BARAGALI: As the call for Maghrib prayer echoes in the air, Muhammad Ajab stops ruminating, leaves his chair and walks towards the servant quarters at the picturesque summer campus of the University of Peshawar.
For several others like Ajab, a Class-IV employee less than 60 years of age, the jungle life is quite peaceful. However, with the beginning of winter season, it becomes a bit stressful due to extremely cold weather at the Baragali summer campus.
Ajab has spent almost 20 years serving in the area; that is why, whenever there is mention of snowfall, he laughs it away.
“When the snow falls, the campus presents a deserted look. Even the monkeys abandon it and move to other forests,” he says while pointing to the trees of the forests that surround the campus.
Ajab said his duty lasts all the day long, but he is there all the time being a resident of the place. “Please excuse me for a moment, as I have to switch on the electricity motor for water supply,” Ajab says as he leaves.
Located at an altitude of 7,700 ft on the Abbottabad-Nathia Gali-Murree Road, Baragali is approximately 30 kilometres from Abbottabad, and spread over an area of 60 acres of land.
Established in 1890, it is the Campus-II of the University of Peshawar since 1965 when the then president, Ayub Khan, handed it over to the University of Peshawar headed by the then vice chancellor, Chaudhry Muhammad Ali.
Monkeys inhabiting the mountainous forests have always been a thing of amusement for visitors. Many nature lovers continue thinking of monkeys while on way to the Baragali campus, but their absence in September saddened them.
“It is strange that there is not a single monkey here this time,” said a visitor, adding that their presence would have added to their joy.
“All the monkeys have moved to Kalabagh nowadays,” explains a Chowkidar, Muhammad Nazeer. Nazeer said he had been serving in the campus for the last 14 years. I try my utmost to manage things in Rs12,200 salary a month, he said, The problem is that pay raise is seldom as compared to prices that hike frequently.
Camp in-charge-cum-supervisor Waheed told The News that there are seven employees, including him. “One is carpenter, two masons and three Chowkidars [watchmen],” he said.
About the absence of monkeys, he said: “As the crops and vegetables are ready in the nearby villages of Bandi Mera, Namli Mera and Nagri Bala, all the monkeys have moved to these villages to attack the agricultural produce.”
The oldest employee at the campus, Muhammad Ajab, can count the details about the nook and corner of the Baragali campus at fingertips. “The Old VC House and New VC House are on the upper side, there is a Khachar Kot built under the then British rule for horses, an officers mess, a kitchen, servant quarters…. “he says.
“It is a very nice place, but the problem is that there is almost four feet snow in winters. Excuse me, I am going to switch off the electricity motor to stop water supply,” he says while leaving the spot. Your correspondent follows him.