The Stranger8 mins 32 8 mins 32
Nature has bestowed all her blessings upon Kashmir with implausible beauty. From the Majestic Pir Panjal ranges and thickly scented Kashmir, cypress branches to meandering the rivers and verdant meadows, every corner of the valley are filled with great beauty. The valley of Kashmir symbolizes the serenity that can stimulate poetry in you. But how many of you have heard about the paranormal activities happening in different districts and cities of Kashmir. How many of you have experienced paranormal activities going on while you were in Kashmir? How many of us are aware of the stories that haunt people who live in Kashmir. But those deep stunning valleys hold more, something that we can't see, understand or describe in words but can only feel crawling on our skin and seeking a home in the darks of our mind. Ask any local, you would get to hear many stories of Kupwara, Udhampur Army Quarters or Srinagar, etc. The people staying near the Army Quarters in Srinagar talk about the supernatural activities happening there. They hear strange voices coming from there between 1 a.m. To 3 p.m. They even describe the apparitions seen during that time.
All these stories look interested to know but bring a chill in the spine when experienced. I am personally keen to hear such stories since my childhood. Even during school or college trips to Hills, such stories were shared by all of our friends sitting around the bonfire. Late nights were booked only for this. One of my known friend Arif, a Muslim Kashmiri boy used to narrate such stories to all of us. He was fond of seeing fear on everyone's face. The ordinary nights used to become Spooky. No-one used to have the courage to go out to the washroom alone after midnight. Well, those were the days of our college life. After completing college everyone got separated. Some of us had families to look after. Time passed and all of us got busy with our own responsibilities and work. Now we even forgot the name of some colleagues.
It was in the year 2002 when I got an opportunity to visit Kashmir. This was for the first time when I visited Kashmir and was mesmerized by its beauty. It is really a Paradise on Earth. The Chinar tree spread all over add to its beauty. I stayed there with a family known to me. We enjoyed 2 days in visiting Gulmarg and Sonmarg. Suddenly I remembered about supernatural powers and paranormal activities out of nowhere. Now I started inquiring about those ghost stories mostly talked by locals. I met some Shepherds who told me about Gawkadal Bridge were 27 years ago some Kashmiris were brutally massacred for revolting against the country. The souls of those people who faced untimely death could even now be seen on the bridge and strange noises were also heard. Many persons had experienced that. Now out of fear they don't cross that Bridge after 8 p.m. In the evening.
Some locals further talked about the Twin villages of Kunan and Poshpara in Kupwara district of Kashmir. These two villages were considered to be haunted. According to them more than a hundred young girls were raped and killed by uniformed men and terrorists. These women apparitions made strange noises and created problems for the menfolk. That night I could not sleep. I remembered Arif and tried to find his mobile number. From one of my friends who was still in contact with him, I got his contact number. The next day I went to Srinagar at Lal Chowk to do some shopping. I bought a lot of things for my family. When I was buying some shawls for myself, someone patted on my back. I turned around to see who it was. I got shocked, he was none other but Arif standing with the same smile on his face. For a few seconds, I got frozen out of shock. His usual greetings brought me back into my senses. He told me that he was hesitant to come near me thinking if I am the same person or some stranger. I was happy to see him after so many years. He had become quite matured. Then he told me that he owned the next shop and when he saw me, he came there. Then we spent some time together sipping kahwa (Kashmiri Tea) in a nearby restaurant. He invited me to dinner at his place and requested me to meet his family. I agreed and requested him to pick me up in the evening.
In the evening he picked me up and we reached his house. I met his family and to my surprise, everyone knew me as Arif had told them about me. After the dinner, I asked him to drop me back but his family requested and warned me not to go at that hour as it was not safe. I informed my people that I won't be coming back that night. We shared a lot of our old memories. He then narrated a real incident experienced by him. The incident held some six years after he had come back to Kashmir. One day his father send him for some work and warned him to come back the same evening. He also told him not to give a lift to anyone on the way while coming back. He talked about a stranger also who happened to be dead but was seen by many people there. Arif narrated that when he was coming back from kupwada, through a lonely stretch of about 4-5 miles which seemed to be quite dangerous as many terrorists had kidnapped people there. He left kupwada at 3:30 p.m. So that in the light he would be able to cross that stretch on a motorbike. His bike was half-filled with fuel. He thought of getting fuel on the outskirts of Kupwara. When he was crossing that area, he saw an old sikh man wearing only white kurta pajama. It seemed as if he was not feeling cold even in the month of November. It was chilly cold. He beckoned Arif in midway and requested him to drop him at an area close by. He remembered his father's warning of not giving a lift to any stranger. But on seeing that old man who still looked a strong man with a white beard and hair, he forgot the warning. The old man was continuously looking at Arif for his help. Arif felt as if his mind was controlled by him. He told the stranger that he did not have much fuel and he would not be able to come back after dropping him at his destination. But he insisted.
At last, Arif thought of dropping him. He requested him to sit at back and drove fast towards the route told by him. He kept on driving for nearly one hour still the house could not be seen as mentioned by him. Not even a single soul could be seen. Chilly winds had started biting his cheeks. It started getting dark though it was only 6.30 pm due to fog he was facing a problem in driving fast. After having driven for nearly two hours, the old man asked him to stop. He blessed and thanked Arif for his help. Arif got relaxed and turned his bike back on that road for coming to the main road he was supposed to take for coming home. While turning, he thought of looking at the old man to make sure that he got down at the right place as there was not even a single house on that road and around the dense jungle. To his surprise, in just a minute the old man got vanished and there was no sign of him. Arif got panicked and without wasting any time drove as fast as he could to get out of that road. He didn’t stop in between and finally reached his house at 10.30 pm. His father was worried and standing outside waiting for him. Arif narrated the whole incident to his family. Then suddenly he realized how it is possible for him to come back home without filling the fuel tank. He went to the garage to check the fuel. He found that the tank was full. This was quite shocking for everyone. His father told him that there was no such place in Kupwada as described by Arif.
The next morning, the news appeared in the newspaper that the terrorists attacked and killed four young boys in Kupwada on the same road leading back to Srinagar. Later, he could co-relate the incident with the story told by locals that a stranger, a Sikh wearing white dress, was killed in an ambush of Army and the terrorists long back. According to the locals, he was a pious soul who helped everyone even long after his death. Arif thanked God for sending him in disguise for saving his life.
After listening, I felt chill in the spine and could not sleep that night. I could notice the signs of fear on Arif’s face while he was narrating the incident to me. The next morning, he dropped me back after taking promise to keep in touch in the future.