Kashmir has four seasons and every season is distinct in its own way. Though I like autumn the most, the loveliness of winter cannot be denied. Winter is the time of the year where one can go down the memory lane, build a snowman (sheene-mohinuv), go for skiing in Gulmarg, and have a snowball fight (sheen-jung). The celebration of the season seems incomplete if the valley of Kashmir is not draped in white snow. The entire valley presents a captivating look how picturesque it is when snowflakes start whirling downwards! What an ethereal picture is created just outside when we early in the morning open the window and see fluffy snowflakes against a foggy background. We love to peep out through the window and get completely lost in the scene. The white-whirl of the flakes also makes us pensive, sometimes. How beautifully has Aristotle said, that ‘to appreciate the beauty of a snowflake, it is necessary to stand out in the cold.’
This season’s first bountiful snowfall revived in me memories of the days gone by. There is a particular day of snowfall which still stands out in my memory. On that chilly day all the undergraduate students were to sit in their examination. It was snowing on the Sunday evening before the day. I remember the candle burning in my room in the silent dark evening as I prepared for the examination. I was worried about my ‘Physical Chemistry’ paper, scheduled on Monday at 12 noon at Government Degree College Baramulla, some 20 kilometers from my home. Instead of preparing for my paper, I stuck to my small radio-set listening ‘Sherbeen’ news thinking that the paper will get postponed due of heavy snowfall. But alas, there was no news or announcement regarding the postponement from our Kashmir University.
I felt disheartened because I was all alone in going to the examination center. My fellow students had already gone to their relatives who lived near the examination center. I studied for the entire night and when I woke up on Monday early morning, I took a bowl of halwa along with nun chai which my sweet mother had made for me.
It was 7 o’ clock in the morning and I was ready. I had dressed myself in warm clothes with pheran, woollen hat, gloves, and taken an umbrella. It was foggy outside and snowing very heavily on Monday morning. The main Kupwara-Baramulla highway was badly blocked due to snowfall. My heart terribly throbbed due to the threat of wild animals that roam in winters, even as I made short cuts, sometimes ran and sometimes staggered. I didn’t feel a bit tired until 11 o’ clock in the morning. Only one hour was now left to 12 noon when the paper was scheduled to start.
After covering 8 kilometers I reached Ladoora, Rafiabad, where I felt my pheran badly drenched. I took it off and handed it to a shopkeeper along with my umbrella. I covered my head with a polythene sheet which I got from the shopkeeper.
I kept stumbling on the snow-covered road but I didn’t lose courage and went on. I rose up every time I fell, encouraged by the thought that glory lies in rising every time we fall.
Half an hour was when I reached Azad Gunj, Baramulla. I had yet to cover about 5 kilometers to reach my examination center. Only army vehicles, moving at a snail’s pace, were going towards my college. I was now extremely tired and when no helping hand appeared around, I hung on to an army vehicle. When the troops shouted at me, I got down. I walked ahead but by this time I was quite exhausted. It was an hour late when I reached the examination center. Almost all my classmates had arrived by then, except a few from far-flung areas.
I was almost breathless when I entered the hall. There were heating arrangements inside. The Superintendent and Deputy Superintendent were sitting on chairs near bukharis. The supervisory staff was making rounds. Before writing, I took out my shoes and squeezed my wet socks. Seeing my state, a lady supervisor took pity on me and suggested me to go near to the bukhari for heating up, exclaiming, “Jab Jaan Hai Tu Shaan Hai”. I went near the bukhari, leaving my question paper and blank answer-book on my desk. When I came back to my desk, it was loudly called out by some supervisor that ‘half time is over’. Hearing this I hurried up and attempted as many questions as I could.
Everyone had gone when I lifted my head to look around. I was all alone in the hall writing hurriedly. The entire supervisory staff was waiting for me only. After handing my answer sheet over, I felt somewhat relieved, but I was completely tired now and yet had before me the return journey of more than 18 km. Somehow, I walked five kilometers and entered a hotel at Azad Gunj, Baramulla, for a cup of tea. While coming out from the hotel, I felt a bit energetic and rejuvenated. I was still to cover 11 kilometers to reach my home. When I reached Ladoora, I stayed for the night at my friend’s place as it was getting dimmer and dimmer. No sooner did I reach home the next day than I fell ill. My legs troubled me for days together. Though I realised that success is the ability to go from failure to failure without losing enthusiasm, yet I think that exams during snowfall should not be conducted. The candidates have to toil to reach the exam centers on roads covered in snow. The authorities should always postpone the exams when the circumstances due to inclement weather are so troublesome.
I hope after reading about my hard journey to my examination center, the worthy Chairman of J&K Bank will announce new dates for all those candidates who missed the exam for banking associates some days back due to heavy snowfall.
The writer is an English teacher with the J&K School Education Department. [email protected]