Sunday, March 3, 2013

Harsil Diaries 5

Harsil Diaries Sitemap

Harsil Diaries 1
Harsil Diaries 2
Harsil Diaries 3
Harsil Diaries 4

Earning the name “Pahari” or mountain man, Wilson also became an expert ornithologist and huntsman. Unfortunately the ecological awareness of the British was next to nil. They plundered the countryside not only of trees but of wildlife of every kind, hunting deer, bear, tigers, and countless rare birds which are now extinct. Pahari Wilson was himself a taxidermist, another gruesome British pastime and some of his specimens are still in British Museum.
Wilson worked behind the scenes for British intelligence and played major roles in preventing the Russian annexation of India, something we forget was a distinct possibility prior to WWI; as well as the protection of Mussoorie and Garhwal during the “mutiny” of 1857. In this way his prior military record was wiped clean. Later on Wilson settled in Murroorie as a respectable rich British subject. His son was married in St. Paul’s Church in Landour.
Jadganga bridge at Lankachatti

As he was denied permission by the Raja of Tehri-Garhwal for his logging business, but later, Raja gave him a lease, for a share in the profits. It is said that the Raja himself became very rich and Wilson was a welcome guest. It is said that in course of time, Raja Wilson, as he was known by then, begun minting his own currency and as late as the 1930s, his coins were found with some local people.
According to some historians, the timber trade had made Wilson so wealthy and powerful that the local Raja of Tehri-Garhwal ignored to protect his subjects, whom Wilson brutalized and used as slaves.
Dhrali Village area
Raja Wilson seemed to have been a sort of architect and built what is known today as Wilson’s Cottage in Mussoorie (now in ruins). He also built the Charlieville Hotel in the hill station of Mussoorie, which now houses the Government of India training institute for the Indian Administrative Service recruits.
According to journalists Hugh & Colleen Gantzer, Wilson built a double-storied mansion in the village of Harsil on a deodar trunk frame filled with roughly dressed stones. He built the old suspension bridge over Jadganga and local people say that his ghost still comes on the bridge. Wilson’s bridge has long since collapsed, but traces of it still remain. But according to the locals, on moonlit nights one can still see the Raja Wilson galloping around the gone bridge to make the unwilling pilgrims have faith in his vanished creation. Today a 410-feet iron bridge spans the river Jadganga.
A Bharonghati, there are a couple of restaurants and a couple of newly built basic hotels. Whole area lies under the dense deodar trees. A road from here goes along the River Jadganga to the Tibet border. Google map shows that this road is then connected to a road in Tibet near Neelang and then to Karakoram highway.
Ganges near Bhairon Ghati
At a restaurant I ask for the barber, they show me the army perimeter and I walk there. It is 3PM. Barber is not here, he maintains his one chair stall in the market till noon and then goes to his barracks.
I am a desperate man but they tell me that nearest Nai is in Gangotri. Even if I may not find a Nai in Gangotri bazaar, I will find several on the ghat where people bring their kids for mundhan.
In not there then I will be illegally crossing China border to Neelang or to Lahasa to get a shave. This is what I promise to myself.
A Man got to do what a Man got to do.
Gangotri is barely 11 kilometers from bharonghati. I resume my walk and road again faces Ganges river flowing in the ravine below with great noise. Mountain in front of us at the other side of the Ganges is split beautifully by Rudugaria Gad. It was always a mystery place for me till we (I and Briana) walked over this beautiful split to get to Audon’s Col and then to Kedarnath. Well that was some near death experience, not once but persistently for several days.
As I arrive near Gangotri, trees are now stunted due to the extreme winter stress. Mountains are bare brown and sanded and polished by snow. In the grooves I find half ripe shilajit. Shilajit never has a chance to ripen at this height because snow scrapes it off each year. Anyway I take a fistful of gunk and at a waterfall dissolve it in the mud and apply it over my face and this gives me a temporary relief.
Near Gangotri
This is not a height of pilgrim season so I don’t face any ugly traffic jams but enter in the town. It is near 5.30PM and evening is thickening and air is now cold. I begun my walk from Jhala in the morning for just to Harsil and ended up here. I am not wearing any jacket or sweater as usual.
