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).
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.
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.
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.