CHUSHUL – Noel Ellis's Official Blog

Noel Ellis's Official Blog

I wield the pen to explore the vastness of the human mind

Category: CHUSHUL

MY LADAKH DIARIES

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http://www.capacuras.com/?rtyt=site-de-rencontre-kabyle-gratuit&405=ef My climate (acclimatisation) at Leh went off well and I was ready to take on the mountains. For a Mech officer to get posted to high altitude meant one more medal. To earn it, I had to spend 180 days excluding breaks which I thought would be a cake walk. The reality was way off and I shall share how tough life is subsequently.

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Early morning we started in a 1ton for Tangtse. It could take 6-8 hours, I was told. All was going well till we passed by a canal. I saw huge layered ice slabs neatly piled like files in a rack. A thought passed my mind, that why they want ice slabs in such weather. I looked at the Indus which was smoothly flowing, shimmering and meandering in the valley below but got no answers. Then I thought they must be transporting ice to Leh. Such weird thoughts get sorted out very fast. I got to know later that the canal had frozen in winter, ice was still melting and water goes to the Stakna hydel project. How stupid I must have felt. Bloody mechie come down to mother earth, I told myself.

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amaryl 2mg la thuoc gi As we were crossing a causeway near Karu, my excitement knew no bounds when I saw a BMP near the Indus river bed. My imagination started running wild as the valley was broad enough to take a Combat Group. I had also heard that a Mech Battalion and an Armoured Squadron were located there. I was on home turf kinds and without even reaching Tangtse, I was already making plans to take on the Chinese with anti-tank missiles.

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Karu onwards the climb started getting steep. I, who had driven a 1 Ton up every sand dune of Jaisalmer District, now started to feel the presence of the mighty mountains. The scene was barren but sublime. The drive was bumpy and kept getting bumpier. Soon the road disappeared and converted into a track. Our vehicle started skidding. The sound of the engine in constant low gear was telling me something. Sitting behind, I was not able to see the valley below but when suddenly our driver braked and we started to slide backwards and the damn thing turned away from the mountain wall. My instinct to jump out was at its peak. Luckily the tailboard hit the vehicle following us & we came to a halt. All of us jumped doing a kind of obstacle course as the vehicles were kissing each other.

My heart skipped a beat when I peeped over the side into the valley. There were more than 10 odd vehicle chassis crumpled and crushed half buried in a graveyard of sorts. My goodness Lord I said, today we would have been minced. Our driver quickly got out, put a rock under the tyre and opened the tool box. He pulled out some chains. They were very funny looking things and I assumed that they would be for towing but to my surprise I found them to be anti-skid chains. Water had frozen and made a thick slate of ice on the track. Every year I was told that one odd vehicle goes down this slope. Frankly, I got the shivers down my spine. Whatever parts can be recovered from the vehicle is recovered and rest is destroyed in-situ. I shuddered but put up a brave face. The cold now started to grip me; I wore my coat Parka thereon.

I was shocked to see two drivers trying to burn their vehicles by lighting cotton waste under fuel tanks of their 3 Tons parked on one side. I almost shouted at them but I was told that the diesel has frozen in the pipes, as they must not have put anti-freeze in their tanks. I would have arrested them for destroying government property.

We reached Changla, it is 17,586 feet above mean sea level. It is the second highest mountain pass after Khardungla. The GREF teams keep it open but in the thick of winters it closes for weeks together. People told me that kindly pray before you leave or else Changla Baba will keep calling you back. The driver knew that I was a novice; he opened the glove box and handed over a pack of Parle-G and an aggarbatti to me. I thanked him as my “batti” was really band for obvious reasons.

The toughest part was yet to come which was down hill to Zingral. I could see the TCP but the road was multiple Zs, a zig-zag kind of landscape. On the first hairpin bend I saw a 3 ton in its grave. The officer sitting next to me narrated the story that it was a 3 Ton carrying CSD stores of a regiment which went down. He was part of the rescue mission. They told me that day every local Ladakhi they met was drunk. The reason was this vehicle was carrying about 150 cases of the most precious liquid on the other side of Changla. All bottles broke on impact and the liquid froze. The local fellows, after rescuing the men got busy sucking on ice and carried chunks of frozen liquor home. The drink was definitely on the rocks. In Jaisalmer one craved for ice, here one just needed rum and a glass.

It was close to dusk when we rolled into our battalion. The welcome board said “Second to None” with Snow Lions painted on its sides. I looked up and thanked the Lord and also said Changla Baba ki Jai in my mind.

I was cold, fatigued, disoriented and dizzy with a slight headache. I just wanted to have a hot cup of tea and I wasn’t disappointed as a jawan said “TASHI DELEG” & poured piping hot tea from a Chinese thermos in steel glasses. I rolled the glass vigorously in my hands. With one sip, I was already feeling better.

