Though there were rumours for a millennium
the first officially recorded sighting
of skeletons – at more than sixteen thousand feet
around the glacial, Lake Roopkund
in Uttarukhand’s Chamoli district –
was by a border guard in 1940.
The authorities thought a company
of Japanese soldiers had frozen to death
trying to invade India from the north
via Tibet but the bones were too old.
There were other hypotheses. A large group –
two hundred in total – of pilgrims
and their bearers, heading to the temples
in the forested valleys of the south,
were caught in a hailstorm with no shelter,
hail ‘like cricket balls’ – a simile
befitting a cricketing nation –
that clubbed to death each man, woman and child.
DNA tests show most of the remains
are local, but one is from the East,
possibly Java or Japan, and fourteen
from Crete and Greece – strayed remnants maybe
from the army of Alexander the Great?
The place has become popular with tourist-
trekkers, so much so the authorities
have closed off the whole area. Made
wrong-headed by the altitude, perhaps,
back-packers secreted skulls as souvenirs.