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Winter in Kashmir: Blessing or a curse

Winter in Kashmir: Blessing or a curse
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Rayees Ahmad Kumar
Since our school days, we have been hearing that due to earth’s revolution seasons are formed and further whenever we used to write an essay on any of the four seasons in Kashmir, it’s first line always started with “saal mein chaar mosam hotei hain”.
Indeed there are four seasons in Kashmir and every season lasts for three months. Every season is unique in its features, colour and characteristics. Winter in Kashmir is specific because for this season not only people make themselves physically and mentally prepared but also they make tremendous arrangements in order to survive this harshest period of the year.
Traditionally the period of winters is primarily divided into three stages in Kashmir. The first phase starts with a period of 40 days starting from December 21. It is a harsh period and is known as ‘Chillai Kalan’. This is followed by another phase of 20 days which usually is considered to be less intense in terms of the cold, this phase is known as ‘Chillai Khurd’. Finally the last phase is of 10 days, which is even less harsh and is locally known as ‘Chille Bache’.
Though the harsh winter period in Kashmir commences from 21st of December but the preparations are made in autumn months of September and October because people are aware about the miseries it brings with its onset.
Making of charcoal, drying of vegetables to make Alla heache (Dried bottle guard) , Wangan heache (Dried brinjal), Reantwangan heache (Dried tomatoes) , Hoch palak (dried spinach), Hokh hakh (Dried collard green), Heand ( Dried Dandlion leaves) etc etc have been the centuries old traditional practice of Kashmiris. Though the drying of vegetables has now been declining among masses but still a large proportion of Kashmiri population is making these delicious dishes during winter period.
Coming of tourists from other states and countries to enjoy snow skiing and other winter games at world famous tourist resorts like Gulmarg, Sonamarg and Pahalgam is viewed as a blessing and a source to improve the economy of Jammu and Kashmir. Further a good seasonal snowfall is also regarded as a blessing in terms of maintaining water table , fetching life to dying Himalayan glaciers and for irrigating our crops to have a good yield. There will be enough water for irrigation, hydro-power generation and drinking for the coming summer. For children, it is play time and for tourists, vacation time.
Additionally, heavy snow is a boost to tourism as it attracts tourists to the Gulmarg ski slopes. But this winter in Kashmir is bringing more miseries and worries which almost every individual is facing without getting a triumph over its hardships.
Closure of only one vital road link of Kashmir with rest of world for weeks together, scarcity of essentials, freezing of water pipes and hide and seek of electricity etc are the common experiences in Kashmir. This not only makes the life of every Kashmiri cumbersome during these winter months but they feel it necessary to leave this valley which has been regarded as the only paradise on earth by Firdousi who has compiled a famous couplet “Agar Firdous Bar Roi Zameen Ast , Hamein Asto Hamei Asto Hamei Asto” perhaps while staying here during peak summer because during summers it is the best place to enjoy the extremely hot days. Had he ever visited here during winters perhaps he would have described it differently.
The fear of harshest winter forces the common people to settle in Jammu or other places during these months. This year the mood of winter has been extremely frightening because the mercury level has gone much below to the extent of minus 12, a temperature experienced after a period of thirty years.
Freezing of water pipes has forced people at many places to melt snow to get water for drinking and other purposes. Delay in restoration of electricity for days and weeks together has increased our miseries many folds. Accumulation of four to five feet snow on our roads has further kept us indoors for days together thereby making us psychologically ill.
A poor man from Wuranhaal area of Anantnag district had to hire a JCB machine to clear the road because he had to take his wife to SKIMS Srinagar who was suffering from life consuming disease of malignancy. A large number of pregnant ladies were carried on shoulders to have a safe delivery in hospitals and many of them delivered before reaching to the hospital.
Damaging of rooftops of houses and sometimes destruction of whole house due to heavy snowfall and snow storm is also making people fearful about winters. The memories of the calamity which struck at Wulteng Nard Kund area of Kulgam district a decade ago is still fresh in our minds in which dozens of people lost their lives, property worth crores was lost in the form of livestock and other essential items. Since then Wulteng Nard has got a special recognition and it finds its mention in the prescribed textbooks of our public schools.
The only place where people feel pleasure, comfort and protect themselves from harshest chill is the ‘Masjid Hamaam’. Children, youth and old men, every individual enjoys the hot stone floors of ‘Masjid Hamaam’ besides spending these tough days in making discussions with diverse groups of people on social, religious and day to day political issues confronting them.
People from all parts of the valley are of the view that they will never forget this year’s winter because it has broken all the previous records of thirty years in terms of chill, snowfall and the intolerable miseries which they were forced to combat.
(The author is a columnist and teaches at Govt Secondary School Anderwan Ganderbal)


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