On this day, in the devastating fall of 2014, many villages nestled on the banks of Ferozpur Nallah were sacrificing lambs to prevent the wrath of waters. Eight years later, people are now spearheading a change to keep the course clean and the river calm.
Boys barely in their teen-years are keeping a hawkish eye on violators while creating brouhaha on the banks of Ferozpur Nallah.
These passionate cricketers—playing the game of sentiments and shrill—are closely checking trippers around. The homeboys driven by a sense of belongingness are making sure that these sightseers take home leftover food habitually dumped into water bodies during vacations.
Many of these teens grew up facing the flood horrors of 2014. The family or community or moral talks have made them believe that playing with nature is playing with their lives.
And therefore, they keep eye on anything that might anger Ferozpur Nallah, again.
Ringed by pine forests on southern side, the eponymous river snakes down amidst quarry where calloused hands eke out their living. Below the Tangmarg market, the water body is girded by Mount Afarwat on western end.
Those who witnessed its fury in that catastrophic fall of 2014 recount how the river was raged beyond control.
But today, it’s as calm as that nomadic old man who reclines on its bunds for rest after making an arduous journey through mountains.
The gushing, frothy waters take one on the nostalgic flow with cold serenity. It’s a background music to people who come to take a nap under willow trees beside it.
Some sit against big stones and fiddle with their phones. Few make a small circle to share their daily chores with each other. And many pay their obeisance to Baba Sham-u-Din Nayak Sahib (RA) shrine tucked in its course.
Ferozpur Nallah is witness to much water flown down its course for centuries. For schoolchildren, it has always been a haunt.
No sooner the metallic gong at school would be banged to signal end of the dog day, many schoolchildren of yore would head home to change into casuals and then run at full throttle to embrace the water body.
Young boys would jump into the river many a times in a single day. Some would keep their feet into it for a long time.
Back then, Sunday was akin to a big village fair when some parents would bring their morose kids for compulsive cleaning.
Those little creatures would cry their hearts out to postpone their bathing session. Their stern fathers, however, would hear none of them and dip them into the cold waters of Ferozpur to cleanse their blithe bodies.
The big hot stones beside the river were like sunbaking beds that would dry the skinny bodies of boys within minutes. The process would go on many a times except during downpour.
After a quick drizzle during summers, many of those innocent boys would cry their lungs out: “Khudaya taaf kar saaf kukur marai (O dear God, let me offer rooster for your bright blessings).”
In summers, those boys would not like the rain to play spoilsport in their rendezvous with the river. It was a treasure trove of many dead secrets which stashed safely in its bosom.
Ferozpur Nallah is a history unto itself. Fed by glaciers, it’s the tributary of Jhelum. Otherwise known for its poetic elegance, it laid flat everything in its wake in 2014.
The locals had never faced its fury, except during 1950’s — when it ran amok and created mess and muck of everything known as the classic countryside countenance.
Much of that Bakshi era deluge had become folklore before people faced it in a real time.
When Jhelum burst its dykes and submerged the “Venice of East” in 2014, many other rivers followed suit including Ferozpur Nallah.
People living near the bund of this northern canal even witnessed the wrathful waters from the raised piece of land when it was lying flat those long pine trees like cutting the collard greens in kitchen garden and toss them in the bucket with ease.
People sacrificed their healthy lambs in propitiation for their safety particularly those who live near the banks of the Nallah. They knew if the anger did not subside, they would be made to pay fortunes.
At last, the anger allayed, but the damage done by the water body couldn’t be undone.
People recall how busloads of vegetables collected in the village dispatched to the areas where floods left behind a trail of destruction.
Long faces, sunken eyes and parched lips were witness to Ferozpur’s fury. The muddy water still gives them goosebumps. But some foolhardy still toss the bucketful of waste into the water without caring two hoots.
Things, however, have started to fall into their places. Millennials take pains to preserve the waters. The nature’s good health tops their list of priorities. Those mini-mountains of dung cakes were disposed of at many places. They want to see the water stream spick and span.
People reminisce the old days when they fish into the nallah and take home a basketful of trout. Even as the adventure of angling has faded out, villagers still arrive on banks to channelize the fresh water towards their lands for irrigation.
Amidst its various branches veering into different areas, a chunk of land has been flattened, topped with soil and ringed around with cemented wall for playground to kick-start the sports activities and keep illegal acts at bay.
It heralds a good omen.
Ferozpur Nallah is the cherry for the northern hamlet known for its postcard beauty. It’s an identity that local proudly carry to strut around. They owe their recognition to the water body.
Eight years after that flood fury, most of the people wish the calmness of the river than its rage.
They want the river to keep slithering down with serenity and quench the thirst of people and irrigate their lands.