Turtuk – where digital mail didn’t replace postal letters

Preserving the history, dialect and kindness

Tourism

March 10, 2017

/ By / New Delhi



As some of the modern technologies and western influences have enveloped even the remotest of villages in India, there are still others who have crawled away to preserve vintage ways to communicate and uphold their traditions. One such settlement is Turtuk, in Ladakh, that will take you to the bygone times.

Imagine entering a place with no WiFi, no mobile network, scanty electricity connections and residents who speak their local language – Balti. Welcome to Turtuk, a village that will give you an ancient feel and will seemingly make you enter another world.

Once a part of Pakistan, after the British rule terminated in 1947, Turtuk was conquered by India in 1971 post Indo-Pak war, when the administrative division of Baltistan was divided between the two countries. As a military border, Turtuk had the shutters always put up for visitors and even other Indians for years, until locals appealed for the isolated scenic valley to open up.

Turtuk had been unfrequented not only due to government restrictions, but also because of its geography. Surrounded by the Karakoram mountains, this predominantly Muslim province is separated by its adjacent villages and towns by the village boundaries.

The place that once served as an important gateway to connect India with China, Persia and Rome, today sets off with only a few businesses operating yet yielding high self-sufficiency with the Pakistani border that can be seen from just down the road.

The drive to Turtuk is not very smooth and consists of rocky roads, craggy mountains and deserts, making it difficult to navigate. However, the scenic Khardung La – world’s highest motorable pass at 18,379 feet high – mountain glaciers and mesmerising white desert compensates for it.

The village is wrapped in the arms of the Karakoram mountain range and around 300 stone houses, which make up for a delusive backdrop with mustard-yellow barley fields that burn without flames under the late afternoon sun rays.

This remote area, housing approximately 4,000 ethnic Muslims, is traditionally divided into three areas. Chutang (river plain) is the lower area of the village along the bank of Shyok river; Yul (village) – the oldest area in the village houses both the mosques located in Turtuk; and Farol (off the river) is the area where most guesthouses and old monasteries are located.

The locals here are convivial and welcome visitors with smiles on their faces and warmth in hearts. These people were separated from their relatives during the partition of the area and stay in touch with them via video messages on flash drives which they mail each other by posts.

Even after the place has now been unbarred for tourists, the village still holds its old ancient colours and residents go about without mobile phones and WiFi connections, making this place a one of its kind destination.

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