The Saffron Bonding

Kishtwar, Jammu & Kashmir

1977

I remember that early morning; I was standing at Kishtwar bus stand waiting for the bus to Jammu. There were very few buses on this route.

After an eventful, stress full but in any way useful stay of 50 days camping at Chaugan (a long green grazing ground with good gradient so large that once an avro plane landed there), it was finally time to leave Kishtwar.

I was Hony. Director of a National level circuitous trekking programme beginning from Kishtwar towards Margan Pass, and back to Kishtwar via Synthen Pass (both above 12,000 feet in height). This trek had never been tried before. With no reeki done, the maps of forest department were the only guides on this route. There were challenges to organise this virgin trek especially for a large number of participants.

Local people both Hindus and Muslims were very cooperative and watched this organisation with awe. As a young person full of passion and energy, I did my best to successfully organise it with 
the help of other friends.

The participants constituted of varied backgrounds. We had a judge (who later became Chief Justice of Delhi High Court), group of young lawyers from Ahmedabad (one of the lawyer rose to become sitting Judge of Supreme Court), a group of JNU students (some of them got their civil services result while trekking and I think 5 or 6 of them became IAS and IPS officers later), a large number of students from famous schools of Mumbai and Delhi including many more from score of other walks of life were a part of this trek. They enjoyed a lot during this journey and I am sure many of them still remember this trek even though it has been a long time of 40 years.

Anyway, I will now deviate from my thoughts because though I have a lot of memories connected to this trek but there is a special one which I would like to share more.

I reached Chaugan before the start of trekking programme and pitched my red coloured two-men tent; from nowhere one local person approached me introducing himself as Mamdu (I think his real name was Mohammed). Mamdu belonged to a Muslim village located below Chaugan. Here I would like to share that this place had a Muslim village on one side of the road and a Hindu village on the other. And interestingly the inhabitants of both the villages were somehow related to one another.

For a while, I glanced at this frail young man who looked much more aged than he really was. “I am a poor man. Please give me some work.”, he said.

“Ok, you can work in the camp”, I told him thinking that we needed some local persons also.

I do not know when and how he became my personal Orderly doing everything for me from bringing food to doing all errands. I just needed to say 'Mamdu, where are you' and he would appear from nowhere. He won my full confidence with his dedication and moved with me like a shadow. Because of his poverty, he was still unmarried and looked after his mother with his meagre daily wage income. 

I moved towards Mamdu and said, “Mamdu now that the camp is over, I am going back to my home in Delhi.”

"Jenab, are you married?” For the first time in so many days he asked me this question.

“No Mamdu, but my mother is there waiting for me.” I said with a slight mischievous smile. I remember Mamdu used to tell me that his mother waits for him every day and so he never stayed in the camp at night. He would go back to his village even if it got dark.

I was at Kishtwar bus stand in this early morning. While shaking hands with locals and camp leaders extending my thanks for their support, I saw Mamdu standing a little away.

Looking through the crowd, I gestured Mamdu to come forward.

"Alright Mamdu, we spent a good time together in Chaugan camp and now its time to say goodbye. Get some job and marry to give peace to your mother’’.

“Jenab Director sahib’’ he looked at me with moist eyes and shovelled a piece of torn Newspaper in my hand.’’ This season we had only one Zafran flower in front of my house. My mother has sent it for your mother’’. He then hugged me and went away.

When I reached back home in Delhi, I kept my Rucksack outside in the veranda of home which was the usual practice after coming back from camping /trekking. My mother would take these dirty cloths later for washing.

In the evening, my mother gave me a torn piece of Urdu Newspaper which she found in a pocket of my pant. For the first time, I unfolded the paper which contained the Saffron flower. I smilingly gave it to my mother narrating the story of Mamdu and how his mother had gifted this lone saffron flower to her.

My mother died in 2005. After a month of her death, I was looking for some papers and while searching the drawer of her almirah, I found a piece of torn Urdu newspaper containing a yellowish spec neatly tucked in one corner.


This torn piece of paper took me 30 years back and all the memories flashed before me. Mothers have this special bond. Seeing that my mother kept this gift of Mamdu’s mother safely and I think with affection all these years, I wondered that how all the mothers in the world are full of so much love and affection.  

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