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Friends remember three brothers wsahed away in Uttarakhand floods

Three brothers whose grandfather started their family business of mules carrying passengers back and forth from Govind Ghat have left behind mourning families

india Updated: Jul 02, 2013 14:27 IST
Prachi Raturi Misra
Prachi Raturi Misra
Hindustan Times
Kayyum-trying-to-concentrate-on-his-painting-work-He-lost-his-childhood-friend-in-Uttarakhand-floods-HT-Photo-Prachi-Raturi( )

It was the evening of June 16th and the tea time for the group of friends was no different than any other except that they had to talk a little loudly, thanks to the downpour.

"We were sipping tea and talking about how strong the winds were that day, wondering when it would stop raining," says Shamim, one of the five friends huddled together.

Soon there were announcements warning all the mule owners to move further away from the Ganga.

While two of the friends, with a few others started moving away, three brothers (Irshad 30, Shamshad 25 and Samoon 20) said they'd collect their things and get their mules to be at one place.

The three brothers who had been carrying people on their mules from Govindghat to Hemkunt Saheb had seen many rainy days in the hills and this one, they wouldn't have dreamt to be any different.

After all it was their family business.

Their grandfather had done this, as had their father Gani Banjara.

In fact the fourth generation was just about finding their feet in the profession. With 20 mules to call their own, this Banjara family was doing rather well for themselves.

Shamim recalls how excited Irshad's two sons aged 13 and 9 were about learning the tricks of the trade from their father and uncles. Little did they know Mother Nature's plans.

Within an hour, one of the last memories Shamim has is of seeing the one of the three brothers high up on a wall, another one on a pole.

They made desperate calls to their relatives and friends but the chaos was maddening. Shamim with about twenty others from his village managed to walk 20 kms some with their mules, a few others without them, to Joshimath, the next day, despite the downpour.

"The sights were devastating. I'd only heard of Qayamat (the day of resurrection) but that day I thought it was right in front of me.

Dead bodies floating around, people crying for help , it was like the hills were ferocious, something I'd never seen in the many years of walking up the beautiful paths.", recalls Shamim.

Shamim along with about twenty from his village managed to reach back their village Narayanpur Ratan, near Haridwar. A majority of families in this village are from the Banjara community and carry people on mules for a living.

What he'll do for a living, Shamim doesn't know yet but what he does know, he says is that he "will will never look towards the hills again."

Kayyum a painter by profession who works in Mussoorie for a few months in the year is from the same village. And it's not every day that his hands find it difficult to hold his painting brush.

The eldest of the three brothers, Irshad, was his childhood friend.

"I still remember our childhood games of gilli danda, the many stories he'd share of his ride up in the hills with all kind of interesting passengers or his excitement about the upcoming wedding of his youngest brother (Samoon). I wonder what will happen to their families. There are only women left behind in that family", he says, letting out a cold sigh, his hands trying to paint the wall in front of him.

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