ABHA

Highlights of a Drive along Frozen Siachen between Arano and Yarma

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Frozen Siachen River

The demanding winter tastefully froze the fluvial gear box. The Siachen amid the Karakorum mountains was primarily iced up and lazing in its isolated native wide glacial valley. The energetic winter played statue maker with the Siachen, wherein the former hardly unfroze the co-player. The villagers, energy-conscious, preferred to stay indoors to the game.

The river almost lost its speed and unloaded the cargo (debris and gravel) everywhere in the bed. The energy-deficient river transmitte­d coldness to whosoever and whatever touched it. It consumed all colors and produced color of peace and purity, white. Boulders, bare bushes, and clear narrow short water channels within the gray course barely enhanced the whitened skin. Bright clear water in the channels supported a faint hint of blue green. *

Villages

The energy-deficient river transmitte­d coldness to whosoever and whatever touched it…. Of late, I wondered about the integrity meter; why not try the meter on all the politician­s. The results would be amusing and revealing.

Small villages stretched between either of the Siachen banks and the foot of the precipitou­s slopes of the Karakorum. The rural hamlets uniformly sported triangular profiles, particular­ly from a distance. They were dusty despite the snow cover that was discontinu­ous, especially, sporadic at many places. Simple traditiona­l flat-roof white homes stood within big walled private courtyards, a luxury in Leh.

Vegetation mainly grew in and around the inhabited places. The leafless bushes and trees crowded with dry gray thin and fat branches just blended with dusty brown slopes ending at pointy summits gazing at the sky. Some of the branches had fresh brown-maroon tips. However, birds, especially, black blue magpies, orange beak choughs and white cap red starts flitted in the gray groves.

It was colder than Leh although respective altitudes do not differ much. The streams (nullahs) coming from the glaciers crowning some of the slopes were frozen and silent. They did not compound volume and momentum of the Siachen.

Pronouncin­g the village names took some time for unfamiliar syllabic combinatio­ns. For example, Henache, Nyungstet, Stangstet… *

The Last Village

Single-house Warshi is the last village along

Arano - Yarma road following the curvy Siachen originatin­g from the longest glacier outside the poles. The river is named after the 72-kilometerl­ong glacier, a battlegrou­nd between India and Pakistan. The highest battlefiel­d in the world is christened aptly after a local bush. According to the locals, sia means a wild rose and chen means thorns. The glacier named after a delicate fragrant flower regularly witnesses bloodshed, the thorn of the wild bloom. The hints of blood of soldiers and citizens of the enemy countries keep stoking up acrimoniou­s relationsh­ips. *

The Road

Primarily, the road was well maintained compared to many other Himalayan roads for it links a pair of the most difficult internatio­nal borders of India that are known for frequent defensive and offensive military activities. The on and off internatio­nal relationsh­ips require quick easy movement of the troops round the clock. Yet its share of untarred pot-holed sections affected the traffic.

As we moved towards Yarma, quantity of snow on and around the road increased. Some sections were completely snowy with a hint of brown sprayed by varied vehicles. It was not very wide; it actually contracted at a number of places. The gentle gradual slope avoided sudden steep ascends or descends. The road supported vehicular traffic but neither served the fuel nor offered the maintenanc­e tools. *

Rituals Matching Local Delineatio­ns of Right and Wrong

Zangnam, a simple stone shrine in brick red color, is dedicated to the Buddhist oracle, Changmen. The shrine witnessed rituals based on the knowledge level matching the local developmen­t phase of the correspond­ing period or the period-specific delineatio­ns of right and wrong. Locals offered the heart of a sacrificed child to the oracle on Losar (New Year) in the bygone era(s). Although, slowly, the disdainful ritual was abandoned yet sacrifices continued. A sheep was offered to seek the blessings. These sacrifices completely stopped with successive social and other developmen­ts. But still a symbolic heart is offered: the heart made of flour.

Only opening to the temple was a set of facial features: three round holes - two for eyes - and almost parallel horizontal space for lips in white color. The opening was crowned with a short yellow curtain like a toran. Visitors could not enter the shrine. The opening offered a peek at the statue of the oracle wearing multiple flags on the head. Red color statue had wide eyes and an open mouth baring big teeth.

A short white and black pillar stuffed with dry stems crowned the shrine. In front of the shrine, the eye sockets in the facial skeleton of an ibex were plugged with stones. The long horns had quite symmetrica­l annuli, growth rings indicating the age of the ibex. Each true ring in the downward

curved horns represents a year.

Locals may light a lamp at the wish-granting shrine while crossing it. However, there are no hard and fast rules. A simple shrine of local materials reminds that devotion does not require bells and whistles. A short debris laden trail connecting the shrine and the road is “motorable.”

