On Sar Buland Khan

Last year, in June’s scorching heat, we decided to go for a hike on a less-traveled track. Since only a single day was available for this adventure, after some contemplation we opted for Kakul village to Thandiani track. Thandiani is an ideal tourist destination near Abbottabad. Though it is easily accessible via road, we wanted to reach there through adjacent mountainous terrain which was once a regular passage for travelers going to Kashmir. This passage is now abandoned because locals now prefer to travel on four wheels. Without any idea of how long the track might be, we set off late in the morning. Soon, we started realizing two things; our lack on knowledge of the track and it’s length. In Mehra Rehmat Ali Khan, we asked about the passage and to which direction we had to go. Someone gave us a vague idea about where we should go. This advice was so vague that within half an hour of more tracking, we found ourselves looking for directions again. Unaware of directions, surprised by the track’s length and burnt with sun-rays, we needed some water and a piece of advice on directions. Somehow, we managed to find a source of cold water which was emanating from a rock. Later on, we found out it that this spot was a pilgrimage point for many people who believed that this water was originating from Bari Imam and thus sacred. When I had filled my bottle with fresh and cold water, washed my face and wet my head, I found out that Asim, my partner in this journey, was talking to someone about directions and the time it would take to reach our destination.

He was talking with Sar buland Khan.

Sar Buland Khan was an old man in his fifties, worn out Shalwar Qamees and white hair. When he found out about our destination, unlike others who just waved their hands towards mountain peaks while telling us directions, he started tracking with us. Afraid that his old age would exhaust him soon and he would not be able to walk on this rough track, we requested him to just tell us where to go. But he was insistent that he would travel with us, lest we may forget our path in this forest. He left us with no other option but to accept his services. In our minds, we were thinking that perhaps he wanted to earn some money and thus bothering to travel with us on this tiresome terrain. On our way, he told us that he belonged to Kohistan and the reason he was taking the trouble of walking with us was that some days ago, he had guided another group of boys. They were unable to grasp the directions and had to suffer in their journey. Though we were convinced that boys were in the wrong who could not understand his advice, he appeared to be very ashamed that because of him, those boys had to suffer. We repeatedly requested him that it would be better for him to stay there because we had understood the directions. But he kept on walking with us for almost two hours. Finally we reached at a spot and he told us that Thandiani is just over this mountain and now he would return. While departing, Asim tried to give him some money and here he stunned us both. He reacted so strongly and angrily that we were astonished. He firmly said that he didn’t took this pain for a bunch of cash. He just wanted to earn God’s forgiveness and by offering him some money, we were spoiling all his efforts. Saying this, he went back. He had walked with us for almost two hours, since we were very tired and slow. And he took all this pain just because he wanted God’s forgiveness. No money, no prize. Off he went. He was a poor man and he really needed some money, but he refused to take any. We were speechless.

Yesterday, we were again tracking the same terrain, though now fully aware of the passage. When we passed by Mehra Rehmat Khan, we remembered Sar Buland Khan. And with a wish to have a gossip with this gentleman, we asked a local about his home. He told us that Sar Buland Khan had died a month ago. And for the rest of the journey, we both were silent.

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