The Mountain Echo

Akin to a spiritual surge those mountain echoes ricochet an inward ear

M F Janawari
Srinagar, Publish Date: May 21 2018 10:27PM | Updated Date: May 21 2018 10:27PM
The Mountain Echo

In November of 2014, as a Resource Person for MHRD Government of India instituted project Scheme for Protection and Preservation of Endangered Languages, I had a chance to visit ‘Lahaul & Spiti’ district in Himachal Pradesh for the collection of data pertaining to a lesser known language called Chinali. We were a team of three, two Linguists and one Lens man. The primary goal of the visit was to document Chinali in its entirety. So, all of the team members were actually on a job and not on a picnic. The journey was not enjoyed much by the team. Because, that November was very cold and across Rothang the temperature would take a dip from -5oC to -14oC.  

The journey which had started from Old Delhi Railway station completed at Triloknath in Lahaul, after three and half days. Two trains and three buses! However, from Kullu to Triloknath via Keylong, on the other side of Rothang pass, our journey turned altogether different. Brighter daylight, shining tall snowcapped mountains, crossing alpine and temperate zones in Himalayas, alongside the road clear blue-green flowing waters, kissed over by cold wind currents – all that fascinating and enjoyable. It seemed as if we were travelling across some ‘oil on canvas’ painting. Too much amazing and just a wonderland! 

While others were being pulled along by the moving bus, my mind was recollecting Lewis Carol’s Alice in this Wonderland tuned on to Wordsworth’s The Mountain Echo and Allama Iqbal’s Ek aarzoo (A Wish). All the characters and scenes thronged live on my mid. It is a place where almost everything talked but silently. Consciously telling, I was actually lost while finding myself listening to ricochets of some inward ear. Apart from being a fieldworker and a team member, I found myself like that of Alice who had been sent to slay the monster Jabberwocky in this wonderland. Jabberwocky – the monster of pain and grief that was putting up in me. Anyway the mountains were echoing peace and tranquility and while passing meanings to the echoes of those mountains, perhaps to fulfil the Ek Arzoo (A wish) like that of Iqbal’s, the valley of Kashmir stood alongside me. 

Among the team mates, I was the only one from ‘conflict ridden’ an erstwhile paradise –Kashmir. Since childhood I have been a witness to crackdowns, incessant killings, disappearances, encounters, protests, mayhem, grief, sorrows, troopers, roaring guns, bullets, pellets, wailing mothers, crying sisters, mental trauma and the like. The suns have been rising and setting alike in Kashmir, all the time fire-red, gloomy. Kashmir has remained a sordid saga of times in which every day, on an average, has brought pain and violence. Lahaul valley however, shared Kashmir to me in its scenic beauty. It’s people full of love and hospitality. It’s cultural harmony among Buddhists and Hindus. Its flora and fauna like Apples, Pines, Willow trees, Sheep and Mynah birds. Clear skies at night shining with scintillating stars forming constellations similar to those I used to look up in Kashmir night skies. Not only this, but also its rivers and the sound of winds reverberated with a Kashmiri environment.  

Nonetheless, we started our work immediately with the rising sun on next morning. Our camera rolled, recording us interviewing informant population in Triloknath. Microphones, headsets, recorders all in one file! After complete seven days we decided to return to Kullu in order to meet some informants there also. Thus we said a good bye to the loving people of Lahaul and returned. On return journey, I just kept exchanging glances with the silently standing mountains and flat valleys, flowing rivers and glittering snows on mountains. Hushed and mum. Yes, I was totally silent. My team mates could not perhaps experience the same for they were denizens of different climate zones. While they were happy leaving behind the cold temperatures, I found myself brooding inside all alone hawkish enough to look for the peace and tranquility that Kashmir used to harbor. It is a tale, not just mine but, perhaps all of us who have witnessed violence and grief. 

With the sense of echoing mountains, I managed to visit my home in 2016 for ten days. To my regret, those ten days faded away in strike ridden days of Kashmir and I returned to my workplace without visiting woods or the countryside. With almost a hangover of echoing mountains I applied again for vacation in 2017, now for one complete month. To connect the messages transmitted by mountains of Lahaul I visited Gurez, Gulamrg and Pahalgam and tried to find the echoing mountains. No way, these mountains in Kashmir are totally silent. Neither they let me feel the Alice in a wonderland nor did it sound like The Mountain Echo ballad by Wordsworth and not even anything from that of Ek Arzoo by Iqbal. I tried to look for everything and every character but all in vain. All vanished. The monster Jabberwocky – structure of suppression, pain and grief – was still alive inside, bright in grief and sorrow. 

Late night, I tried to look up for the constellations in the sky but the stars seemed departed from the happy constellations. The moon came full round but dull. The wind was turbulent enough to destroy calm. For whole of the month I witnessed not a single mountain echo. But yes, echoing pain and grief in the cries of wailing mothers and sisters, half widows and orphan children. After the months’ time I received my return tickets and left. Then for the next month it was hard for me to understand the actual story which I happened to weave around me. Actually, akin to a spiritual surge touched upon by the serene environment of Lahaul valley it was something lying deep inside me which rebounded an inward ear. I was as an Alice of a wonderland with Ek Arzoo (a wish) to listen to the message of mountains in their echoes. The message was clear. It is us too who feel the pain the humans feel. We live in humans and humans live in us. We are different but all connected to mourn or rejoice together. 


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