Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Welcome winter

And we see the whole valley trapped in what can charmingly be called as ‘winternet’, writes SALMAN NIZAMI

The winter has once again announced its arrival. Rather it has already made the announcement. The whole valley is reeling under cold wave and the temperature dipping to - 5° C. But it is no news. If we believe the elderly citizens, then winter was cruel and harsh in those days, and such people are surprised on seeing peoples approach towards modern winter. They believe human beings are responsible for this dramatic climate change, as we work against Nature and don’t protect our planet. But cool-cool winter without snow is just like a rose without smell. At present, the winter is experiencing a dry spell. I hope, not a magic spell. For the last few years, it has been a deserted winter. The suns believing in ‘make hay while the sun shines’. Chalai-Kalan leaves us crippled. For a moment, people are enjoying dry days. It seems as if the sun will break all the records. But now, people understand the importance of snow and are praying to God, “Where is the snow?” So, we request God for white snow flakes, dancing all the way, as the farmers are worst affected and are experiencing drought like situation. I don’t know whether snow has arrived or not by the time my words go into the print, but when I am writing it, we are suffering from bad cold and dry cough, not even cured by syrups and expectorants. We understand ‘All things bright and beautiful’. Every thing is important in its own place. If Dev Anand as disguised saint in ‘Guide’ could help the villagers to bring rain, then our prayers for snow will not go unnoticed. By the time, this article is published; ‘God’ must be smiling or may be He will take time to check the overall situation. Humorously speaking, when the wish of snow will be granted, and I hope it’s, then people will desire for dry weather. How can we forget the unforgettable winter of 1997? The winter had shown its true colour and the people quivering and shivering. The lakes were frozen, as mercury recorded -12° C. People wished to see the blue sky and almost forgot the existence of sun. I, too, was thinking of how bad winter is. Winter should never come. But if spring comes, how can winter be behind? The four seasons have to be punctual and work in accordance with the rules of Nature. Now a question arises, what does winter mean to Kashmiri people? Winter may not be called as romantic season, where the sun seems to be in oblivion and playing hide and seek with clouds. But I don’t think that we abhor the winter months, as we are ready to face the irresistible experience with a gracious smile. Winter is always mast-mast, and bidding adieu to severe winter, people may think ‘Oh! no, not again!’. Winter in Kashmir without snow and cold cannot be imagined. The truth is that every Tom, Dick and Harry eagerly waits for first snowfall of the season. Children are excited and start playing with snow balls and make snow Gods. After snowfall, the barren branches of trees are painted white. The mountains present exuberance with shimmering white snow on their peaks, looking like gorgeous blonds.
When we talk of snow, how can we forget Gulmarg in winter? A number of sports lovers visit the valley for skiing and even various children participate in adventurous sports. Kashmir Tourism Industry has already lot of plans to boost and woo the tourists, but the famous ‘Darbar’ move shifts to winter capital Jammu, like the migratory birds moving to warmer places.
Due to heavy snowfall, our valley remains cut off from the rest of the country for a number of days. And look who is benefited? OK our shopkeeper brethren. The various essential commodities disappear from godown and shops. It happens all of a sudden. Some shopkeepers fleece the customers and charge exorbitant prices. What to do? The consumers have to obey like ‘Yes Boss!’ The pulses and cereals understand the pulse of people and their impeccable taste, especially in winter season, but I am afraid to say that cooking gas and kerosene oil disappears like a ghost. The Government claims there is no need to panic, but Kashmiri people are already immune to such tall claims. One can see helpless and hapless people standing in queues to get kerosene and cooking gas.
Frankly speaking, people face bravely the chilling cold amidst gloomy and somber atmosphere and work freely. They believe in laying something for the rainy day. Now-a-days, people keep warm by using electric gadgets in their home, but the old cultural ‘Kangri’ and ‘Pharein’ can never be dominated by modern electric appliances. When winter sets in, people stock enough rice to meet their demand, as the rice is a staple food for Kashmiri. They like to consume hot, spicy and saucy food. Kashmiri people cannot live without meat, as mutton is consumed at an alarming rate i.e. Kababs, Goshtaabs and above all ‘Hareesa’. The favourite vegetables consumed are Tomatoes, Spinach, Greens, Garlic, Onion and Nadroos. Your mom or grandma is ready to serve you peculiar salt tea or ‘Kaheeva’ with an aroma of cardamom and cinnamon in as extra-ordinary vessel called Samovaar. Unfortunately, only few people use this vessel. Oh! I have forgotten to mention Hoaksabzi (Dried vegetables) and dried fish (Hugada) - still liked and consumed by people.
Winter may be mild or severe; people take the world by stride. Old people have enough time to discuss and gossip at the barber’s shop. The topic includes electricity and water woes, sports and politics. The embarrassing but pleasant movement cannot be ignored after heavy snow fall. For instance, the water pipes and taps do not resist the lowest temperatures and it seems as if they are on strike. People burn wood to make the frozen tap to melt and gurgling gushing sound of water makes them have a sigh of relief.

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