Atta ul Munim Zahid
History has told us that things are not always planned. Sometimes a contingency or chance happening makes one embark upon someone which they cherish and follow the whole life. Sometimes the circumstances and prevailing scenario compel a person to go for pastime which later on becomes his/her lifelong passion.
Kashmir- 2010, the valley was brewing and simmering with resentment and rancour against the Indian state. The whole of the valley was gripped in panic, fear and frustration. Intense clashes across the valley, human deaths which had a huge toll on every aspect and dimension of life marked everyday of that unforgettable summer. Deserted roads, locked offices and empty schools, one could hardly find any means of travelling on the roads. The situation was a siege and people were incarcerated in their own homes. The situation and conditions in the urban belt were worse and there was some respite in rural parts.
The month was July and a scorcher as one would expect, Azmat Wani (11 then) an adventurous and lively boy upon getting bored by the dreaded situation left his home in Gassirana, a village next to Kulgam town, and ventured towards the cricket ground situated in the countryside. The cricket ground was deserted and there was nobody except Muneeb, a close friend of Azmat sitting lonely and completely absorbed in his thoughts.
Azmat joined him and both the boys stood there in dismay and hopelessly engaged in a conversation about random stuff. After a while the boys felt the heat of July and Azmat suggested a bath. They went to take a bath in the nearby river, Vishov which passes by their village Gassirana separating it from the main town of Kulgam. The open water bath can be equated with a spa treatment, it invigorates and rejuvenates straightaway.
Done with the refreshing bath, while the boys were donning clothes Azmat’s eyes longingly looked at the beautiful, enticing hill and this sight brainstormed him and he came up with an idea of venturing up the hill. Azmat shared this idea with Muneeb and he agreed instantly without giving it a second thought.
‘We started with a brisk speed slowly, slowing down and we finally achieved a uniform speed. The hill was laced with beautiful pine trees, wild bushes and grass and many other diverse plants. Simply the hill was replete with abundant flora.’ Azmat said remembering their first small trek.
The boys were thrilled by this unplanned and unexpected trek.
Adventure always comes with a bit of anxiety and this anxiety about the pitfalls which might lay ahead made them take U-turn and descend down. They returned home thrilled and excited, shared this story with three other boys who formed an integral part of their group. The three other boys were Shahid Wani, Usama and Zubair. All the five were of the same age group. The story of this daring duo (Azmat and Muneeb) intrigued the other boys and they were keen on embarking their first trek.
Now the second trek was supposed to be a planned one and the boys acquired all the requisite paraphernalia. Just after a week from the first trek the boys set out again and this time it was a complete group with all the accessories required for a trek. The boys went up and up, encountered a number of berry bearing plants and bushes. The boys were fascinated by this rich floral diversity and they went on and on. After about 4 hours of rambling they were on the top of a hill.
‘It was something we have never experienced. We could see the whole Kulgam from that top. We felt as if we were dreaming.’ Shahid said narrating his first experience as a trekker.
The boys relaxed on the top for a while, ate some food and finally descended down. The boys returned lively, cheerful and gratified to a great extend.
This maiden trip sparked their adventurous disposition and they were determined not to look back now. Their parents discouraged them, punished them, grounded them but all in vain because one can’t quell and suppress ones passion and that too of a teenager.
In 2013, Azmat decided to start a full-fledged trekking club to organize trekking events.
The boys wanted to systematize their trekking campaign and so they assumed a name. ‘Fast Five Trekking Club’ as suggested by Azmat, an avid fan of Hollywood movies, began to make headlines though not official by recurrent treks all around the districts of Shopian and Kulgam. They used social media to propagate their message. “We propagated the message about the club through social media and we were stunned by the response people showed for trekking,” Zubair said.
Being in close proximity with the nature, they developed strong love for it and therefore campaigned for the protection of environment time and again. They assumed multiple roles now. While Azmat plan the treks, Muneeb looks after the technical stuff. Shahid is the photographer for the club, Usama is an expert to set up camps and Zubair looks after the Club’s social media accounts. They are branded as adventurers, philanthropists and environmentalists in the area.
“‘Ann posh teli yeli wann posh’ became our moto.” Azmat said.
Apart from trekking they also love cycling and they always cycle around to enquire and to investigate about the various plights of people of far flung areas especially the Gujjar community. They raised a lot of money from people for charity purposes and slowly started coming into limelight. With small treks around Kulgam, the club started their first official trek to Kousarnag – a glacier site in Shopian district, in 2014. Apart from the club’s permanent member, they were joined by four others. They trekked to Kousarnag and camped there for three days.
“It was the most wonderful experience of my life,” Azmat said. “I remember when I cried seeing our team setting up the camps in Kousarnag. We were living our dream,” he added, smiling shyly.
They have trekked to many explored destinations in Kulgam and Shopian districts such as Zajmarg, Humpathri, Sheikh Kein and much more.
“We have trekked almost the entire Pir Panjal range.” Usama said.
After 2014 floods, the boys actively, passionately and desperately helped the victims in various ways. Their fast cycling skills played a significant role in their philanthropic activities. Their parents who opposed them tooth and nail in the beginning are currently taking pride in them. They now actively support them both morally and financially. All the boys acquired brand new racing bicycles which help them to reach different places in no time. They own bicycles like Rossin Italian, Cannondale ST1000 and Eddy Merckx.
Fast Five Club is getting popular day by day and their eyes are now set on Ladakh and Gurez. They are not only looking forward to go for treks and hikes in Ladakh and Gurez but also do philanthropic and environmentalist campaigns there.