The Fire at Midnight

An eyewitness impression of the fire at Frislan, Pahalgam

Zahoor Lone
Publish Date: Dec 12 2012 12:00PM

The Frislan village is one among the nine beautiful villages of  Pahalgam. Nature had blessed this village with almost everything, the snow clad mounts, the mesmerizing and dancing brooks with crystal clear waters, the lofty and dense pine forests and what not. Frislan, as I know, was a village with a difference. Those tranquil and placid environs with fresh air, it was perhaps here where one could feel peace of mind and soul. The hospitable people without pride and prejudice and with good moral grounds forced one to ponder over the present degradation of values in the society. It was here in this small, beautiful hamlet where one could come across the imprints and signs of centuries old traditional Kashmiri items like the granaries, the pitchers, the birch papers, those nostalgic houses with no boundary walls, polished and decorated by the womenfolk with traditional colours (buff, geer etc.).Floral and varied geometrical designs and wood work were worth praising.
Everything was going well up to 24th of November for this village but nature had something else stored for village. The village was caught in a devastating fire mid night, which left hundreds of poor, innocent people homeless. The fire was so fierce and devastating that it engulfed the two main habitations (Herpora and Bonapora) within half an hour and turned the culturally rich houses into heaps of ash and debris. This fateful night was a chilled one. The mercury had gone down much. I too managed to reach the village at 2:45 am. On seeing the village in flames, I founded myself suspended in disbelief. I could see the poor villagers running for their safety. There was complete chaos in the village.Women were wailing and beating their chests while men running helplessly near their burning shelters and crying for help. People were sacrificing their loved and precious animals in their lawns and compounds in the name of Allah so that the merciless fire could spare their ancestral houses. But everyone was helpless before the wish of Allah - the Almighty. Meanwhile, the fire brigade arrived, leaving no stone unturned in saving the life and property of the poor and destitute villagers. Despite putting in hard effort the villagers couldn’t rescue much of their livestock which became victim to these ferocious and merciless flames.
The presence of some LPG cylinders added fuel to the fire. It further deteriorated and worsened the condition of the village houses. It made fire-fighting difficult. I could see the youth taking their old parents on their backs to safer places. To me, it was really an emotional scene. I was busy in the rescue operation along with other people. Sometimes I consoled the victims and at times I rushed for helping them taking their precious things out from their houses.
The rescue operation was going on and the Reshi  Peer Baba from Aishmuqam gave the call for morning prayer .With the onset of dawn  the fire was now under control but the tragedy had just begun.
In the morning, people from nearby localities and villages were descending on Frislan village to sympathize with the people. The role of locals was really worth; they collected grains, clothes, utensils in the morning and prepared meals – a community effort. The role of police, and the local district administration can’t be ignored; they are serving these people till date.
The children, young people and old ones from other villages were seen offering and serving food to the people which reminded me of early village life were brotherhood and harmony was strikingly present.
At the end of the day I just held my face in my hands and began to ponder about village life (which was now disturbed); the crying and helpless people, and also the volunteer organizations who were serving the fire victims. I, with myself, was at times wiping my tears and sometimes laughing.

Author is resident of Pahalgam. He can be reached at

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