Chotah Wallah

Today, a brief homage to a lost dog. Our paths crossed 23 years ago during a march across the Himalaya into Zanskar. The day before we reached the highest point, he crept nervously towards our party. He looked a beaten and hungry creature; I gave him a chappati from my pack. By the time we took our midday rest, below the summit of the Umasi La, he’d thrown in his lot with us. I called him ‘Chotah Wallah’ (Little One).

To Zanskar 1986 (resting with the porters) 001

Yellow Dog

The ice peaks are green,
they stretch all the way to China
in the metallic moonlight.

The scabby yellow dog, with his fleas,
sits alongside on this moraine,
watching. I pull the lost one close
as we gaze to the south.

Gaze at the ridges we crossed,
now in sharp silhouette – black teeth
against yellow sheet lightening
on the Indian monsoon plain.

It dawns on me that the man
who entered this high place will not
be the man who leaves.

Chotah Wallah day2 ascent of Umasi La

Chota Wallah is the dot to the left of the two porters.

Two days later we reached the first Zanskar village and Chotah Wallah got more food. He already looks fitter. He shared my billy can.

Chotah Wallah, Zanskar

Next day we reached a Gompa (Buddhist monastery and temple). There was a festival. Chotah Wallah mixed with the other feral dogs who hung out at the gompa surviving on the monks’ kindness.

He is on the right just behind the dancing monk.

Two days later we left Chotah Wallah asleep with a very full belly in tea shop. We climbed aboard a crowded truck for a nightmare journey out of the valley and down into Kashmire.
I was sad to leave him.
He usually wanted to share my tent – but he had fleas. Even so, we had sat together on the high glacier, watching the play of night.

On high green ice by Umasi la,
I sleepless sat and a pipe did pull,
As below over India the monsoon gloried,
Yellow and wild and my heart was full.

In a starry meadow with a homeless dog,
Watching the floating moon.
Free the black spikes of Zanskar’s Mountains,
As the horns of the gompa boom.

About Harry Nicholson

I once bred Beveren rabbits in all colours. Today, I'm an enameller who works with a kiln, fusing pictures in glass onto copper. On Amazon is my novel, 'Tom Fleck', set in the North of England of 1513 - the year of Flodden. A sequel to 'Tom Fleck' is 'The Black Caravel' published in 2016. My anthology of poems came out in 2015: 'Wandering About.' Recently I published memoirs of my time in the Merchant Navy: 'The Best of Days' and 'You'll See Wonders" I've a blog of poems, stories and art at:
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6 Responses to Chotah Wallah

  1. vivinfrance says:

    Lovely story Harry. I can understand you wanting to take him with you, but he probably wouldn’t have been happy away from his mountains.

  2. Thanks Chris. I often wonder about his life afterwards. He was a plucky fellow in crossing the Himalaya from India to Zanskar.

  3. olee says:

    This is beautiful.

  4. Harry this is a great story. What an experience! The last stanza just did it for me!

    I love the wise look on the dog’s face complimented by the innocence of those gorgeous ears! 🙂 Im not surprised you were sad to leave him.

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