How many such trips would be needed to please Changla Baba? I wondered!!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

© Noel Ellis

MY CHINESE EXPERIENCE

I have been avoiding writing about China and its recent mis-adventures purposely. Let me confess, I am no expert on China. Though we used to have an army pamphlet about China but I could never remember even one organisation chart of their units or formations. Reason was that moment I used to visualise them, all faces used to look alike. So to differentiate HU from HUI and JING from PING became a nightmare for me and I decided in case a question lands up in my exams, I shall just write “Ni-Hao” and leave it at that.

Their script always fascinated me. Their architecture fascinated me too. The “SHAOLIN” movies were my favourites. Jackie Chang was too good but the exaggeration of the drunken monk kind of movies made that fascination fade away. Their aerial tricks and their flying mid air fights were definitely a wow factor but were a bit too much to swallow. I could not watch those Kung-fu kinds of movies as everyone kept picking up fights for no reason. They could fight with a tea cup, a broom, or even a spoon. What I disliked the most was the sounds they made while fighting. I was more comfortable with dishoom-bhishoom stuff.

I used to wonder while playing cricket about a term called “China Man”. Well it was a left arm leg spinner bowling an off break to a right handed batsman. I am sure you would be confused like I was for many years. That’s the aim of this ball, to surprise the batsman. I remember Navjot Sidhu, “Sherry” was in the slips when YPS Patiala was playing with my team from Sainik School Kapurthala many-many moons back. They had this left arm spinner and Sidhu kept shouting to him from second slip, China maar China isko. I laughed as I knew what he was talking about. This boy bowled a china man a bit too short of a length; I went on the back foot and gave it a solid whack. Off it went for a four towards square leg. I winked at sherry. I never got a china man bowled at me in that match.

Yes, Chinese food still fascinates me. I was introduced to it while in IMA Dehradun in a small eatery on Rajpur road called YETI, if I recollect the name correctly. Slowly we weaned off to the basic Momo-Thuppa kind of stuff near Ghanta Ghar due to financial constraints as a GC (Gentleman Cadet). One always thought those people were Chinese. Later when I served with them did I realise that how real Chinese noodles were made. Lovely people they were and Tashi Deleg to all of them. We Indians now are hooked on to the Tibetan cuisine for sure.

Another incident of how far I could dig my soul into the Chinese military was when I was made the CO of a Signal Regiment in a war-game of a mountain division against China in Staff College. Firstly, I had no idea about the terrain in the East of India where this Dhoklam thing is happening. Secondly, my phobia of learning anything about Chinese Army petrified me like hell. Thirdly, I was a Mech officer, commanding a Signal Regiment almost killed me. The only Radio sets I handled were the ones fitted in my BMP or the ANPRC with a ten foot telescopic antenna. I knew if the instructor asks me even one question, leave alone Chinese tactics I will forget how to spell “signal”. Well, the great moment arrived and I had to brief a truck load of Directing Staff (DS) on a map about my role as a Commanding Officer of a Mountain Division Signal Regiment. One of the Brigadiers asked who amongst you is CO Signals. I stepped forward, sir yours truly. He said Noel we don’t have time; we give you five minutes for your briefing. I said sir trust me I will take only two because of enemy jamming. The DS burst out laughing and moved on to CO ASC battalion without even listening to me. I thanked my stars and must have smoked a pack of cigarettes after that, as I was feeling so goddamned relieved. You may lose a war if you read the “signals” wrong, isn’t it? I had won mine.

The recent intrusion in Chushul took me down memory lane when I was posted there. I had the privilege to climb the heights around Chushul to experience firsthand how conditions of 1962 would have been for our soldiers. While counting bunkers, I remember the doors used to be jammed due to frozen ice. The bunkers had to be aired for a couple of days to open up. Imagine how they would have dug those bunkers. Standing atop Pankha heights, the Pongang Tso staring at you like a vast ocean and the air strip appeared to be a highway of some kind. My head bows in respect to every soldier who participated in whatever capacity in that battle. It was indeed a humbling experience, an experience of a life time. The Trishul heights, the Spangur area etc were the most beautiful places I ever saw. My brothers who bore the brunt of 62 war fought with minimum strength, underrated equipment; clothing not fit for that altitude and weather but their morale was high, their spirits were dauntless; their courage was rock solid even when the enemy kept chanting Hindi-Chini Bhai-Bhai. Today one finds the saying painted on many stones, “In the land of Lamas, don’t be gammas”, is absolutely true.

Be that as it may, China is huge, China is tough and of course China is strong in every way. That should not deter us from keeping that country at bay. These incidents which are happening are not really what their actual intentions might be as I reckon. There is something more sinister to it.  We got to be prepared to take China on. Are we ready? I wonder!!!!!!!!!

JAI HIND

 

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