Monday, 23 January 2012

The Egg-less city

Now that you know that it snowed in Kashmir, you should know what followed the snow. As expected, the snow was followed by a spell of chilled air. The denser clouds parted the next day, and a meek sun shone through. Dim and dreary. Happy in the fact, that the snow acted as a high volt CFL bulb, and made the best use of the dim sunlight for days to come.


A couple of days later, a week, to be precise, it snowed again. Heavier than last time. Whiter than last time.  Snow piled on in the city, more than ten inches deep in certain places. 

In the intervening week, a new winter unleashed. Immediately the ancients brought up comparisons with the folk-lore winters. The winters of yore, now forgotten. The water froze. In fact, the whole Valley froze. There were no puddles on the road, because they turned into ice. Icicles. The water supply froze too. So did the Srinagar-Jammu Highway and the government manning it. The erratic electricity. The Dal Lake.

All this freezing brought a bluish grey, rather than a white feel to the snow. In the intervening week, the snow hardened – like a giant cover of white marble, under which lay all the water networks of the city. One couldn’t actually blame the government for it. It wasn’t Nature’s fault either. It was perhaps just meant to be so. And so was it. And we were not complaining. 

The Dal Lake froze in patches. A little island of ice over here, a big one over there. The little brown ducks visiting from abroad could be seen as little bumps over an icy horizon. (A friend of mine argues that they are not ducks. But I will call them ducks until someone comes with a proper name).  The water that came out of the four fountains looked like ice. 

But happiness is seldom absolute. More so, in a place like Kashmir. There is always something to remind you that the wolf is standing just outside the door.In the grey air of these snowy evenings, you can see the illegal encroachments on the Dal clearer than on most days. You can make out that the islands have stretched way beyond their original limits, and you can count the number of hotels that have sprung up. You can see the Dal dying away.

At that moment the weathermen predicted snowfall for the coming Saturday. The temperatures were dipping below -5. A snowfall would mean temperature of round about zero. That was welcome. It meant the ice would melt, the water would flow. The weathermen have been surprisingly accurate this year. It snowed on Saturday. 

Heavier than last time. Whiter than last time.

Overnight the city was transformed into a winter wonderland of sorts. Everyone rejoiced, except the ilk of Samad Joo. He wasn’t pleased, at all. He immediately saw the snowflakes creating huge puddles of slush and mud. The ice getting flattened on the roads like in skating rinks. He saw silly boys and girls snow fighting. And he saw trouble. He was right.

Since the highway was closed, the markets were slowly hijacked. If you went to buy an egg, you wouldn’t get it. There were no eggs available in the city. Which is not odd, considering there were no chicken available as well.  And no mutton. If you are a Kashmiri, you would perhaps understand the gravity of this last deficiency. The highway is still closed, as of this writing.  And the fear of dead poultry looms.

I asked why couldn’t the Srinagar- Muzaffarabd road be used as an alternative to the tedious Srinagar- Jammu highway, at least in such difficult climates. “They wouldn’t allow it”, came the reply. They, the over lords of Kashmir. The rulers of our destinies. The deciders of our fate and fortunes. Of course they wouldn’t allow it. The trade boards on both sides of the divide have been asking for more items to trade in, and at least preliminary banking facilities. Currently the trade is carried on in the ancient way, the barter trade. No cash is exchanged. A truck is valued from that side, and exchanged for a truck of identical value from this side.  At the centre of this mockery of trade is the Line of Control. Meanwhile, the all-weather Srinagar-Muzaffarabad road which traverses the LoC remains a much politicised and a road less travelled.

‘The failure of the subconscious was the border. The line of control did not run through 576 kilometeres of militarised mountains. It ran through our souls, our hearts, and our minds. It ran though everything a Kashmiri, an Indian, and a Pakistani said, wrote, and did. It ran through the fingers of editors writing newspaper and magazine editorials, it ran through the eyes of reporters, it ran through the reels of Bollywood coming to life in dark theatres, it ran through conversations in coffee shops and TV screens showing cricket matches, it ran through families and dinner talk, it ran through the whispers of lovers. And it ran through our grief, our anger, our tears, and our silences.’
-          Basharat Peer, Curfewed Night.

Thursday, 19 January 2012

A crumb of me

Hope is that thing with feathers
That perches in the soul
And sings the tune without the words
And never stops at all.
- Emily Dickinson

There is no reason why must we stop dreaming. Or lose hope. Howsoever hard the situation maybe, there is always an end to the tunnel. God oversees it all. One only needs to keep faith and patience, to tide over what may seem as insurmountable.  It doesn't happen everyday, but a while ago I tuned into a radio channel where a man recited a Persian couplet. I had never heard the station before and I think they call it Gyanwani. I was so impressed by a particular verse that I wrote it down.
برو کارگر باش و امیدوار 
از یاس جز مرگ نامد بیبار 
It means "Become hard-working and be hopeful, for hopelessness has only one end and that is death". 

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Dont wait for it!

The electricity had been threatening all day. On sixth of January, even more than the weather itself, which had caused the outage in the first place. It was not until night came about that it started to snow. Quietly, as usual. The snow when I discovered it was less than two inches deep. We lost hope of electricity, at least till 11am of the next day – that is when the linemen usually make their errands.  A recent post on this blog came to my mind, and I thought about writing this one.

Tuesday, 3 January 2012

The year is dying in the night

The year has died. Coffined and buried. Or may be for some, it will never be buried. Or buried after some time.
Two thousand twelve is finally here. Even though the government had snatched Hurriyat’s calendars for the year 2012 early on, they couldn’t stop the year from coming in. And finally it is here, albeit a snowless one in Srinagar. I spent the New Year reclining. Resting. Reading on Wikipedia how they recite Lord Alfred Tennyson’s ‘Ring Out, Wild Bells’ every year on New Year’s Eve in Sweden.  And thinking how appropriate a poem it is for such an occasion.

Ring out the old, ring in the new, 
Ring, happy bells, across the snow: 
The year is going, let him go; 
Ring out the false, ring in the true.