Hilal Ahmad Bhat
The Valley of Kashmir witnesses severe winter from December to the end of February. These three winter months are challenging. Life almost grinds to a halt during the winter season. The maximum temperature occasionally touches 10◦ Celsius and the minimum temperature comes down to -8◦ Celsius. The period of 40 days from 21 December to 31 January, also known as ‘ Chilai Kalan’ are considered as the most crucial when , if it snows, the condition gets even worse. Surroundings become duskier and the bone-chilling cold can make you numb.
In order to get over and deal with the chill, l people make use of a kind of firepot, popularly known as ‘Kangri’ and thus keep themselves warm. Besides, a long woolen gown is worn by both men and women known as ‘Pheran’. As heard from our ancestors, it used to snow heavily during winters in the past. People would often use the exit from second storey of their houses in order to come out during heavy snowfall, adding to their hardships. One could find long icicles hanging from the edges of roofs of their houses. Such scenes are hardly seen today during winters.
In those days people never feared the harsh winter and they had sufficient expertise in dealing with all the situations though they didn’t have many avenues. One of the reasons behind that I feel was that their hearts were pure and filled with love for each other. This makes me remind the famous poem of Nigerian poet Gabriel Okara ‘Once Upon a Time’. Few lines of the poem I am quoting here are:
‘Once upon a time, son,
They used to laugh with their hearts
And laugh with their eyes:
But now they only laugh with their teeth,
While their ice-blocked eyes
Search behind my shadow’
Nowadays people have become dependent on machines and gadgets thereof to carry out most of the work. It has almost made us handicapped. This is reflected during the winters as we have developed a curious fear about winters. Though we have so many modern gadgets around us to deal with winter fears still we fail to overcome these .We seem to shiver when MET Department issues any advisory about any type of weather change during winters. The reason is simple; it is our total dependence on machines and most importantly change in our nature. We have lost the bonding and cooperation between us that was witnessed in the past.
—The author holds an M.A (English) , a B.Ed and PGJMC. He is a teacher in the Department of School Education. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org