Today, they are again on an expedition- a travel that burns oil and energy, turns into a travelogue, earns them a living and serves everybody`s purpose. It is their job, their love, their passion, their livelihood and their life. It is what defines them and it is what they have been doing for a long now. Innovation is in their blood and the thing that drives them. It is a team of eight people and it is the teamwork that is the hallmark of their business.
Some eight years ago it started coincidentally when four of them decided to travel from chimer-a village at the southern end of south Kashmir, to Mahoo Mangit-a village in Jammu province. Seven kilometer rutted road to Gulzarabad, followed by lush green pastures of ‘badi behak’ and then mighty pir panjal range is what separates the two villages. It is a 5 hour travel on foot during summers. But during winters it is almost impossible to tread the barrier of pir panjal engulfed with snow in meters. One winter they decide to amble down through the same route on foot. It is freezing cold, the icicles can be seen ubiquitously, the pitted road from chimer to Gulzarabad blocked, and a passerby mocked and termed the idea foolish. But brave and daring they are, adventurous and innovative they are, they don`t pay heed to what they call intimidation. There they set the plan, a plan that was risky, could be fatal and suicidal but none of them was fettered by such hackneyed thoughts. No fear of the chilling cold atmosphere, no care of the ice cold winds, they are driven by the spirit to do something innovative and to explore the nature in its raw form. Underneath waterproof jackets and trousers they wear warm woolen clothes. High heel khraaws (wooden shoes) covered with straw ropes give their footwear a brittle texture to avoid slip while walking on the icy surface. A camera, inter alia, is to record the travel and to keep the videos and images as souvenirs in the times to come. Little do they know that it will be a launch pad of their career. Pointing to the horizon where mountain and sky seemed to meet, the outspoken Ayan in his heavy thick voice screams out of joy and amazement, “See the beauty, the mighty whitey snow has protruded from HooniHaing (the hilltop) and intruded into the sky. There they meet where I shall meet them. In an hour or two my heavy legs will kiss the summit.” As they proceed the hill seems lengthening in height. Then there is cool breeze with a soothing sound but after a while it turns into rumbling, grows into grumbling and gradually all of them began trembling. The wind blowing like a lion roaring, the thud of a tree falling nearby and the frightful ambience could shake the courage of bravest of the brave. There they stood to all the challenges and shielded each other against the ill plans of nature. With hand in hand, out of circumstances Ayan emerged as a leader who could lead his people to come out of any sort of precarious situation. His roaring voice subdued the howling of the fierce, bone-chilling winds. The belief that together they can; the belief that there is a leader who has a strategy to frame a plan to face any challenge that could hamper their scheduled program; the hope that they are not a crowd of 4 but a unit that is united keeps them going. There is no limit to their happiness and they are literally reveling when they reach Hooni Haing- the highest peak wherefrom they just have to slither down a few kilometers to reach their final destination. Amidst the excitement of making it there, hullaballoo, reveling and roistering Ayan hollered, ‘hey, come on. It is enough celebration. Calm down.’ but condescending Abid does not pay heed to his repeated warnings. Contrary to the suggestions he keeps dancing. Wind blew, his foot slipped, he slithered down as if he had somersaulted backwards on his head. The icy surface that had took them 4 hours to traverse; he covered it back in a few minutes but this time unwillingly. Dejected, numbness enveloped the whole group. They looked at each other, perplexed and clueless. Furtively scanning the rattled faces, Ayan broke the silence with a fierce scream in the tone of a war cry, ” let`s move down” As they started, he hollered, ‘backwards, I mean’.
“What!” all thundered out frightfully.
“I mean it. I really mean it. No whispering, no murmuring, there is nothing to discuss in it and nothing to argue about. It is simple. Either all of us will make it to Mahoo or none of us will.” Anger and agony swept the whole camp. They were exhausted. They thought they’ll not make it back. Some even feared it’ll be the end of their journey as well as that of their life. Bound by the protocol to follow every word of the leader in letter and spirit, they followed but hesitantly. As they reached the halfway mark where they had assumed Abid might have landed dead or alive, to their utter surprise they sighted him far away struggling to mount back, his eyes set on the peak. They scurried down and when they came closer, Abid was limping barefooted, without head gear, with scratches in his hands and bruises in his face. The stout-hearted Ayan cupped his chin in his hand and broke down. Tears rolled down his eyes and a tear drop froze on his left cheek and glinted. Abid clasped his arm and pleaded him to stand up. Ah! You came all the way down for me. Friends, I salute your magnanimity.
All others felt embarrassed and guilty for they had at one juncture, given up the idea of coming to any help of Abid. The conversation lulled for a few minutes. “Forget what happened. It was a trivial matter and the situation doesn’t demand focusing on mundane things. It’s not time to retrospect. It’s high time that we move back. Abid is in immediate need of treatment and he has to be hospitalized for that” Ayan persisted. Dejected, they left. All hopes dashed and all plans failed. They collected some twigs, dry crooks and branches of trees, weaved and twisted them over four wood poles and made an ordinary cot. They covered it with polythene, lay Ayesha on it and slid it down the slope till they reached the base of the hill that doubles as a cricket ground-swathed in white blanket of snow. There from they shouldered Ayesha turn by turn and two hours down the line they were back to their homes. Exhausted and literally fatigued they needed rest the most. They watched the video and tried to recollect whatever they had had to go through. All the scenic beauties were recorded in words, thanks to the writing skill of Abid. Abid, the man who had vehemently opposed the idea of going to Mahoo in the first place was a man of innovative ideas. He now came up with the idea of making travelogues of the write-ups and videos, with some requisite editing that he was skilled in. In a matter of days the travelogues went viral. Their skills were internationally recognized and appreciated. They were critically acclaimed and celebrated throughout the world. They started receiving calls from various production houses for working for them. They couldn’t believe how everything around them seemed favoring them and how they turned out to be celebrities out of nowhere.
It was becoming onerous for them to handle the situation and they had gone practically out of idea. At the end of the day they rejected all offers and planned to set up their own venture. It was easy said than done. It required professionally skilled manpower, financially sound resources and above all due time, attention and determination. Abid suggested being specific and to focus on single subject- traveling and making travelogues. The idea worked. Money started flowing in. They now have, inter alia, an official van, not an ordinary one but a specially designed, unique in built, features and specifications. Though Ayan was the founding CEO of the company but due to his sagaciousness and adeptness in the field of their work, Abid was dominating everything and everybody else in the group including Ayan. Gradually it instigated a grudge in Ayan against John. Analogously Ayan was anxious of Abid’s growing ambitions and self-importance. They could be often seen arguing about petty issues and trivial matters. Soon they were at logger heads and the whole group had to bear the brunt as the focus of most of their meetings shifted from discussing about their work to arguing about who should lead. Lobbyism took over the team spirit and enviousness replaced their cooperation. It began with heavy argumentations between the two that often ended up in creating friction within the group. Both tried to garner support of the maximum members to their side. Gradually the dissensions kept proliferating and the gap kept widening. Then it happened that nobody had anticipated. After a heated debate while traveling in which whole group was on board to PatniTop over a mundane issue whether to stop for lunch at Banihal or Rambun, Ayan remained adamant on not having lunch anywhere but at Rambun. As they crossed Ramsu, the altercation turned into a scuffle. Infuriated, Ayan in his attempt to slap John lost control over the vehicle. It skidded off the road and into a deep gorge.
(The author is a freelancer. His views are personal)