Were it not for elections, and now their results, Kashmiris could, perhaps, have been talking about forecasts of overcast skies rather than polls, opinion polls, exit polls and polarized polls. And the “wait and watch” would not have been about political punditry on a sub-continental mess of global proportions but weather punditry of local dimensions that now out-classes poll punditry in both accuracy and precision. With sunny days becoming rarer by the day, correspondents and columnists alike could probably have been cobbling up data analysis on why Kashmir’s firmament, in perpetual ferment, is now also permanently cloudy – except on the day of polls that virtually threw out a dynasty. Heavenly portents, some would say, of achey din aaney waley hain.
Or Kashmiris could have been drawing on Oriental imagery of shab-haa-e-hijr in baad-o-baraan-e-bahaar, or lamenting the fleeting life of spring’s colours, but dominant concerns being too politically-steeped, few appreciate the season’s capricious unfolding over the past two years; the sudden swings of mood, the chilly showers, overcast skies suddenly switching to brilliant sunshine, and then back to their brooding, are all lost on a concrete landscape where the only splashes of colour are the show-windows of mysteriously multiplying shopping complexes. In Srinagar, when people have not been worrying about how to negotiate the next puddle of mud and muck in streets and lanes, they have been worrying about whether to turn the air-conditioning in their automobiles up or down.
There is little left in Srinagar for nature to daub its hues on. Or inspire a lover’s complaint, or even the thanksgiving of the devout. All that the city has to offer are a regimented tour of the Mughal Gardens or the new, contrived Badam Wari and the now out-of-bloom tulip garden. Gone are the natural and spontaneous almond-tree orchards, the dense pomegranate groves, and the acres and acres of green that one stumbled on at every other turn. Even graveyards, once sprouting iris and daffodil, are now bramble and weed. And more frequent than fountains in the up-market parts of the city are Kashmir’s own contribution to urban adornment – garbage heaps. People who once wore daises and rosebuds on their lapels now leave a trail of trash behind.