O bring me a leaf from the Old Forests, The forests of beauty and song;
Where the galyat, through woods and fair meadows Doth lead their sweet waters along
O bring me a leaf from the Old Forests, A tuft from the glossy black pine;
A leaf from the oak and high Cedar tree And a branch of green holly combine.
O bring me a leaf from the Old Forests,
A token so sacred, O bring;
‘Twill recall those bright scenes to remembrance,
Old friendships around it will cling.
(Originally composed by John D. Cossar has slightly been moderated to adapt to the context to my narrative on Nathia Gali and other small villages/towns called Galyat).
This poem makes me wander in my memory lane whenever I recollect my visits to the Galyat region in the bygone days of my youth.
Galyat region, or hill tract, is a narrow strip or area roughly 50–80 km north-east of Islamabad, extending on both sides of the Punjab–Khyber Pakhtunkhwa border, between Murree & Abbottabad.
The word is derived from the plural of the Urdu/Punjabi word gali, which in hilly regions of Murree area means an alley between two mountains on both sides of which there are valleys which may or may not the highest point in the range.
Ethnically its a homogeneous region where mostly people speak the paharri (hilly area) version of Punjabi. Many call it Hindko, others call it Paharri, Potohari or a version of Punjabi. There are some scattered areas, villages and hamlets in the Hazara districts where Pashtu is also spoken along with Punjabi/Hindko/Paharri.
Geographically only three are in the Punjab that is:
whereas all the rest 14 are in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-PK) province of Pakistan.
2. Bara Gali
3. Changla Gali
4. Kooza Gali
5. Dunga Gali
6. Khaira Gali
8. Nathia Gali
9. Kala Bagh
It was Eid-ul-fitr which I celebrated with the usual routine, offered Eid prayer at our sector B mosque called the Rafi Mosque. Prayer was held at 7:15 in the morning
Rafi Mosque in Sector B, Phase VIII of Bahria Town, where this scribe offered Eid Prayer.
Later, having my breakfast with usual sawayyan (vermicelli) cooked with ghee, sugar & milk, by lunch time, different friends started coming in to say hello with their Eid greetings. In the evening it was my duty likewise, to visit such friends who could not come due to one reason or the other. (Eid celebrations are anyway mostly a family affair).
So it was just the next day after Eid (the 27th of June 2017) that we usually call in our rustic Punjabi “Turoo” that’s the day Eid is leaving us. (The word Turoo comes from Tur jana i.e. gone away). The third day of Eid is likewise called Muroo, that’s leaving off permanently.
So, it was on Turoo day of Eid that we left early in the morning and the road journey became increasingly pleasant as we drove out of Islamabad, crossed Chhattar and Salgiran and then to Tret Bangla.
I couldn’t help but notice the number of bikers heading towards the hills – most of them on locally assembled Chinese or Japanese versions. This rekindled another yearning, to own one of them, the usual specimen of our biking history. But at the senior age that I’m, such a wish remains a wish and to that comes also my dislike for the two wheelers.
With such an adventurous machine that a motor bike is, my fascination is that of hate & love. I love it when I see young people riding on their motor bikes, all in a jolly mood, biking smoothly on the up hills sometime & downhill another time, but then that hate comes up from my youth days when I used to travel to the Institute of Textile Technology in the then Lyallpur on my two wheeler i.e. a Vespa scooter.
Although this two wheeler in those days was a love machine of the youth, a rage by the young of the college and the university especially when the famous Hollywood movie Come September, came on our Pakistani cinema screens.
Rock Hudson with Gina Lolobrigida in Hollywood movie of the 1960’s “Come September”.
Watching movies in those days, was the prime source of entertainment for in those days one could not think of modern day gadgets such as laptops, smart phones, 24/7 running cable TV channels, home theaters and such similar stuffs. If somebody would ever had talked about it, the poor chap surely would surely have been dubbed as insane.
Every day when I used to drive about 9 or 10 kilometers from my home to Manawala village where the institute was located, I used to come across all the dirt, mosquitoes, flies and small pebbles falling like small bullets on my face. Whenever a lorry or a truck passed along the road moving parallel to me, throwing all such nasty stuffs on me, ever since then I lost my love for the two wheelers.
But sometime when I see the youth playing on their bikes running in a zoom, I do envy them.
As we drove up from Salgiran, weather became cooler and our husband-wife skirmishes turned into smiles. This was the usual, full of thrill drive in the hills and the twists and turns on the road gave the hilarity of an F1 racer. I know people would say that road to Murree is not ‘that hard’ but for us, people of the plains, it is always a memorable experience.
The blue cover and shroud of white greyish mist took my breath away; the serpent-like road was another attraction and it was hard to keep my eyes off from the beauty all around.
It was also a time to do the mandatory shooting, some stills & a few videos, done by Hira (my daughter) and the scenic locales allowed us to take plenty.
As I stood on the side of the road and soaked everything in, the hills appeared sage-like, wanting to tell me about the deeper purposes of life. The depth of the valley appeared to be teaching about how to absorb the shocks of life.
On — we moved forward to Tret. Tret used to be a small hamlet in the past, a beautiful waterfall was always there, and a big pipal or some similar tree hovering almost on that part of the road. But now Tret too is large and a fairly polluted town.
In my student days, reaching Tret meant that we are approaching Murree, as weather started getting cooler by every mile we trekked on a lorry or in a car.. But now Tret is fairly warmer than those days, pity the environment getting polluted in these simple, small yet beautiful villages & towns around Murree.
On way to Nathia Gali
In those days, moving in Murree was impossible without warm clothing but now you frequently see visitors in Murree especially from our Punjab plains in thin, light lawn dresses. Then to think of electric fans was impossible but now you cannot sit in Murree summer without fans.
Having crossed Tret we moved upwards to Murree and reached there almost in about 25 minutes or so.
Murree was as usual full of hustle and bustle of peak summer season. Everywhere you could see fellows from all walks of life strolling on the Mall of Murree. The weather was fairly warm, therefore; one could see people in normal light weight cotton wear. Sun was quite hot and this made lot of people to carry umbrellas too.