With half of the population migrating to warmer places in Jammu and other Indian states, winter in Kashmir is often a dull affair. There is less traffic plying on the roads as people prefer to stay indoors. The less fortunate souls who lack resources to own a winter home outside Kashmir spend their days looking pale and gloomy. The practice of mass migration during winters has now become a way of life for Kashmiris.
It is said that many suburban colonies in different Indian cities look like mini Kashmir because of number of Kashmiris living there during winters. It has become kind of a parameter which helps people to distinguish haves from have nots.
But migration or no migration, the show must go on. And it did till a few years back when Kashmiris knew how to work and help themselves.
But in last one decade with Kashmiris becoming completely dependent on outside skilled and unskilled labor for getting everything done, Kashmir literally comes to a standstill in winters when they leave en-masse.
These outside labourers among other things toil in our fields, help us construct our houses, help us keep our cities clean, do almost all menial jobs for us throughout the year without ever complaining about working conditions or halaat.
We have become so dependent on these outside labourers that when they are gone in winters, just like our local migratory birds, Kashmir virtually comes to a halt. There is no mason left around to mend our broken walls. All mega projects like construction of houses are stalled till these visitors come back next year when weather improves to resume the work. These half constructed houses bear testimony to our decaying will to work. We prefer to wait endlessly rather than exploring options locally. But are there any options left locally anymore? Probably not. It seems a long time ago when most of the houses in rural Kashmir were constructed using no hired labour. It was often a community affair where neighbours and friends used to help each other out. Though the tradition still survives in some remote parts of Kashmir where sense of community is intact, it is gone elsewhere.
We are now completely at the mercy of these outsiders for getting our day to day jobs done. Ironically, during last one decade when the influx of these outsiders increased manifolds, unemployment rate among valley youth skyrocketed. There are now more youngsters roaming around the streets of Kashmir looking for a magical hand to pull them out of misery and unemployment, but very less of them who actually want to work!