Shishur To Vahrat, Kashmir’s Alternative Calendar 

by Khalid Bashir Gura

SRINAGAR: As Jammu and Kashmir Bank’s famed wall calendars will not don the cold household walls this year,  Ghazal Qadri a Kashmiri born illustrator has come up with ‘Kath Bath’, a possible alternative calendar canvassing Kashmir’s six seasons in a creatively rib-tickling manner.

Cover page of Kath Bath calendar

While flipping its minty-fresh pages, it dips you in nostalgia and makes you forget why you came into it in the first place.

One may be searching for holidays or festivals in it but seeing the sights, scenes and stories, one would love to plunge in the calendar to live all the six seasons.

The cover photo of the calendar depicts the symbolic representations of Kashmiri’s beauty, landscape, tradition, lifestyle, art, culture, music, and on top of it a symbolic floating Shikara on the waters of the Dal Lake.

The calendar draws inspiration from the ‘Six Seasons of Kashmir’: Shishur, Sonth, Grishm, Vahrat, Harud, Vandeh mentioned in the book, THE VALLEY OF KASHMIR, by Walter R Lawerence.

The calendar follows the timeline associated with each of these seasons. The calendar characterizes each season by way of illustrations depicting Kashmiri household traditions and relatable life activities.

As cold wave has gripped the Valley with temperatures plummeting below the freezing point, life too seems frozen as people are layered in thick clothes and mostly remain indoors.

Shishur Season

The time frame from January 15 to March 15 has been categorized as Shishur Season in the calendar. This has been depicted as the coldest season of the year. The temperature could go below minus 10 degrees Celsius. Anyone who looks at the comic illustrations of this season’s page will recall the past, present, and future experiences related to this season. The illustration of the chilly season is heart-warming and leaves one with smiles, memories, and nostalgia that any Kashmiri can relate with.

Everyone would break a smile when memorable moments of life slip on a hardened pack of snow followed by a burst of laughter from a friend.

The calendar with its comic depictions displays the passion and love for cricket in the Valley. It showcases how people continue to play cricket even when it is freezing outside. A creative new playground has been displayed in which the game is being played on thick ice sheets.

The life of Dal dwellers amid frozen winter waters is depicted along with their art of moving ahead in life despite tumultuous and vulnerable ground. The thrusting oar in frozen waters is depicted with the passage of the Shikara and its driver towards the shore to live everyday life.

The calendar also entails the joy of flinging snowballs at loved ones, friends, and learning the art of making a snowman with charcoal eyes. The snowman has been turned topsy- turvy in the calendar.

The stacks of winter clothing especially socks, skull caps, and cloaks are also part of the calendar.  The childhood memories of elders shrouding children in their Pherans along with how kids used to pop out little heads as mushrooms has also been depicted in the calendar. The mischievous behavior of children with icicles, the snow burial of friends, the silence of snow; the thud of it when it falls on the ground, the back-breaking shoveling of snow are all presented in comic illustrations depicting Shishur season.

The calendar also showcases experiences of the harshest wintertime, Chilai Kalan, (December 21 to January 30) its progeny—Chilai Khord and Chillai Bache—along with the pleasure of witnessing the snowfall from a window. The older people are seen enjoying the warmth of electric blankets which, however, is a rare thing in Kashmir as electricity is not available most of the time in winters.

The scene of people watching television with usual winter news of “Highway closed” donning the screens is also showcased by the calendar along with the scenes of snow falling from wires, and rooftops; to water bottles being filled with hot water.

All these moments depicted in the calendar makes it difficult to flip the Shishur season page but with change being the law of nature, one moves forward to the season of Sonth.

Sonth

Sonth, the spring season spans from March 15- May 15. The season in the calendar, as in real life, heralds a moderate climate with refreshing air and plenty of green vegetation everywhere.

The calendar shows the opening of long shut windows to let fresh spring air come in. Life shows signs of resurrection. The enclosed and seemingly inactive life begins to bloom in this month as life flips its wings and the air, water, and earth grows warm.

The green buds are shown shooting up on bare branches with tepid sun regaining strength as days go by. The people are seen taking off thick winter clothes, and rattle cupboards for clothes for this season. The hibernating creatures living on and within the earth begin to appear and move around the fresh green grass in the calendar. People are seen rushing to gardens, orchards, fields to plant saplings. The thrilled children are seen snatching moments to play in the blooming season. The cold winter season gradually makes way for the spring with cool mornings and evenings and warm days in the calendar.

The colours of sky, land, and water are seen changing slowly. The winter greyness is replaced with green earth and blue sky. The snow on the mountains shines and starts melting.

As spring passes, the all-inviting summer dawns with days becoming longer and nights shorter.

Grishum

The calendar has the season of Grishum which spans from May-15 to July 15. This season captures life in Kashmir at the zenith of its activity and bloom in the calendar. The buds are shown to be now blooming. The grass is green now. Trees are drooping with green. The cool brooks rush amid green pastures, fields, and orchards. The insects, birds, and animals are frolicsome. Picturesque spots are thronging with families and schools shown organising picnics while tourists and trekkers start their journeys. The Dal Lake is reflecting the surrounding mountains in its greywater. The calendar shows the Lake is thronged by bobbing, sailing, and silent Shikaras in the backdrop of dazzling lined up houseboats. The swimmers and tourists along with boats full of vegetables grown in floating gardens of Dal Lake are also showcased in the calendar. Summer in the calendar is marked by people tying nuptial knots.

