The Indian ice hockey team may compete internationally, but has limited resources, largely living off donations from supporters from around the world. Photographer Indrajeet Rajkhowa visits the team in the Himalayas to report on the team’s gruelling training regime in the midst of the Himalayan winter.
“When you skate at an altitude of 11,000 feet , every breath is a struggle,” says Indrajeet Rajkhowa, whilst 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.
Below are selected photos from Indra’s 2017 documentation of the men’s ice hockey training and tournament:
All photo credits: Indrajeet Rajkhowa.
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About the Author
Indrajeet Rajkhowa is a photographer based in Mumbai, India. During his B.Tech program at Vellore Institute Of Technology, photography sort of fell into his lap. After graduation, he enrolled himself at Light & Life Academy (Ooty, India) to master this craft. An inspiring year with LLA saw him move to Mumbai, to assist advertising photographers in the industry.His growing curiosity and camera have allowed him to capture the nuances and intricacies of everyday life. Love for environmental portraiture and his keen interest to travel consistently have made him well-travelled in recent years. You can see more of Indra’s work on his website.