Within Kashmir – Douglas John Turner

Within Kashmir

Ladakh is a region hotly contested by a people who do not exist there. Two governments fight over a mountainous terrain that is inhospitable to many, and home to a few. Kashmir’s valleys see no sunsets or sunrises, only momentary glimpses of warmth between the lofty peaks.

Children walk to school in a heavily militarised no-man’s land, and in the evenings disappear up mountain paths to their homes. To reach here, I had a three-day bus journey to Leh, a city amongst the clouds known by travellers as an escape from the bustle of most Indian cities. From Leh, a six-hour car journey through countless military checkpoints, nights under the stars, exploring villages that sprung out of oases in the rock.

Finally bribing a border officer with promises to try his battalions’ Momos (dumplings), I spent only a moment talking to school children whose dream it is to find the busy streets and overcrowded trains of Delhi.

This land is a contradiction; at one moment both a grave, dystopian landscape, Ghurka and Indian bases sutured into the dust and sand, alternatively a walk through history, to see what life was like before.