The following story is not fictional or writer-made, but is a compilation of events that happened in real life with real people in the farthest corners of India which are very famous and commonly called Leh Ladakh by the world.
So, about Leh, this place is said to have beauty like no other and chocolate momo’s which are very tasty.(for more about this, read the first post here.) Any enthusiastic traveller and scared first timer tourist will have Khardungla pass in their itinerary, just like marine drive is in Mumbai; Khardungla is the most common place to visit in Leh.
Assumptions are a wrong practice right? Just because this was a road not less travelled, we went with our whole family ,including my grandparents, to explore the already explored. A fun fact about Khardungla is that it is the highest motorable road in the whole world and the highest point is about 18,000 ft above sea level, where you are very likely to find snow and snow and lots of snow.
Coming back to the assumption where we were sure about how beautiful this drive will be. So, to sum up what happened, let me tell you that a 15 year record was broken that day in Leh and that obviously had to happen with us.
‘Over enthusiasm can lead to loss of practicality.’
I wish I read this quote before the trip. 2 situations that sums up how we are always excited:
- The weather in the morning was very bad as there were black clouds dominating the whole skyline and this made the mountains invisible. Seeing this all of us got very excited about snowfall which we now regret.
- You can say I am a bit, just a bit more excited about everything than usual. I wanted to travel that pass on a bike with a biker to taste adventure on my tongue. But thank god, my overprotective family saved me by not letting me go.
Let’s talk about ideal situations that never happen to us. The weather in Leh changed after around 1: 00 P.M., with expected snowfalls and fog. So all the cars had to clear the pass by 1:00 P.M. and start their journey down towards the Nubra valley.
We were obviously extra unlucky that day. There was some Senior Police Officer who had to cross the pass and thus nearly 200 cars had to wait for 2 hours for him to go. With the tracks extra slippery, the snowfall continued which fascinated us for around 20 minutes for sure, but as the visibility started dropping to less that 10 ft because of the fog, our excitement began to fade away. We reached Khardungla at around 2:30 P.M. but, as the nature always surprises you and that day whenever the fog cleared, we were exposed to the real beauties of Leh, where the horizon was dominated by blue and white mountains.
Driving down the Khardungla with a visibility of 7 feet, a snow storm outside and no water or food, it felt adventurous, the speed was maximum 20 km per hour when suddenly the car was stuck in a mud puddle. I observed Gurmeet, my driver’s, face and his efforts to get the car out when suddenly the snow started sliding on us from our left hand side!
Before we could realize that it was an ice slide, Gurmeet shouted and told us to get out as soon as possible. We were not even ready to get exposed to the cold; we grabbed the warm clothes around us and rushed outside from the driver seat. It was quite easy for us, but then came the time to pull out my grandparents, who are aged 75. My grandmother has had both her knees transplanted; she couldn’t bend and make her way out of that seat. But time was really less, the ice slide was still on and the car could be covered in snow anytime! We pulled and dropped her out, applying force. She started losing oxygen, breathing unrealistically heavily.
During all of this, I caught the moment for a second, the snow storm I was exposed to was very bad, and I was not able to see my family because of the fog and my grandparents were in a bad condition. Getting my emotions in place I took action, along with my father we started shouting and calling out for help. The cars that were stuck behind us helped us and the 9 of us got distributed in 3 cars. The snow had made our feet and hands go all numb.
The troubles do not end here. We were already regretting the decision of bringing our grandparents with us when we got to know that the snow clearing machine was out of diesel. It was already 5:00 PM and the sun sets at 6:30 PM when the temperature would drop from the already -10 degree to -15 making everything for us just worse.
The panic started rising now. There was no option but to wait and hope. all the drives gathered and ran up to the army camp for diesel, they brought the army with them and all of them together started clearing the snow manually. Never in 15 years had the weather been so bad in the month of May.
At around 6:20 PM, Gurmeet came up to me asking how I was doing, I saw his hands which were all red because of the snow, I could hear him breathe heavily and what he was concerned about was me, who was sitting in the luxury of a car.
I was just in complete awe of that person and everybody who helped us out of it. The army or the military is always recognized for what they do, but such drivers, Sherpa, trekkers who serve us out of humanity and not just duty do deserve recognition and appreciation. I might never see Gurmeet again in my life, but he was a man you cannot easily forget and so are all those people including the army, other drivers, hotel employees, travellers who helped us with resources; all of them who contributed somehow, cannot be forgotten.
My garndparents showed so much courage, we reached our destination at 11:00 PM and during all those 14 hours they did not complain or show weakness. This experience was surely scary but it just became memorable for us with a great lesson learnt in love and kindness.
We don’t need heroes or mentors, we just need to look around and find kindness by being kind. Maybe that’s how you find your heroes.