Patron Saint of Heavy Duties

Siachen: In the summer months the glacier retreats, goes closer to the mountian-base where it is covered with some grey matter, looking very unsnowlike. Below, in the valley, wheel-borne guns boom in competitive echoes. Four, to one from the other side. Cameras are not allowed here like at so many other 'sensitive' places in India. There are camouflage watchposts around here that are located inside Himalayan grottoes.

These are the eyes of the army.

Soldiers keep the enemy fixed in the crosshairs of their guns and binocs from these posts. At night, when temperatures feel like the moon's dark side, they can't even light up. Because that would give them away. Unannounced blizzards and the wind-chill that follows them also work on their flesh and skin. Frosting them to such a degree that many lose their fingers if exposed for a long time. The air is also thin here. Sometimes mimicking the effects of mind-altering drugs. Radio and TV are simply out of the question.

Such is the watcher's ennui at these posts that the sleep cycle often spirals out into other dimensions. Like a telescope penetrating awareness, delirium and sleep, all at the same time. Talking to oneself is common here. So is cursing, crying and compulsive onanism. Only the very steady in mind are given these post duties. But even the very steady in mind find it difficult here. That's why post duties here are shorter, relatively.

O P Baba is one of the very few who has survived these harsh conditions. As a result he's become an unrelenting toughie. He is especially heavy on those who fall asleep when there are required to be up and awake. Soldiers often get nightmares about O P Baba. Those found sleeping are woken up by stinging thwacks across their faces. Smuggled cigarettes are also similarly snatched from mouths. O P Baba is such a terror that young officers and jawans sometimes wonder if he was ever young himself. If he ever felt even a minor tug of youthful rebellion.

If he ever transgressed. Or disobeyed orders.

Every new entrant to Siachen is warned about O P Baba. There's also a small shrine that some jawans have made for him. It's meant to keep him in good humour.

Details of OP Baba are sketchy. No one knows for sure which regiment he belonged to. Or what was his exact rank.

Or for that matter when and how he left his body to become the glacier's phantom saint.


  1. nice! like an o henry.

  2. You are just sitting on an endless supply of fascinating stories, aren't you, Dhiraj? :)

    The Watcher's Ennui. Such a lovely phrase. This post totally made my Sunday.

  3. hmmmm.. I cant imagine how u can stir up such brilliant stuff


  4. This reminds me of a much similar gangrened and frost bitten ghost baba, sentinel to those guarding the Nathu-la pass. i saw the sheets that he wrinkled in rest each night. Unfortunately tho, motion sickness and rare oxygen caused me to empty my insides right outside his shrine... Sacrilege and deeply embarrassing for a ten year old, i do recall begging forgiveness at Rumtek...

  5. A Big Thank U to all you people!!

    Methinks, O'Henry I liked.

    KM, must be because as a kid I was the quietest :D

    Chandni, neither can I, it just happens

    Rose, wow! Must've been an amazing road trip

  6. nice stuf. rivetting as always.
    told u abt the lady in blue- our official martinian ghost taking care of the naughty boarders.. baba is one hellva patriot.

  7. Dude, I wouldn't last ten minutes awake there.

  8. I don't think anybody has called him the patron saint of heavy duties before - very appropriate title - great post Maharaj.

  9. Well written. Did u go beyond the base camp . through the tunnel made of fuel drums. !!! . the greatest battel field of the world.

  10. Well written. Did u go beyond the base camp . through the tunnel made of fuel drums. !!! . the greatest battel field of the world.


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