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Reverberations from the Himalaya

Madhur Tankha
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Vaibhav Kaul captures “extraordinary landscapes” on his non-SLRcamera during his Ph.D. research

Majestic:A view of Dranagiri range taken by Vaibhav Kaul.
Majestic:A view of Dranagiri range taken by Vaibhav Kaul.

“I had a life threatening experience in the dense forests of Himachal Pradesh. I encountered a belligerent female bear. As the cubs were nearby, she was in an unusually aggressive mood and could sense danger. I laid down on my stomach controlling my breath. The bear checked if I was dead or alive. My heart skipped a beat but I controlled my nervousness. After a few anxious seconds, the bear finally walked past me and I heaved a sign of relief,” says Vaibhav Kaul, a Ph.D. student at Oxford University.

Sharing his challenging experiences as part of his higher studies, Vaibhav says last year he made an adventurous expedition to the remote interiors of Lahaul-Spiti. “While pursuing M.Sc. in environmental change and management at the University of Oxford, my dissertation was on ‘Enhancing the resilience and adaptation of remote human communities to extremes in changing high-altitude environments’. So I had to make expeditions to this Himalayan State.”

This 22-year-old has taken a series of 54 pictures of the Himalayan ranges. The pictures will be on display at a four-day photo exhibition titled “Reverberations from the Himalaya” which opens at India Habitat Centre here this Thursday.

At Lahaul-Spiti district, Vaibhav had another miraculous escape. “Through satellite imagery, the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development had identified two lakes in Himachal Pradesh which it had described as potentially hazardous for glaciers’ lake outburst flood. As a part of my M.Sc. was connected with glaciers, I was near the Samudratapu lake when a rock avalanche occurred. I could have easily been thrown into the lake. So I ran for my dear life.”

Armed with an ordinary non-SLR camera, Vaibhav has captured “extraordinary landscapes” and made a couple of paintings during the arduous research expeditions to the world’s mightiest and most dangerous mountains.

Noting that these images would be seen by visitors from different perspective, Vaibhav says some will feel these images are nothing but geological expressions, while others will feel they have something to do with spirituality.

“Images can be segregated into climate change study or mythology but each image has a story to narrate. Relict shorelines and deltas at the head of the Chenab valley remind us of a sea-like glacial that breached an ice dam to cause a catastrophic flood 40,000 years ago. The mystical glow of the Dronagiri massif near the source of the Alakananda might compel us to believe that brave-heart Hanuman actually flew this mountain to Ravana’s battlefield to save Lakshmana’s life with the magic herb that grew on it.”


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