Kar in Turkish, Baraf in Urdu, Sheen in Kashmiri, Nieve in Spanish – snow doesn’t change colors, humans and chameleons do. All-white is not a good-omen, always-bridal dress somewhere and widow’s attire elsewhere. In case of Kashmir, white is, as National Poet of Palestine, Mahmoud Darwish puts it, “Welcome to the sorrowing land where the life is approaching death.” White drapes us like a shroud.
Like a snow-flake, some people fall, as they are meant to fall. Fall frequents Kashmir. The pain of politics of conflict permeates generations. And snow has seen it all. Drunk with power then lost in existential crisis now, both separatist and mainstream camp harmed the haggard community in their own ways. What comes around goes around. The fleeting of snow jeers some, cheers others. Since the harshest winter of 1989, it never caused a smile on the fateful faces of Kashmiris. It snows only once in our dreams. And we are yet to dream of living a life of our choice; that romantic side of snow.
The purity, rhythm and clarity of snow blankets the dirt beneath. That is its beauty. Snow has a cathartic command. It is a balm. Snow slows souls. One can’t hurry through it. Its silence speaks volumes. The dancing flakes are powerful. They close roads and generate fellow feeling. When the snowstorm rages, the roads caked with snow are impossible to read. Snow-covered streets are witness to gory episodes and grim anecdotes of my land. Swirling snowballs destroy homes, hearts and hearths, at times.
The graveyard of snow was supposed to be temporary but it refuses to go away. The harmful snow is mounting on it and adding to the miseries of the dead (read the living corpses). No machine on earth could clear it in all these years. We can’t even place the epitaph on some visible location. Once we do it, it will invite wrath. In the last 2.5 decades of my existence, this winter I am thousands of miles away from homeland, feeling blessed that the thorns of snow will not pinch me.
The quantum of pain, loss and gloom is absolute and immense. The good old days of yore (when khande sheen was a tasty delicacy in winters) are gone. The merry of pelting snowballs is over. The drawings and doodles made on snow seem a thing of the past. Why is the time of snow so harsh yet silent? Since the character of this landlocked place, surrounded by snow-capped mountains, was tweaked, snow is not submissive. It possesses pensive pose.
The constant surveillance of Kashmiri sky helps weathermen to issue accurate predictions. Lotus blooms in the muck, it truly does. It did in the murky and troubled waters of Kashmir. But why are streets empty on snowy days? Is it because of the frozen pavements or there is another reason of desolation. The horror of snow invites distress and anxiety. Snow doesn’t discriminate. It covers Masjid and Mandir alike. The white-color has settled over the collective memories. Everything perishes under mounds of snow, even memories. Snow can turn out to be a murderous monster. While we are left at the mercy of fate, snowbirds from Kashmir flutter their wings in warmer plains during winters. Last week, my friend asked a thought-provoking question: “Abid, I know snow is merciless vis-à-vis Kashmir, what if snow falls in summers?” I did tell her that it does, especially summers of restive Himalayan territory witness small coffins, the heaviest ones.
Snow is a facilitator. Let’s decode it. Beacon officials sprinkle salt on snow. It quickens its melting. Likewise, what happens to frozen hearts when the salt is rubbed into the invisible wounds? The film running in the cinema of my imagination throws a volley of questions in my court. The key query is: When will we get rid of this bloody snow.
Snow- the frozen atmospheric vapor, has buried the empty streets in a silence so deep that I can only hear my own breath and footsteps. This snow snatched our brethren from us. Kashmiri Pandits, part and parcel of Kashmir, were targeted by another quarter. One fragrant flower was plucked out of the vale. The fresh aroma lost its value the day they lost their identity. It looks unpopulated since then. The abandoned abodes, haunted houses and ruined remnants continue to wait for the return of the natives. They also yearn for snow. Let the bonafide citizens come and cherish it.
Snowflake has an eternal, mysterious and magical uniqueness. Only the supreme power knows its hidden symmetry. Let’s pay more attention to the snowflakes swirling out of the sky like feathers. Once a six-pronged snowflake crystallises, it takes ten minutes to fall and vanish. Slowly falling snowflakes (the endless repetition of an ordinary miracle, as Orhan Pamuk puts it) unearths secrets of God. Soft snow muffles sounds and spreads ripples of pain.
Mankind has been awed and mystified by the secrets of snow. The beautiful crystal starlets form unique hexagons. I see more than just beauty in the geometry of snowflakes. The tree branches bow under the weight of snow. Snow stops time, not clocks. It speaks of divine patience. Dusting snow off my Pheran (long gown worn during winters), when I would step out on the flurry of snowflakes, I felt the excitement died down. Children don’t enjoy the slippery slopes now. Heavy snowfall shuts the noise out. Where have the long icicles gone? My apprehensions didn’t allow me to go out on the silky powdered entity. The stains on snow-white clothes are easily identified. Wild wind scatters the snow and extinguishes the candle of hope. Who knows the new nature of the white-quilt? Our luckless life is like a snowflake. It falls and withers. The bus trudges and trundles on the roads, peppered with potholes. And the boarders reach home and say prayers at cemeteries full of snow.
The rattling of snow-chains on riot-control vehicles is another burden on our drooping shoulders. Can we brush it off? A long procession of images parade before my eyes as I dream of the diagram of snow. Icicles that had formed on the eaves of houses are dripping blood. I can see snowflakes sailing slowly through the halo of the streetlamp. But our homes are as silent as a dream. Effect of snow! The lingering scent of snow in spring calls for a new dawn. Let the snow keep falling. Let it fall for days and months on end. Let it drape the city and cover its stains. Let you watch the snow falling in someone’s eyes. Let the bright and wonderfully strange shaft of sunlight that reflects off the settled snow, come and glow gloriously.