Journey from Travel Photographer to a Teacher in Himalayan Remote Village
This is not an ordinary story of a man who has done good deeds. This is a journey of a man who left home for a photo assignment and ends up teaching in remote village on the Indo Pak Border.
“Not all those who wander are lost.”
NARAYAN TUSHAR KAUDINYA
Kaudinya comes from a Goan village that doesn’t exist any longer. Narayan is an Independent Photographer and Filmmaker, also trained as a Neurotherapist. He is an author of a few short fiction and non-fiction stories. He later worked as a theatre actor for several years, and travelled extensively around the Indian sub-continent, teaching and documenting in the villages of several Indian states.
In 2010, when Kaudinya left Punjab for photo assignment, he must not be aware about that he will be the teacher in the remote village along the Indo Pak Border. On assignment with the NGO on school children, he met a person from Baltistan, the place he was not familar with. With some conversation, Kaudinya was inspired enough to reach the place and volunteer to teach in the local school. This is not the first time Narayan is helping someone with their education.While at home, Narayan helps mother run a primary school for the underprivileged children on the other side of the river in Delhi.
The Wait of BALTISTAN
Baltistan also known as Baltiyul or Little Tibet is a mountainous region on the border of Pakistan and India in the Karakoram mountains just south of K2, the world's second highest mountain.
Majority of the population of Indian Baltistan consists of women, three to even four married to a man, having on an average 8 daughters per family, there is hardly any work apart from working working as porters helping the army on the highest peaks of Siachin.
On the night of 13th December 1971 Major Chewang Rinchin of the Ladakhi Scouts – with his troops, during the most destructive war between India and Pakistan, ceased fire after acquiring just five villages and a total area of 804 sq. kilometer of Pakistan even before the Indo-Pakistan war was called off.
It was said that then Ladakhi ruling party didn’t want anymore of Balti villages as they would weaken their political positioning in the state, being Buddhists their ethnic identity will be sandwiched between the two Muslim regions of Kashmir and Baltistan. That night people of those few villages went to sleep in Pakistan, but they woke up in India the following morning.
ISOLATED BALTISTAN GOT LIFE
These villages were opened to the world for the first time in the summer of 2011 after 40 years. Narayan Kaundinya went there in the winters the following year to teach at the higher secondary school, in their worst forty days of winter, crossing arguably the highest road in the world in minus thirty degrees passing through the Karakorums. Its a journey of the people neglected, decades lived in hope, A land neglected whose Stories of an unfathomed past still chronicles around their present.
In Tyakshi, Bogdang, Turtuk and other Balti villages, the faces and the age lines of the old narrated many untold stories of the past. They yearned to talk, tales of their rich history that they are carrying for so long. A frustration that thickens into a deep-rooted helplessness. Bus service was once a month that connects to Jammu. Village elders reminisced about their days in Pakistan, about the trees they used to play under, and the rocks they sat on talking for hours. The river Shyok (meaning angry) is the only stable source of water.
NARAYAN "RAHBER" KAUDINYA
Narayan started teaching English and history and he made the only secondary school his base. The secondary school has teachers intermittently. No teacher stayed enough because of lack of facilities and harsh climate conditions. Narayan's Class had more girls than boys. Students were happy by his presence. On early days, students used to get excited to see him teaching, because he was not one of them. Slowly and gradually whole village has accepted and Balti people had started respect him.
Narayan came back from Baltistan in April next year. He remembers his time there and the people with great fondness. Narayan has a vision that Baltistan will get attention from the people and people get aware about such place. He hopes that they will slowly find their voice and make a better life for themselves.
Images courtesy : Narayan Kaudinya
Story retold based on Narayan’s notes and spoken words.