24 July, 2021

The New Cold War

In their first winter in the Kargil heights, Indian troops face their toughest enemy: nature

The New Cold War

Naik Mithilesh Kumar, along with a motley group of 10 jawans, down their 60 ml of Lord Nelson rum. There are no more refills. Nor are there any snacks to go with it or time to bask in the ambience of a cosy bar. Outside, the icy-cold wind howls. It bites to the bone. Factor in the wind chill and you have temperatures which could ice a bucket of water in half-an-hour. If the molasses could bring warmth, then Kumar would drink another. But sadly, that 60 ml is all he gets to brave the cold, till he retires to his barracks for the night.

In the cold confines of a barrack along the Kargil highway, Narender Singh, a jawan, gapes at the low ceiling, wrapped up tightly under blankets. A kerosene stove, at the far corner, is dying out. He is exhausted and can't sleep. He is benumbed by the cold after shovelling snow for three hours in the day.

For the outsider, this is more than a deep-freeze opening. This is cold from the stratosphere. Somewhere up there one believed it would be freezing. But out here it is real. "One year in this place and you grow older by 10...

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