This Winter Had The Sharpest Teeth

By Azad Hussain

A man rides bicycle on snow covered road during snowfall in Srinagar. File Photo: Abid Bhat

Though Not considered as good as summer, but winter in Kashmir has got it's own significance. It's attractive aspects from touristic point of view and the strong attachment of native people with the traditional life in Kashmir linked with winters describe it's goodness very well. Like summer, winter also radiates it's beauty by, covering the valley with snow clad mountains, decorating the branches of trees with snow white finish then making them to bow a little in a beautiful way and covering the meadows, plain with snowy stainless white carpet, in this way turning the valley into a complete "white house" by adding to the scenic beauty of Kashmir which fascinates the people a lot.

The native people embrace it by recalling the past customs in winter_ "like wearing winter costumes and all that"and then try to repeat them to exhibit their affection with ancestors and their traditional life. That is it's another prettiest thing attracting the people who eagerly wait for winter and enjoy the first snow fall with utmost happiness.

Winter the feeding season to the glaciers "which are otherwise melting with a very high rate in summer due to global warming" reserve the water resources at upper reaches in Kashmir which are important in the way that they in turn feed hundreds of irrigating canals in summer necessary for indigenous flora. Besides that snow covered glaciers attract more tourists in summer season.

Though the onset of winter in Kashmir leads to very cold climatic conditions of chilly period of colder months locally known as Chillai-Kalan, but the locals have adopted themselves in such a way that they face the cold wave of Chillai-Kalan very happily, with ease, by making arrangements for it prior to it's onset_ like preparation of charcoal for Kangries_"the fireports used for warmth in winter", preparation of sun-dried vegetables in villages_to use them in winter when the people face non-availability of fresh vegetables, people who live near upper reaches make fire wood reserve_to use it in winter for heating and cooking purposes, people also keep a good stock of warm clothes ready for winter etc, to face it's challenge with out any difficulty.

However, from a couple of past years climatic change has resulted with extremely cold winters with heavy and more snowfalls as compared to the years before. This year the winter played a good inning like never before, altogether very different from previous years, winter has this time shown the sharpest side of it's teeth. Usually winter makes it's way to Kashmir in the mid-December when people are supposed to have all prepared themselves to face it's challenge in terms of their arrangements for it. But this time it came all of sudden, and brought an unprecedented first snowfall in November 5, that too a heavy one, which left the people unprepared like it happened last year. That snowfall was too heavy to cheer up the people of Kashmir, because the majority of people who belong to horticulture sector were badly affected.The untimely snowfall caused a huge damage to the apple orchards. Some people were still harvesting the fruits, suddenly this natural calamity occurred. Instead of enjoying it, most of the people got distressed by the damage it caused.

Even the trees of those orchards where fruit harvesting had been completed, also were yet unpruned and were yet to shed off their leaves, due to which huge load of snow accumulated on those trees resulting with, either partial or complete damage to them.

Like it's beginning, winter continued to remain as such, throughout its length, by bringing several consecutive heavy snowfalls one after other like first one leaving the gaps of not more than three to four days in between. This was out of the expectations of people, who were not in a position to prepare for it before or in between. Along with them the snowfalls brought a severe cold wave which gripped the people the way perhaps not experienced before as the temperature dropped to it's lowest. Everything freezed and made the valley a complete fridged zone.

The snowbound roads got blocked , the taps freezed, the power supply disrupted many times and created a situation of inaccessibility of rural areas , drinking water crisis and power supply crisis respectively in the valley for weeks together. Besides causing complications of various respiratory diseases like common cold etc. The patients in villages with critical conditions in referral cases faced various difficulties to reach district hospitals due to uncleared roads during snowing days.

People couldn't roam around, and were stuck to indoors to avoid biting cold. The children in Kashmir fond of games who every year enjoy winter vacations by playing various outdoor games in winter mostly cricket, couldn't get a single chance to play due to continuous wetness of ground by frequent precipitations.

However those who managed to leave valley to spend migratory life, over the months of winter, outside valley to get rid of chill landed in the safer zone. Pertinently a good percentage of population in valley, who are well off spent winter outside to escape the harsh chill of winter

During all those difficult times of this year's harsh winter, the much essential service of power supply which works as a life line especially during winters,_ because lighting and heating are essential, remained almost disrupted due to often damages in transmission lines. Whenever restored also played hide and seek there by made the people suffer more. In those boredom days internet would have proven boredom reliever was also completely shut.

In the backdrop of this year's winter, authorities and the native people have to introspect their mistakes and need to rectify the previous mistakes in future in terms of necessary arrangements like round the clock power supply and water supply, availability of road clearance machines, availability of emergency medical facilities in rural areas, the necessary arrangements by common people etc. Besides all that those people who belong to horticulture sector should be compensated to some extent for the damage caused to their orchards by snow.

The author can be reached at [email protected]

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