Tuesday, May 19, 2009

First Few Days ...

First look from the plane !
We landed in Leh on 23rd of March. The winter was not quite over and the temperatures were ranging from 4-5 degrees in the day and dipping to sub zero temperature of -10 to -15 in the night. We were provided accommodation in the hostel premises of the NGO LEDeG (Ladakh Ecological Development Group). The trip is a part of the DOCC program of SP where we undertake projects with NGO’s for 6 weeks. This was part of the social sensitisation program envisioned by our Dean.
Leh is situated at an altitude of around 12,000 feet. The lack of oxygen showed as we became breathless with a few steps on the ascent. By the time I dragged my luggage into the hostel, I felt as I had just finished the Mumbai Half marathon.
We were advised to sleep continuously for 2 days to get ‘acclimatised’ to the conditions. Since the NGO is ecological, there was no heating equipment in the rooms or running water in the washrooms. It was a rude awakening to the sensitisation program. The building runs on solar panels including a solar cooker and a solar water heater. We realised one thing ‘Life is tough in Ladakh!’
Life @ LEDeG Hostel:
We got 2 rooms, so we split into groups of 3. I, Sunny, Ankit stayed in a room, Satya, Harsh, Hanish shared the other room. Since we are accustomed to triple sharing rooms back in Mumbai, we didn’t feel much difference. The morning routine became almost a ritual with even simple things like brushing one’s teeth becoming a pain. We spent the first four days 'strategising' on how to relieve ourselves in the morning, with the temperature of water being around -5 :) .

Mornings greeted us with blocks of ice in the buckets. The water from the taps froze before they hit the ground forming icicles. It was some experience in the initial days to melt the ice and then use the water. Later this became a part of routine.
To have a bath, one is supposed to collect wood from the surrounding. The challenge was to light the fire with a Stone Age technique with a strong wind blowing. The entire exercise takes slightly over an hour. So we decided to do it occasionally, either when we can’t stand it anymore or when our roommates can’t.

We could reach the office after a small trek – Daily !

The View from our Hostel

LST – Ladakh Standard Time:
Our first encounter with LST was when we enquired about timings in a shop and got his reply “Abhi already 4 baj gaya hai ! Abhi to band karne ka time hai “. Everything in Leh shuts at 4 PM with a few restaurants as an exception. The Typical Ladakhi is in his home and inside his blankets by 6 PM.
The B school routine had turned us into near insomniacs… so we found it terribly hard to pass time by reaching the Hostel at 5 PM and trying to sleep as early as 11 PM. It was like noon for us who are accustomed to sleep earliest by 2 or 3 AM.
Then it rained in the Desert! We found a cafĂ© by name ‘Desert Rain’ which is the closest it can get to a CCD in Ladakh. He stocks amazing collection of books and plays decent music. This became our regular hangout.

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