The season of yummy popsicles is here! Yes! The much awaited and loved season of Kashmir has finally knocked on the door of the year, which, in response to agog Kashmiris, has thrown the door open to embrace the delightful season whole-heartedly! Summer season is the essence of life in the vale of Kashmir where the winter season lurks a little too long, thus making people thoroughly sated with it and meanwhile much ecstatic to welcome the new season with zeal and zest. And why they do so makes quite sense, especially when one lives in Kashmir and is well-versed with the biting winter and its numerous troublesome accomplices. Even in scorching heat, the remembrance of the excruciating cold of the Winter season is enough to startle a Kashmiri who rather delights in absorbing and assimilating the intense heat of summer, wishing one could store it beneath the skin and later on derive the capacity from it to stand up to the freezing winter temperatures.
Among other things that add to the agony of winter in Kashmir is the shortage of electricity. While hamams and gas heaters are on the go in winters, electric heat convectors and geysers too are pretty much in demand. Yet, the electricity makes sure to give only guest appearances, only to amplify the afflictions of anguished Kashmiris. The previous winter season was truly one of its kind when the weather lords showed their vagaries and poor people faced the music. Now that it is the onset of summer, people look forward to an end to the long endured troubles but the actualization of their hopes partly depends on the mood of the weather and partly on the suppliers of electricity – the Power Development Department. Queer as it may seem, but like so many remote villages of India, Kashmir is one such place which craves for a sufficient supply of electricity so as to make ends meet. The age we are in is an electronic age. Our lives are so overloaded with electronic gadgets that an eight hour snap of electricity can lead it to a stand still, leave alone ten to twelve hours. We have been conditioned in such a manner that we are prepared for little or no electricity in the winter season because of excessive load shedding. While the well-off manage to compensate the loss of electricity by installing solar panels and gensets, the middle-class rely on inverters, and those who are next in the line are left to bite the bullet. They use the freezing waters for various purposes and not being able to manage extra expenses of a gas heater, they rather endure the cold with the help of their kangri which may be a boon for Kashmiris but is pivotal only as an individual source of warmth. These people end up being the victims of cold. The repercussions are obvious: a deteriorating health which one has to carry on with until the weather gods decide to give some respite.
While the periodic load shedding of electricity makes sense, the unscheduled power curtailments for hours altogether seem just but an attempt to infuriate the already suffering masses. The so-called helpline numbers circulated through media are seldom available and even if one is fortunate enough to get through some official, he considers it beneath his dignity to address your issue and refers you to a lower official. The chain goes on and on until you are made to put forth your issue to the lowest official in the line who might hardly be concerned but has a rhetoric of phony conversations and hence can make you believe in the frivolity of your issue or else dismiss it by referring it to just a ‘fault in the lines’.
Last winter, the sky kept bombarding the earth with snow or else lashing it with rains. Therefore, it is quite obvious that all this can lead to some fault in the terrestrial wiring systems. And one could easily suggest that authorities should devise an underground wiring system to evade this problem of electricity failure in winter once and for all. But if the same pathetic scenario persists in spring and then continues in Summer, then it indeed is a matter of grave concern. The people of Kashmir don’t need to go back to statistics to ascertain the amount of electricity produced and subsequently supplied to different parts of the valley. Instead, they are well aware of it and of the recurrent faults in the transmission lines. This year, the intermittence of electricity did not cease with the end of winter but continued in the same manner in most parts of the valley. It did not even spare the holy month of Ramadhan where every sehri and almost every iftar is characterised by a power failure. Being technologically ahead then hardly makes sense if we are not able to make the basic necessities available for ourselves only. Tired of pleading, the people can only hope that things get better in their favour. For now, all that can be seen is that the winter ended, the summer shall end, but there seems to be no end to ‘the fault in their lines.’
(The title of the article is based on the 2012 novel by John Green ‘The Fault in our Stars’)