With the season’s first snowfall in Kashmir and one of its several inevitable consequences – the closure of the Valley’s only surface supply line – is the region set to go through a familiar cycle, more so when shortages and accompanying rise in prices, invariably artificially created, have been turned into an integral part of winter life.
It is also an occasion for the administration to give a vivid display of its proficiency in performing the disappearance act. Not that that needs reinforcing. Over the years, winters have developed a particularly jagged edge, not necessarily because of some new malignity in the Western Disturbances, but mostly due to a fast-increasing dependence on the products of modernity. Electricity, for example, turns into a chronic absconder when most needed, and the bill for strictly-rationed LPG sends shivers down the spine if one exceeds the permitted (or subsidized) quota. No one in the government seems to remember that temperatures even in the Valley’s plains plunge as low as minus 6 to 7 degrees at nights – and that is chillla-e-kalan at its kindest.
Traditional defences like firewood and charcoal on the fuel front, and dried vegetables and daals on the sustenance front, may still be vogue in rural Kashmir, but have been mostly abandoned by what goes for its urbanized part. This leaves a vast population literally at the mercy of the temperamental Srinagar-Jammu highway. Without doubt, the government and the administration are constituted not only of wise and sagacious individuals, but also of highly fortunate and blessed souls. With a patron like a Dogra Maharaja of distant times having prepared for their comfort and welfare long in advance, they can afford to snicker when lesser mortals complain.
This wisdom and foresight is partly reflected in the almost total lack of preparation, in terms of stocks and other contingencies, replayed before every winter. Nothing like adversity to harden a people for the momentous fight for a glorious future.