Gangotri is a one street long small town. Bus stand is at the beginning of the town, from here everybody walks in the market followed by the temple at the end. I check if any Jeep will be going towards Jhala because it is already very late. A jeep driver tells me that he will be leaving as jeep fills up. At the most he will be waiting for passengers till 6.30 PM. Then nothing will be moving on the road because it is illegal to drive on this road maintained by Military after sunset and military check posts are present at Bhaironghati, Lankachatti and Harsil.
Around the middle I find a barber stall, a kid who is not more than 10 years is there.
“नाई साब कहाँ हैं?,” I ask him.
Kid tells me, “आप जबतक कुर्सी पर बैठो, मास्टर जी जरा मंदिर तक गए हैं.”
He begins shaving preparations. He brings a cupful of warm water from next door tea shop and begins massaging my face.
Damn it, it feels so good. I give it a second thought; it is a matter of survival for a couple of more days. I should wait.
After massage, kid applies soap on my face. He keeps on brushing my face in the wait for Masterjee for ten minutes.
Ganga Mai is giving me one chance after another.
As I prepare to run away, then I discover that kid has a razor in his hand, just one inches away from my nose.
Now I am scared but I freeze so not to distract the kid.
I watch with horror, cold steel touching my face and he is shaving me.
What can I do now? I let the kid butcher my treasure. I have tears in my eyes.
Kid has done shave and suddenly Masterjee appears and when he sees that kid gave me a shave, he gives a juicy slap on the kids face.
Kids starts weeping very loud in the market and starts shouting and pointing on the Masterji.
“कहता रहता है, की तू कुछ भी सीख नहीं सकता. इसने मुझे कुछ बी नहीं सिखाया. कुछ भी सीखने का मौका न दिया. तीन महीने से मैं इस का मुफ्त का नौकर हूँ. मुफ्त में मैं यहाँ सिरफ झाड़ू पोंचा कर रहाँ हूँ. मैं इस के पास नाइ गिरी सीखनी आया था किन्तु इस्सको यह मंजूर नहीं था.”
Now a crowd is gathered around us.
Then this kid grabs me by my collar and pulls me in such a way forcefully that my head is at his shoulder. With his other hand he is creasing my face.
He continues shouting, “लोगों, तुम सुब देख लो. मैंने खुद ई इन बाऊ जी की शेव कर दी. अंडे जैसा कर दिया. चिकना कर दिया, चमका दिया. पूछ लो इन बाऊ जी से.”
On the other hand Masterji too was now hysterical and was cursing the kid.
“भूतनी के, डोमनी के, नालायक … कल बाबूजी कू पता चले गा जब बाबूजी का चेहरा फोड़ो से भर जायगा.”
Kid was not letting me go; my face was his prized trophy. He was still shouting and creasing my face like I was some horse. As I tried to pull myself, he grabbed me with my ear now.
“लोगों, तुम सुब देख लो. मैंने खुद, मैंने खुद, मैंने खुद …….”
Then I got a chance and I begin running.
Masterjee ran after me for money, kid also ran to catch up his show model.
I shout, “कैसे पैसे, कल मेरा चेहरा फोड़ों से भर जायगा. !”
He shouted back, “अरे ऐसा नहीं होएगा. मैं तो इससे इस लिए कहा था की यह ऐसा अगले बार ना करे.”
Then Masterji shouted to the kid, “मुरारी, तू चल, तेरे से तो मैं बाद मैं निपटूगा.”
Kid begins nodding his head and shouted back to Masterjee, “तू भी चल तेरे को मैं बाद मैं निपटूगा. मुझे सब पता है की तू कहाँ कहाँ जाता है. इतने बड़े धाम मैं भी तू बकरी खाता है.”
Now Masterjee runs after kid, kid runs towards the temple and I run towards the bus stand because it is 6PM and I must catch that last jeep Jhala.
A jeep is moving and I ran after it and cling behind it and then I find Masterjee running after the jeep but he could not catch us.
I sing -
Born Free.
I arrive at Parkash’s hotel at 7PM and I find him very worried. He was asking people coming from Gangotri direction if they have seen me. Then he notices my shining face, he gives me a hug.
“यार, पहले तुम कहीं के छठे हुए गुंडे बदमाश लगते थे.”
His wife also agreed and her number one enemy – Parkash’s mother also agreed.
His mother rubbed desi ghee on my beloved cheek.
At night over a bottle of week liquor that I and Parkash both shared, I was thinking about Murari.
We both saluted to the triumph of Murari who shaved my face and made it look like a white egg.
He is the winner of the day and he fired his boss (The Masterjee).
One day he will become a great barber.
Once in Tuting (Arunanchal Pradesh) a barber messed up my head so brutally that next day I had to shave my own head. I was a laughing stock in that tribal animistic village.
When he was cutting my hair, he was also chanting, “I learned my craft at 30 chair saloon in Bombay. Whenever Govinda came he asked for me only.”
Tuting is 20 kilometers from Tibet border where Bharamputra River comes crashing in India, from Tibet.
Next day when I again walk to Harsil, there I see Turpentine oil and I sigh! May be that would have worked on my face. It is just carbolic acid.
Then at noon I find a discarded wrapper of Paanch Photo Naswar –
Another sigh!
This would have worked definitely, this sniffing tobacco.
Chidia chug gaye khet.

1 comment:

  1. Dr.Rakesh Gandhi-AdvocateSeptember 23, 2013 at 12:52 AM

    wonderful posts with nice clicks.....i will say is unlucky....lost valuable writer


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