Monday, January 16, 2012

Snow Sparrows

We may have our iPhones alright but the first sprinkling of snow in Kashmir upends just about everything. Power transmission lines, roadside trees and civil administration cave in on each other and in that order. Ergo -- light, water and most means of communication disappear. The winter of 2011-12 is no exception. Local government was caught with its pants down, God knows doing what, in the season’s first – and subsequent – snowfalls.

Tourists from mainland India, with monkey caps fitted on them, like executors, can be seen wandering around Srinagar’s only fashionable lakeside road, Boulevard. Since the authorities have somehow managed to restore light for a few hours each day in hotels and houseboats, coupled with CM’s cut-my-light-also dramaturgy, things have begun to look touristy again. Picture postcards show snow, not the absence of glow in bulbs.

While it might still take some time to get the glow back in hamlets of south and north Kashmir, the general public has been asked to carry their cell-phone chargers in Pheran pockets, just in case. Great improvisers, as Kashmiris are, they put hospitals to good use this winter. In perpetual absence of ‘regular electricity’ cell phones were powered on by ‘essential services’ supply and car engines. Then people say we don’t ‘ideate’. Not fair.

Talking of fare -- no Kashmiri household can ring the snow in without the quintessential local fare -- Razma (kidney beans), called Razma dal and Kashur anchar (Kashmiri pickle) in our neck of woods. So when it snows outside, like it used to in good old days, there is no joy better than sitting around with your folks in the old kitchen, finishing off platefuls of rice with Razma and anchar (and fish, if you are in Sopore). Else a duck meal with spinach will do, if you live, let’s say in Sajad Lone’s little village.

Although Harisa is available in many towns of Kashmir these days, it is still a bit of novelty. The original inhabitants of old Srinagar are somewhat skilled in the craft. If you have a hovel or home along one of Srinagar’s notable bridges – Ael Kadal, Fateh kadal, Razeh kadal, Zeen kadal, you are likely to be teased in the bed by the near-seductive aroma of Harisa coming from one of the pinds. Nothing comes close. Milk in Kashmir, like our smutty politicians, is adulterated these days.

Besides taking potshots at the CM, who wears 70’s style English sweaters and hop scotches all over the valley, while people find it hard to walk to the local mosque in 10 inches of snow, the winter talk is invariably bound to throw up that moth-eaten annual question. Why is Mr G in Delhi while we shiver in the bitter chill? Well, may be, because he does not have a Hamam like some of us and unlike all of us he is not allowed to step out, around summer, the time of dangerous ideas.

Winters are exclusively for nader-mounjas. And brown-grey sparrows, pecking at yellow crumbs of rice, on the staircase of Makhdoom Sahib in Koh-e-Maran.

© Sameer