On the night of 13th December 1971, Major Chewang Rinchin of the Ladakhi Scouts ceased fire after reaching the village Tyakshi even before the Indo-Pakistan war was called off. His troops had by then acquired five villages and a total area of 804 sq. kilometer of Pakistan. The then Ladakhi ruling party didn’t want anymore of Baltistan as they thought it would weaken their political positioning in the state, their ethnic identity will be sandwiched between the two Muslim regions of Kashmir and Baltistan. The people of the villages went to sleep in Pakistan, but they woke up in India the following morning.
Opened to the world in the summer of 2010 after forty years, I went there the following year to teach the higher secondary school kids of Baltistan in the worst forty days of winter for their winter tuitions. But it seemed that actually it wasn’t the education they needed. They seem to embody the burden of a prolonged denial of any kind of fulfillment.
The faces and the age lines of the old narrated many untold stories of the past. They yearned to talk, to tell tales of the rich history they are carrying for so long. A frustration that thickens into a deep-rooted helplessness. The children who can only look forward to joining the army are caught in a melancholic shuttling between a sorrow for the past and a longing for a better future. The elderly talked about their days in Pakistan, about the trees they used to play under, and the rocks they sat on talking for hours. Nobody remembers if their parents are living anymore or how their sisters and brothers used to look. Gradually, the imagination of Balti’s people has been forced bereft of a past, which is an essential part of their being.
The wait of Baltistan is the tale of a forgotten clan separated by time and deep-rooted essence of a land. Its a journey of the people neglected, decades lived in hope, A land neglected whose stories of an unfathomed past still chronicle around their present.
I was born in Kudniya, a town in southwest India overlooking the Arabian Sea.
I studied literature and theatre and made cartoons for a local daily. Later while studying journalism I began exploring stories that could inform, and illustrate the universal condition of humanity. I tell stories of the road, of children and rural settlements, of conflict-ridden cultures and alienated communities
I write. And run a primary school with my mother.