Fiols, we and Emersons live in tents at Pahalgam
By James E. McEldowney
What a good time everyone had on Dal Lake, but after two weeks on the houseboat, the Emersons and we decided it would be wonderful to see more of Kashmir. We heard about the famous place, Pahalgam. So we decided to go there. "But we can't take our houseboat," Betty Ann said, "Where will we stay?" When we looked into the matter we found that there were no hotels there. Most visitors lived in tents. So before we left the houseboat we had arranged not only for tents but for people to set up the tents and help us in other ways. Then we were ready to go.
Pahalgam was more than half way up the side of a high mountain. Ruth and Dorothy had been talking most of the way, like women do. When we came to some low dark buildings they said, "Surely this is not where we are going." Sure enough the bus went past the buildings to a most beautiful little valley. "I see a river," Betty Ann said, but Frank was more interested in the tall trees that were growing along the river. Ruth said, "Just look at all those beautiful flowers," for the whole valley was a riot of color. "Dorothy said, "I didn't think it would be warm enough this high in the mountains for all those flowers." Frank and Henry were looking for a place to pitch our tents. The people who were to put them up had reached Pahalgam before we did and were waiting for us.
We were not the only ones to live in tents. Many missionaries and other people were already in tents along the river and among the trees. Henry said, Let's put both tents close together not far from the river." That was where the men set them up. The men also brought cots and bedding to make us comfortable. They fixed up a small table and some chairs in front of the tents. Then one of them went off to the bazaar to buy food for our meals.
Betty Ann, Frank and I walked over to the river. "What a noise it makes." Betty Ann said. "Why does it make so much noise?" Frank asked. I tried to explain. "See how fast the river flows? See how it splashes up against the rocks in the stream and along the shore? [++Page 24] That is what makes the noise." Betty Ann stooped down and put her hand in the water. She suddenly stood up. "Wow, the water is cold." "Of course it is," I said, "The water comes from the snow high up in the mountains. When the sun shines on the snow and it melts it turns into water. But the water is almost as cold as the snow. The water then flows into the river. That is the reason the river is ice-cold."
Just then a little boy saw the children and ran toward us. He spoke to Betty Ann and Frank, "My name is Bruce. We live in that tent over there," and he pointed to one that was not far from ours. "Come, you must see where I live." So they began to run across the field toward his tent and I followed as fast as I could. When we got near the tent Bruce's father and mother came out to meet us. We told who we were and they told us they were Frank and Esther Fiol, who were also missionaries. And before long we met other people who lived in the tents scattered among the trees in the valley.
On Sunday all three of our families went with others to the church service. The service was in a larger tent far enough from the roar of the river so we could hear the preacher. The preacher was Bishop Brenton Badley, whom I had known for some time. Near the close of the service the Bishop asked people to tell how Christ had changed their lives. Many in the tent spoke. Then to our surprise Bruce got up. His father had often told how God had forgiven his sins before he became a minister. Bruce had heard all that so often that although he was only five he began, "I've been a sinner all my life, but now, by God's grace I have been saved." His father drew Bruce to him and gave him a big hug. Soon the meeting came to an end. The grown-up people talked with each other, but the children ran out of the tent and played.
A few days later Henry said, "Jim why don't we climb that near-by low mountain today?" I had wanted to hike up into the mountains so we set out for the climb. Each of us had a walking stick. We had almost reached the top when we saw some sheep grazing up ahead of us. All at once two sheep dogs ran toward us and began to attack us. They must have thought we were going to harm the sheep. Somehow I was able to use my walking stick to keep them from biting me, but Henry was not so fortunate. One of the dogs bit him on both his arm and leg before the man in charge of the sheep saw what was happening and called the dogs off. "The dogs may have rabies," Henry said. Rabies is a kind of disease that some sick dogs have. If they bite a person, that person can also get rabies and it makes them very sick. Right away Henry started back down the mountain. He called back, "We must go to the dispensary in Palgham so I can get medicine so I won't have rabies." So we came down the mountain as fast as we could and did not even stop at the tents but went to the dispensary where Henry was given his first shot. The medicine had to be put in a tube and given through a needle stuck into his stomach. It was rather [++Page 25] painful. He would not get rabies if he had the injections. He would have to have a shot every day while we were in Palgham. You should have heard the excitement when we returned to the tents and told what had happened.
One day both the Emersons and we walked up the valley until we came to a great pile of snow in a shaded place. "My it's cold," Betty Ann said, when she tried to pick up some snow. On the way back the children ran and played so hard they were almost tired out. Every day there was something new to do. But it was not long before it was time to leave Palgham.
Ruth had been going to see a missionary doctor who lived in one of the tents. She had discovered that she was going to have a baby after a few months. You would think all of us would be happy, and in a way we were. But because we were far from home, it was a problem. You see, after Betty Ann was born and when Ruth was again expecting a child, something happened. The baby came before it was time and it did not live. So the missionary doctor said, "Ruth you should not make that long bus trip for two months." Ruth replied, "But what will I do? I am expected at the college to teach my courses." And then I spoke up and said, "Now we will have to find a way for you to stay here with Betty Ann. I will go back to the college alone." The Emersons also had to go back to their work. I knew Ruth would manage somehow for she was a very courageous person. After a moment she said, "It will be lonely here. How can I live in the tent far from everyone else? Don't leave us until you can be sure Betty Ann and I will be safe."
In no time at all we found a solution. Mrs. Ewing, another missionary, and her daughter Peggy, who was some years older than Betty Ann, were in a tent some distance from ours. Mrs. Ewing said, "Ruth, have them move your tent next to ours. You will be safe here and you and Betty Ann can eat your meals with us." What a relief for all of us to hear that. But nevertheless it was a very sad morning when I had to say 'Good-by" and start back to Jabalpur alone.
Not long after that the monsoon or rainy season began. Some days it rained all day so Ruth and Betty Ann could not even go outside the tent. The top of the tent was very low and when the rain pounded down on it there was a steady noise. Also the tent was small and the cots took up most of the room so there was little space to move around. Ruth tried to find ways to keep Betty Ann happy. She had only a few games they could play. Betty Ann seemed most content when Ruth told of the time she was a little girl in Iowa. She told about all the things she and her sisters and brother did. This went on for a number of days and then all of a sudden Betty Ann cried out, "What can I do? I have never lived in Iowa. I have never had such fun as you used to have. When I grow older, I won't be able to tell my children about all the wonderful things you had happen to you." Ruth laughed. "Betty Ann," she [++Page 26] said, "here you are in the fairyland of Kashmir, with snow covered mountains all around you. I never lived in a houseboat. When I was a little girl I never saw mountains covered with snow. You are having wonderful things happen to you. You will have lots of things to tell your children - things I never dreamed of when I was little."
Somehow they endured those solitary weeks. I kept writing them every day. Then Ruth's cousin, Ethel Calkins, wrote her. "I am coming to Palagham soon. It has been a month since Jim left. The doctor may let you go down to a nearby river if you are careful. We will get a houseboat and I can stay with you a whole month." Ruth was careful and Betty Ann was a sweet girl who did not fuss too much when all these things were happening. At the end of that month the doctor said Ruth could travel if she would be careful, so she and Betty Ann came back to Jabalpur.
And now that Betty Ann is a mother and even a grandmother she looks back on that time in Palagham and laughs and laughs. She can't count the times she has told her children and her grandchildren all the wonderful things that happened to her when she was little in Kashmir. [by James E. McEldowney, August 1997]
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