To think of it now, every day, every activity, in Biscoe school has become a fond memory.
Let me share my memories about the annual camp in Pahalgam. I guess I was in 7th class. To start with we had to deposit dry rations with Ghulam Nabi, the tuck shop sahab. Then the day came when we had to depart for Pahalgam. The busses were to leave from the school grounds. We reached Pahalgam sometime in the afternoon and started downloading our bedding, clothing, etc.
The first thing I observed was that the campsite was on a plateau and there was a steep climb to reach it. Well there were no options and I started dragging myself....holdall on my right shoulder, attache and “Ganj Bhane” (Tiffin box) in my left hand. Finally on the top we were allocated tents and what a relief it was to have hot tea served by tuck-shop owner in the afternoon. This was our first day so we were not supposed to be trekking etc that day. In the next couple of days we went trekking to Aru, Fraslan, Baisaran etc. After a tiring trek, the reward was the afternoon tea and later on supper. My favorite would be mutton curry with rice.
Then it would be gossip etc before we would hit the bed. In the later days some of us mustered the strength to play board games under candle light. Once we were detected playing and the game board was taken away and we were told to remain standing outside the tent through the night as a punishment. By 1am I was freezing. I guess around 3am the camp master took pity at us and allowed us to get into our tents with the warning " No playing after bed time....".
The one difficult thing about camping was personal hygiene. I think I would only take one or two full bath in 7 days. Well the reason was that we had to go to Lidder and people who have been to Pahalgam know how cold the water is especially at 7 am! In fact the water would feel no different from extremely hot water and I guess that is where the term “Teri Seyt Dazun” (burning in cold) comes from. Also Lidder was a dangerous river with strong flow and massive boulders in it. My elder brother on one of the camping trips had slipped and fallen into the water. Luckily he was a good swimmer and was able to reach a boulder till rescue came. I know after that he would not take Lidder for granted.
On one of the mornings Master Rajinder, whom we knew to posses a colorful personality, observed some tourists taking a stroll. So he framed a new slogan..... "Kale Kale; Dil Wale" (since he had a dark complexion) and asked us to shout the new slogan at the top of our lungs.....
On the 5th day we were supposed to go to the high camp which was a small valley on the other side of Chandanwari. Half of this valley was covered by a stream fed from a glacier. This was a grueling 10+ hours trek. On the way Mr.J M Ray identified some of peaks around that area. We reached the high camp at around
At around 8 pm we started hearing thunder. Within 30 minutes it started raining like crazy ... probably a cloud burst which is very common in higher reaches around Lidderwat. In another 30 minutes our beddings were floating in water…. The more observant ones shouted “flood flood” !! The stream in the valley had swollen and flooded the valley. The teachers came to the tents and asked us to leave everything and form into a group outside. Man o man....was I miserable...tired..... Totally drenched..... Cold....shivering... It was already dark and with the torrents of rain the visibility was at most 2-3 meters.
Somehow the teachers had found some Gujjars and they guided us into the sheds where they keep their animals in summer. There was hardly any space to sit... forget sleeping, but it was a welcome change from being swept in the flood in the valley below. Next morning true to the Biscoe spirit we acted as if nothing had happened and after morning chai and boiled eggs started towards Chandanwari. It was a beautiful day and as the day warmed, out clothes started drying. While crossing the ridge, we sighted a majestic bird which seemed like a big eagle with massive wing span to us. Mr Ray declared it as a Condor... The Chandanwari side was very beautiful with more vegetation.
At around 2pm we stopped by the river to have lunch. After lunch some boys started Kashmiri mousiki. In fact they were able to get a "Not" (big earthen vessel) from a local gujjar and like true fankars started singing and playing the Not. I can never forget that scene. Willows....water gushing by......Kashmiri chakri.... Well all good things come to an end and we started marching towards Fraslan at around 4 pm. On the way, we had some amazing “Lassi” or “Gurus” from Gujjars. The best thirst quencher I had.
Back at Pahalgam we straight away hit the bunks till supper. Next night was campfire................
This is another one of my fond memories…… My affinity with water started because of my elder brother Sumir. He was a good swimmer and I was also expected to come up to that mark. So I remember in 4th class I did my Tank-Pass (with great difficulty).
The next year in 5th I went for round the boats. I remember the line up of the boats we were supposed to go around three times or so. It was frustrating to be swimming so near to the boats and at the same time not touch them. Then the next step was one mile. It was a glorious sunny day and the good thing was that I could see the destination from Nehru park. So while swimming, I kept on viewing the destination to give me confidence to finish one mile.
My first attempt at Dal cross was a failure. I guess, I swam little bit further from Kotar Khana (Centaur hotel did not exist then) and that was it. I was too exhausted and cold and couldn’t think of going any further. I climbed the boat escorting me and the boat master consoled me that is was okay and I could do it the next year.
In 6th and I was determined to do the Dal Cross. In the morning we assembled at Gagri-Bal (Nehru park) and we were given some meat and Kandir Wan choche. After that it was applying oam teel (mustard oil) liberally on our bodies to give us some amount of insulation from the water and to keep the skin from peeling off because of extended exposure to water.
As luck would have it, it was a cold windy day. Anyway, I entered the water with one thing in mind….. I had to get the Dal Cross certificate. I started swimming with the House Master and we were determined to make it happen for the house. Initially around Kotar Khana he started throwing bread in the water for me to eat. By the time I would reach the bread, they would be soaked in water. So after a few tasteless bites, I decided not to have any more of the stuff. The boat Master asked me why I was not eating and I told him frankly that the bread tasted awful after getting soaked. He asked me “Teli Kya Khyak”…what will you eat then…. I replied “Bhat”. So he started feeding me rice and vegetables from his own tiffin since I was not supposed to touch the boat. I can never forget that kind act. Around Char Chinari I started feeling tired and resorted to back stroke….the only stroke that was natural to me. There were problems with the back stroke; it was difficult for me to keep going in a straight line since I couldn’t see the direction to my destination. So I was zig-zagging which was frustrating the rowers of the boat escorting me.
Because of my first unsuccessful attempt at Dal-Cross, my brother had showed me how to relax in water. Basically you just stretch out, take a slow deep breath and roll inside water. This helped me to relax my muscles and in due time I was at Wunt Kadal (near Nishat) and my dream to be a Dal Crosser was accomplished.