Driving through the barren mountains of Ladakh, we took a diversion off the highway to enter a valley. It was gorgeous, a stream cut through the valley with huge mountains on both sides and the further we went in, the more wild it looked! About an hour later, we came to a halt. With our backpacks strapped firmly to our backs we walked on the track for another 30 minutes. Meanwhile we came across a house or two and very old monastery.
We set up camp next to the fields, between the mountains. There was an old house which housed the cattle and a new building next to it. There wasn’t any other building in sight apart from the old monastery in the far distance. Wanting to see a typical Ladakhi home, we invited ourselves into the house next to the campsite.
A young lady with bright red hair showed us in. Inside the earthen house, an old lady sat by the kitchen. A wooden rack on the wall behind them housed beautiful arrays of traditional tea cups. There were two small kittens running around the women. I asked the red haired woman if she dyed her hair, she replied only with a smile. They could understand very little hindi and we knew none of Ladakhi. We communicated through one of our guides. The table nearby had a photo of a young man in army uniform. He was the brother and these two women stayed in this remote corner all by themselves. There wasn’t even another house nearby but the all pervading dish tv was present. It is from women like these that I derive courage whenever I am scared.
Meet Sri Angchuk and her daughter Kunsung.
They live in Shang, one of the remote corners of Ladakh.
The Stranger :
The Story :
She was the smallest kid around among the bunch of school kids surrounding me but there was nothing childlike about her glance nor her stance. She made a powerful subject and she was gone just as she came – swiftly, a stranger in the truest of senses.
I was happy to see kids curiously looking into our guest-house for they are so full of fun and spontaneity which is especially good for a shy photographer who cannot summon enough courage to ask an adult for a portrait. So I started chatting up these kids and asked them if I could take their photos. Cheerful and carefree that they were, they posed willingly while the mother of one was not so happy about me clicking their pictures. She sent them away to school while I was left disappointed that I could not get good portraits of any. But curiosity took the upper hand when these kids went away only to come back with many of their friends. I started clicking again when I spotted this young girl with a piercing glance. Everyone else was quite happy to be around me and get photographed while this young lady showed no such inclination. I was intrigued and while she stood apart I took this image. One look through the viewfinder and I knew instantly that here was an opportunity to create a stunning portrait. I looked at the LCD and was pleased with the image of her on the screen. But the next moment she was gone. I asked the rest of the kids but no one even noticed her coming and going. I couldn’t even find out her name.
This whole incident happened in the remoteness of Suru Valley, Ladakh. Parkachik is a small village that falls on the Kargil Zanskar route and the place is as remote as it can get. The school here had hardly more than three rooms and that day the teacher had not come it seems, the kids told. Flanked by giant mountains on both sides, the river flowing between them, the school lies on the gentle slope above the valley overlooking the vast meadows and the village. Carefree life, hard life, beautiful life, cold life or no life – I don’t know what kind of life these kids experience here.
To see such remoteness and be awed is one thing but to live in such remoteness is a completely different thing.
Well this portrait was taken few months ago when I didn’t even know of the 100 Strangers Project. And please share this post if you like it. 🙂
Meet more of the cute kids from Parkachik, Ladakh.
Also I am posting the same picture with different processing. Tell me which one you like better.