Behind Reels, Kashmir’s Winter is Harsh and We’re Responsible

KO File Photo: Abid Bhat

Harsh Winters, Lazy Approach 

By Najam Sakib

ON the first of this month, Kashmir Observer ran an editorial concerning the grim record of the authorities regarding providing sufficient electricity during the winter months. It hoped that this time authorities would “surprise” people with timely readiness to tackle the “challenges”. However, these always have turned out to be false hopes.

It is an appalling situation that there are always fingers raised at the authorities regarding the preparedness in Kashmir. And every time, the pleas, requests, and anger fall to dumb ears. The authorities’ attitude has always been to see things through, not to prepare and find a lasting solution. Unfortunately, that is not only confined to providing sufficient electricity but clearing off snow from roads, ensuring sufficient LPG and food supplies, and so on. As soon as the winter is over, authorities take a sigh of relief and then seem to go into a deep slumber only to wake up when the winter is knocking at the door. This escapism certainly has not helped in any way.

The ideas discussed above invoke multiple questions simultaneously. Why, in the first place, are winters harsh? Also, is it because they inherently are harsh, or is it because we have been conditioned to think like that? More importantly, is it because we have yet to systemise the preparedness and logistics that would make winter feel as easy as any other season?

Kashmir is prone to witness snowfall from early November to the first half of March. Winter’s core spans from the 20th of December to the 30th of January. It is called Chillai Kalan and is extremely chilly during this time. Temperature dips down to as extreme as -8 degrees Celsius in the capital Srinagar during these days. Keeping in mind the topography of Kashmir, other places tend to be colder than Srinagar. Heavy snowfall sometimes cuts off the valley from the rest of the world. Therefore, it makes it challenging to see through the winter months. There are always apprehensions about the disruption in the normal functioning of institutions and the perturbation of everyday life. This causes concern among the people regarding essential supplies that cannot enter the valley. It shows how much things can get uglier if Kashmir valley remains isolated for around a week if an unexpected snowfall happens. For many years now, climate change has been a concern which has exponentially increased the chances of witnessing surprising trends. Is Kashmir ready to face that challenge?

Winters are not exclusive to Kashmir. More than half of the world’s population witnesses snowfall. Our very own Ladakh is an example where winter is harsher due to its distinct geography with prolonged freezing temperatures for geographical and demographic reasons. Similarly, winters are probably more brutal compared to Kashmir in North America, Europe, and North Asian territories. However, Kashmiris tend to believe that winter is written only in their fate. We only prepare individually to face winter. Our only job seems to start collecting charcoal, Kangris, and other things. It is absolutely fine to do that. But that is all we think of. We have been conditioned to think like that. Even in the third decade of the twenty-first century, we do not have substantial collective efforts on the ground to tackle the challenges we face during winter. As the editorial mentioned at the beginning suggests, we do not have enough electricity to keep our spaces warm and our homes out of the darkness. It is ironic because most of the electricity produced in Kashmir lights up most of the North Indian states instead.

The concerned power corridors should be serious about bringing a change. It would not only make things less challenging but would make our time more productive. For almost four months, we sit and do nothing productive, and we only wait to see winter pass away. As mentioned before, winters with snowfalls are almost everywhere in the world, but they are far ahead of us. It is because they do not waste time to see winters pass but instead make winters easy and suitable to work. Any argument that there is no money to bring such change is just living in a fool’s paradise. We have enough money to get a tangible change along the same lines. We have young human resources who want to work instead of staying inside homes. We will accept any change on the ground, however little that may be. Let us start by making resources available to help continue economic activities in winter. Electricity is one. Technically, it will push other sectors to help boost the local economy and will not bring unemployment down that skyrockets during winter months.

Therefore, it is evident that there is not a tinge of doubt about winters putting up a challenge, but to perceive it as inherently harsh may not be fair. However, human callousness is the primary factor that worsens things. Kashmiris accept when nature feels slow and when life seems to slow down. How are we, in this day and age, using mediaeval answers to a challenging winter in a fast-paced world? Adapting to preparedness will also better our behaviours, and our psyches will accept the change if and when resources and logistics are available. Our overtly sedentary lifestyle needs to go. We are hard-working people; only the intent is missing at the top.

However, there is a section of people who apparently enjoy winters. Their day starts with capturing the winter landscapes and night passes by uploading reels of the same on Instagram.

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