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Lesson learned

Kashmir Youth walks near long icicles hanging from the roof of a house as srinagar breaks 30 years old cold record
Photo: KM/Umar Ganie

Kashmir is grappling with one of the worst winters in recent decades. The temperatures are plummeting several degrees below normal. People are suffering due to frozen and burst water pipes. Nothing is working to keep the supply intact. Many have tried wrapping the pipes with foam polyethylene rolls which, as a matter of act, are selling like hot cakes but those too have failed in this sub-zero weather that has got everyone rattled in Kashmir. The intensity of the cold has exposed the construction style in the valley which is completely unfavourable to a place where winters are expected to be this harsh. For instance, most of the houses in Srinagar and other townships are built with large, glass windows that are not feasible for winters. The rooms too are bigger than what used to be in the past. Besides, use of concrete and cement is also another factor that makes the houses cold chambers. This winter has made people miss the old houses which used to be plastered with mud with smaller rooms, smaller windows, making them cosier and warmer. Traditional Kashmiri houses faced south to absorb the maximum sunlight. They usually had a single entrance and rows of windows. The wooden window frames bore small glass panes and the thick brick walls were plastered with clay and straw on the inside, so the cold did not seep in. But as the Valley’s taste in architecture changed, homes became colder. Howsoever, technologically advanced the world becomes, one should know that the practices followed in the past were tried and tested for hundreds of years, and even in those torrid when people did not have all the facilities we have, they were able to live through the harsh weather of which we have seen a slight glimpse this winter. We must recognise and go back to the same old methods to make peace with the season that gets on our nerves. Understandably, one cannot demolish and reconstruct houses but what we can do is ensure that at least ensure that Kangri and Pheran (the real loose pheran and not the new avatar of it that refuses to let the kangri in) get their due back. Also, in the past Kashmiris used to keep some food and coal stock for the winters. While the same happens to some extent now too, people are expected to be more watchful from now onwards. One predicts that people will start preparing for the next winters way before in autumn of 2021. And they rightly should because this winter we all have relearned our lessons. We cannot forget that we are living in a place bedecked by mountains and on a high altitude where weather can take unexpected turns. For now, one hopes that as chillai kalaan, the harshest 40-day period of winters, is over, the weather is going get better and balmy.