In 1944 we had a wonderful neighbor. It was the Late Choudhry Khushi Muhammad "Nazir", the Development Minister in the Late Maharaja Hari Singh's regime.
The family had migrated from Gujranwalla, Pakistan to the state as per selection made by His Highness. There was no system of bodyguards or security staff attached to the Minister those days.
One day, while walking on the road, Choudhry Sahib, wearing a simple white shirt and pyjamas and a Fez cap with black threads hanging from the top, noticed a bulb burning in the next door neighbors house, during daylight. Croudhry Sahib knocked at their door, which was answered by the land lady, "Sunder Ded". Choudhry Sahab reprimanded her that they were not only adding to their fuel bills, wastefully, but also denying its better use otherwise. "Sunder Ded" hurriedly went up and switched it off.
Choudhry Khushi Muhammad was also an accomplished poet. His famous poem, 'Jogi' has been enjoyed by great many people. It is said he was once caught somewhere across the Kishan Ganga river, which was in semi-spate condition. Choudhry Sahib was helped across the river by a local Gujjar. As a gesture of goodwill Choudhry Sahib paid the man some coins for helping him in his ordeal. The Gujjar thanked him admirably, and said, "Khuda tennu rakha (guard) banaye". Our lovable colleague, Syed Noor-ul-Hassan, tells me that the Late Choudhry Sahib was Governor at that time.
There are many houses belonging to his family in the Old Gagribal area. The heritage mansion with sprawling lawns which was built by Choudhry Sahab for his family has had the privilege of having been visited by many a top leaders, including the Late Muhammed Ali Jinnah, the Late Maulana Abul Kalam Azad, Ms. Sidiqi, the Late Moulvi Muhammad Yusuf Shah, the Late Ghulam Abbas, the Late Maharaja Hari Singh, the Late Ram Chand Kak and the Late Malik Sher Ahmed.
Choudhry Khushi Muhammad had three sons, Choudhry Faizullah, Choudhry Hameedullah and Choudhry Akramullah. Choudhri Faizullah was Wazir-e-Wazarat, Baramulla at the time of the Qabali invasion in 1947. It is said that he was shot while crossing the LoC at Uri, possibly in 1950. Choudhry Hameedullah was the General Secretary, State Muslim league. He was a full-time politician. Choudhry Akramullah was a famous Football player. He used to play for the "Friends Team", popularly known as "Akram the Goalkeeper".
Choudhry Niyaz Ahmed was one of Choudhry Sahib's close relatives and would live with the family. Choudhry Niyaz Ahmed was first Sessions Judge at Poonch district and later the Chief Secretary of the State. His son, Choudhry Khurshid Ahmed was married to Choudhry Faizullah's daughter.
His brother, Choudhry Atta Muhammad, a tall person seen mostly in tight breeches, was posted as DFO in the State Forest Department
Choudhry Khushi Muhammad, it is said, had a lot of love for mountains, lakes and greenery. That is why he had chosen for his abode a place adjacent to both the hillock and the lake. It is said that he was so fond of this place that he had desired to be buried here after his death. As per his wish, he was buried in the compound of his son's house, which is currently occupied by Shri Ghulam Nabi Naik, IAS (Retd.). The heritage mansion I mentioned earlier subsequently occupants, the last of which had been late Khwaja Ghulam Mohummed Sadiq. It was during his time that if condition of the house was improved. It was however kept in mind that no new construction should obstruct its distinguishing features. Currently the house is being occupied by his grandson, Mr. Iftikhar Sadiq and his family.
The aforementioned "Sundar Ded" was a renowned figure in our Mohalla, known for her day long hard work including looking after her poultry birds and cattle. Her husband, the Late Sidiq Sheikh was an equally hardworking person who lived a simple life with few possessions. They had seven sons and three daughters. Four sons were employed in the Post & Telegraphs department. They gave their second son, the Ghulam Muhammad Sheikh to the Late Kh. Aziz Garib, a close relative for adoption, as he was childless. Their third son, the Late Muhammad Sultan Sheikh, who was also in the Post & Telegraphs Department, was deputed to Burma, in the Second World War. Their elder son Sheikh Ghulam Qadir, was posted in Gilgit, Pakistan, as Post Master. He had to be repatriated from there after great efforts especially on the part of Late Sheikh Muhammad Abdullah who was instrumental in getting him back. Incidentally, the Late Sheikh Sahib had great regard for the inhabitants of our Mohalla, as he had spent many years here possibly during 1932 to 1939 in a house then called 'Karim Manzil'. His marriage too was solemnized over here, a function the a few locals took great care to perform in the most dignified manner.
Gagribal has a mosque in the name of the Late Muhammad Sidiq Sheikh built on the site of a stone platform where Sidiq Sheikh Saheb would spend the whole day in prayers. He would perform ablutions using earthenware water pots under the cover of a cave of the hillock called Takht-e-Suleiman in those times. The Late Prof. B. K. Madan, then Principal of S.P. College Srinagar, who resided nearby, would ensure that Sheikh Sahib had a sufficient number of earthenware pots at his disposal because they were fragile and would often break. The non-muslim families of our neighborhood, including those of Prof. B. K Madan, the Late J. Dechan, the Late S.K. Grewal, the Late S.K Biswas and Late Dutta Sahib (the well known photographer) would uninhibitedly interact with local families. They were all loveable people and very much part of the social milieu of the neighborhood.