The Past as Present: Snowfall, its Contents and Discontents in Kashmir

The Past as Present: Snowfall, its Contents and Discontents in Kashmir
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M.M Tali

“The miseries of winter are increasing through new means and modes. Recently, the class 12th students writing English paper were left “struggling” and “helpless” in the cold and dim light examination rooms. Along with it there were even pictures of a hospital circulated on the social networking sites, showing doctors treating patients under “torch” and “mobile lights”. Such incidents happened not because of harsh weather but by the poor work attitude of the concerned authorities. As I was thrown back completely in my past years, I realized nothing has changed here over all these years. We are stuck where we were years ago and with the growing miseries people feel winter is a kind of punishment”
Over the past few years, being part of Darbar Move, I felt as if the change in seasons had ceased; the move diminished altogether the significance of the cold snowy winter season for me. Living in almost the same kind of environment all year (as Jammu witnesses a very short cold period), it took away many activities from me, which used to impart a unique flavor to my life. Finally, this year before shifting to Jammu, the freak early November snowfall, gave a chance to witness it live once again.
As the season’s first snowflakes started to fall in a full mood, many of my childhood cherishing memories linked with it got refreshed. In the early morning waking up with the nature’s music of falling snow from roof tops and trees, then trying to be a part of competition in which the one who stomps through the snow leaving footprints first, was declared as a winner, and then enjoying snow crunch sound coming out while walking over the snow. Then gazing up in the sky, to watch falling snowflakes, making me to feel as if I was travelling upwards higher and higher in the sky. The onset of snow providing a chance to cherish the taste of homemade ice-cream, as snow would provide an ingredient for making it by mixing it with milk, sugar and dry fruits (during those days the ice cream was not as easily available as it is nowadays and the best quality ice cream available was of Rs 5-10).
The time spend with friends while playing a game of throwing snow balls would always turn out to be a great fun bringing unlimited pleasure to all. Then , returning home with cold hands, cheeks and red cherry like nose, and then straightly taking out Kangri (fire pot) lying inside grandmother’s pheran (as happiness was taking it out from her pheran and not from any others) as she never used to deny and would always respond with love and care “Ath che sheen hiv gamat, rath wuchnav ame ath” (Your hands have turned cold like snow, take this kangri and warm them). With an open and clear sky in the night, the next morning always used to witness frozen snowy water, engulfing all yards, roads and streets, hence turning them too slippery for enjoying snow skating as well as snow sledding. Early morning, on way to the school or the market I would wait and watch how buses and matadors were becoming helpless before natures power of “secret freezing”.
But, as this season’s first snowflakes started to accumulate, turning into a little heavy white blanket, the “cherishing moments” of childhood got completely dominated by the “moments of misery” which snowfall used to bring during those days. With falling of mild to moderate snowfall, as people during those days would start their search for electricity, likewise all this happened during this season’s first snowfall. With few inches of snow, darkness engulfed cities, towns and villages increasing the miseries of all particularly of the students (preparing for various exams) in the same way as it used during those years. As usual non availability of electricity, gave rise to another misery in the form of non availability of usable water.
As years ago, a little snowfall would halt “vehicular movement”, both on link roads as well as on the highway (only link connecting the valley to rest of the world), the same situation aroused due to this season’s first snowfall. The passenger vehicles as well as the loaded trucks were stranded for days, bringing hardships physically, mentally as well as economically to all those linked directly or indirectly with them. The price of essential commodities going up, the suffering caused to the stranded passengers, the hardships general public faces are almost of the same magnitude even these days as it used during those years.
The miseries of winter are increasing through new means and modes. Recently, the class 12th students writing English paper were left “struggling” and “helpless” in the cold and dim light examination rooms. Along with it there were even pictures of a hospital circulated on the social networking sites, showing doctors treating patients under “torch” and “mobile lights”. Such incidents happened not because of harsh weather but by the poor work attitude of the concerned authorities. As I was thrown back completely in my past years, I realized nothing has changed here over all these years. We are stuck where we were years ago and with the growing miseries people feel winter is a kind of punishment.
In a state where authorities are well aware about the coming of a season that brings with it hardships in different forms, and still not in a mood to have an advance “quality preparation” to counter back any of the hardship which may arise out of it, then how can one expect they will be prepared to deal natural disasters which are very sudden in origin like earthquake or flood?
Provided the authorities are ready to work qualitatively, there is a lot of scope for improvement in providing better and quality services to the general public in times of high demand, so to minimize the magnitude of miseries, the harsh winter brings with it. Snowfall in itself is not a misery, but is a precious blessing from Almighty, sustaining all our economy directly or indirectly, but it is the “poor work attitude” of authorities that is turning it into a “misery cum catastrophe”.
(P.S: I fail to understand why they used life saving jackets and water tubes for shoveling a few inches of snow? )

The author works at the J&K Civil Secretariat. He can be reached at: mmtali106@gmail.com. ( The views expressed are personal)