A visit to the little Balti village of Turtuk

Turtuk has a special place in the heart of most Indians (of course that’s an assumption I’m making) because of it being the last Indian village on the northern side from Leh Ladakh touching the Balti region of Pakistan. The reason for my interest in it is because of the glimpse it gives us into the culture of Baltis which would be otherwise impossible as there’s very little information available to citizens across the border between our two countries.
After the 1947 war, Turtuk was taken under POK and remained there until the 1971 war, when India regained control of it.
And thus, keen to know more about the region, it’s people and culture and amalgamation with India, we decided to visit the village this time round during our trip to Ladakh. Lying in the Nubra valley, Turtuk is about 85 kms from Hunder and took us about 3.5 hours to get there owing to the road conditions. But the drive along the Shyok river is simply superb and would possibly be the main reason to revisit Turtuk (if I ever do).
The Shyok is impatient on the ladakhi landscape almost as if on leash, stumbling, gurgling, raging and rushing through the terrain before slowing down to a placid pace near Turtuk and then calmly carrying on with her journey to the other side of the border.
The terrain is mountainous and barren with practically no trees and just the road which is maintained by the Indian Army between Hunder and Turtuk. We didn’t see any villages or inhabitation on our way there except for some Indian Army camps. One such Army post is the Nine Post where we stopped to have some chai (tea) and Jalebis (Indian sweet) at the canteen there being made by a unit that had just moved in from Bihar that very day. The jalebis were very sweet and the tea average but the experience of sitting there, among the Army jawans and looking at the mountains surrounding us is indescribable. Here’s a picture.
Coming to Turtuk, was like coming to paradise after the barren rocky terrain. It was green and lively. Here’s a picture of myself entering the pretty village.
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Like I’d mentioned in my earlier post, Turtuk is divided into 2 parts, one part across the bridge contains most of the guest houses and some tourist attractions if I may call them so, and is more developed; while the other part where most locals live is pretty modest.

The village, as is not surprising for such a remote part of India is rudimentary in design, but still fairly clean. Balti houses of the area are mostly made of stone and wood, the wood being used primarily inside homes. The lanes are made of concrete/cement with exposed drains running on both sides and you’ll find a lot of fallen apricots swimming along the drain water 😉 The whole village and lanes are covered with these apricot trees which are just plentiful and be sure you carry some fresh or dried produce from here back home.

The people do manage to speak Hindi though their native language is Balti. It’s thanks to the commercialization of the place (I heard the Indian govt did it’s bit in trying to integrate the area with India pretty well) with tourists being welcomed everywhere, people offering village tour and food mostly Indian and (not Balti as one would expect. We saw a lot of Indians and Israeli tourists during our 1 night halt there. It was easy to find the one home serving original Balti food, and we relished the Buckwheat dosas with walnut chilli chutney served with fresh apricot juice right from the garden where we sat. We topped the meal with ‘gurgur’ tea, which is not made of gur but rather owes its name to the handheld contraption that you push to and fro to mix the tea. The one day we had in hand, we spent trekking up to the mosque up the hill close to the village. The view from the top of the village was to die for. Do check picture 1 below- credit @restlessonmyfeet (instagram). You can see the Shyok river placidly flowing against the apricot fields. Another big attraction of Turtuk is the view of the Indian and Pakistani posts over the mountains keeping watch over one another. Do remember to carry your binocs or zoom lenses if you’d like to see these. One can also see a triangular snow-covered peak across the mountains in the distance and most people claim it is the famed K2 summit. Let me however tell you that if you visit Turtuk solely for this glimpse of K2, you’ll be disappointed as it’s just a tiny bit in the far distance. Pic 2 shows the village lanes and houses. Then there’s me amidst the buckwheat flowers and then halfway up to the mosque. All in all, it’s worth a visit for not just for the place but the oh! so awesome drive to it along the Shyok and oh yes, the pretty but shy women (they simply refused to pose for a photograph 🙂


I’d be happy to provide any information to any of you in case you’re planning to travel thereabouts. You can write into me here and I’ll be happy to respond.
Hope you enjoyed reading this travelogue. Happy travels!!

The Corona Times 23-03-2020

Well we’ve been at home, rather working from home, for the past week now. How’s it been? Not as difficult as I anticipated it would be. I’ve been working from home for a while and hence this is not new. What’s new is the kids school declared a holiday a month in advance which means vacations are now 3 months long and my husband is also working from home and the maids too (from theirs) 🙂 Haa haa… A lot of my friends settled overseas resent us Indians for just ONE thing – having house-helps. We have drivers, cooks, cleaners, baby sitters, care-givers – you name it and we have it (all coming home). I know I know….I know NOW how you must feel. But jokes apart, I have given the maids leave for 2 reasons –

  1. My own selfish reasons – keeping my children and family safe. Visitors should be minimized and maids live with their families and come in contact with very many others who we don’t know or can’t control.
  2. For the sake of their own well-being – they deserve the right to stay healthy themselves. They have families to look out for. More worrisome here is that if they do get infected, they may not have access to good healthcare facilities. Also, they live in small homes and in densely populated areas which could cause the virus to spread faster.

