Hockey in the Himalayas
"When you skate at an altitude of 11,000 feet , every breath is a struggle," says Indrajeet Rajkhowa a photographer documenting the ice hockey team in Ladakh.
In the brutal Himalayan winter, when temperatures drop as low as -20 C, almost all farming activities and tourism stops. And on frozen lakes all across Ladakh locals take to ice skating, often with makeshift gear; shoes converted into skates by strapping on metal blades. Very telling of the humble beginnings of this sport in India.
However without the support and spotlight that most sports (read cricket) receive in India, an unlikely team of athletes have trained themselves to compete internationally.
Armed with generously donated secondhand gear from hockey enthusiasts around the world, these athletes have survived on sheer will and a blazing passion for the game. Without the luxury of an ice rink, the players feverishly practice within a week of the lakes freezing to train themselves for competitive tournaments.
"During my visit to Ladakh in January 2017, I fell victim to altitude sickness. Being my stubborn self, I took the risk to stay back and managed to recover after a week’s rest. But the outcome of this was that I ended up missing out on the women’s tournament. Hence, most images I brought back from this experience are from the men’s tournament and only a couple from the women’s practice sessions," says Indra. But this season he's back in Ladakh documenting the women's team.
We've shared a few photos from his 2017 documentation of the men's ice hockey training and tournament.
If you'd like to donate and support the team that represents India internationally, here are a few links to crowdsourced campaigns:
Photos by Indrajeet Rajkhowa