As the temperatures go up, the summers are marked by wind and rain rattling the window panes, swinging trees, and slanting silver rain in the calendar. However, rain is only followed by sharp glittering sun.

The Grishum, in the calendar gradually paves the way for the much hotter phase of the summer season.

Vahrat

Vahrat in summers span from July 15 to September 15 and is marked as the season of frequent rains and high temperature up to 35 degrees in the calendar.

This season is depicted with fruit trees drooping lazily along with green trees still in the summer heat, sun becoming blistering hot and people seeking cool shadows and refrigerated products. The fan blades are shown slicing humid hot air within people lazily beginning to droop and sleep with rising temperatures.

The doors of refrigerators are frequently knocked while the ice-cream and soft drink spots are being consumed in tons. The watermelons are omnipresent everywhere in the Vahrat as are the people at picnic spots of the Valley. Hilly areas with lower temperatures are thronged more by the people from the plains while dips in brooks and lakes become temporary escapes from the intense summer heat. The calendar also presents rushing rains with parched earth being filled with life.

With rain marking the end of summer, the temperatures start to go down in the Valley and the calendar presents the onset of autumn.

Harud

Harud (Autumn) season is marked by the fall of leaves from trees which the Sonth (Spring) had brought. It is the fall season of the Valley. The days are shown becoming shorter and colder with temperature losing its capacity to resurrect. The sun is tepid again. As Harud grows, the calendar presents the harvesting season. All green turns yellow. Fruits are harvested. The golden drooping rice fields are thrashed as the yellow sun stares through crimson turned Chinar trees. People are seen stockpiling for winters. The cupboard doors are again knocked to bring out warmer clothes. The change in season is marked by a few sneezes, coughs, and colds. The living creatures on earth prepare to leave till the dawn of Sonth. This season is also marked by marriages, festivals.

As the last leaf falls, the winters resurrect itself from the long slumber.

Vandu

Rubbing its eyes the new season called Vandu ( Winter) is listed from November 15 to May 15 in the calendar. The trees are bare and brown with the water turning cold and the wind becoming icy cold. All forms of life start to enclose within four walls in the calendar. The days are presented to be shorter and nights longer.

The daily activities turn indoors as people switch on heating appliances along with wrapping windows and doors with polythene and blankets.

The season is marked by electricity outages. The presence of candlelight dinners (not the replica of the first world) due to electricity cut off is common in winters. The traditional Hamams are the source of warmth in privileged households while the traditional fire pot (Kangri) becomes a companion of humble people throughout the winter. People’s flexibility in adapting to changing contours of life in this season is reflected in the calendar. The ice-cream shops, frequented in summers, are transformed into winter garment shops.

As the icy cold wind makes outdoor activities difficult, the oldies and young are seen hibernating in warm rooms. The evenings are marked by storytelling sessions of grandparents along with children involved in their winter homework. The clothes on the body are added like the wood and charcoal in the Hamams and Kangris.

The panicky yet memorable moment in winters is the presumed accidental kicking of the Kangri which doesn’t just give goosebumps but also makes hearts skip a beat.

However, if one actually kicks a real Kangri, the wintry world turns upside down with everyone rushing in chaos and confusion to doze of a possible fire and save a precious item from getting ruined.

The calendar’s cover photo of a boat features various characters. A young girl and a woman (probably a mother and a daughter) are seen on the roof of a yellow coloured Shikara with tea or kehwa brewing in a Samovar nearby. This presents a beautiful stretch of imagination and an escapade from the humdrum of conventional daily life scenes.

Also, like the classic Titanic movie; a boy and girl enjoy the breeze as leaves of all seasons swirl around them. A butterfly oversees the inhabitants of the roof, probably; a girl greets her or wants to chase her. The imagination is left for the beholder. A boy is also seen struggling to swim while a girl, swift as fish, is seen effortlessly splashing water around her swims. A young man and woman are seen singing some musical notes in the air too. A woman in traditional attire with Tumbaknari is singing, and a Pheran clad boy is playing the guitar, which seems to present a blend of tradition and modernity.

Inches away, a kid is seen offering a spring leaf to a lake while he is being stared by a Sikh man popping out of lotus flower. This illustration is rib-tickling. On the edge of the boat, a man in a traditional Kashmiri skull cap is clicking photos. Click! Click! Opposite him, a boy is playing with a rope while his legs are crawling on the poles of the roof. An apple is staring endlessly alongside Kashmir’s blooming green leafy Haakh (Collard). Two red cherries dangle silently amid the orange drapes of the boat.  But someone in the illustration seems oblivious to all the happening: A boy sleeping in the boat!

“With an aim to support and honour all the wonderful and talented girls of beloved Kashmir,” Samina Masoodi and Shafat Qazi and Funkar International USA have sponsored the Kath Bath 2021 calendar.

Ghazal Qadri is a Kashmiri born illustrator, currently living in Maryland, USA. Ghazal belongs to the cult of artists who make art out of their lived experiences. She enjoys changing mundane moments into relatable stories while working on comics about real-life situations. Her work focuses on storytelling through comics and illustrations for books, digital products.

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