Open Space

A Macabre Twist

Between Sarchu and Pang in Jammu & Kashmir is a stretch of road commonly known as ‘21 scissors’ or ‘gatta loops’—for the 21 hairpin bends one has to negotiate. At one such bend stands a temple where travellers offer cigarettes, alcohol and water bottles as offerings. The story goes like this: In the late 90s, an oil tanker was stuck at the very same bend. The driver asked his young assistant to place a rock behind the rear tyres as he tried revving the vehicle uphill. Instead, the vehicle slid and crushed the boy’s hands. The boy was bleeding profusely and the only medical centre was 18 hours away, in Leh. The driver sought the help of a truck driver but he too didn’t have a first-aid box. By now the boy was losing consciousness and the two drivers decided it’s best to put the boy out of his misery. The driver drove the tanker over his assistant, crushing him to death. A few days later, another driver got stuck at the same bend. He claimed to have been slapped by the boy’s ghost. For years, vehicles would get stalled at this bend and drivers would claim that the kid slapped them and asked for water, alcohol or a smoke. A priest was roped in and a temple has been set up to placate the ghost. The conductor of our bus offered prayers too, but we all noticed a stalled oil tanker not too far from the temple

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