It was September 1984, when Dr. Nazir Ahmad Salroo Sahib was transferred to Jammu and Kashmir Drass Health Centre. Dr. Nazir is presently posted in State Hospital, Srinagar Kashmir (India). He holds a Master’s degree in surgery and is a prominent doctor of Kashmir valley. He is a virtuous and God fearing person. He is physically sound and has an appealing appearance. He was worried about the new posting. Drass is very far from Srinagar. It is known as the coldest place.
Ladakh is a place surrounded by mountains, which remain snowcapped throughout the year. Ladakh is situated at the height of 13500 feet from sea level. Drass is also titled as the ‘emblem of Kashmir valley’. At the bottom of the mountains there are wavering pastures and serpentine brooks. Some wildlife is also seen there. Some people believe that this whole belt is a haunted place. It is said that many places of this region are shrouded in mysteries. Snow leopards, foxes, black necked cranes and wolves are also witnessed in this region.
Drass remains in the grip of chilling cold almost throughout the year. During the winter the mercury falls to more than 55 degrees Celsius. This valley under the shadow of mountains and ice-bound, remains cut off from the rest of the world for most of the year.
There is no bus service from Srinagar direct to Drass. One has to board a bus of Ladakh service. The bus arrives at Kargil in the evening and leaves for Ladakh on the following day. The tourists and other passengers going to Ladakh have to stay at Kargil for the night.
Dr. Nazir Ahmad Salroo Sahib tried to get his order deferred for some time, but did not succeed and finally left for Drass and joined the Drass Health Centre.
One day in the month of February 1985, he went Kargil to receive his salary and approached the concerned functionary in the Kargil office. He was not paid the salary on this very day and was told that it would be disbursed to him on the next day. So there was no alternative but to stay at Kargil for the night.
One of his friends, namely Dr. Anil, who happens to be a veterinary surgeon, was also posted at Kargil, so Dr. Nazir decided to stay with Dr. Anil for the night. Dr. Anil had been allotted a quarter at Kargil. Next day, Dr. Nazir received his emoluments and wanted to leave for Drass but no bus was available. The situation forced him again to halt at Kargil. However, that day he could not make his stay with Dr. Anil because he had some other schedule and had left for some other place. Dr. Nazir partook with another friend posted at Kargil as a telephone operator. He was putting up there along with his wife and both were residing in the telephone exchange office. Dr. Nazir was joined by other acquaintances also. Since Dr. Nazir is an affable personality, he has the capacity to make friends easily.
Eight persons were putting up in the exchange office including Mr. Amit Koul and his wife. One doctor, namely Dr. Dhar, was also staying with them. In the evening Dr. Nazir along with his friend Dr. Dhar went out for a walk and moved through the market of Kargil. Both went to Lala Ji’s residence, which falls within the vicinity of the bazaar. Lala Ji is watchmaker and hails from Jammu. He is familiar with Dr. Dhar. Lala Ji offered some fried saltiest gram flour paste and fish to his guests. During the chat Lala Ji narrated to them a dreadful event he had encountered the day before. Lala Ji told them that while he was in sleep, he suddenly heard a scream of his employee. The bedroom where Lala Ji used to sleep was shared by his two employees also. Lala Ji woke up on hearing this terrific cry. What he discovered in the room was sufficient to sink one’s heart. But Lala Ji was a man of stern stuff. Some incandescent creature possessing humanly features was in the room. The room was illuminated. Lala ji believed it to be some demon. While continuing his tale, Lala Ji said that the demon had caught the neck of his servant and when he picked up his torch and was ready to attack it, the demon escaped. Lala Ji witnessed him running and he also ran after it. But his chasing did not yield any result as the demon’s speed was very fast. After covering some distance the demon disappeared. Lala Ji said that it was 2 AM. He believed that it would come again. He had made up his mind to kill the demon the next time it came and had kept a sword at the head of the bed. Dr. Nazir did not believe it. Nevertheless, he consoled Lala Ji.
After passing sometime with Lala Ji, Dr. Nazir and Dr. Dhar returned to the exchange office. The room where they got a space to spend their night had to be shared by three person’s: Dr. Nazir, Dr. Dhar and a driver. Only two beds were available in the room, so Dr. Dhar and Dr. Nazir shared one bed while the other was left for the driver.
At 10 PM electricity went off as a daily routine. Only a few minutes would have passed in going to bed when the door was knocked at. Both the doctors guessed it were some medical emergency. Dr. Nazir opened the door and found Lala Ji’s servant outside. He was carrying a plastic container. He was visibly frightened. He wanted some water as he had not dared to fill his container in the nearby brook. This brook was comparatively farther than this place. The servant was given some water so he left.
