This was some innovation put into practice by the Poonch Brigade in those extraordinary locales of Mandi in the natural cradles of the Pir Panjals!
-‘You look at these scattered houses on the slopes of the Pirpanjals and you get immediately drawn towards them wondering as to how the people would be living up there in them. One does get mesmerized by their awesome beauty but another feeling that creeps into the mind is of their isolation and of the impunity with which the men, ladies and children smile as if they know that they were meant for this lovely place of beauty known as Mandi’!
-‘Everything is a joy here, the landscape, the people and every small little thing which tends to become an interesting piece of news that spreads through the word mouth with each mouth adding something spicy which is unbelievable but still you tend to believe it unlike in other small towns where the news travels at the speed of boredom.’
-‘ Though the place is a thing of beauty destined to be a joy forever yet it was not so the case if you wheel back to two and half decades back as terror sounded the bugles in the Pirpanjals and the rifle fire shattered the calm prevailing thereby reducing the people to a terrified lot not knowing as to what was in store for them the next moment. A brutal death on some slope or a turn was the immediate impulse which invariably struck the mind of the innocents in those scattered houses about which I was talking above gave a look and that eerie feel that they had been possessed by the devils ready to cast their evil spell night after night as the people spend restless nights hoping in hope that the deadly scary knock does not come. The knock at the stroke of midnight and twilight was a routine affair those days and the people had to live with it as the options were less’!
-‘It were the ladies, girls and children who were more vulnerable to the dreadful overtures of the terrorists and thus had been reduced to lifeless beings with all the negativity flowing. One could make out that the energy to lead a promising life was missing. They wanted to move but the fear and the scare held them back and it was here that the Indian Army stepped up the gas to make sure that these lesser mortals too are put on the giant wheel of positivity. It was never going to be easy yet it had to be done. 25 years later Mandi is absolutely a different place with sounds of natural music very much audible, the people pepping it up with their own melodies churning out a splendid remix that spreads the enchanting spell on the viewer and the listener.’!
-‘ Who better than the Indian Army knows about the people of Mandi since a little over two and a half decades the units deployed here have done wonderful things by helping the people out at every turn of their life and till date are doing so unflinchingly. The rapport between the people and the soldiers (affectionately known as Awaam and Jawan) in these areas which has grown over the period of time is absolutely stunning and at times it looks that the secret loveable pact of respect for each other was signed somewhere in the heavens. Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty. This the people of Mandi have seen from close quarters and the Indian Army acknowledges the fact that these people have seen some acute turbulent times where once survival looked hazy and murky but these people with the help of the men in Olive Greens withstood the fury of the times and were fit enough to survive and hence the saga of love continues’!
This was yet another exhibition of the great show of love and togetherness that was presented in Mandi in the nature’s garden that makes you feel that you’ve entered privileged space — a place not just set apart but reverberant too. The show was for the ladies and children and was christened as a ‘fair for the Nariaan (women)’ and it was an absorbing one day event with thousands thronging the place where many facilities were in the offing for the ladies and the children. Needless to mention they loved it all because these are the moments of joy which remain etched in the minds of these people who tend to get flattered by small joys. This was really big for them!
Living in a glass castle is a fascinating experience as one can watch everything and Mandi is one such place from which one can watch those lofty majestic mountains, the birds circling in the skies, the streams and brooks rolling down from the hills, the ladies bouncing behind the cattle and their domesticated herd of animals, a little girl standing with a kid lamb under her armpit and smiling, those shining stars which all are one of the special treats for the people here like us who live out in the wilderness, most of the times serene and calm. They have no worries and live life as if it has to be lived without worries unlike us the city folks, living in fancy apartments which definitely are extraordinary but not as great as the glass house here. Many would love to trade places for them especially those who love swaying cradles of Mother Nature. This was the setting for the showcase event arranged by the Poonch Brigade exclusively for the ladies and children of Mandi. The special events arranged on this great Nariaan festival included:
The medical center: This is always and thus was the most attended place by the ladies as they get themselves checked and have a close talk with the doctors and discuss their problems with them. Children too were examined and subsequently given the requisite medicines.
Agricultural awareness segment: This indeed was a new innovation and was specifically for the farmers and the experts gave them the awareness and the knowledge as to how to manufacture better yield as far as crop cultivation went.
Awareness on banking: This again was another innovative idea because banking has attained importance in modern times because the savings do matter in the longer term. It is money in hand that gets prosperity and is the much needed security. This was a missing link in these remote areas but not so the case now!
Veterinary section: This is always a major attraction in such festivals because cattle rearing is a profession in the mountains. The villagers from far flung areas cme with their cattle to get them checked up and it was an interesting sight to see the vets in uniform helping the people along with their civilian counterparts.
The cultural show and the eateries: The children displayed the wonderful array of talents they had by putting up local folk dances and singing patriotic songs in chorus. Other than this there were many other segments including the eat and munch points. The thousands who attended the show loved it all and left pining for more. Everyone who attended the day-long festival went home satisfied, hailing the splendid efforts put in by the Indian Army.
It’s a hope for a positive future that the men in Olive Greens preach to the less privileged in the areas that were once devastated by terror. That fear inside the body frames of the people had to be killed. With time it was. The darkness that had gone darker had to be lit up. It was with a stunning ability with massive torches flashing against the scary nights, the evil had to be chased so that the people glow and beam amidst these wonderful mountains. Courtesy Poonch Brigade they are and they will continue doing so and that is an assurance!