Settlements along the highway.
Plasticky, and torn by poverty first.
Nude to the ice-winds of Ladakh.
We make homes in a hell-blessed world.

Where air is thinner than broken hope
Of loved ones, memories, and precious letters
A last human touch, a warm embrace.
A mothers smile, her lovesome scoldings.

A secret moment, tear-dipped eyes
Quickly wiped, not to be seen.
We’re the big boys, now. Grown up.

From rock to harder rock.
The highway calls, a landslide again.
Overcoats, mitten and unbeautiful hands.
From rock to rock.

The roads are the breath of our collective existence.
We bleed as they weather.  So we bleed.
It seldom hurts.
The cold allows us to forget.
Many things.
(Many things)

Distant sounds of a vehicle.
That sound again, now silent.
Lost in the spaces of our valley.
Lifted and flung against skyward rocks.

We stop our work and wait.
It comes, we stand together and wave.
The children smile, wave back.
Daily sustenance.
Children. Smiles. God-given gifts.

Indulge we must, every few a night.
Kick-water, and dances around the fire.
Laughter, random thoughts, laughter.
A paid return to our boyish selves.

For winter we wait,
The snows fill these lands as they fill our hearts.
Long journeys back home,
Farewells to our brethren, the highlands will call.

From rock to tar to road.
To rock.
To which we must return.
For we are Himank.
The road builders of Ladakh.


(written during a train journey on the way back from Ladakh)