By Adil Rashid Bhat
The hustle and bustle of the autumn in Kashmir, once upon a time, was a wonderful affair and an amazing spectacle, brimming with extravaganza of life ,to be a part of; when people locally relied upon one another to accomplish the exigencies of the season. It was never such a murky affair where people now wholly rely upon the outside work force who, while taking full advantage of the situation demand hefty sums from “hurrying people” to accomplish any of the rituals of the paddy harvesting.
People, nowadays are in a hurry and want to accomplish, rather wind up the harvesting season in a few days owing to their preoccupations and their busy life schedule. Earlier, the conjectured neighbors “Sul kaak” and “Gul kaak” extended a helping hand to each other in the agricultural fields to alleviate their respective workloads; now the same duo of “Sul Kaak” and “Gul Kaak”, instead of mitigating each other’s hardships try to fan more and indulge in crass competition with each other to defeat the supposed rival- which unfortunately they now see in each other- in work completion and prove their mettle in the field, that too with a strange vengeance.
I am earnestly missing those good olden days of Harud (Autumn), when the crimson gold leaves of the grandiloquent poplars and aged Chinar presented the view of blazing atmosphere all around and I , as a child, accompanied my mother ,in fact followed her, who collected fallen dried leaves and twigs to be burnt to charcoal that was later ,during winter, used as fuel in the “fire-pots” (kangri) to keep ourselves warm.
It (charcoal) is still used for the same purpose but, what has changed since then is, I have grown up and now is that my mother no more bothers herself to collect dried up leaves and twigs owing to a changed life style. Nonetheless, we still keep reserved charcoal for winter but ,earlier it used to be a hectic affair to wander from place to place to collect the raw material for the same. However, the trees which shunned leaves and twigs should be your own. Nobody collected leaves or twigs of trees which he/she did not own.
I still remember those mist fragrant and chilled, hazy mornings of the Autumn, when the darsgah classes were conducted in the open and cleared paddy fields just in proximity of the precincts of our village and children like me , clad in traditional pheran( long cloak), would come in droves and droves to attend the much cherished, much ecstatic, much desired and much celebrated classes of the madrassa. (It seldom mattered to children that from their little noses the fluid which tasted salty dripped incessantly due to the late autumn morning chill and their chubby red cheeks glistened as if the green grass of the impeccable heaven glistened after downpour of dew).
After the madarsa classes, we would either contemplate, how and where to spend our post exam vacations as the exams would be round the corner and have always been so since the introduction of the modern education system in Kashmir. And, if the exams were over we would then contemplate, how to celebrate the moderate climatic days ahead?
Children would usually take time to ponder over it and subsequently some would be seen playing with “hagud”(vernacular name for a locally built three tyre wooden cart) , others would be seen playing hide and seek amid the collected and clustered heaps of paddy that we call dan-guen( the picture below depicts dan-guen) in our native language .
Well, anyway, this hide and seek popularly called as “aeshthup” in Kashmiri(vernacular language) was a much sought out game among children folks like ours. I had many dreams of this game prior to commencement of the autumn. Call it enthusiasm or a child’s fantasy! However, when all the rituals of harvesting season were over , youngsters also played cricket , and as the paddy fields were clear of any sort of material-albeit for a brief period as tractors after a lull in the autumn fair would till all the agricultural land for the “rabicrop”-they provided ideal cricket stadiums and were keenly maintained by the young folks for that brief period of time, by smoothing the main pitch yards and the “keepers” place of fielding behind the wickets.
The entrancing view of the bewitching Chinars and poplars, adorned with crimson gold layers of wizened leaves, in and around some paddy fields added aroma in the fading glow of the aged year. Their wizened leaves gave testimony to the fact that, to every rise is a fall and that beauty which those mighty Chinars and tall poplars wore for a brief season was not eternal. However the aroma that emanated from the withered grooves of those wrinkled leaves, slithering in rustle, of the Chinar filled the air with an exhilarating smell which would soothe the day ahead.
—The author, from Islamabad, Kashmir, can be reached at: email@example.com