Introduction to Blog

I launched the website and the Blog after having spoken to government officials, political analysts and security experts specializing in South Asian affairs from three continents. The feedback was uniformly consistent. The bottom line is that when Kashmiris are suffering and the world has its own set of priorities, we need to find ways to help each other. We must be realistic, go beyond polemics and demagoguery, and propose innovative ideas that will bring peace, justice and prosperity in all of Jammu and Kashmir.

The author had two reasons to create this blog. First, it was to address the question that was being asked repeatedly, especially, by journalists and other observers in the U.S., U.K., and Canada, inquiring whether the Kashmiri society was concerned about social, cultural and environmental challenges in the valley given that only political upheaval and violence were reported or highlighted by media.

Second, the author has covered the entire spectrum of societal issues and challenges facing Kashmiri people over an 8-year period with the exception of politics given that politics gets all the exposure at the expense of REAL CHALLENGES that will likely result in irreversible degradation in the quality of life and the standard of living for future generations of Kashmiris to come.

The author stopped adding additional material to the Blog once it was felt that most, if not all, concerns, challenges and issues facing the Kashmiri society are cataloged in the Blog. There are over 1900 entries in the Blog and most commentaries include short biographical sketches of authors to bring readers close to the essence of Kashmir. Unfortunately, the 8-year assessment also indicates that neither Kashmiri civil society, nor intellectuals or political leadership have any inclination or enthusiasm in pursuing issues that do not coincide with their vested political agendas. What it means for the future of Kashmiri children and their children is unfathomable. But the evidence is all laid out.

This Blog is a reality check on Kashmir. It is a historical record of how Kashmir lost its way.

Vijay Sazawal, Ph.D.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Recalling Joys of the First Snowfall of the Season

Zahid recalls of times when the first flakes of winter re-invigorated our souls

(Mr. Z. G. Mohammad, 59, was born and raised in Srinagar. He earned his Master's degree in English literature from the Kashmir University and has completed a course in Mass Communication from Indian Institute of Mass Communication. He is a writer and a journalist who has written for many newspapers, including the Statesman, the Sunday, and the Kashmir Times. He currently works for the Greater Kashmir.)

Of snowfall, chilly winter and my beloved city

‘When we were children’, it was not city of ‘living dead’- it was pulsating; it was vibrant; oh! It was as vivacious as a mountain belle chasing a wild goat.

The brute cavalries, the merciless marauders and ruthless rulers with all their brutalities had failed to sap life from by birth burg. It had survived the despots and tyrants that had ‘sucked the very lifeblood of people’ in my birth burg. Taxed them- taxed them cumbersomely. Taxed everything- yes, taxed everything imaginable. ‘Fruit trees, birch bark, violet, hides, silk, saffron, hemp, tobacco, water-nuts and paper were treated as State monopolies and farmed out to people of Maharaja’s faith.’ ‘Gravedigger was taxed. Butcher was taxed. Baker was taxed. Boatman was taxed. Carpenter was taxed. Woodcutter was taxed. Prostitute was taxed.

Hats off to my city it did not succumb. It did not surrender. It fought back the brutish hundred and sixty years chivalrously and refused to bow before the cultural invasion of the alien rulers. I declined to be named as an abode of the ‘living- dead’. Those who surrender before cultural invasions are truly living dead. With inner strength my birth burg formed summers of happiness out of winters of despondency.

Come winter: It was agog- all festivity. From the first snowfall to breaking chandeliers of icicles everything had fun for children.

The first snowfall brought all joy with it. It made deathly pale cheeks rubicund. It refreshed benumbed hearts. It energized frozen minds. I remember morning of first snowfall was different from other mornings- the moment I opened the window to look at virgin beauty of winters I was thrilled. Those days most of the houses had two sets of windows, the inner windows were solid half an inch thick wooden planks that prevented chilling from entering into cozy rooms and outer windows were latticed covered with old newspapers soaked in oil or cheap brown papers. Some latticed windows had floral and some geometrical designs.

On seeing the first snow many ideas – some playful and some naughty tinkled my mind. I wanted to see my foot prints on the blankets of snow in our compound, lanes and street much before my brothers. I in fact wanted to pace through the fresh snow much before dogs would spoil it. To take lead over other children in our house I volunteered to fetch bread from baker in our Mohalla. Tucking kangri inside pheran and pushing my feet through the gumboots I moved out of my home like a soldier to conquer an impenetrable and impregnable enemy camp. No moment I reached on the main street I made snowballs out of feathery snow and tossed them with full force towards the sky. I do not know if it was rebel within me that found an expression in doing so or it was share ignorance of gravitational law that made me believe that my ball can touch the sky. On return, no moment I was about to reach my home I would press a snowball very hard on the pedestal of kangari—on entering home trick brothers, mother, aunt and preferably grandmother for Sheen-i-Shariat (Snow-bet).

Sheen-i-Shariat was yet another festivity of first snowfall. If I succeeded in tricking my grandmother- I would ask for my pound of flesh – a taka or an anna. I do not know if this custom had a mythical background or it was born after our land had lost its freedom. I believe it might have been invented as source of amusement by this tiny nation to fight despair as oppressed nations do. The sheen-i-shariat could be played for full day of the first snowfall. The trick of sheen-i-shariat could be played against sisters, brothers, cousin and friends.

The first snowfall day at tutor’s residence used to be full of thrill and excitement. Plans would be made to trick sheen-i-shariat on fellow students or teacher. I remember once we wrapped a snowball in an old newspaper as grocers used to wrap up herbal medicines to trick our tutor Kashi Nath. He was an affectionate teacher, who never canned a student but he was heard of hearing. Many times we took advantage of his being heard of hearing- those days hearing aids had not been invented. A friend of mine presented the wrapped sheen-i-Shariat to him. No sooner he unwrapped it – he did not his poise but asked his daughter to entertain us with “Mogul Chai” that is how Pandit called Kashmir Khewa- (green tea)- perhaps green tea had been introduced by Moguls in Kashmir.

It made big news in the family, if there would be nau-noush (new bride) in a family. If the trick could be played successfully against her by any member family it would created a hullabaloo in the family. It would mean entertaining the family with a sumptuous seven to eight course feast or at minimum heerasa–(pounded meat cooked overnight at low heat) next morning.

It was not only from first snowfall and ‘Sheen-i-Shariat’ that we derived heart-soothing pleasures- the breaking of chandelier of icicles hanging from the coroners of grand hospice in our locality tickled our hearts. Breaking an icicle in one stone through was more than winning an Olympic medal in shooting for us. We often competed in breaking icicles hanging from the birch- bark roof of Jamia Masjid. Some

Icicles had their own lovers. I dared not to munch icicles their cracking inside mouth sounded like breaking of bones to me. True, they were our ice creams without sugar and milk but as compared boys girls had an appetite for them. I would often see girls in my locality biting icicles ferociously.

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