Living On A Prayer…

One thing is for sure, the people of Kashmir do not require a Time Machine to travel back in time. It just takes one heavy downpour, or a snowfall, to transport them back a couple of hundred years. 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. The water-logged roads takes the Kashmiri time-traveller even further back into prehistoric times since these non-navigable tracts make it appears as if satisar, that is the lake that was supposed to have been where the valley of Kashmir presently is, has come back to reclaim its space. If along the way the unwitting time traveler 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 with the currency notes.

All said and done, nature has been pretty kind to the Kashmiri people so far (if you ignore last year’s flood which is pretty much what everybody is doing with regards to that!). Like say even when it snows heavily in this place the snow falls 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 day’s rainfall 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 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,’ as used catch phrase-like in Kashmir, has come to convey 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 has long reconciled to the fact that water is water, and there is nothing one can do about it whether it is something absent from his taps or present in abundance on the roads. It is the Opposition for whom these ‘inconveniences’ sometimes become convenient issues to badger and bash and bludgeon and whatever the ruling party with. Now of course the ruling party 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.

Now of course sooner or later the flood too ebbs away. Life gets back to normal, people thank the Divine Providence, the authorities and the ruling elite take credit for all that they did not do and the engineers and contractors submit bills for all 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 rain water 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 rain, etc.  Invariably it takes even less time for these committees and programs to disappear than the duration of the floods that inspired them. And life moves on… Till the next rainfall, that is…

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