One thing is for certain: the people of Kashmir do not require a Time Machine to travel back in time. It just takes one heavy snowfall or a heavy downpour to transport them a couple of hundred years back. A foot or so of snow and there you are in the eighteenth century or thereabouts, electricity has not yet been invented, telephones, mobile services and internet become fantastic science fiction lore. Looking at the water-logged roads takes the Kashmiri time-traveller even further back into prehistoric times since these non-navigable roads make it appears as if Satisar, that is the lake that was supposed to have been where the valley of Kashmir is presently located, is coming back to reclaim its space. If along the way the unwitting time traveller wonders as to what happened to the crores of rupees that were spent on laying down the drainage system of the city he can only conclude that probably so much money has gone down these drains that they got overwhelmed or chocked. Babies are delivered on the roadside because, given the condition of roads, reaching maternity hospitals, which are few and far between, is an impossible dream. As for the severely sick, they have to be borne on beds carried on shoulders. Ambulances, you see, came by the nineteenth or twentieth century onwards.
All said and done, nature has been pretty kind to the Kashmiri people: even when it snows heavily the flakes fall rather sedately, and blizzards and snow-storms are rarely seen. Then again because of its landlocked position and further protection by high altitude mountain ranges, Kashmir is spared from other terrible phenomena of nature like tsunamis, typhoons and cyclones. Good that! For given the fact that a foot or two of snow amounts to a disaster in this place, as also the state of preparedness of the local authorities, the Kashmiri people would long back have become extinct if any disasters of the like mentioned were to visit them.
Come to think of it, it is rather unreasonable of people – and unrealistic of them as well – expecting the authorities to face up to the sort of inclement weather that we have been getting lately. The poor chaps can barely manage the show in the best of circumstances. People shouldn’t expect miracles. After all it is not easy for the inertia-afflicted government machinery to move into top gear all of a sudden and that too at short notice, or worse still, no notice at all. In any case, by the time the creaky government machinery is cranked into some semblance of motion the crisis usually gets resolved, all by itself. So ultimately it is all about patience and biding time and putting your faith in the Divine and all that. Now this is something that the Kashmiris are quite adept at. Insha Allah, the catch phrase in Kashmiri conversations in its local version means that it requires divine intervention to get anything done, mere mortals that we all are – including the government functionaries and yes even our public representatives – who are we to interfere with the Will and the Works of the Supreme Being!
Not that the common man in Kashmir is complaining. Were it not for the opposition, the common man wouldn’t even know what hit him. For the common man, snow is snow and water is water – whether it is something absent from his taps or present there in abundance on the roads. It is the Opposition for whom these ‘inconveniences’ become convenient issues to badger and bash and bludgeon and whatever the ruling party with. Now of course the ruling members are also aware of this fact. So instead of wasting their time addressing these issues to the relief of the common man they issue strong counter-statements, reminding the Opposition that things were no better under their rule. The qawwali contest between the two warring groups continues with one group starting where the other ends its tirade. The common man gets adequately entertained by this contest of wits and words which provides a welcome diversion from his miseries.
Meanwhile, the snow melts into a flood, which too finally ebbs away. Life goes back to normal, people thank Providence, the authorities and the ruling elite take credit for all that they did not do, and engineers and contractors submit bills for the works not done and proposals for works to be undertaken because of the havoc created by nature. Committees are set up to analyze how many inches of snow make a disaster, and to work out comprehensive disaster management programs and contingency measures to be taken when it looks like it is going to snow, etc. Invariably, these committees and programs disappear far more quickly than the snow and floods that inspired them. And life moves on…Till the next ‘disaster’ strikes…