In the battle for the survival of the fittest, Kashmiri Khans are making efforts to improve their linguistic skills so that they are no left behind among a host of tourist guides in the Queen of Hills.
It comes as a surprise to see these new age Khans working as guides, speaking fluent English with a foreign accent.
They have not got themselves enrolled in any school of learning but have improved their English and other foreign languages with the help of books, internet and interacting with foreigners.
Shabir Bhatt, 23, from Kulgam district, Kashmir, a Class 12 pass out, has been working in the town as a tourist guide for the past three years. He not only speaks fluent English, but also has a touch of accent akin to an Englishman.
“My education sought back home has helped me interact with foreigners initially when I chose to become a tourist guide in Shimla. I was encouraged to learn more and also got inclined to learn foreign languages to stay popular in the field. At present, I am learning French,” he said.
“Talking to foreign tourists in their native languages is an added advantage as the tourist feels more comfortable. Most of us who speak English or other foreign languages are Class 12 pass and working here as guides to augment the family income,” he added.
Muktar, 27, from Kulgam said he had joined the vocation seven years ago and what has changed for him over the years is being receptive to learn and become well-versed with new languages especially foreign languages.
“Hebrew (Israeli) and French are a few languages I am trying to learn and I am able to interact in these languages with the foreigners. The foreigners also keenly assist us in guiding us with the new word if we make efforts,” he added.
The senior of the lot Nazair, 42, who has picked up nitty-gritty of Hebrew, French and Bengali, besides English, says learning Germany was tough for him.
He said, “Knowledge of foreign languages help them in their job as guides and this profession also pays us handsomely during peak tourist seasons and especially when there is influx of foreigners.”
One of the Khans revealed that one of them was lucky to find a soul mate in a foreigner, whom he had met here in Shimla and is now settled in New Zealand.
Aziz, a tourist guide, in 2007 had switched over from his traditional work of ferrying luggage to work as tourist guide as he finds it a better option as it helps him earn a better living without toiling hard.
They say they are well-versed with the state and have accompanied many tourists during trekking, showing them the undiscovered Himachal and its bountiful blessings which mother nature has bestowed upon the state.