There was a heavy snowfall over last few days and the whole valley was laden in white blanket of snow. Everything around was serene and beautiful. But it has created a bit of nuisance over the road as it has become slippery due to melting snow, which in turn got frozen into a sheet of ice. There were a few road accidents in and around the valley. So, we had a bit of hesitation in our mind as to make a visit to village or not. Anyway we decided to wait and let the conditions of roads improve.
Next week:With the blessing of few sunny days, the condition of road has improved. So Dawa and I decided to make a village trip. This weekend, we have chosen one of the remotest villages on the northern side of valley, which is connected by a motorable road as it is located close to Siachen Glacier. This time we decided to use a private car to get there as there was no bus service at all.
We started from our Hospital. Dawa made sure that we had carried all the necessary items for the trips such as medicine, food, sleeping bags. First we went to one of the Government office to take permission to use the rest house which is close to our destination.
We met the Government official, discussed our intention and permission for the rest house for two nights. After listening to us, he asked his secretary to issue an order to use the rest house at Panamik. We thanked him and set off from Disket.
As soon as we left Disket Village, we came across our first and expected obstacle. Road ahead was not in the condition to cross over by car, although, the road worker were busy clearing it. We asked one of the workers if there is any ways to go across in car. He directed us off road to a trail of car on the snow laden plain area. We took the off road and after a while, we came across a point where trail on which we were driving diverges into two different directions. We didn’t know which way to follow, as both the trails were leading in almost same direction and therefore, our judgment had no role to play. So we took a coin, fling it in air, head we go left, tail we go right. It was head and we took the left one.
We were driving at snail pace and after 20 minutes of drive on the left sided trail, we faced yet another obstacle. There was a channel ahead of us which was beyond our cars‚ no capability to pass across. So, we had no other choice but to take a chance on the tail option.
We are still struck in the whirlpool of trails. We took the other route, lo! We could see this route meeting the main road at a stone throw distance. I felt so frustrated at our head & trail decision.
We reached Panamik Village. We went to meet the manager of the rest house and he provided us the best room. Panamik’s rest house is famous in Nubra valley for having a direct water pipe connection with hot sulphur spring. It has facility of hot bath tub and the entire flooring is laid down on the pipeline of hot spring water. Anyway, it was such a relaxing to enter a nice warm room. We unloaded our luggage. We decided to meet Dr. Padma as her clinic is located close by the rest house.
Met Dr. Padma in her hospital. We discussed about the future strategies of the Himalayan Women’s Health project. We had tea and cookies at her residence and then we left for our niche. She invited us back for a dinner at her place.
We had a guest in our rest house, project coordinator of social welfare, Mr. Spalgon who had visited all the villages on the northern side of Nubra valley and came to stay overnight here. He was doing a survey on the number of old people without any source of income and at the same time, he was giving meager amount of financial support to the same old people. It was indeed, a productive meeting as we got a clear picture of villages we are visiting. He was moved by the poor living standard of many people in and around the valley. He gave us the list of people who need medical help and the addresses of home we must visit.
We had dinner at Dr. Padma’s residence. She served us Ladakhi dish called skyu.
We reached back to our room and took a much needed bath. Normally, in ladakh, people don’t take bath for weeks together as temperature and the infrastructure is not suitable. It is said that, one can have both frostbite and sunstroke at a same time in Ladakh.
We woke up and got ready for village visit. We packed all the medicine in our car and as usual we were bit anxious about the day.
We started out from the rest house. It was very cold outside. Temperature was minus 18 and sky was clear. Expected a bright sunny day, which is what we wanted. We drove through the deep gorges and navigated through the black trail of metallic road, which leads to the highest battle field in the world called Siachen Glacier. Both Pakistan and Indian government spends millions and millions of dollars to station their army on either side of this glacier. Thousands of army man lay down their life fighting the harsh climate. We were wondering why both the country comes upon agreement to redraw their border to a better place.
We reached to one our destination called Tongsted village. We parked our car at roadside and started out on foot with back pack to close by government’s medical aid center. We met a lady as soon as we stepped into village. We told her to inform all the women to gather at community hall at 12:30 pm as we had to make a visit to the village on the other side of the bank of river.
