"Tumhen kya lagata hai ki tum kar rahe hain tasveeren sena aadhaar" were the first words I heard being shouted as a man in uniform stepped out of the vehicle. I knew this wasn't good news. I was speaking with an old man about the India and Pakistan conflict that took place in the Nubra valley in 1971. However I had the video camera out to film the conversation which happened to be taking place next to, you guessed it, a military base. The valley has been littered with them since the war, and you don't have to move more than a few kilometres before you hit the next one. In fact, I hadn't even noticed the large guns submerged in bunkers behind the old guy.
Further direct words were passed between the man and Namgyal, my guide as I packed up the camera. "It was a great interview" I was thinking to myself. But then the man turned to me and said: "Sir, please delete the photograph". I obliged as another man looked over my shoulder as I did it. More men in uniform were now running down the road and the other side of the barbed wire towards us. "This is a no film zone, what did you think you could do?". I already knew this, but the opportunity to speak with the old man was there having not yet met someone who directly experienced the conflicts. The first man in uniform, a colonel, shouted in Hindi at the growing number of men surrounding us, got back in the car and drove off. I felt like we'd got away with it until I saw Namgyal being interrogated by the men the other side of the fence. They asked to see my permit for the valley, which, I happily dug out and passed through the barbed wire fence. They quizzed us on where the other person on the permit was, to which we explained further up the valley (you have to have a minimum of two people on the permits for them to be issued, so often agencies group together tourists even if they have different itineraries). They eased off the questions as he passed the permit back through the barbed wire, cautioned me and wished me well to Kanyakumari. Fortunately, he never asked to see my passport as the conversation would be a whole lot harder to explain that I had left it in a taxi and is now in Diskit!
As we proceeded back along the road, we caught up with the three gentlemen we were speaking to, laughing about the strange situation like naughty school kids! Apparently, the colonel had said in a jokey way that he might confiscate the camera and retire on it! Rest assured, I probably won't be filming next to a military base again!