As Kashmiris pass each other in the streets today, greetings are often accompanied by anxious queries about how everyone had fared in the floods, the parting words usually muttered being qahr-e-khuda haz qahr-e-khuda (the wrath of God, Sir, the wrath o God). Really? And do they mean it? Is it really an affirmation of the belief that God (or Allah, as some would insist) can make the unbelievable happen, or just an idle phrase uttered partly for self-justification and partly for self-deprecation? Someone should ask eyewitnesses who speak of a ten-foot wall of water bearing down on the city’s civil lines over and above the Bund along the Jhelum which more-often-than-not is a pitiful trickle this time of the year.
Some would say the Everlasting has already made the impossible happen. And they would be right, particularly when not talking of the deluge. For, frail humans have survived nature’s unbounded fury and are rebuilding where others would just have caved in and given up. Babies have been born, and have been fed, when fears of calamitous shortages ran riot with supplies and stocks in flood-free areas. People have consumed what generally was regarded as highly contaminated water, and are none the worse for it. There has been no gastro-enteritis outbreak, or any other epidemic, everyone thought would hit Kashmir when the waters receded. The sun is out, too warm for the beginning of autumn, allowing sodden homes to be cleaned and dried out, and made liveable again. Supply routes have remained generally obstruction free, and essentials are available at rates reasonable for a society used to sky-rocketing prices on the mere hint of the Srinagar-Jammu highway being blocked.
And if one cares, he or she can compare the loss of human life, tragic though it is, with that of comparable catastrophes in the subcontinent or other parts of the world. And that bit about mass outbreaks bears some little imaginative elaboration, given the rapacious, criminally negligent and corrupt nature of the state’s government and its health care system. Where are the rows upon rows of dead bodies of Kashmiris that many wisely foresaw? If this is not a wonder, what is? Particularly when Kashmir’s government leaves people to fend for themselves even in the best of times – the durbar move for example.