They say when winter comes, spring is inevitable. In longing for the bright and beautiful, I ventured to find the long awaited spring. I travelled far and wide searching for some sign of this season of hope. I found it in gardens, gently creeping in through tiny crevices in trees and the earth. I could feel it in the mellifluous breeze that replaced the chill. It blew over the meadows, under the Chinars, into every garden. It touched all lifeless forms and leisurely began transforming them. It was as if God was breathing life into everything. The scent in the air changed; its frosty flavors changing to fragrant aromas.
But the modification was rather slow. I expected lush green meadows to suddenly appear out of nowhere and caterpillars to turn to butterflies all at once. The blossom of pink and white was appearing on hills and meadows but why were the chinars still lifeless? Daffodils and narcissi smiled upon me everywhere but where were the roses?
I was being hasty, I knew. There is a time for everything and anything great requires time. Spring by definition is a time when you can begin to hope and let that hope grow within you. Beauty hidden behind a veil is pure, untarnished and tantalising. And when the veil falls gradually, the beholders wait with bated breath. When the curtain is lifted completely, it is every bit worth the wait. Yet, prolonged winters can kill the fragile hope that persists in a frail heart. I had lost all my hope too as I battled the winters that spread ominously all around me. The thrill of expectation and suspense of a pleasant surprise had become alien to me. So I expected spring to present all its colors to me at once, leaving scope for not even sliver of uncertainty.
So I began my search for the expectation and hope that spring brings. I travelled because I needed to believe that not all hope is irrational and that the magic of faith is real. My quest led me to the gates of the shrine of Baba Reshi located just three kilometers from the majestic meadows of Gulmarg.
The prayer room was beautiful; the walls were paneled with wood and the roof bedecked with carved wood too. Almond wood dividers had flowers carved into them. The windows were large and the room airy. Silence and pines surrounded this tiny hutment.
The prayer began. I could hear the Imam through a distant loudspeaker. He led the prayer and we followed his gentle guidelines. As I bent onto the ground, my forehead fell on the hem of the robe of a lady praying in front of me. The fabric was cool and it soothed my hot forehead.
The words of the imam were mingled with gentle cries from an infant. I could also hear children talking at a distance. I couldnt divert my attention from their conversation. They were direct in their approach and absolutely honest.
One kid asked where is your mother? the other replied that he didnt have one. So the first asked where she was.
Is she dead?
Still no reply.
So he tried again, When did she die?
Then, came the response. I flinched.
The woman next to me seemed lost. She kept making mistakes. She sat when we were supposed to stand and went into sajood before all others. I began wondering what her worry was. From the corner of my eyes, I could see that she wore a bright green pheran and I could briefly hear the light jingling of her gold bangles. I remembered the countless times when my worries had left me blundering.
Soon the prayer ended. We whispered our desires to God and I turned to leave, only to find the same woman nursing her newborn who had been crying during the prayer. Her fidgeting made sense now. I smiled at her and she smiled back. Her gaze was full of radiance and it filled my heart with an emotion I could not immediately connect to.
I walked on to find an ageing woman with both her hands raised in prayer. Suddenly she made a supplication aloud. She asked Allah to remove worry from every heart present in that room. Spontaneously, I whispered, Amen as did everyone else. Age is not merely a number; it is the measure of wisdom. Here was a wise woman praying for everybody with everybody, thereby magnifying the power of the supplication.
I walked on to find an ageing woman with both her hands raised in prayer. Suddenly she made a supplication aloud. She asked Allah to remove worry from every heart present in that room. Spontaneously, I whispered, Amen as did everyone else. Age is not merely a number; it is the measure of wisdom. Here was a wise woman praying for everybody with everybody, thereby magnifying the power of the supplication. Weight, I never knew existed, was suddenly lifted from my shoulders. I continued my walk towards the door and met a beautiful little child on the way. He waved at me. I smiled and waved back. The mix of emotions rising within me suddenly had a name- hope.
I found hope from strangers who were connected to me because of we all live the same life. Happiness, glory, joy and sorrow surround us from time to time as we move from one stage of life to another. And in our struggle with life, we learn to live. Despite evidence against it, we hope.
As I stepped out into the afternoon sun, I realised that spring indeed was here, there and everywhere.
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