Money Doesn’t Make a Man

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“A lesson I learned on an adventure to Pir ki Gali—Kashmir’s beautiful adventurous spot”                      

By Danish Gul

Pir Ki Gali. Photos: Danish Gul/KL

Pir Ki Gali. Photos: Danish Gul/KL

On one sunny morning, we left for Pir ki Gali—an adventure half planned! We were three friends. All of us had already some experience of travelling to places of attraction. But this one proved to be beyond that.

I was reluctant at first to approve of this idea. But like always, I succumbed to the world of adventure shown by my friend, Khursheed. He stretched his arm and pointed towards the direction saying: “That’s the place!”

We (I and our friend, Suhail) kept on defying his suggestions as none of us had ever been to this place. But then we cleared our throats and decided to go there, a doorway to a dangerous road in Kashmir.

We were happy to do something new. Hills, mountains, beauty, what else could we desire? “Everyone wants more,” said Suhail, getting ready to feel the fresh air of hills rather than the fake air of the dusty Srinagar.

We three gathered our thoughts and left for a change in our usual ternary. We started randomly picking up the things to use there. We were educated but not that much to think maturely in order to give it any further thoughts for good planning.

We fed the tanks of our bikes with petrol. We stopped at Shopian to eat some food. The first challenge that started was that of mobile signal, which disappeared, bringing back our fear of being out of radars of our families. Without letting it to take on our nerves, we started buying what we thought will help us there. We again gathered our courage, mixed our plans and decided to go. A shopkeeper said, “Pir ki Gali is far, do not go on bikes. You should go in cars.” But we paid deaf ears to it, as we had hardly convinced ourselves. It appeared to us that he was trapping us to take his room on rent.

All of us are photography enthusiasts so we carried two DSLR cameras along with. We continued the journey with photography and speed of bikes amidst the fresh air with a brief shower of rain. We kept moving between the mountains as we had almost given up our fear. We reached a place locally known as ‘Sarai’ where Mughals used to train their armies. It took us three hours to reach there from Srinagar. Still 10km away from Pir ki Gali, it started raining cats and dogs.

We hurried and sheltered ourselves below a roof-carved rock. We were surprised to see violation of weather against our feeble beings. No warm clothes. Neither were the jackets. Only Khursheed had a jacket with him. But adding to the agony—that lay in the bag, seized and strapped. He could open that but we were three and for our sake he preferred to bear the brunt with us.

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It was a rocky terrain on our both sides and there were no trees. We decided to go on as being there was futile, keeping our destiny in view. With every mile, the road showed its toughness and danger. It was getting fearsome and we found no words to interpret it. We assumed to be near to Pir ki Gali, but it was not. It was still 5km away, meaning a lot in those circumstances.

We found a government building on the left side of the slope. We stopped deliberately there without thinking what lies inside it. For that moment, it was soothing to our eyes. We rushed in to stay away from tormenting cold and rain, and found two persons, obviously stranger to us.

It was getting dark, and the building was darker. It was haunting more than the roads. We greeted them and asked for help. They looked as if waiting for us. We were made to sit as we were guests. But soon they felt like we were a threat for them and wanted us to go despite seeing our visible state of despair.

They mentioned SOG, impressing upon us that they might mistake us as militants. SOG is the JKP’s Special Operation Wing, which they talked of, to frighten us to leave. It appeared from them as if the SOGs are stationed just at a stone’s throw from the building.

Being media students with Khursheed having a press card, we tried to convince them that we were no threat for them. We had also two cameras with us. We got a bit bolder and took some pictures of them. They now brought militants into discussion and threatened us saying that a national shooting crew had seen them. When they failed in this trick as well, they started talking of Gujjars. We got confused when they said: Gujjars are dangerous too. Why would Gujjar kill a person? We smelt a rat.

We packed our bags and began to move. No sooner we started leaving they opened their mouths and spoke about their professional obligation to safeguard the government building. They said they are paid 4500 rupees salary a month and that their jobs are not permanent. They now welcomed us and asked us to pay some money for the stay. But how much, they didn’t tell.

We had no choice, so we agreed and stayed seeing the cold and snow outside. We were served two teas with a piece of bread and a dinner, somehow with half steamed pulses. We felt like home as we were out of choice. This appeared to be the only house on the planet.

Now we started interacting with each other. Being fond of humour, we started cracking jokes. They argued on some topics, which stretched the topic. We were still not sure who they actually are. We sometimes talked secretly, “What if they loot us?” But that did not happen.

They brought us the finest things they had got, including pillows, quilt and hubble-bubble. They gave us space later to talk amongst over selves (friends). But due to cold and journey, we slept early.

We woke up at 6 in the morning—maybe because to have some rays of hope from the bright sun to complete our journey with all our objectives fulfilled. We went out to click some snaps of the sheep, climbing down a long and steep slope. The duo too woke up early and gave us breakfast. We ate and decided to leave and pay them the charges they desired. Not yet willing to receive money, they started accompanying us in what we did.

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In the mind of our minds we were expecting low charges, but unknowingly, we were certain about it being much. But as per them, it was not the time to pay. We packed our bags and decided to see the shrine of Pir, in whose name the area is named, Pir ki Gali.

One of them said that he too wanted to go there to make a call as it was the only place to catch signals in the whole area. We thought for a while and finally decided to take him with us. He was now hesitant to have us with him but we insisted as a mark of respect hoping also that it might result in the bill concession in the end. He was still not agreeing to come. We geared up to insist him. This time we succeeded.

We kept our luggage there and took him with us. We reached the shrine and got busy with photography. He started calling. Just 15 minutes out there we decided to leave, and left in slow speed, as we knew it was a bit early to leave the place.

Once back to the government building, we started thinking how much to pay and how to tell them to reduce the bill in case it goes beyond our pocket.

We took our bags and approached the slope to greet them for the last time and pay them. We gathered our courage again and asked for the bill, they replied, “Bill is whatever you will pay.”

We tried to give them less and started the bidding from 500 only. They took it with ease with any bargaining or protest. And thus we failed in our assumptions and couldn’t move our feet out of the slope towards our bikes. Khursheed silently insisted to pay them more. But we were having less money and road to home was awful, but beautiful. We then left paying them very less than they deserved.

(Danish Gul is a Media student, hailing from Srinagar)

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