In our journeys and travels we generally come across various people of different culture and habits , who makes us wander how different the world is than we actually perceive or knew off sitting at home. This is the beauty of travel that we get to meet such wonderful souls and get to hear their stories. Of how they live , how they pray and how they fight and survive with a smile. This piece is on one such community of people.
In my journey to kashmir great lakes times and again I have met the finest horsemen or rather mule owners if I need to be correct technically. Why they are finest ?? Well , if you have trekked all over himalayas , you will know that the kashmiris are the best when it comes to control and work with their horses and mules. I can assure you , of all the problems I have faced with employing the horsemen for portering rations and goods on trek , I have felt most relaxed and chilled when I worked in kashmir.
This people have an ancestral history of owning horses and mules. Mules and other livestock have been their primary assets and are very core to their lives and habits of livelihood. They have a precious talent of managing 10 mules at a time , and that too with whistling by their lips. They are not only talented but most hard working too. I would explain in an incident. Generally , when we are done with a camp in the morning , we require to fold the tents back , organise the goods and rations , and prepare it manually for being packed and transported on mule's back. This whole process requires time and attention by the cook and other helpers. For lest , you miss out on anythings , you might not find it in the next camp. Smallest items such as sugar and salt is of great essence , worth more than golds on treks and expeditions. Hence , the cook and the trek staff are on high alert on every trek. But in kashmir , they need not worry. For the horsemen , takes care of everything from packing to settling of the goods on the horse back to setting down the camp for trekkers in next campsite. All is done single handedly by them. No where else in India I have come across such a talented intelligent hard working community. And the best part is their hearts are of gold as of any other mountain people you might find anywhere. They are well behaved , smiley faced and living the true essence of life. I don't know about others but they actually motivate me and makes me feel good about things , which is their blessings.
In my journeys I have come across many such mule owners and some has been my best hosts. Once the trek ended I have attended their invites at home and have had a tummy full of splendid meals. Some mule owners are also high priests of the local mosque , some teachers and some farmers , but to earn extra bucks they work as mule porters on the trek. The kashmir winter is harsh and stands for 4 - 5 months. When all activities in kashmir are closed. All this people stay generally inside their home , happy with their families. The rest of the year goes into gathering food and ration for this winter months for which they work extra hours. Some love adventures as we do and hence , come with us for treks though they are not in need for any work.
In many emergency issues , trekkers are stranded on the high passes of kashmir , not feeling good and their health might deteriorate or they might have a cramp or any medical issues. This horsemen act as saviours then. I have seen them gone off 10kms transporting the luggage and then again comming back to fetch the trekkers on the mules. That is the kind of intensity and value of life they give. And regretfully I have seen , trekkers not even tipping them anything even after so much they have had done. Quite a funny world we live in. Yet , the horsemen live in peace and smile and continue to serve us to the best of their abilities as they have done for years before and shall do for years after. Only thing is , are we going to show some gratitude from here after?
Note from the Author,
" Travel made me rich and free. Magic and miracles are true , once you wander on the roads to places different and divine. I have collected so many thoughts and stories while being a Tour & Trek guide for last seven years. Sharing with you all, those memories and stories , and wishing you all , that someday you guys travel far and wide too. I am not a great writer , so ignore my grammar and spellings, read it with feelings, and you might just be affected with the wanderlust to hit the road"