So winter is here. Being a kashmiri and typically from south, I am going to throw some light on the typical winter here with its cons majorly. Before you judge me, let me tell you I am not immersed in negativity but to highlight the cons only has a reason and it is that mostly the outsiders imagine winters here a flurry ones, snow covered valleys and mountains. Epitome of beauty they consider it. Yes absolutely it is Masha-Allah, and with that it clears my stand. Because most of you know the pros of winter.
Though the winter begins with onset of autumn and typically from ending October and ends by the end of March but the winter here is always extended beyond March. The mid winter is hardest and the period of Chillai Kalaan is mostly considered core of the winter. Chillai Kalaan is a forty day long period starting from 21 december to 30 january. These forty days are considered most harsh days of winter in valley. Temperature sharply goes down during this time of season. Every thing that is left still freezes. Icicles you will find hanging everywhere. Washed clothes become icy and hard when kept for drying and, vegetables and fruits become a major contributor in raising the cases of cold and fever. The vegetables and fruits are considered good for use only after boiling them, in case of vegetables, and fruits are to be kept in some warm places and unless you find the water droplets over their surface you can’t eat them. Here it is said that winter fruits and vegetables have “shuh” means they kind of are frozen inside. And unless you warm the fruits and make them give out water, they are not fit for consuming.
The most hated thing by me is when the water supply is disrupted due to the cold. The cold becomes so severe that the water in the pipes turn into ice. The struggle then begins when one tries to melt that ice. Most of the times while we are trying to melt ice so that water can run, the struggle ends up rupturing the pipes and valves. Once water in pipes freezes and if not done anything to change its form, this freezing continues and forwards towards the source as well as sink, leaving ultimately water tanks frozen as well. In many cases as is the case with ice, the tank ruptures as well. This part of this season makes it difficult for us and I personally want to run away during this season to some other place.
Severe cold penetrates one’s body and I recommend you do not just watch bollywood movies which show heroines in just a single dress with bear legs, dancing in snow. They are fooling you if you are wishing to be there. Being a typical kashmiri, I tell you, the cold and layers of clothing have direct proportionality. With each month, a new layer adds up to our body, starting from end September or starting October. While typing this, I am weary already four layers of clothes, sitting under a blanket plus having a kangri(will explain it later) as well. When Chillai Kalaan was yet to arrive, our pipes had already started freezing. Another layer of clothing is missing, which I suppose I might add once Chillai Kalaan officially shows its teeth in the valley. This part of clothing is an identity of Kashmii tradition called “Pheran”, a kashmiri cloak. It’s a woollen garment, made loose and large so that while sitting kangri can be adjusted within it. It has nowadays taken a different looks and designs, though designs for women out number the men’s.
Kangri is an earthen pot centrally caged in the Willow wicker. It is fire pot, used to keep cold at bay. The coal is used in it to keep winters warm. One keeps it close to body under the Pheran or under the blanket to warm oneself. The struggle to not let the kangri fall is greater than its warmth. Though no warmth can replace the warmth of kangri but couple of times, when luck does not favour you and specially when your family is not in good mood, your kangri turns upside down and scatters the coal and ash on the most expensive carpet in the house. By any means it can happen, may be sometimes it gets stuck in your Pheran and I am giving you tip, do not look at yours family faces at this time. They know it was unintentional but those eyes!!!!!! Winter carpets in every house in kashmir has scar of the fallen kangris.
One of the major concern in Kashmir during snow is electricity. Once snow falls, the power lines get hit severely and some times, electricity does not return for days. Now with frozen pipes and no electricity, I want all those dancing ladies in movies come and live here. I don’t know who invented “Kashmiri Hamam” but kashmiris owe him a lot. You might have heard the Hamams of Turkey, though they are used for bathing only, here the Hamam which I came to know is actually Turkish hamam extension, is used for more than just bathing. You must be aware of the fires places that keeps people warm who sit close to it. Well same fire place is prominent part of hamam here. Hamam is a room in house with flat stoned floor under which is a hollow base. The floor of the room/hamam is made of flat horizontal rectangular stones that become warms with fire. The hollow space below must have a fire place, where the wood is burnt. This fire place is below the room, and space behind it opens way to smoke and heat throughout hollow space below room. Opposite sides of fireplace has air columns to lead the smoke out. Once the wood in fire place is lit, the fire and smoke, below the room fill hollow space, warming the stones and thus room above. Fire place has a proper mini gate, so once fire is lit, the gate can be closed. No one dares to sit anywhere else in house but hamam. Because the water and electricity problem persist for days often, the cylindrical copper tank is fixed during the construction just above the fire place of hamam. While room gets warm, water too gets warm. “Necessity is mother of inventions” I guess this properly fits here.