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Photo Story: An army in peacetime

The armoured regiments of the Indian Army conduct regular exercises in the vast Rajasthan desert. I was lucky to be there early one morning when an exercise was on to ‘capture’ this armoured vehicle
Photographer: Mahesh Nair


My journey with the Indian army began in 2007 with an innocuous question over a drink. I was with my childhood friend and a few of his fellow officers at an Electrical and Mechanical Engineers mess in a place that appeared to be in the middle of nowhere in Ladakh. My friends from the army posted in cities appear to lead peaceful, almost civilian lives. But this was different and we weren’t even on the Siachen Glacier. “So what do you guys do when there is no war?” I blurted out.

The subsequent discussion was a revelation. I learned of unknown, remote and inhospitable places in which the Indian army operates – where we lose soldiers not to the enemy, but to the vagaries of nature. In terms of inhabitable conditions, these places are similar to or worse than Siachen!

The discussion lingered in my mind as I continued my journey through Ladakh. Later, on the same trip, I noticed a school in a place that I would call ‘way beyond the back of beyond.’ A casual chat with the principal revealed that the school catered to kids from the surrounding villages – all extremely remote – and that it had been built by the army as part of its Sadbhavana project. This was the first time that I heard of such a project.

A single trip uncovered my ignorance about the lives of our soldiers and I consider myself a well-educated, interested and aware citizen of India! That realisation and my curiosity triggered a journey to discover the ‘real Indian army’ across various terrain and conditions. An interesting, eye-opening journey that lasted over six months resulted in this book.

More of the brilliant photography you’ve come to expect from Lonely Planet Magazine India – in our May 2016 issue. Pick up a copy from your newsstand or click to subscribe via Zinio or Magzter.


The setting sun provided a gorgeous backdrop for this view of the scenic Dal Lake in Srinagar
Photographer: Mahesh Nair
In the upper reaches, winter brings heavy snowfall. The snow reaches levels where even the buildings are partially submerged. The soldiers wage a daily war with the snow and clear enough to continue their normal lives
Photographer: Mahesh Nair