Someone had been to Ladakh for a week long family trip. Their local driver was a 28-year old chap named Jigmet. Jigmet’s family consists of his parents, wife & two small girls!
This was the conversation with Jigmet, during their journey in deep Himalayan Ranges!
Prashant -: At the end of this week tourist season in Ladakh will end. Are you planning to go to Goa, the way Nepali workers from Hotels do?
Jigmet -: No, I am local Ladakhi, so I won’t go any where in winter!
Prashant -:What work will you do in winter?
Jigmet -: Nothing, will sit quietly at home (chuckles & 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 will you do there?
Jigmet -: Work as Loader for Indian Army!
Prashant -: You mean, you will join Indian Army as Jawan?
Jigmet -: No, I have crossed the age limit to join the Army. This is a contract job for Indian Army. With my few friends, also 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 Chowky to other in Siachen. All supplies are airdropped there. We do the job of picking it up & carry it to Chowkies!
Prashant -: Why doesn’t the Army use Mules or vehicles for shifting of loads?
Jigmet -: Siachen is a glacier. Trucks or other vehicles will not work there. Ice scooters make too much 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 & pick up loads silently & bring back to barracks. We can’t even use a torch. Mules or horses cannot be used because at the altitude of 18,875 feet, in winter temperature of minus 50 degrees 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 & we work maximum for 2 hours in a day. Rest of the time is for recouping!
Prashant -: That is very risky!
Jigmet -: Many of my friends died there. Some of them fell in bottomless crevisses. Some got shot down by enemy bullets. The biggest danger we have in Siachen is of frost bites, but it’s rewarding, We are paid Rs 18,000- per month. Since all expenses are taken care of, we can save around Rs 50,000- in these three months. This money is precious for my family, for my daughter’s education.& finally I have feeling that I am serving the Indian Army, which means my nation!
The value of money & the life we have can be better understood after this exchange!
Do not forget to share this with your children. Let them realise the value of hard earned money!