Hope Springs Eternal

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Dominant concerns in Kashmir are far too pedestrian to appreciate spring’s capricious advance. Granted that the sudden swings of mood, the chilly showers, overcast skies suddenly switching to brilliant sunshine, and then back to their brooding, have not been as dramatic as last year, but still, what the valley has begun to see of the season’s variety are all lost on a concrete landscape where the only splashes of colour are the show-windows of mysteriously multiplying shopping complexes.

There is little left in Srinagar for nature to daub its hues on. Or inspire a lover’s complaint, or even the thanksgiving of the devout. All that the city has to offer now are a regimented tour of the Mughal Gardens or the new, contrived Badam Wari and the tulip garden. Gone are the natural and spontaneous almond-tree orchards, the dense pomegranate groves, and the acres and acres of green that one stumbled on at every other turn. Even graveyards, once sprouting iris and daffodil, are now bramble and weed.  And more frequent than fountains in the up-market parts of the city are Kashmir’s own contribution to urban adornment – garbage heaps. True, someone in the municipality is fighting hard to rid the city of this blight, but has no armour against the citizens’ compulsive littering habits. People who once wore daises and rosebuds on their lapels now leave a trail of trash behind.

Citizens today could have been walking amid tree-lined avenues, open green spaces, and constructions shaped and proportioned in tune with the city’s natural landscape and verdure. After all, the capital of Paradise on Earth deserved as much. But its undertakers have ordained otherwise, turning it into an example of shabbiness which even the full force of budding spring cannot undo. In the city, the season’s hues have to be sought out with a microscope amid the huge lumps of masonry – notwithstanding patches of private preserves walled off in a travesty of civic planning. 

If March turned has turned out to be relatively well-behaved, can the season’s tantrums be safely left for the year’s princess, just a few days away?  Weathermen have been keeping their cards close to their chest, perhaps to build suspense. Of late, seasons have begun to buck the disturbing trend of truant winters, but while snow has been abundant this year in many parts of the Valley, the city of Srinagar has had to make do with not more than three or four inches. One hopes that spring will not be accused of being stingy with rains. Full rivers, bountiful crops, and a smiling providence, are among the many hopes Kashmiri hearts harbour today as well. Natives may not have corrected their many intemperate ways, but no one can un-teach them not to bank on the limitless generosity of the Everlasting, even when His laws of cause and effect are immutable. 

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