It was that chilly evening of winters in Kashmir when the sky seems to have been deprived of all light and when the greyish atmosphere is in contrast to our exhaling.
When the mountains surrounding this alluring valley are out of sight and people seem to return back home chaotically. 8-year-old Iqbal with bare feet was standing on the bank of river Jhelum with only a pheran shielding his numb body.
The chill had already turned his feet red, but as it was certain that it’s about to snow, Iqbal kept standing there, patiently waiting for the first snowfall, even as he kept staring at the river which disappeared only after a few metres in the thick fog and with it, floated stories, untold stories.
Snow slowly started to envelop his blood-red feet and further chilled them so much that Iqbal didn’t feel frigid anymore. Wondering what stories the river concealed, he stood there for a while and then decided to leave for home.
Now was the perfect time to warm oneself up, grab a book, a blanket, akh cup nun chai (soat traewith) and be in a state of delectation, and that’s what Iqbal did.
The placement of the words in the book and the silence of snowfall assimilated him with the story even as he disappeared with it like that river on the backside of his home.
As he continued his assimilation with the book and wandered through the words, everything went dark. Bilkul jenab, you guessed it right, Paaweri gov!
“Andheyra kaayam rahey. In kashmir, winters mean little electricity and snow means no electricity at all,” asserted Iqbal.
He stood up to get the handigas, remember that metallic thing? Under whose light the dark and chilly evenings of our childhood passed even as we kept hearing tales from our elders? Yes, that.
But as soon as he stood and took his first step, he felt he encountered something in the dark, something dangerous, he was petrified. Iqbal had done what we Kashmiris are all scared of doing.
He had encountered a dangerous, full of fire and usually the sole weapon of Kashmiris. He kicked the Kanger, Naar e Kanger to be precise enough.
This was the first gift of winter to Iqbal. It seemed like a volley of bullets had penetrated the floor blanket (You can surely imagine it).!
Night befell and it was time to sleep. The next morning as he went to wash his face, nothing would come out from the taps.
The water inside supply pipes had frozen and Iqbal got ready with a gun shaped flame blower and started to defrost them.
For an eight-year-old Kashmiri kid, holding something of that shape could have had grave repercussions, anyone could interpret the apparatus as anything, but defrosting the supply pipes was mandatory.
After he was done with his morning chore, he left for school which was a thirty minute walk from his home.
Excited, Iqbal left, this time with clothes under his pheran and black rubber boots on his feet, a red micky mouse bag on his shoulders and a new pair of white hand gloves.
The excitement didn’t last much. Only after a few minutes, there was mud all over Iqbal and on his new gloves. On the main road, one ignoramus speeding driver drove straight into a planet sized pot hole, getting water and mud straight over to the pedestrians.
“Should I blame the driver or the road itself,” a disappointed Iqbal sighed. This was the second gift of winter to him!
He continued with his journey and didn’t bother to go back and change, for he knew, there were many more same sized or a bit bigger pot holes on the way and Kashmir doesn’t lack drivers who won’t decelerate in any circumstances.
Iqbal wasn’t like other kids, he used to keep himself updated with news. He read newspapers and would always tell his mother that “Babus sitting inside well insulated rooms and having better facilities to travel, will say they lack funds to repair roads in summers and when the complaints are made during winters, they will hide behind the ‘wet weather conditions,” he would often allege.
He didn’t have means to help less privileged people, so during winters he would often put up his pheran to know how it feels like not to have threads to protect one’s self from the frosting conditions. It also helped him to be grateful in a world full of ungrateful beings.
“What if Babus do the same, to feel what we Kashmiris feel like regarding different circumstances. Will the issues be resolved and we won’t need snow anymore to remove the stains from our alleys and maybe we will never encounter dangerous Kangeris in the dark evenings of chilly winters?” Iqbal wondered.
He was a winter guy and would often say, “winters in Kashmir act as a camouflage to the lives of people here. When snow cuts off this piece of land with the outside world and turns everything white. When life appears to be paused. Then the stories are kept within, for apprehensions of them being blanketed by the snow and the darkness it accompanies,” he would presume.
The Himalayan region looked beautiful amid snowfall but what it brought for Iqbal was irksome! As it snowed on the next day too, Iqbal hurried to the market along with his mother and purchased groceries in huge quantities.
Because the next thing he knew would happen, was that the only road connecting Valley to outside, and the only trade route, will be shut for traffic and with it the prices of daily essentials will sky rocket, burning a hole in pockets.
BTW, the closure of the highway was another gift of winter to Iqbal.
It was and has been like this here, the people of this land don’t need Santa’s to bring gifts. The winter alone is our Santa Claus and the winter alone is the remedy to all our aches.
For winters bury us in silence when the people not native to this land are screaming on our mountains.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author. The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.