Those Happy New Years!

But Where Is All That Happiness Gone?
"Nousheen – the first snow was the making of mankind. Tiny snowballs rolled by father and brought in as a surprise – one each for everyone. Razma-gogij would be the treat of the day."
"Nousheen – the first snow was the making of mankind. Tiny snowballs rolled by father and brought in as a surprise – one each for everyone. Razma-gogij would be the treat of the day." File: Mubashir Khan for Greater Kashmir

Salma Sultan, her motionless gaze and a red rose pulling her unwilling smile behind her ear would be our only link with Doordarshan’s ranga rang New Year’s programme.

The programme started with a power cut and ended as the cut ended. The best part of programmes those days was that programmes were programmes and not programs. Programmes or programs, everything that came or did not come, life’s way, was all alright.

People were happy with little, and much was too much – with or without power. By and large, little was much. It was hamud khodayas kun or bhagwansenz daya. Khoday and Bhagwan were indistinguishable – and both, or one, were heard in Muhammad Abdullah Tibetbaqal’s soulful renditions. The renditions were happiness.

Power, we strangely believed, went to the rich on the New Year’s Eve. Though we were not sure where the rich lived, we assumed they lived in some pockets in the city, and around Gupkar.

The city was a bus ride by Khour Sherabad-Batamaluen service that plied via Malmoh once a day. It returned in the evening; got the same group back that it took in the morning. The group included some lovebirds too, each occupying a du-seater. Du-seaters were happiness – even without being rich.

A rich fellow in the neighborhood, who was talk of the town, lived someplace called Delun – some sixteen miles from Malmoh. He, we would overhear waan’pend conversations, was a young, smart boy from a Pandit family, assumed to be the first Pandit from the Valley having bought, and driving himself, a brand new passenger bus. That typical neat and clean Kashmiri bus that had these colorful stripes running across its body.

The bus would ply Tangmarg-Baramulla, and if village elders were to be believed, the bus was his sure shot licence to staying unmarried. “Trath peyas, kus korimol diyas waen panen ko’or – curse be to him; who would be the father who would marry off his daughter to him.”

As the power cut stole our privilege of the ranga rang programme, snow, more often than not, woke us up to the New Year. That time, snow had no Sonam Lotus, and weather, good or bad, was God’s own making.

Nousheen – the first snow was the making of mankind. Tiny snowballs rolled by father and brought in as a surprise – one each for everyone. Razma-gogij would be the treat of the day.

It was wazwaan of the occasion; kept to simmer on the dhaan by mother throughout the day until the gravy thickened. Being nonstop on the dhaan was happiness for the mother. No grudges, no cribbing. Ever.

Gogij was bought in from the city the previous week, and razma was stocked during the autumn as Ghulam Rasool dropped in from Khag. We would see him more as a bean seller than as someone working in father’s school.

He was religious with his yearly visits. His each visit was happiness. He would be the first one to remind us of the approaching winter months, and, of course, the softness of snow that feebly rattled beneath our small Duckback shoes. Duckback shoes were happiness. New shoes were more happiness.

The first snow lit up everything white, belying the proverb that too much of everything is bad. Too much of snow was good. It was happiness of a spiritual kind. It was serenity. It was calm. It was stillness. It was the subtle breathing of Mother Earth.

It was ether frozen in time and space. It was us – colorful birds of a paradise that changed its hues every three months; each more enticing and alluring than the previous one, until whiteness draped it all for a rebirth next spring. From whiteness that could be felt to the spring that could be smelled was happiness.

As the snow settled, all wooden planks, even the cho’ek that was used to place the bhathe thaal would line up on small slopes to work as sledges.

These ingenious arrangements would not make as great skates as we were told some Biscoe and Burn Hall school boys would use at Gulmarg, but still, for us, and maybe for our parents too, these sledges were happiness. Happiness was in everything. Even nothing.

It was in the snowman, in the burnt twig that he held as a cigarette (usually Charminar), the kangaer (with or without the buezz thool in its ash) that it held by its side and a frost-ridden carrot that he held as his nose. Muffler, draped around his neck, and a to’ep over his head would be happiness for him. And us.

A snow-woman by his side, wearing tchini rekh – coal-ash as collyrium, would be our fantasy of years to come. The fantasy was happiness. And then hiding behind the wall and slurping hurriedly on the milk-snow-sugar broth buried under snow for an ice-cream would be happiness at the end of the day. The mixture would be anything but ice cream. But still happiness.

Happiness was being content with oneself and the surroundings. Happiness was in watching the lone dog venture out leaving marks on the snow, and on the way raise his leg on the snowman, fracturing its leg. Despite his criminal act, happiness was seeing a grandmother open the wo’eb da’er to throw a tomul’e tschot at him to eat.

Happiness was in the kindness, and kindness was wed to Koshur mentalscape. Koshur was kind even when unkind. It did not matter who was being kind – Makhan Lal Pandit or Mohammad Sultan Pandit. It was a Koshur who was being kind.

Being Koshur was happiness, until the quest for more and more happiness turned into ugly contours of greed. The greed robbed Koshur of his sanity, of his unblemished mind, body, and soul, and of the formula that led to his happiness.

Flash forward. Today, everyone has a car, but no one is rich. Everyone is rich, but no one is happy. Happiness has become a luxury – impossible to buy with riches and difficult to stuff into the car.

Now, most of us harp on the wrong notions of happiness. Koshur has turned into a showman – andr’e dazaan paan’e, nebr’e zalaan lukhan. The bigger showmen among us sell our happiness for a great price. And we don’t even realize that we are being sold. We pay happiness for being sold. We will continue doing so until we become Koshur again.

Dr Sanjay Parva is a Kashmir-born writer and thinker  and has authored four books, including first ever coffee table book on Kargil.

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.

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