February 22nd, 2016
Image Courtesy: himalayantramp | letu | smh | presa
Zanskar valley, located at an elevation of 19500 ft is a place the exquisiteness of whose landscapes changes the very perception of beauty. Situated in the heart of the northernmost state of Jammu & Kashmir, the geography of Zanskar is decidedly harsh and physically cold & arid. At winters, the treacherous mountainous landscapes become an unbearable place that it loses its contact with the rest of the world due to heavy snowfall.
Due to its magnificent beauty and sparse population, Zanskar gorge remains the most isolated tourist spot in India attracting a number of intrepid mountain trekkers. Throughout the year the life of the Zanskari people is struggling as in summer the Zanskar river becomes an angry torrent of water and at the winters, the temperatures plummet to as much as -40 degrees making the habitation almost impossible and thereby scanty.The extremely low temperatures in winters slow the river and a sheet of ice crusts its surface known as “Chadar” is formed. The road acting as the lifeline of the valley becomes completely impassable for 6 months. Thus, a fragile route to Leh opens.
The trekking campaign might be an adventure for the hikers but for local Zanskaris it has become a necessity. The local people due to lack of road networks are forced to take this route for their survival. They have been using this uncanny route for their day to day businesses and to take their children to school. It is amazing to see these fantastic people so friendly and helping despite living in such an isolated place and an adverse harsh environment.
The Zanskari people are very simple, jovial and full of warmth. The local Zanskaris have been playing a major role in the trekking expeditions in the form of cooks, porters, helpers and guides. They are oblivious to the hostile weather conditions. Often these people are selflessly risking their own lives saving the life of the trekker.
The local Zanskari fathers can be discovered sharing the pathways with the trekkers carrying their exhausted children on their back or showing the way to the family in the gorge. Behind this unsustainable chilling climate, the road to school for the children lies in walking over the endless white sheet of ice. As the road remains blocked so during winter, in order to get to boarding school in Leh, Zanskari children must walk for 5 days down the frozen Zanskar river.
The ice layers are sometimes thin and are prone to fracture. The low and menacing cracking sound can be heard on walking over it. The children risk their young lives falling through them into the ice cold water underneath. Upon falling into the cold water, the cold shock will seize their little bodies. The breathing will stop in a while, the body would sink down, swallow water and ultimately resulting in death. The rugged icy ground is hard and often slippery. Toppling over them can cause fatal injuries, but the children of Zanskar are undeterred in their journey to seek education.
Walking the chadar can be a treacherous task and takes the life of porters and tourists. The Zanskari children have to rest in caves at night. Very often a blizzard makes them wait for days in the caves in the hope of the climate to show some mercy on them to restart their walk.
Possessing a great passion towards studies the children were never seen complaining about the taxing journey. In fact, the children are jolly and enthusiastic like every day. They are accompanied by their parents and carry their own belongings. Children can be seen gliding in ice over the sledges. The problem arises on the uneven surface when they have to carry their home-made sledges along with their belongings that double up their weight. Rather their zeal towards education overpowers the arduous nature of the expedition.
The strong-willed children have been brought up in such a way to face every obstacle with ease. The journey of Zanskari children teaches us many life experiences and motivates us to face the difficulties in a better way. Whether it is the sharing of their load amongst the young and old boys or the sharing of the food, they have continuously inspired the mankind. Upon reaching their destination, the children can be seen celebrating and are overwhelmed with joy. Why not! it is indeed the greatest happiness they have, to get to study.
The Logical Indian salutes the spirits hundreds of children living in the most remote corners of the nation who risk their lives doing unimaginable stuff to attend school may have easy access to education. Perilous ways are one of the primary reasons why numerous youngsters choose to stop school. The result may appear to be simple: a better infrastructure, good transportation facility and a responsible governance. Nonetheless, the negligence towards these children doesn’t give kids the right they so frantically require.