Monday, December 22, 2008
The Baba temples – the new one and the old – hold utmost significance for the troops in this part of the country. The temples have been constructed in homage to Harbhajan Baba, a soldier who died in an avalanche in the area. (There are various versions about his death and I will get into these at a later point.)The others could not locate his body until one day, he reportedly appeared in a comrade’s dream and told him where to find his body. They found the body exactly where he’d said it would be. Ever since then, Baba has supposedly looked after the safety and well-being of troops in the area.
The old Baba Mandir has Baba’s bunker that is now a shrine of sorts. His study table has a pile of notebooks in which one must write one’s wishes and they will supposedly be granted by Baba. On Sundays, the temple is crowded with soldiers and tourists alike. The halwa doled out as prasad by the soldiers who look after the place is absolutely delicious. Note: This is doled out only on Sundays – I found out this disappointing fact on my second visit here which was on a week day.
The new Baba Mandir was constructed when the adverse icy conditions of the area impaired accessibility to the original temple. Opposite the new temple is Café Thirteen Thousand – a coffee shop with a nice souvenir shop if you’re game to jostle with and out-yell hysterical tourists for little silk purses, mobile covers, Chinese fans, Buddha statues and other curios.
At the new Baba Mandir, hubby dear and two comrades, all in uniform, were asked to pose for a photograph with an awestruck tourist from Gujarat. He said he was grateful to the men in uniform who protect our nation. It appears that the apathetic Indian civilian population is finally waking up to realize just how much we actually owe our armed forces. It took a disaster like the Mumbai terror attack to evoke this. I can only hope that the recognition, respect and gratitude do not fade with time – public memory seems so short – and that it will translate into something good being done for our armed forces.