Monsoon Matters: To our twitter 'friends'

On June 24th, 2020, your paper carried a news report, “Monsoon in J&K from June 24th” caught the attention of the social media moguls.

@omarbazaz tweeted, “Since when did we have monsoon in Kashmir. Is this deliberate?” An ideologically loaded question comes just before a stinging accusatory query. At least, he is polite.

@meenwhile picked up the tweet and asserted “[email protected], we don’t have monsoons, we have a rainy season at the beginning of spring, and then one more at the onset of autumn. Our summers are relatively cooler (34 degree highest) because we are geographically distinct from Hindustan”.

@AasimGilani delivered the judgement, “GK lost all respect for just few advts, they have become puppets of Govt”.

@koshurbleeds wraps it up with a few abuses, “since when did we have monsoons in Kashmir u illetrate modi media dalal”.

And, in between, @xeiaUddin provided the much needed humour, tweeting that, monsoon is coming to Kashmir now that Article 370 has been removed!

And, of course,@Duakhair elevated the ranting ring that twitter is, by quoting Agha Shahid Ali’s verse, “She only said: The Monsoons never cross the mountains into Kashmir”. Never mind that the last line from his famous poem, The Seasons of the Plains which seems like a defiance here is more his mother’s lament in the poem.

What is the sub-text of the twitter messaging? The monsoon, which are basically winds, are Indian in origin. Hence Kashmir can have nothing to do with it. Indeed, the fact that we don’t have monsoons in Kashmir, is itself a feature that separates us from them. And since a news report “seemingly” linked the two, the newspaper is a not just a conspirator, he is also a collaborator. Hence, condemned.

By way of a factual recitation, Kashmir is a low-lying basin surrounded by Himalayas. The climate is sub-Mediterranean characterized by warm summers and cold winters. It has four seasons based on mean temperature and precipitation.

The considered view of Kashmiri climatologists is that Kashmir valley receives both the southwest monsoon and the north westerly rains. There are detailed academic studies on how from times immemorial the south west monsoon have penetrated inland of the Kashmir valley and made an impact on the carving the present day landscape.

These experts have observed that western disturbances are mainly responsible for causing rainfall and snowfall from January to May whereas southwest monsoon causes rains during July-August. From September to mid-November there is a short period of dryness in which minimum or no precipitation occurs.

Of course, the Himalayas act as a roadblock to circulation patterns of the atmosphere for both summer monsoon and winter monsoon. Experts state that the Greater Himalayas, however, exercise little obstructive influence on the influx of the westerly troughs which frequent the Valley from the west and the North-West during winter.

Researchers have also observed an interesting feature of the rainfall of Kashmir Valley. The rains are usually heavy in the southwest monsoon period in the central parts and in winter or spring in the rest of the Valley. There is a high expectancy of heavy rainfall in august or September which is often caused by a sudden cloudburst and is invariably followed by widespread floods in the Jhelum.

It has been observed, the pattern of rainfall in the Valley is overwhelmingly concentrated in the winter and spring months. Research on rainfall shows that “The share of the winter and spring rainfall is more than three-fourths of the annual total in the northwest (e.g., Handwara, Baramulla, Langet and Sopore), while it is only about one-third in the central and the southeastern parts of the Valley (e.g., Srinagar, Pulwama, Anantnag, Kulgam and Ganderbal)”.

So, Kashmir does have monsoon. And yes, these monsoons carry water from the Arabian Sea. And also the Indian Ocean.

It is also a fact that the main source of rainfall is western disturbances. These bring in water vapour from the tropical Atlantic Ocean, Mediterranean Sea, Caspian Sea and the Black sea. Not the Indian Ocean!

So, technically speaking, contrary to the judgments proffered, Kashmir has always had monsoon; from the time when it wasn’t even called monsoon. But this is technical stuff. The essence of objections is in the realm of language, politics and resistance.

What makes the monsoon, a wind system, “Indian”? It is a meteorological/climatological term used globally. Geologists date the phenomenon of monsoon to around 15 to 20 million years. A study of marine plankton suggests that the monsoon has been hitting India for only 5 million years old. So, monsoon predates India.

Etymologically, and this is very interesting, the word monsoon is derived from an Arab word, “mausim” (meaning season); a synonym of the Arabic word.

Closer home, in Kashmiri, there is a word called “wahraat”. G A Grierson’s “Dictionary of the Kashmiri Language”, the most authoritative source, defines “ waharāth as “the rainy season, the rains, the monsoon (El. wahrát, waiharát, wiharát); wairat =July 15-September 15; –dŏshüñü — the due quantity of rain to fall in the rainy season, there to be a full rains. waharöʦü-hond of, belonging to, produced in, or relating to, the rainy season. -rūd – a fall of rain in the rainy season.

Going beyond the word, the fact that the rainy spell is short and doesn’t last long, the word “wahraat” is used as a metaphor to define transient and temporary relationships. For instance, the saying that a husband-wife tiff is like “wahraat rood” or like “ye gaye wahraatich baradari”! The point being it is ingrained in the common lexicon.

This is not nit picking. What bothers is that these youngsters are ever so willing to distort our history, disown our past only to show that Kashmir is not a part of India. This is akin to cutting off the nose to spite the face. Why are we clutching at straws to differentiate Kashmir from India? There is so much more substantive evidence – historical, social and cultural – that we don’t need to reduce ourselves to this level.

Or are we literate in litany and ignorant about our history?