Been to Laddakh for a week long family trip.
Local driver was 28 years old chap named Jigmet.
Jigmet's family consist of his parents, wife and two kid girls.
This was the conversation with Jigmet, during our drives in deep Himalayan Ranges.
Prashant -: At the end of this week tourist season in Laddakh will end. Are you planning to go to Goa, the way Nepali Workers from Hotels do ?
Jigmet -: No, I am local Laddakhi, so I won't go any where in winter.
Prashant -:What work will you do in winter ?
Jigmet -: Nothing, will sit up quietly at home ( chuckles and winks )
Prashant -: For six months, up to next April ?
Jigmet -: I have one option for working. It's to go to Siachen.
Prashant -: Siachen ? What you will do there ?
Jigmet -: Work as Loader for Indian Army.
Prashant -: You mean, you will join Indian Army as Jawan ?
Jigmet -: No, I have crossed age limit to join Army. This is a contract job for Indian Army. With my few friend drivers, I will travel 265 kilometers to Siachen Base camp, My medical examination will be done there to check, if I am fit enough for this job. If I am declared fit, then Army will issue us uniforms, shoes, warm clothing, helmets, etc, We will have to walk up mountains for 15 days to reach Siachen. There is no motorable road to reach Siachen. We will work there for 3 months.
Prashant -: What work will you do ?
Jigmet -: It is of loader. To carry load on our back from one chowki to other in Siachen. All supplies are airdropped there. We do the job of picking it up and carrying it in Chowki.
Prashant -: Why Army does not use Mules or vehicles for shifting of loads ?
Jigmet -: Siachen is a glacier. Trucks or other vehicle will not work there. Ice scooters make too much of sound, which will attract attention from enemy around there. Use of vehicle will result in firing from other side.We go out in the middle of night, generally around 2 am and pick up load silently and bring back to barracks. We can't even use a torch. Mules or horses cannot be used because at the altitude of 18875 feet, in winter temperature of minus 50 no animal will survive.
Prashant -: How can you lift load on your back where oxygen levels are low ?
Jigmet -: we carry maximum 15 kgs at a time. and we work maximum for 2 hours in a day. Rest of the time is for recapturing
Prashant -: That is very risky
Jigmet -: Many of my friend died there. Some of them fell in bottomless crevasses. Some got shot down by enemy bullets. The biggest danger we have in Siachen is of frost bites.
Prashant -: This is life threatening
Jigmet -: Yes, but it's rewarding, We are paid Rs 18000/- per month. Since all expenses are taken care of, we can save around Rs 50000/- in these three months. This money is precious for my family, for my daughter's education.and finally I have feeling that I am serving Army, which means my nation.