice read after a loooooooooong break after "private parts"....

    War aimed at you, thrown at you, swallowed me.. spat me out... swallowed again..only to be puked out again... thats what your story did to a certain point in my brain....

    oh and the best lines accordin' to me....

    "....And then the cages are opened. The dogs move back, the barks stop and ears stand up like snake hoods. They know going close to the cages would mean an end to the game."

    and the best para....

    "...The bandicoots are cunning too. They may not be able to smell the dogs as well as they can smell them but they know escape from the traps won’t be easy. But they are fooled by the silence. They come out gingerly, sniffing the air. The dogs are dead silent. The bandicoots begin to run towards safety. There are no bushes, no places to hide. And the bandicoots aren’t fast enough. The dogs, on the other hand, are trained for this."


    Peace....

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  17. Hey Gary many, many thanks man. That first one is also my favourite :D

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  18. so the `natives' are to the soldiers, what the bandicoots are to the dogs,and vice-versa ?

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  19. Dat's so cool n precise LeChit :) Thanks

    Sniper, why does mind always want answers in ABSOLUTIST terms?

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  20. I have been looking for sites like this for a long time. Thank you! »

    ReplyDelete

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