Paradise Lost

Tragedy has struck in paradise. Ladakh is under massive mudslides after heavy rains from a cloudburst. Heaven has been turned into a war zone.

I have been to Ladakh only once. But anyone who has been there even once will tell you that place creates a very special place in your heart. Ladakh is unlike anything you have seen elsewhere. The desolate, gloomy terrain matching up with the majestic Himalayas and clear blue skies stretched across the horizon is unforgiving and beautiful at the same time. Despite the many people going over every year, most of the place is untouched by the tainted hands of human civilization. The ground so sterile, nothing can stay alive for too long. Appropriately housing a community of people so peaceful and patient, the silence of Ladakh is among the most cherished sound of all.

Javed bhai was the owner of the guesthouse I was lodged in for a week while I traveled across the place. The place was cozy little place with Javedbhai’s wife making lovely tea if you fancy a cup. Their 3 kids – from 8 months old to 8 years – were a treat to watch on the sunny mornings when Leh is so radiant. Old Leh is like that. Friendly and vibrant.

It was a fine morning when I was leaving for Nubra Valley. Traffic was heavier than usual and everyone seemed to be dressed for the occasion. It was Eid. Unfortunately, all the 3 cash machines in Leh were out and I didn’t have as much as a dime on me. I rode around town looking and exploring all options and ended up with naught. Dejected, I came back to the guesthouse. I wasn’t going anywhere. Then Javedbhai emerged. Dressed immaculately in white and the handkerchief on his head, he looked like the son of God himself. He asked what is wrong and I narrated the story to him.

He weighed his options. His wasn’t the largest guesthouse around. In fact, it must be among the smaller ones. He isn’t a man of too many means. But he doesn’t flinch. He calls out to his wife and asks her to give me 3000 rupees. I am still looking at him with unflinching eyes when turns around and says, “Jao, fikar nahin“. Just like that. And just like that I went to Nubra Valley and came back a couple of days later to his guesthouse and hugged him. It wasn’t a lot of money but trust is a beautiful thing. Javedbhai was etched on my mind.

When the news of the cloudburst broke, I thought of Javedbhai and his family and his cozy guesthouse. Old Leh has borne the brunt of the damage. The road outside the guesthouse sloped dangerously and mud is sure to have affected his place. I just pray Javedbhai and his family is safe, sound and protected. And I pray that the valley that has such a special place in my heart is back on its feet soon.

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