It all gets covered with the colour of winter, the colour of dusk. Shades of grey start to dominate. Temperature starts dipping, air breeze gets cooler, people add more layers to raise their body temperatures.
Winter in Kashmir is a five months season but the real winter is experienced in the forty days of Chilai kalan, starting from December 21 to January 31, and if it snows in these forty days, the experiences get worst. Old aged and children are forced to sit inside as the snow in Chilai kalan fr
eezes gets harder and becomes slippery to walk.
Going by the status of Bone and Joints hospital, after the season’s first snowfall the number of fracture cases are up by almost 30% and the figures are likely to increase further seeing the weather, they say.
Snow blanketed mountains, plains and white outlined trees especially Chinars may sound good to ears and are the usual clich?d lines used to describe the beauty of winter in Kashmir. It is beautiful to visualize as well but for its native’s winter brings a different experience. It is the worst season in the year, they say. Because of the facilities available in here, locals refer to winter as the ugliest season.
Living under these snow blankets has never been exciting for Kashmiris.
Heavy or light, the snowflakes cut the three regions, Ladakh, Kashmir and Jammu, from each other.
Many of the vehicles carrying both passengers as well as goods get stranded on the Srinagar Jammu highway for days or even weeks. As Kashmir does not produce ample quality of goods for itself, it gets all essentials from Jammu, Punjab and other states of India, so the closure of the highway ceases the supply of essential as well. The blockage makes people to suffer, sometimes Kashmir falls short of even baby foods also.
As the weather was being kind for last few winters’ people this year were not prepared for a harsh winter. They did not have enough stored stuff at home. Locals well aware of these hardships used to keep dried vegetables, stored rice, good quantity of kerosene in their homes but this year’s winter was an unpleasant surprise after a long time.
Valley was kept under darkness for about three days after the season’s first snowfall. The shortage of LPG cylinders is such that government has come up with a ‘respite plan’ of giving 5 kgs in 14.2 kgs cylinders which makes it 35 % of the total capacity, much less than half of the quantity. Still people are seen in long queues waiting to get these 5 kgs.
Frozen taps and water pipes had become the talk of the town. Many were not able to even wash their faces let alone perform ablution or take a shower.
The locals have no reason to love this season. They cannot help but to hate it for no arrangement from the concerned authorities.
The roads connecting the peripheries remain covered with snow for months. This year two deaths were reported because of this as the patients were not able to reach hospital in time. Besides, a couple of more deaths were reported starting with that of a snow cutter driver.
Leaving the roads connecting periphery, the inner city roads do not have a different story. Due to a huge rush of traffic the snow is scarcely seen but a project started five years ago for its betterment is accumulating to a disaster. The project taken care by NBCC, answerable to none locally, has missed many deadlines and has left city with half dug muddy roads. In summers one may enjoy its roller coaster ride but in winters these half dug roads splashes mud all over. In car it may not be noticed much but walking over these roads makes you regret about the place you are living in.
Winter in Kashmir is full of sufferings because the people’s and the authority’s ill preparedness but children seem least affected. Snowfall is the season that gets a million dollar smile on their faces and they get a chance of make different shapes of the white blankets spread on their grounds.
Text by: Syed Asma
Photos by: Bilal Bahadur