DAY I: Srinagar-Uri-Srinagar
Life at the LOC is often a test of nerves. Motivation and morale is key. As we clamber up the sparsely populated mountain ridge, we see some of the slogans that keep the soldiers strong. Dar Sab ko lagta hai, Dar ke aage jeet hai, says one ( Everyone is scared says one. But beyond fear is victory). Paanch minute, paachas gola (5 minutes, 50 rounds), says another.
We discover that shortly before the ceasefire agreement came into place and two years after Irshad was wounded.. His mother, Ghulam's wife was killed while she had taken the cattle out to graze.
But there is no space available to the soldiers to mourn when one of their own dies. They must remain not just vigilant but stoic as they guard the honour of the flag and stand alert for surprise firing from the other side.
We are finally at the closest point possible to the line of control. The waterfall in the distance separates Pakistan from India.
At last we reach Krishna Ghati brigade of the Army!
We decide to go live from here. Barkha anchored her programme from Krishna Ghati that evening. But the day was not over.
The army has a surprise lined up for me! Its my 51st birthday and one of my students from the Staff College, now G-1 at the KG brigade, rustles up a cake.
For the first time in my 51 years, I cut a birthday cake. A quick dinner and we are off to Nangi Tekri a forward post under the brigade which has seen more than a dozen ceasefire violations in August-September this year. Its 11.30 pm. We have been on our feet since 7 am!
Under the gentle glow of a half moon.To the naked eye, the softly shimmering lights in the distance look like a giant garland has been draped over the ridge line.
Outside, the night is still silent. And then suddenly in the distance, the sound of gun shots, faint at first, louder later. Small arms fire. That, the soldiers tell us, is speculative firing by the Pakistanis.
Every night at this post, more than 200 such rounds of speculative fire can be heard. Too faint to register on camera but clear to the ear in the stillness of the night.
The sudden spate of LoC violations and especially the killing of five Indian soldiers has made the almost ten year old ceasefire agreement vulnerable. So far the firing has been restricted to small arms and mortar. The concern now is how to avoid an escalation to artillery duels across the boundary.