Khardung-La Chronicles – Day 3 Part 2


After a nice sumptuous lunch at the Grand Dragon, the only hotel in Leh which boasts of centralized heating, I got introduced to Neel Jani, the driver who will in all probability will hold the record of being the first driver to have driven an F1 car at an altitude of over 18300 feet above MSL.

The most striking part of him is his ever smiling countenance and short and stately appearance. He doesn’t look Indian but the manners bare it all, he is Indian from his Dad’s (Mukesh Jani) roots in Gujarat, India.

He would say I am more of my Mom in my looks. The family history dates early days even before independence of India. His family has been across the world in Africa and in Europe more specifically. Now he is also in America for the races and that means he is a World citizen by his own words.

So that evening we went around the Leh Market to begin with. It is a small place but you would come to know that its pretty costly too in terms of heritage and also some of the things you could buy.

But yeah Indian shopping isn’t all complete without our street shopping and Neel was only willing to go that extra mile and enjoy his trip this day at the markets.

So he went around shopping trying a bit of apparels and some caps and et all. He took to conversing with the shop keepers in the Hindi he could try and plain English and got to know the things and the history of some of the heritage items for sale.

There was so much to shop and so little time, you know what I mean, it is possible that you would want to take a part of history with you. But then we can’t take all that is on display.

Neel took time off to stop and make pictures with onlookers once they found that he is a racer and an F1 driver. Notice him being casual and ofcourse he was wearing only his Red Bull T shirt, he was down to earth personified.

Neel spent some time purchasing some shawls and caps and even tried some of them on him when ever he felt the urge to try it out. He would seek help of the shopkeeper and try it out and would ask us if it fit him or how good looking he was with that dress or cap on.  He also took some postcards for memory sake.

The most interesting part was when he went shopping for some apples and well he was on the other side meant he was like sitting among them selling the apples. He had a great time and it probably is that the climate is cold but people out there are warm. And with a global citizen by your side you would feel better irrespective of the temperature close to some 5 or 10 degree C.

Walking down the street, Neel when he came across a prayer wheel, you are bound to find them like we have Ganesh temples across in the city, decided to go around three times for a prayer.

Down to the welcome arch and shooting some pictures of his walking the street and a photo frame in air were some of the memorable moments during the afternoon.

Some nice shots taken I thoroughly enjoyed this shopping and clicking and we return to hotel to wait what we were told the F1 car is some 20 kms away from the venue. So it is getting close to what we have been here for in literal terms as the car arrives, we are into the game for sure.

R Senthilkumar