The Mighty Muddy Satluj from Kotgarh, Himachal Pradesh
This is the river Satluj as it traces its muddy course through the valleys of Himachal Pradesh. It originates in Tibet and surges its way through to the plains of Punjab and drains into the Arabian Sea in Pakistan.
The river is muddy all through and I have no idea if it was so before the numerous hydel projects started coming up on it in the state of Himachal Pradesh.
This was shot one fine day on a trip from Narkanda to Thanedhar and Kotgarh from a point just below Barobagh, the place where commercial apple farming began in India.
I was in Barobagh two years later for the BBC Good Food magazine to shoot the story of apples and the huge effort being put up by Mr. Vijay Stokes, the grandson of the legendary Mr Samuel Stokes who commenced the great commercial movement in apples. The article appears in BBC Good Food magazine but alas, online links are not available. Maybe I will put the content on a blog post sometime later.
The Stand of Pine Trees in a River of Clouds at Barog Valley, India
Another take from the same day and shoot as the last one with a slightly different perspective
The foreground has a stand of tall coniferous trees while a settlement of a few houses glints in the morning sunshine through the fleecy thick cover of clouds.
Barog is a mountain at the cusp of the Himalayas and the older Aravalis and is a formidable barrier to the interior Himalayas. The place is named after Colonel Barog, an engineer from England who was supposed to get the longest tunnel in the Kalka – Simla route, made through the mountains. The two ends of the tunnel did not align properly. Sadly that led to a bout of self depreciation for Col Barog . One misty day he put a gun to his head.
You can see the old alignment on the Barog railway station side if you ever go there.
Himachal Pradesh is a state in India that was carved out of the vast Northern territories that were controlled by Emperors and Kings, charlatans and brigands and local Rajahs and chiefs over centuries. It has a distinct geography and culture compared to the plains because it was always a little inaccessible being in the heart of the Himalayan mountain chain. Secondly the area did not have any great economic relevance for empires or any strategic territorial highlights that would make it an important conquest for invaders. So it remained peaceful and life whirled slowly and serenely.
Simla is a town that is like folk lore in the Raj and post Raj era as it was a town that was developed by the British as the summer capital of their Indian empire. Much politics and intrigue as well as decision making happened here. I have had the good fortune to be in Himachal Pradesh for a long period of time first while at school in Chail and then college in Simla. Fun time indeed where sometimes one had to walk 10 kms to college on early morning exam days as the buses would not ply so early.
I have been lucky to see some great sights while traveling in this state. Early mornings in Barog, Mid day spectacle in Kotgarh, late evenings in Solan and jungle fires late in the nitgh. These are what I have been fortunate to capture recently. The earlier sights just remain etched in the mind as there was no camera then.
Without much ado, let us start with the first image of a morning in Barog.
A valley lies submerged in a river of clouds. The valiant Sun makes an effort to pierce this muddy whitish grey river of clouds early in the morning in the cold winters of the Himalayas. Barog is a fairly large mountain peak that anyone on the famous road track to Shimla will remember for the most arduous climb and descent en-route. Now there is of course a new route, but I still use this for my numerous journeys to and fro to the Himalayas. It has its rewards and this surely was a vision straight out of the annals of a Chinese fairy tale. Sometime later in the day, the clouds lift up buoyed by the warmth of the sun and leave the cold valleys in bright sunshine.