The moment I got out of the car I felt rejuvenated. I felt a sense of indescribable happiness. Despite being only 50 km from Srinagar, it felt a world apart. Little did I know that it housed a few surprises for me. As is customary, I sat down at a tea-stall and ordered a chai.
We Are Brothers
As I lifted the cup, the guy from across asked, “Where are you from?”
“Oh wow. Then we are brothers from the same land”, he replied with a smile.
I was taken aback, “How exactly?”
He smiled again, “See we are Gujjars originally from Gujarat. Our forefathers were nomadic shepherds who left Gujarat many years ago and somehow founded this village. But, essentially our roots are in Gujarat”.
I was shocked and surprised to hear this. In a separatist state that wants no association with India, a humble villager is proud and nostalgic of a state of India he has never visited. I was wrong. Not just a humble villager but most of the village repeated the same narrative. To them, I was a brother from their ancestral land. I had spent time with nomadic Gujjars back home and I knew of their migration along the border all the way to Himachal. I never imagined they went as far north as here.
The Gujjar guy called out to a passerby and said something in Gujjari, their mother tongue. Teardrops rolled out of my eyes as I couldn’t believe that I understood most of what he said because it resembled Kutchi, the language of my district. Centuries ago they brought the language with their sheep and goats. Kutchi language only resides in Kutch, even other Gujaratis don’t understand it. Yet, here in this hamlet, the language is thriving as Gujjari.
Naranag and its treasures