* 'Evi' is the Ladakhi word for grandmother,
** 'Rongba' is a flatlander; someone who's from the plains 😉
Rahul Ogra with Evi Yangdol (From Tirith in Nubra)
Pic. courtesy P. Srinivasan, Chennai
In all my years of wandering around the Himalaya, I've never ceased to be amazed by how these great mountains have the uncanny ability to catch you completely off guard when you least expect it.
In your moments of unassuming vulnerability, they will sometimes touch recesses so deep in your soul, that you'd all but forgotten existed. They'll surprise you with the power of memory so deep, an association so profound, that its impact will completely transport you.
I briefly met this old 'evi' * near Tirith, in the Nubra valley, on a recent trip there in July. Our interaction was fleeting and awkward, to say the least; As I tried my level best to talk to her with whatever little - abysmally bad - Ladakhi I could muster. Her name, as it turned out, was Yangdol. She had lived to see 83 winters, and her family consisted of her two sons, their wives and about seven odd grandchildren.
I clicked a couple of pictures with her and was suddenly overwhelmed by a warm - fuzzy - feeling, which I can only describe in retrospect as spontaneous affection.
The thing about her that stayed in my mind the longest was the easy, toothless smile that sat so comfortably on her wizened face. And those kind, compassionate, non-seeking eyes spoke yet of countless untold stories of immense hardship. Of a tough - albeit - proud life, lived on her own terms and hacked out of all the vicissitudes, which the ebb and flow of elements in this primaeval land often test people with.
She reminded me so much of my grandmother 'Kakni' (PBOH) that by the time we parted ways, I am pretty sure she must've been more than a little amused to see a bit of moisture welling up in the eyes of this strange, grown-up 'Rongba' ** from the south.
lines - by Rahul Ogra. Nubra Valley