(On the eve of Teachers Day, I thought I would share an excerpt from my travel diary… A memorable trip to Kashmir!)
Wrinkles on his face were witness to many experiences he had in his long life, but his enthusiasm and outlook towards life would put any teenager to shame.
“Terrorists came and held us hostage. They would threaten me and my wife that they would kill our two daughters if we didn’t co-operate. Moreover if this information was leaked out to the police and the army then, they would come and beat us, abuse us for being “anti nationals”. We were punished from both sides”, said Khan Chacha, with a smile on his face.
I still remember that smile of his. That grin belittled the Himalayan Range, as he sat facing his back to it. It seemed as if he had absorbed all the stillness and calmness of the Himalayan Mountain. Just as the storm and the avalanche don’t affect the mountain, Khan Chacha seemed unperturbed even after the tempest in his life.
He continued, “When I was young I used to make my living by accompanying Amarnath tourists till the holy cave (From Sheshnag to Holy Cave). I used to do two trips a day.” (That’s 4X18kms = 72kms)
His nonchalant confession was like a slap on our face. Even though having all the comforts in life, our groaning from a tiring day at work seemed so petty and fake that day.
I may have appeared like a fool to him, but I had to ask him whether he earned well after undergoing so much physical strain. He said, “I earned sufficient to feed my family and myself.” This wasn’t just a reply. It was something which we may have forgotten in our “metro life”. We have knowingly or unknowingly mixed our need with greed.
There was one confession he made which left me spell bound. It has remained etched in my mind ever since. He said, “There are days when we have abundant ration so we eat to our hearts content but there are other days too when there isn’t much food so we end up eating less… But we are HAPPY in either situation.” I was embarrassed on myself as non-availability of my favourite flavour lay chips few hours back had utterly disappointed me.
He resumed his story, “Today I am 80 year-old. I have lived a beautiful life. Both my daughters are married. They too live happily with their husbands. When I look back, though we faced some hardships in our lives but we ensured that it was we who always won and not the hardships.”
Hearing this it made me feel so small. We end up making trivial issues so big and unnecessarily important that life seems impossible to conquer.
By now I was completely floored by his talk. I was in complete awe of this person who though appeared old and feeble but was the real hero, an inspiration and a teacher.
Just as the sun was about to set I asked him with same sincerity just as a disciple would ask his Guru, “Khan Chacha, what is happiness?” Bringing back the same grin on his face, he said, “Khushi aapko chunni hai… Jab tak aap khushi ko nai chunogey khushi aap ko nai chunegi”. (English translation: Happiness is a choice you make. Until and unless you choose happiness, happiness will not find you.)
It was a moment of enlightenment for me. I realized how futile it was to look out for spiritual gurus, motivators, counsellors; When a simple, rustic, uneducated man could come and teach you the meaning of life and all its complexities in the most simplistic manner.
Truly after that discussion, I understood why such people are called as ‘Guide’. Coz they not only guide you through a new place but also guide you in life.
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