I was at Siachen Base camp in 2006. Just for a couple of days, as a visitor.
We reached the base camp in the evening. It was freezing. I had heard a lot of stories about how people fall ill due to rarefied oxygen levels in the air (altitude 4068mts). We thought it would be good sense to explore the surroundings before any such thing happened. There was a wall of black ice for practicing vertical hikes. We decided to check that out. How can you have black ice, I wondered. It must be mixed with impurities hence called black, I assumed.
These are places of extreme inhospitable life conditions and it takes much more than just will power to survive here. Faith helps big time. There is a temple named after the soldier Om Prakash who single handedly defended his post from the enemies in late 1980s. He was sent on a patrol on the Malun Post in Bila Complex of the Northern Glacier.The Indian Army has been guarding the Siachen Glacier from atop the Saltoro ridge since April 1984 after Operation Meghdoot. The troops treat OP Baba as a senior officer and a report is presented at his shrine on induction and accomplishment of any mission. As the whole unit was called back to the headquarters while Om Prakash fought, no one really knows what happened to him later. His blessings are sought and they say he appears in dreams forewarning the soldiers of any impending danger.
The memorial is just a few meters from the snout of the Glacier where it melts and becomes the Nubra river. Nubra valley is named after this river. Belief of the soldiers is so strong that they give up tobacco, alcohol and non-vegetarian food during their three month posting there. Not that they would feel like eating it anyway under those weather conditions but they consciously vow to do so as well. The high energy 'glacier ration', jars of dry fruits and stacks of chocolates go untouched.
Legends and folklore are a part and parcel of mountain life. More difficult the terrain, more elaborate and celebrated the legends are. You will find them everywhere, may it be Ladakh, Himachal or Arunachal Pradesh. Some people may want to laugh it off or some may find it to be an added expense in terms of time, energy and money but I feel whatever can buy you conviction in difficult times can never be measured in terms of any tangibles.
Aren't we all looking for the 'O P Baba' of our lives so that we can take that extra step when life gets harsher than we thought it to be? It takes a bit more than just our own will to survive the unforgiving environment around us. It is the faith in the unexplained and the never seen. That is the law of survival. It takes care of you until your time has come.
OP Baba Memorial Shrine
|It says,"Respect the Glacier, it will respect you".|
Glacier snout where Nubra river originates from