It isn’t a smooth ride up the mountains of Sonmarg in Kashmir. The well experienced driver skilfully manoeuvres the vehicle through the dangerously narrow road to the Zero Point, where the second lowest temperature in the world has been recorded during the winter. Hands freezing, teeth clattering, I watch as we take this bumpy ride along a road dotted by army officials. We are soon stranded on the road due to an avalanche, and there, I catch one of the most breathtakingly beautiful landscapes in front of my eyes. Spread across in front of me are the snow-capped mountains, that steep downward dangerously, almost like daring anyone to climb on them and at their foothills, the conifers and the deciduous trees paint the area a lush green while a stream of crystal clear cold water runs downward.
We are called soon after and onward the journey goes. Two hours later, we are driving back downhill amidst a heavy downpour and that is when I notice a quiet a number of trucks that are crossing us in the opposite direction. The driver explains to us that the trucks, about 200 to 300 everyday, carry food and other necessities for the soldiers way high up on the Leh and Ladakh for storage, owing to the fact that the very path we were travelling in would remain closed for 6 whole months due to severe winter! A subtle reminder of the fact that we are able to sleep peacefully while the army stays put through the biting cold even in the severest of winters.
Somewhere far away from home, with only photographs to hold close, there are soldiers putting their lives at stake so we may live a life of normalcy. Across borders, amidst chaos, bombings, bloodshed, deaths of companions, they live a life made of steely resolve in their minds, some corner of their hearts longing, looking forward to the faces that would greet them when they finally see the walls of their homes, all the while knowing that each day they get to see the sunrise is a blessing. Oh what a joy it would be when they look at their family – people who live with mere memories of few months with their soldier, praying and hoping every day that when he returns home, he returns not as a martyr but as the son, brother, father that they love and have been missing so much.
As the thoughts fill my head and emotions take over my heart, I stare into the distance, the rain having stopped now, giving me another painfully marvellous sight to behold- snow clad mountain peaks amidst a calm weather, almost like resting after a day’s tiresome job. I bring my windows down and let the cold air caress my face. As we are close to reaching the starting point, I look back, the mountains receding to get smaller but never less magnificent with the distance, I realize that somehow this was the way nature meant it all to be and as to the Jawans living, fighting and counting their blessings about another day’s sunrise, I could not but swell with pride at their dedication to serving and protecting their Motherland.