We all have heard about the great ‘Sagarmatha Peak’ (Mount Everest). One way or another we get to know about Nepali sherpas’ too. Of late people have started talking and writing about them. But we I have never heard about our ghumantu gaddi brothers.
This post is dedicated to Jango, the man who in a way is just another extension of the Dhauladhar Himalayas. Jango was just 19 years old when he started guiding people on trekking expeditions. The year was (probably) 1983, two years before I was born. It’s been thirty long years since then.
Last year, I met a gaddi brother below the Indrahar Pass and casually asked about Jango. This is what he had to say about Jango.
“He knows these mountains inside out. Even better than the animals that reside in these mountains. He has lived here with these trees, stones, and wild streams and probably they all complement him. He belongs here.”
(जेंगो इन पहाड़ों को अंदर-बाहर सब जानता है | भालुओं, बंदरों से भी बढ़िया तरीके से | ये पहाड़ जेंगो के हैं, और जेंगो इन पहाड़ों का|)
I first got to know about Jango from Shalabh’s Trek Himachal. Shalabh did a path-breaking work in documenting major treks and passes of Himachal Himalayas. And not so surprisingly, Jango was his companion for most of the treks. They both trekked together for almost 12 months.
Since then I wanted to meet Jango.
Meeting the Legend
Before leaving for the Manimahesh Parikrama trek, I got a chance to meet Jango. Jango is one of the finest trekking guides of Himachal Himalayas, especially Dhauladhar and Pir Panjal ranges. He can talk about these mountains for days. You can sense a musical tone in his voice when he describes his Himalayan expeditions.
Jango lives in Sidhbari, Dharamshala. His native place is Kwarsi, Chamba. And he easily walks from Dharamshala to Kwarsi in a day, just like a casual walk from your apartment to the shopping mall. For every male member of his family, reaching Kwarsi from Sidhbari over the Indrahar Pass is a matter of just 13 hours. Even his youngest son Sachin crossed over the Indrahar in one day. And Sachin is just 13 years old. A student of 10th Standard.
For lesser mortals like me, it takes at least three days to reach Kwarsi from Dharamshala.
His elder son, Praveen is another Jango in the making. He once crossed the treacherous Kundli Pass in just one day (a little more than 13 hours). Otherwise it takes a minimum of three days to cross the Kundli Pass. And that too only if you are a seasoned trekker.
Perhaps, It’s in the blood.
Not many guides will take you across the Kundli Pass these days because it is arguably the most difficult Dhauladhar pass. And as a matter of fact, not many guides know the path that leads to the Kundli Pass.
If you happen to see Jango on the road, you might mistake him for a drunkard or a ‘halwai’. But on a trekking expedition, he is a walking miracle. The best part about trekking with Jango is his culinary skills. He is a master chef. His ‘pahadi chutney’ will remind you of mother’s food.
What’s his real name, probably nobody knows.
He is just Jango. Jango Unchained in the Himalayas.
Jango can be reached at 98162 14339. Consider it your good fortune if you get a chance to trek with him. Because when Jango is around, these Himalayas appear different.
A Word About Gaddis’: The Mountain Gods
Gaddis’ are the first ones to cross the mountain passes of Himachal every year and it’s only after they have crossed, trekkers start mobilizing. The first question being asked before starting a trek expedition is, “Have they crossed yet or not?”
And if they have not crossed, nobody dares. So far, I haven’t met anybody who crossed a pass before gaddis’. There are certain passes in the Pir-Panjal Himalayas, connecting Churah to Lahaul Valley, that are no more known to the trekkers. Reason being; the gaddis’ have stopped taking their livestock to those ranges.
Even the trekking agencies employ gaddis’ because nobody knows these Himalayas better than them.
Next time, when you see a gaddi blocking your road with his livestock, don’t shout at him. Get down, and say thanks to him. Because if you love the mountains and mountain passes, he is the one who makes way for you atop these passes.
Every year. Unfailingly.