Also, most of them are really not in a position to voluntarily seek leave, fearing pay cuts. It’s time we put ‘people’ and their well-being before a little bit of inconvenience that we might have to bear.

Wait, I’m not getting all preachy here. I also have cheerful stuff to share. There have been many positives for many families (mine included) holed up all by themselves. I heard of one mother in law and daughter in law who had not spoken to each other for years, (their conversations until now happened through the maids who came home and the children whenever they could get hold of one) finally breaking their silence to thrash out division of labour issues at home and the menus for the day and evening meals. Well well, where years of intervention by the husband and Father-in-law failed, Corona virus achieved in a week’s time. I’m so happy for them 🙂

Another couple who had nothing much to say to each other for years found to their delight that they were bonding superbly over Corona. Now conversation is endless & they both research and glean out information and spend hours discussing the virus and measures needed at home to control it. They also have quizzes on the topic every week to keep up the motivation.

Closer home, my children have also taken to helping me around the house without much chiding, because they do not want a harried stressed out mother who would not allow TV time. Check out the picture where my little girl is just so thrilled. So dusting and sweeping have been taken care of – yipppeee!!

Human nature is such that when you’re prohibited from doing an activity, you itch for it all the more. So with the lock-down due to Corona, all of us are itching so much more for those long walks, for human interaction (with people we ignored so far), with suddenly wanting to know our neighbours and what they’re up to all day, where they or their relatives have been to these past months etc etc. Sorry again about digressing. We were at my family. So my mom in law who’s recuperating from a hip fracture, who until now would remain confined to her room, suddenly feels the need to move about the house. She’s been walking about a lot more, feeling a lot better and hence recovering faster. She’s helping with chopping vegetables and other small chores and well am not I thrilled (with her recovery of course).

I hope you’re having an equally great time at home. Do share your tips and the stuff you’re doing to keep things cheerful.

Stay home, stay happy, don’t panic! This too shall pass. 




Meanwhile …..

As I nurse my fractured foot and spent a week at home, here’s my take on some things that happened in the days that slipped by –

  • India made it to the semis of the ICC World Cup after beating Bangladesh. There was much rejoicing but I felt a little put out. While Bangladesh get my respect for giving India a tough fight, it would have meant something else beating the English to make it to the top 4 instead.  Mehbooba Mufti said it was the saffron t-shirts that brought about India’s defeat, and I can only laugh at the length some people can go to politicize events and polarise people.
  • Wimbledon 2019 is here finally! Yipppeee!!! My fracture doesn’t seem so horrendous to bear now.
  • I tip my hat to the citizens of Hong-Kong. Civic activism bringing authoritarian law makers to their knees needs to be applauded. Salute their courage in challenging the bill of extradition to the Chinese mainland.

Just being mute bystanders or at best drawing room activists in India, we can only lament the death of hundreds of poor children in Bihar, blamed on lychees; the suicide of Pallavi Tadvi due to caste reasons; the oxygen deficiency in the Gorakhpur hospital case (though old – it comes to mind on events that could have been managed & avoided). We see a state govt wanting to grant bail to an accused of rape,  and we don’t bat an eyelid. This is what we’ve come to expect from our shameless govt. The list is endless. There is minimal civic activism in India and it’s not surprising because we cannot come together and demand action. We are all divided by religion, caste and politics.

  • The beautiful Mumbai rains poured down in earnest over the last weekend (end June) continuing into Monday. Sadly, and not surprisingly, Mumbai was flooded again, with people being killed due to water-logging, wall collapse, tree falls etc. Climate experts now say Mumbai monsoons will soon start in July. I’ve heard Odisha will again face heavy rainfall & a cyclone again due to a low pressure build up. Climate change is a reality but who cares, not us.
  • Catchment areas got some rainfall and hopefully we’ll tide over this year’s water crisis. But what about the years to come?  Who really cares that our children may not have clean drinking water in future, that they might point to a tiger and call in an extinct animal, that the mountains of waste we turn our noses upon, will continue to remain here for thousands of years after us? Live in the present, that seems to be our motto!!
  • Anyway, onto some happy things in life – We celebrated by son’s 12th birthday over the weekend with family and friends. Went through some old photographs and videos to the delight of all around. Life is also about creating memories and looking back once in a while
  • And finally, I’m happy with my progress on watercolors.

Hope you had a great week before and a more wonderful one ahead!

If you think I’ve missed out some events, please free to add not just the event/incident but your take on it as well.


