27TH FEBRUARY 2015
I woke up very early again that morning in Harsil. I did not have very sound sleep that night may be because I was not feeling like sleeping. It was pitch dark outside. Chilly wind was blowing. There was hardly any soul on the road. The gang of mountain dogs were barking and running. At times it would rain and then snow. Temperature outside was around -8 degrees. To beat the chill, I put on whatever clothing I had and tried to squeeze in sleeping bag as much as I could.
Even then I was fresh when I got up that morning. There was a spring in my feet as there was a chance of road opening that day. Some people were seen with their luggage, waiting for weather and road to clear up. Being a cantonment, lot of army men, who were sanctioned leave, wanted to be with their families as soon as possible.
I could hear few men chatting and a driver agreed to try to cross the road which was closed for the last three days.Soon the Jeep got jampacked with the people, luggage stocked up on the roof. The driver got the tires chained. It was 4×4 wheel drive. He got the engine roaring and created some momentum to cross the road that was full with black hard ice and mud.
With roar of the engine and noise of the crowd, Jeep got on to the road and with huge struggle, scattering mud and ice all around, barely crossed the bridge and the road in front of the cantonment and reached Harsil gate.
It got clear to both of us, me the figo driver and those boys with a bullet and i 20, that we would not be able to cross the road until the road up to Harsil gate was cleared by a snow clearing machine. This road was maintained by the army and not BRO, hence only army could clear the road. There was a tipper parked near the cantonment. Meaning there was hope. Since there were no orders, road clearance work was not on.
The driver of the tipper was a Sikh gentleman S.Sukhraj Singh. He belonged to a place nearby my home town. On hearing our request he decided to help. After taking due permission, he cleared the main hurdle in about two hours. This enabled us to try crossing the treacherous black ice filled road. I tried first. But my car was getting struck after few meters.
People of the village, our bank staff, army men and landlord of Punjab National Bank branch Mr Bishan Singh all helped by pushing my car, each time it was struck. With great effort and help I was able to reach Harsil gate. They gave my car a final push in crossing that last bend hoping there would be no trouble till Jaspur.
The road was full of slush, mud and snow. I was finding it very difficult to drive through it. I gave lift to two men walking on the road. Mr Panwar was already with me. Now we were four in the car which was good for driving in snow. The gentlemen I gave lift were Mr Satish Bhati and Mr Anil Rana who were going home on leave. They needed lift and I needed help, a win-win situation.
My car was struggling and needed to be pushed each time it was struck. Satish and Anil being young and strong army men would step down from the car and push the car back on trek. This kept on well until we reached jaspur where there was huge slush and snow. My car got stuck there and refused to move an inch. Snow started falling as well.
The three men decided to abandon me and my car there with the advice to wait for BRO machine to clear the road. Since there were few restaurants and people at Jaspur, I knew help was available. They were hardly gone for few hundred meters when I heard the sound of a machine coming towards us. It was a BRO road clearing machine.
It’s not for nothing people call me lucky. The three men who had recently deserted me returned back as they knew I was going to be out of this mess soon. The BRO men cleared few bad patches of the road and went back. With the help of few locals and push by my three fellow passengers we struggled our way out of Jaspur bend and were on our way to Sukhi top.
It was still a lot of struggle. My car was getting stuck again and again. And again those two god sent strong army men, Satish and Anil would get out and push the car out of trouble. They were getting breathless and sometime would fall on the road. My car would get out of the slush, move a few kilometers and would get stuck again. This kept on going for hours. At times we felt like giving up.
The dangerous road and murky weather, the fear of getting struck at the lonely road, and the hope to get of this mess and reach our destination, would again encourage us to try one more time. We kept on. Thanks to those two hardy armymen Satish and Anil and few more, we were finally at Sukhi top. We were told this was the final hurdle and no other hurdle was anticipated till Uttarkashi.
The three brave boys were not to be left behind too. They met us near Jaspur. Devendra Tokas was struggling with his bullet while Vijay was driving i20. They were also helped by the local people. From Jaspur we struggled together and reached Sukhi top. Vijay and Pragyan were left behind in their i20. We waited for them at the top and when they reached we moved on. Weather was going bad and murky again.
There was still lot of struggle in store for us. The stucking and pushing went on for another half an hour until we crossed two avalanche sites and water crossings. By 5pm we were in Uttarkashi and safety. Satish and Anil went to army rest house. They urged me to stay with them but I decided to stay in the car. They very kindly gifted me a bottle of whiskey and we became lifelong friends.
After being stuck for three beautiful days in Harsil, great struggle in getting out from that fearful weather, I was feeling pretty good at Uttarkashi. The weather was good and bazaar of Uttarkashi was full with goods and people. Met the three brave boys a number of times roaming in Uttarkashi bazaar on that evening until we decided to walk together.
We met another gentleman on that evening who looked our kind of breed. He took us to his home where his parents were enjoying their anniversary. He has a beautiful home right on the edge on Ganga river. The view of the river from rooftop his home was beautiful. He narrated the struggling times of year 2013 when tragedy of floods struck this area and everyone was evacuated from the area. There was fear of washing away of their homes but survived.
We parted for the last time that day. I took my car to a safe area, parked the car, pulled the cover over, slipped inside, locked it from inside, pushed myself in the cozy sleeping bag and tried to sleep.
The events of the day were still dancing in front of my eyes!!!