Travelling has fascinated me from childhood..
My father imbued in me the habit of going on Morning walks with him .He would wake me up at 5.30am dress me up to accompany him to walk a mile or two to the green pastures on the hill side of the city . Srinagar city encircled by mighty snow capped mountains luxuriant with greens . One is simply enthralled and mesmerized by its natural beauty.
Being early riser my father would make fire in the kangiri – the traditional fire pot made of earthen bowl covered around with wicker .This is mobile heater for residents in Kashmir during winter to keep them warm.
He would bake two eggs for me in the fire of kangiri. I would Peel off the eggs and eat them before embarking on a walking tour.
Srinagar city with Dal Lake in background
The October morning was just neither cold nor warm but fascinating enough to tempt us for a long walk..
A starry sky without a speck of cloud. The chirping of birds on the tree bough was soothing to the ears.and some of these would flutter over our heads just to say “hello”.
This was a daily morning phenomenon.
I dressed up in thick cotton pajama and put on ‘pheron’ a loose Kashmiri gown made from woolen cloth.
My father, a six footer of heavy build with dusky complexion, dressed up in Tweed long coat buttoned up to his neck, carrying a staff in his right hand beckoned me to follow him . He walked fast with his outstretched strides .It was very difficult for a tiny figure like me to keep pace with his long steps.
But then he would wait intermittently , hold my hand for a comfortable walk.
The walk was long on the tarred avenue with tall poplar trees on either side, presenting a panoramic view.
The chirpy morning was peaceful and I enjoyed loitering here and there without the noise and honking of the vehicles .
Occasionally a Tonga or a car would speed by and the occupants would wave while zipping across the lonely road.
After trudging for a long walk, we halted by the side of a gurgling stream namely DOODH GANGA every day to enjoy the blissful spectacle of day breaking into dawn.
After crossing the Doodah Ganga we descended the big slope into a plain, a huge ground called Chand Mari. Indian Military forces had occupied Chand Mari as point of security in the city boundaries.
My father went to one of the camps and called ‘‘Hey
Bonwer Singhji Good morning”
“Good morning Sirji” Bonwer singh came out of the camp “how are you my boy “ He continued.
“Very well “ I replied in a low tone
Bonwar singh, a burly Sardarji was Major and in charge of the Security of Chand Mari Military Force. My father struck friendship with him and inadvertently stopped for a cup of tea and a normal gossip .
“ Sirji you had promised that your son will sing a song . I understand he is good singer “ Bonwar Singh asked .
“ yes why not ,my son sings well.” replied my father
“Biju go ahead sing something” ordered my father.
I sang ‘khoya khoya chand khulla asman ‘ a Bollywood song .
‘wah wah Biju you sing beautiful. There is modulation in your voice and I am sure you will be a good singer “ Bonwar singh said .
I felt myself at the top of the world.
For a week or so we could not come to see Bonwar Singh
And finally one day we did halt outside the Camp in Chand Mari .
“Tussi Kethay ho Singh Sahib “ shouted my father
“Kaun Hai “ A voice enquired .
“Is Bonwar Singhnji there” my father asked politely.
A tall Sikh Officer came out while tying up his turban.
“ Hello sirji Bonwar Singh ji is transferrd to Ladakh
and now I , Amitabh singh is new Commander here. “
“Oh I see , glad to meet you .Bonwar singh was a bosom friend just stopped to say hello” my father replied shaking hands with the officer.
“do come sir. I am your new friend .what is your name pl.”
“KNK. Principal in a school ,see you officer sometimes later” my father replied ,waving his hand as we moved onwards.