We were on the sandy river bed, heading toward the village called Nungsted. It was quite difficult to walk on the sand with icy cold wind blowing right on the face. On top of it, my stomach was rumbling with hunger pain as we had no provision for breakfast. So I was thinking, only if could get something to eat on reaching the village otherwise I will absolutely be drain out of energy. After a twenty minute walk we took a rest on the bank of river watching the valley leading to Siachen Glacier.
We crossed over the bridge, our village was quiet close. we could see some houses and a white stupa, facing down to us. We decided to enter the village via area next to stupa. As generally, stupa are constructed on the places where two three roads meets or across the main road so that more and more people can circumabulate.
We entered the village and met a lady who was taking her livestock for grazing. We asked her the way to the house of women alliance’s member. We were so lucky, as she told us that all the women are already gathered in school compound for a mass prayer. So, we headed directly to school with the hope we would get something to eat.
We reached the school and only saw three women. They told us that people are yet to gather, although they have been given the time for 9:45am. One of the women went out to ask people to gather as soon as possible. Another woman went to her home to get us some hot tea, so we asked her to get something to eat as well. One woman started cleaning the hall of the school for people to gather. Both of us unpacked over bag and arrange for the health check up and education. Dawa put up the banner on the wall.
We had tea and cookies. Started examining patients for common ailments like Hypertension, Osteoarthritis, acid peptic disease, eye infection, headache, toothache etc. It took me one hour before we started our women health education.
Beside cervical cancer, I talked about all the common diseases and the mode of prevention. As usual we had a very positive response from them. Although, there was some hesitation among them to ask question about cervical cancer but they were asking lots of question about other common diseases.
We are done with health education. We took a final group snap and started back on foot. It was wonderful and a very good feeling to see them smiling and waving as we walked out of school’s compound.
We were walking very fast as we asked the previous villager to gather at 12:30pm. I asked Dawa to come slowly and I will try to make it to next village as soon as possible lest people should not be dispersed thinking that we might have changed our plan.
I reached next village, Dawa was mile behind and was walking in a way as if he will fall down next moment. I waved him to walk fast and he didn‚Äôt respond. I knew that he was ignoring me and swearing at me.
To my amazement, everyone was waiting for us and one of the villagers guided me to the house next to the community hall. He felt sorry for my condition as I was panting and sweating. He asked me to take rest and told me that villagers will wait. Villager had prepared lunch for us. Now, I was swearing at Dawa as I wanted him to reach as soon as possible so that I could start eating something.
We had a very delicious lunch. They had prepared three varieties of dishes. It was one of the best foods ever I had in recent time.
We started the health check up and around 60 peoples including children turned out. There were few old men who also came for health check up. We ran out of medical stock and noted down the drugs required for few people, whom we could give medication to. We told him that we will send them the medication from the hospital as soon as we get back. Village head man requested us to make a home visit to one of the villagers, who is sick and unable to attend the clinic.
We started our health education regarding the cervical cancers. We had a good response from the women as usual. Some of the old mans who came for health check up was also present as we could not ask them to leave. We took a group snap and then we headed to the house with a sick old woman.
We reached the house, where an old woman was sitting outside. She was sick for last one week and she refused to go to hospital. She had cough with expectoration and swelling of feet. I treated her for the provisional diagnosis of congestive heart failure. I told them I will send government ambulance to pick her up to hospital as soon as possible. We were quite upset by the condition in which she was living. She could have never made to hospital had we not paid visit to these villages. Thanks to HWHP.
We headed to next small hamlet on the way back. Only 6 women managed to gather as rest of them had gone to collect woods from the sea buck throne forest. In Nubra valley, villagers are allowed to cut wood from the forest on certain selected day. Our visit coincides with that particular selected day. Anyway, we talk to them and educate them about cervical cancer and women’s health in general.
We drove back to the government rest house at Panamik where we spent the previous night. We decided to head back to hospital next early morning in order to make it to hospital in time.
Reached back to Panamik Village, we went to Dr. Padma’s residence straight away and discussed with her regarding day event. She was sitting in her office with other staff member. We informed her about the lady with the CCF and other patients in need of medication. She assured us that she will get the things done.
We were back in our rest house right away I jumped into hot bath tub and lied down for next 45 minute. It was so relaxing! It is quiet unbelievable for anyway who has spent winter in Ladakh to imagine someone relaxing in bath tub at this point of time, when the temperature outside is minus 20.
We had dinner in Dr. Padma’s residence.
Back in room and went to bed.
Headed back to our hospital.