We were fortunate to witness an early migration this year. The Bakarwal usually migrate southwards from their camps high up near the Kolahoi glacier with the first fall of snow. That’s usually early in October. But this year was an exception. When we asked some of them why they were leaving and where were they headed, they replied the weather was sure to change in the coming week and they are not heading towards their winter homes near Rajouri but to camp elsewhere till the weather improves.
It was bright and sunny so we wondered what they were talking about, hardly expecting snow as Pahalgam was seeing 30 degrees Celsius and it was unbearable hot.
By the 31st of August, the last of the herds with the men guiding them left the high mountains near Pahalgam and it started to rain that afternoon onwards. It rained continuously for the next week and Kashmir witnessed the worst floods in living history barely a week later.
Could it be just a coincidence that these shepherds migrated away from the floods? Would they have known? Were there natural signs that our technology dependent senses failed to notice?
Many conversations with the Bakarwal families and many photographs later, we still have no clue. But what was palpable in every tent was their joy at greeting visitors (us) and their happy lives inside tents. We shared many stories, many laughs and not one rue about anything. Unlike conversations with most others in the valley, there was no mention of politics or terror or strife.
Here are some images of the people on the move. The ruggedly handsome men, the beautiful women and the adorable children were really happy to show off their decked up ponies, share their tents with us, their meals and tea too!