Hardly some half an hour would have passed when there was a violent beating on the door. Both doctors were perturbed. However, one of them opened the door and found two servants of Lala Ji there. When they were asked about their presence at that late hour, they informed that Lala Ji was in an unconscious state and that made them to come.
Dr. Nazir took it nonchalantly as he thought Lala Ji would be in a drunken state. However, the doctors alarmed other occupants of the residence and the whole group, except Mr. and Mrs. Koul, went to Lala Ji’s residence. Lala Ji was found unconscious. Dr. Nazir and Dr. Dhar checked over Lala Ji but found him medically normal except that that he was unconscious. They could not feel any sort of alcoholic smell from Lala Ji. One among group (deemed virtuous) read something and blew his breath over Lala Ji. Lala Ji suddenly rose up and was wonderstruck, looking around as if to track out something.
Dr. Nazir could not conclude anything out of this situation. He became thoughtful. When Lala Ji was asked what had happened to him, he narrated a sensational story. According to Lala Ji, a charming and beautiful young girl came to him and insisted to share his bed. She had dressed herself seductively and was looking very smart. Lala Ji rejected her offer. But she was persistent. She tried to enter his bedding which Lala resisted. This infuriated her and she came to fists. Lala confronted her. As per the statement of Lala Ji, he was still quarrelling with her in his dream but was suddenly awakened.
After consoling Lala, the group returned to their residence. Everybody went to his specified room. Dr. Dhar had locked the room before going to Lala. On return when he opened the lock and went inside the room, he was dumbfounded to find their bedding rolled. A towel was laid on the floor and utensils placed on it. This situation unnerved them all. They again locked the room and all three went to another room, where five persons were already sleeping.
Now they arranged their beddings in a way that Dr. Nazir (Muslim) and four Hindus (Non-Muslims) slept in one and the other three Muslims, including driver, shared another.
Just a few minutes would have passed when they heard the mysterious sounds of some unknown person as if walking on the roof. All of a sudden a violent noise like a big bang rocked the whole building. It was as if a gas cylinder exploded. Everyone was horrified. After a pause, a peculiar voice sounded through the chimneys of the coal stove. It continued for a while. It was like a cat’s mew. Then again there was a pause. Sensation gripped every one.
This silence did not last long. Yet again violent knocking started on the door. Each person there was horror-struck. Dr. Nazir cried out, “Who is it?” There was no reply.
He lit the emergency lamp.
Knocking was heard again. Emergency lamp turned off automatically. They wanted to light it again but this time it did not work. So a candle was lit. Knocking continued for an hour and then it was calm. For quite a while, nothing untoward was noticed. This spell provided a cushion to them. They had relief and hoped there would be nothing more ghastly. They covered themselves up under the quilt and nodded off. Mr. Saproo, a junior engineer at Kargil, was sleeping alongside Dr. Nazir. Apruptly he screamed and began groaning with pain. When asked what had happened he said he was kicked by someone. Dr. Dhar too began crying. He was feeling some heavy substance on his chest. The voice of Dr. Dhar changed and peculiar sounds came from his mouth. Dr. Nazir banged his head and Dr. Dhar became normal. Now Mr. Mam, who was working in the exchange office, became prey to unknown hands. The attack of evil was now upon him. He was hammered on his foot. Everyone was terror-stricken. Some invisible hands began to pull the quilt. The possessors attempted to resist by holding the quilt, but it turned soon into tatters. A light began to come through the chimney of the hard coal stove and moved around the room. Again there was calm now, comparatively for a long duration. So they went to sleep.
Some time passed peacefully. Then sounds of utensils began to emerge from the kitchen. Dr. Nazir discovered an egg on the head side of the bed. He flung the egg in anger but to his utter surprise it did not crack. Dr. Nazir said it was perhaps because of the low temperature. Mercury had fallen to 18 degrees Celsius. That would have been the reason of egg remaining intact.
But now everyone there turned furious on these ‘misadventures’ of evil. They decided, come what may, to counter against it. After all, everything has a limit. Their patience had saturated. They opened the door and went out to combat the demon. This time their spirits were high. They searched every bit of the building, scaled the wall, climbed on the roof, looked through the kitchen, and examined the adjacent positions. But there was none and they found nothing wrong. Then they ‘marched’ towards their bed. They ‘trooped in’ the room and tried to shut the door, but couldn’t. They applied their full force, but in vain. Some unusual music faded in and gained a high pitch. It continued for an hour almost.
Now it was dawn. Call for prayers emerged from the heights of mosques. All fear vanished.
What was that? Could anyone tell it?
Nazir Jahangir is a freelance writer