Book Review: On Broken Trails

Book Review: On Broken Trails
A cover of On Broken Trails,

Observe the pertinent beauty of the Nubra Valley through the four seasons in Sanipan Mukherjee's On Broken Trails

Amit Dixit
March 23 , 2019
01 Min Read

Ladakh is eternally fascinating but the valley of Nubra is in a league of its own. For historical reasons, Nubra also includes parts of Muslim Baltistan, which is otherwise primarily in Pakistan; and, to this day, the Buddhist and Muslim π of the region coexist in harmony and are, for all practical purposes, indistinguishable.

When it comes to Nubra—famed for its sand dunes and Bactrian camels—it’s all about location. The valley rests between the Ladakh and Karakoram ranges, with Aksai Chin to the east and Gilgit–Baltistan in PoK to the west. The Siachen Glacier, said to be the second-longest glacier on earth outside the polar regions, isn’t too far away. One thing then becomes indisputable: Nubra makes for some stunning images.

Sandipan Mukherjee, a teacher by profession and a photographer by passion, made six trips to Nubra between 2012 and 2017, visiting in different seasons, resulting in this slim but affectionate portrait of a region and its people.

The photographs are as luminous as the environment is harsh. All are uniformly sympathetic to their subjects, whether they be human, animal or looming mountains. Some are even superlative, promising to stay etched in the mind’s eye for a long, long time. One photograph shows a gaggle of schoolgirls in Turtuk, no different from their counterparts elsewhere in the country. Another has a lit stove, radiating its warmth across a Ladakhi kitchen. A third has retired government official Ghulam Kader with the only doctor he trusts—his lifelong friend Dorzee Dodul Amchi.

The photographs are punctuated by short, explanatory essays on the valley and its people, as well as some illuminating anecdotes from the writer’s own journeys there. It truly is a lovely place. And there must be a grain of truth in this Balti proverb that Mukherjee quotes: “The first time you have tea with us you are a stranger; the second time, you are an honoured guest; the third time, you become one of us.”

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