Feeding on foliage

Arshid Malik

Kashmir is going through another tough phase and this time over it is “Mother Nature” who seems to be cross with the populace. There has been tremendous snowfall all over the region and most of the surface communication stands blocked. Mobile and landline telephony as also electricity is at a loss and people are taking back to messenger pigeons or so I heard. Well, it is a naturally stiff phase and there is hardly anything we can do about it and when I say that I mean we cannot do anything about the snowfall as it is out of our control as are all weather conditions.

But we could and can do a lot about our commutation through the tough winters as a population but we don’t and that practically “sucks”. As of now stocks of food grain, liquefied petroleum gas, sugar, milk, meat and poultry as also the rest of the plethora of daily needed commodities are depleted while racketeering has hit a high note. We Kashmiris really know how to indulge and that includes the authorities as well who are at peace with the fact that people might have to feed on foliage if the present weather conditions persist.

The surface connectivity between Kashmir and the rest of the world is dotted with “devils” all along and the slightest whiff of nature sends the road rolling into the deepest of gorges “in recorded history”. There is a lot that the authorities could have done to stabilize the national highway running from Kashmir to Jammu but… While all of the supply of fuel, grain stock, other eatables reaches Kashmir via this highway, once it is blocked Kashmir is practically cut off from the rest of the world. This is a fact just like the one mentioned previously and the authorities have to take it into consideration while planning and making decisions regarding the welfare of the people who live within the bowl that is called Kashmir. And this is just the thing that the authorities do not keep in mind, unfortunately. When winter arrives in all its glory in Kashmir what is expected as a matter of course is that the national highway will be blocked most of the winter and against that food stuff and other essential commodities need to be stocked by the concerned quarters to meet all difficulties.

It is common culture in Kashmir, this thing about stocking provisions likes bears and other animals that hibernate during winters. Almost every well to do household in Kashmir follows this culture keenly and that is one of the reasons we have very big houses – the rooms that sit atop the ground floor are mostly meant for stocking and the goods range from apparels to charcoal. But there are people who find it difficult to earn a square mean and live their lives while spending what they earn on a daily basis and these are the people who are left clueless during harsh winters. Besides consumerism has mutated the attitudes of common people towards culture and tradition, which of course is not the matter in question here. The authorities have to follow what is given and absolutely the culture of the land and when they don’t do it starts smelling fishy.

While the railroad project connecting Kashmir to the rest of the world is still in its infancy and the national highway – which qualitatively does not quantify as a national highway – is so jittery that you have to keep yourself from sneezing while working its curves in anticipation of the fact that a landslide might take place as soon as you sneeze, the people of Kashmir are owing it all to their substantial grit which just does not melt. In the past few weeks newspapers have been running stories capturing the “brilliance” of the administrative failure in Kashmir on counts of maintaining stability in terms of availability of essential commodities during winters and I figure attitudes have not changed at all. This all and the common people are braving the odds but for how long, one might ask. This winter has been harsh and it can get worse this year or the next or maybe the next. We should keep our fingers crossed anticipating winter conditions that beat the best out of the rest as we are living in a region that is prone to such things.

I remember when I was a kid there used to be tremendous snowfall and we enjoyed every bit of it. People had to watch where they walked as all of a sudden huge blocks of solidified snow would come bolting off the roofs in the interiors of the city and knock you “unconscious”. And the chill would be amazing during winters and we would rely on water tankers provided by the government for drinking water as all plumbing would stand blocked because of sub zero temperatures. I also recall that snow would collect to 5 feet or more and we would walk between shimmering walls of snow. Our elders would tell us stories about snowfall during the times when they were kids and we would be amazed when they would say that entire storeys would go under snow cover. All this means that winters in Kashmir have taken a turn and by all means have gotten pretty light. Here one can safely imply that winters could hit it high anytime like olden times. So we have to be ready to feed on foliage.

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