The area around the shrine is also called Zangnam where another old myth (See An Indigenous Integrity Meter) breeds. The locality houses faint records of ancient art preserved on a rock. All rules that are followed in a religious shrine apply to this special rock. For instance, do not climb the rock. *

Innate Merits of Ordinary Rocks: An Indigenous Integrity Meter

A pair of rocks along the road does not hold any merit for visitors. A visitor ignorant of the fables about mysterious powers of so ordinary rocks may not even look at them until locals share the fables.

One of these rocks may invite attention of the observant geologists or geographer­s. They may study signs of erosional agencies responsibl­e for the “window” between the bottom of the rock and the ground. The fable says a person with integrity irrespecti­ve of the size would crawl through the “window” and emerge on the other end.

At first glance, I doubted the logic because a fat person cannot crawl through it. So, all fat people lack integrity. But, how true is this simple conclusion? I shared my doubts with the driver who showed me the window, asked me to try the native meter, and boasted he could crawl. So, he is a man of integrity.

Of late, I wondered about the integrity meter; why not try the meter on all the politician­s. The results would be amusing and revealing. *

Native (Rocky) Canvas

Line drawings etched on a rock beside the road may not follow sophistica­ted art rules used by known artists. Even so, the simple expression records some of the ancestral skills and knowledge. Its proximity to the old silk route adds a cultural and historical merit.

Various weathering agencies fade the yellowisho-cherish drawings daily. Experts or careful repeat observatio­ns can help in identifyin­g subjects and themes of the drawings. On top of the rock face overlookin­g the road, a row of ibexes is drawn. The size of ibexes decreases from one edge of the rock to the other as in a perspectiv­e drawing. The big downward curved horns have age-representa­tive growth ring marks as well. Eyes and other features are not visible.

A 160 m-long span-jeepable suspension bridge connects Nyungstet and Stangstet villages located on the opposite banks of the frozen Siachen (Nubra) river.

A hunting scene is drawn on the extreme left of the space below the ibex row. The archer is probably pulling the arrow. A lone ibex, smaller in size, is etched on the other side of the rock.

I also observed a few etchings on the indigenous integrity meter. *

Illusive Cairns

At first glance, short piles of carefully placed stones collected locally resembled attentive soldiers. A close look immediatel­y wiped the first impression. The illusory man-made piles were not only impressive but also functional. The olive greenish cairns help in finding routes in mountains. *

Peaks

On the west, three snow-covered peaks rose between Arano and Yarma after substantia­l intervals: Kimi, Mini, and Kailash. The road offered better views of Kimi; and miniature views of the last pair of the peaks. The round tip of Kailash (Kangri Shalma), a local pilgrimage, emerged from behind tall brown precipices before Yarma Monastery. Backyard of the monastery afforded slightly bigger view of the Kailash. *

Weather

Blue sky in the morning featured several white and gray clouds. On return, it was gray on both the days: February 27-28. The shadow-less evenings disappoint­ed somewhat but absence of precipitat­ion cheered. *

 ??  ?? A snowy peak along Arano – Yarma road
A snowy peak along Arano – Yarma road
 ??  ?? Electricit­y wires and reflection­s of the Karakorum peaks in the partly frozen Siachen (Nubra) river near Nyungstet
Electricit­y wires and reflection­s of the Karakorum peaks in the partly frozen Siachen (Nubra) river near Nyungstet
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 ??  ?? Zangnam shrine beside Arano – Yarma road
Zangnam shrine beside Arano – Yarma road
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 ??  ?? Almost frozen Siachen (Nubra) river behind Yarma monastery
Almost frozen Siachen (Nubra) river behind Yarma monastery
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 ??  ?? The rocky “indigenous integrity meter” (1) along Yarma – Arano road. A close up of the meter (3). Faint etchings on the rock (2).
The rocky “indigenous integrity meter” (1) along Yarma – Arano road. A close up of the meter (3). Faint etchings on the rock (2).
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 ??  ?? (Red rectangle) A hunting scene on the rock face overlookin­g the road
(Red rectangle) A hunting scene on the rock face overlookin­g the road
 ??  ?? (Left) A row of ibexes on the rock face overlookin­g the road. Growth ring marks are evident in big downward curved horns.
(Left) A row of ibexes on the rock face overlookin­g the road. Growth ring marks are evident in big downward curved horns.
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 ??  ?? Arano on the west bank of the Siachen (Nubra) river
Arano on the west bank of the Siachen (Nubra) river
 ??  ?? (Right) Drawings of wings of ibexes (1 and 2) on the rock face overlookin­g mountain
(Right) Drawings of wings of ibexes (1 and 2) on the rock face overlookin­g mountain
 ??  ?? Sun rise on one of the snow covered peaks along Arano – Yarma road
Sun rise on one of the snow covered peaks along Arano – Yarma road
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 ??  ?? Locals visualize an avian eyes and face (red rectangle) on this rock beside Arano – Yarma road. According to me, a pair of caves (looking like eyes) are being formed in this rock.
Locals visualize an avian eyes and face (red rectangle) on this rock beside Arano – Yarma road. According to me, a pair of caves (looking like eyes) are being formed in this rock.

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