India is my country & I’m a proud Indian!

This post took a while to complete and is a week late, but still something worth sharing.

Date 16 Aug, 2018.

Through the day yesterday, I listened to patriotic songs and found my eyes welling up every now and then.  It made me wonder why. Through the year I didn’t do much for the country, though I thought about it a few times here and there. Why didn’t I think more about my country? Why didn’t/don’t I contribute more actively to its growth? These questions kept coming back to me – How we Indians think of India and what our feelings are for her? Is our patriotism for real?

Usually on 15 Aug, there’s a movie on TV about the freedom struggle, the sacrifices made to free our country and the price paid for it. This year there were movies like – Parmanu, Dangal, Toilet etc. A refreshing change for sure.  These movies are more about fostering pride in being Indian, about wanting to bring about change. These movies indicate it’s time to change – the struggle for freedom is over, now we struggle for recognition, for being proud. We might be slow to change, we might not be as developed in our thoughts – the gender bias, the caste bias, the money bias all remain, but we can and should still be proud of our country. Only if we are, will we strive to become proud of it. We believe in working hard, studying and gaining knowledge,  we have a great sense of belonging, strong family traditions, we have a vast diverse culture, thousands of food varieties, dance, music and folk art forms. Yes, we struggle with our population, it makes resources scarce, which is the cause of most problems in our country – infrastructure inadequacy, corruption, filth, poverty but we are all to blame for it – who else? And we will need to work on it.

Coming to the more important point – how do we make ourselves proud, how can we foster and bring about a feeling of national pride? A feeling of belongingness, a want to do more for the country? In my opinion the starting point is our schools – we have to get our children more involved in the success of our nation, we have to go beyond just getting them to sing the anthem. We have to get them to do more community service. Wouldn’t community service bring about the feeling of brotherhood? Of wanting to help your fellow countrymen in need, of wanting to keep your country clean, of working together for a greater common good? When you volunteer for an NGO, and work for them – you’ll find your feeling/ and the time you spend thinking of your fellow human beings growing – you’ll find your thoughts changing to how can I do more? And this you can channelize to help our country.

Stand up and sing the anthem when you hear it in the movie theatre. It’s a controversial topic I know, but you’ll feel different singing it than just standing there. Try it.

I’d love to know and hear more ideas on how we can work on this feeling of pride. How can we make it grow? How can we influence our children? Looking forward to some ideas/comments.

Mother knows best


Mother & child applique (2)

‘Be independent, no matter what’ – This is what my mom once told me and it has stayed with me since then. I know there’s now no novelty in this piece of advice but the first time that someone hears and absorbs it, it registers as important.

She belongs to another generation where women did not have the freedom they have today. Not many were educated and most were confined to their homes and activities of cooking, cleaning ,sewing etc. My mom chose to work after her marriage to my dad. My dad also had humble beginnings but what characterizes him is his broad-mindedness. His determination to build a better life for himself and others. I know my mother’s income also helped things move along at home, but that wasn’t the reason she worked. She worked because she didn’t want to be dependent on others for anything. Be it on my dad for finances to run the house, or to buy that piece of jewellery she liked or go out somewhere or organise transportation or anything for that matter. She told me a story of how once she waited for my dad to send the car to her for an errand she had to make. The car didn’t come on time and she got delayed, frustrated that the work wasn’t done and that lead to her taking a pledge of being independent no matter what. She ventured out more and more – took buses and trains, travelled on her own, bought what she liked (sensibly of course) and things were so much better. Not just for her but for my dad as well.

I wish all women understand this. That somewhere love becomes tinged with contrary emotions if we do not have the capability to fend for ourselves. We feel tied down (physically & emotionally) and possibly let down if we are not independent.

Make life happy by living freely and by giving yourself that freedom – Become independent.


The confluence of 2 rivers


It always amazes me to see the confluence of 2 rivers. Each bringing its own distinct colour, identity and finally creating a combination of their colours, matching their speed eventually as they flow down the mountains gently to the sea. Partners aren’t they?

This picture is of ‘Nand Prayag’, the confluence or prayag (as called in Hindi) of the Alaknanda & the Nandakini rivers.




One Tree Hill – have you found any?

Nature amazes me and so does our Earth. Some mountain formations are so awe inspiring that one wonders if they’re man-made. But in such far flung isolated areas and with such imperfection (i.e no symmetry) that one realizes it has to be natural.

One such wonder to me (though I’m sure there will be some scientific explanation to this) are ‘One tree hills’, where for some strange reason one finds only one tree on top and none other. Is it because this one took up all the resources (like cactus they say) or that it dared to do what none of the others tried or could?

I look for these and shoot these. Would love to see more pics from the community here and the location would be an added treat. This one shot here is in the Sahayadri hills in Western India close to Nasik.  Earthy – Earth