A group of 12 Sikh youths from here who were stranded for 10 days near Badrinath shrine in Uttarakhand owe their survival to the native Garhwalis.
"The local residents and hotel owners not only sold eatables at highly subsidised rates but also treated us with affection," recalls the Manjit Singh, 22. They reached here on Thursday night.
The group had left for Hemkunt Sahib on June 13 on motorcycles from Karnal. On encountering heavy rains at Govind Ghat, the base camp for the Sikhs' pilgrimage site in the upper Himalayas, they decided to visit Badrinath, about 40km away. "On reaching Badrinath on the evening of June 15, it started to rain. The electricity supply was disrupted. We thought it as just one tough night. Next day, on hearing the news about cloudburst at Kedarnath valley and massive flooding all around Uttarakhand, we were scared and prayed for our survival," said Manjit, an executive with a private finance firm.
The group was offered free stay at Gita Mandir, opposite the Badrinath shrine. Though no causality was reported at Badrinath but the heavy rains for three consecutive days made them concerned about their return, forcing them to stay in the upper reaches. Besides disruption of power supply, signal from mobile towers was snapped. As a consequence, they lost touch with their families.
"The owners of Saket and Urvashi hotels were benevolent. They charged nominal price for food from 1,000-odd stranded pilgrims. Local residents were equally helpful," Aamarjit Singh said. The hoteliers offered us to take food along and deposit the bills in their bank accounts after reaching home, he said.
On hearing that roads were washed away and no word on any rescue operation due to bad weather, the Sikh youth, along with other volunteers, started serving 'langar' (community kitchen) at Badrinath. "We were touched by the help from Garhwalis. They volunteered to cook food and even provided cooking ingredients," Manjit said.
As the youth had to leave their motorcycles behind, Garhwalis assured them to take care of the vehicles till they return.