Snowfall is a boon, never a curse

Shiban Khaibri “If we had no winter, the spring would not be so pleasant ; if we did not sometimes taste of adversity , prosperity would not be so welcome ….” (Anne Bradstreet) The quote of the poet who was the first woman to be recognised as an accomplished New World Poet had, perhaps, foreseen and hunched more than four hundred years back about the “modern and progressed ” days when most of our TV journalists and even those reporting for print media describing a heavy snow fall or a torrential rain as a result of “bad” weather , ”harsh” weather, ”hostile” weather, ”turbulent” weather and even chiding it mildly by saying unfavourable weather. Can weathers be harsh and turbulent, perhaps, one has to find the pointed answer, on comparative basis , in the availability and affordability of the aids of comforts , conveniences and luxuries . Agreed, these means of “fighting” cold and heat as a result of the properties of a particular season as also the mood of the weather, do keep us in utter comforts and thus are “constrained” to mock both severe cold and intense heat and even humid and sultry conditions notwithstanding the fact that they, in the process, make us lethargic and “un-natural”. All the seasons and weathers, nature has made for us to sustain – agriculture, water for drinking, forests and vegetation, flora and fauna and what not – are all dependent on the seasons and weathers of the year. Our respectful salutes to our daring brave hearts who guard our borders where temperatures dip below minus forty degrees and where frozen snow is to walk upon, to sit on and sleep “along”. Those of our lion hearted who keep vigil on our borders in hottest deserts in scorching 50 degree Celsius temperatures and again, those who protect our seas under cloistered conditions braving the fury and the calm of the waters around them when just ”seeing” land and strolling a bit thereon is not, under normal circumstances, their piece of cake. Obviously, they cannot call all such conditions and changes in weather, a natural but cardinal phenomenon , as harsh , bad or turbulent. Seasons and consequently changes in the weather are representation of time. We cannot condition or mould nature to suit our ways and comforts. We cannot keep on polluting rivers and lakes wantonly and not reap the consequences as we are helplessly watching how nature behaves again in a natural way. Phases of lockdown to fight COVID-19 pandemic resulted in the most polluted River Yamuna looking pristine, pretty, clean ,fresh and looking as if singing and enjoying the unexpected ”windfall” after many decades. Holy Ganga River which has been the most polluted was declared as having its water turned so clean that it was certified fit for drinking . On the one hand , we treat the River as sacred , but on the other , pollute it mercilessly to the hilt . We do not want our life sustaining rivers , lakes and other water bodies to get cleansed and rid of pollution in such a manner when the people, out of scare of the infection of the deadly virus, had to shut up virtually everything and only remain confined to the four walls of their homes or those who were out in the hospitals , laboratories, clinics and in the open known in common parlance as on field duty and doing a superb job of service and rendering assistance to the needy , very rightly earning the term “warriors” – even had to be over cautious and limited to the assigned activities . However, this way or that way , if cleansing process took place, nature immediately started responding and gradually rewarded us with dividends. It is another thing that the process of returning to virtual normal activities , it is the same inevitable position . Coming back to snowing, snowflakes and snowfall , the entire scenario has got to be seen in its tremendous advantages for human, animal and plant life. If our day’s routine need some adjustments and temporary changes again to suit our needs during and immediately after a heavy snowfall, it is none of the faults or any problem of the nature and therefore, we cannot virtually curse a snowfall and if temporarily confined or blocked by some accumulated quantity of snow even be justified in declaring it as a “natural calamity”. Aristotle had long back called the bluff of some people in sailing in two boats while “dealing” with snow by saying “to appreciate the beauty of a snowflake , it is necessary to stand out in the cold.” It carries a lot of message hardly needed to be interpreted. We cannot write poetry and poets cannot speak or read out poems in praises of snowfall , snowflakes coming down dancing calmly , silently and getting deposited for us to use and at the same time , raise a hullabaloo about it to denote that we must get enough and to spare crystal clear sweet water during hot summers and in other seasons but without being slightly dampened with snow when it arrives. That is why, the great Greek Philosopher laid stress on “standing out in the cold if one had really to appreciate the beauty of a snowflake. In common parlance, some amount of effort, call it a bit of pleasant trouble, had to be borne if really nature had to be appreciated and consequently respected all for our benefits. You cannot have living conditions and habits moulded while living in cold places where it snows just as if living in places where there was no snow because of hot plains and hence hot weathers. Houses must be accordingly constructed and designed as we used to have and live in during our school, college days. To appreciate and treat accumulated snow on roofs and on wall tops , wooden shovels with wider blades were used to lighten those snow laden roofs and wall tops and mutual help and lending the shovels and other ordinary apparatus between neighbours used to be part and parcel of how to welcome , (not treat in absolute sense) the snow and it used to be a grand spectacle to watch and an experience to run through . Snow ghosts and other formations in compounds and open fields used to be the part of the game all without a frown or any sulking . Usually, roasted water chestnuts , peanuts , lotus root chips etc were enjoyed during the winters and particularly , boiled and fried black mooth was a favourite cuisine as an additional dish of the day relished while sitting at windows watching those snowflakes like petals of white roses falling from the sky which in abstract words, could at best be described as soft white bits of frozen water falling from the sky in cold weather. The latter version of snow is alright scientifically but aesthetically it is not . It is from this point of view snowfall is described as harsh, troublesome and causing inconvenience of different hues. We, in our early young days would wake up in the morning to see the first snowfall of the season to great amusement and would greet one another and demand a small treat if you were the first one to say “Navsheen” or new snowfall greetings. The snowfalls used to be regular, persistent and heavy resulting in coming out of our houses from the windows of the first floor as three to four feet snow accumulating or depositing in compounds would make it a bit struggling to make the way hence the adventurous using the first floor windows to jump on soft deposit of snow . No one ever complained and newspapers were carrying casually the news of heavy snowfall and no bouts of breaking news items continuously about the ‘made out fuss’ about it as we presently see. After a heavy snowfall when nights were clear , the mornings were really different . All the melted snow here and there would just appear frozen like a sheet of glass , people would walk over such ”frozen” lanes and even streets cautiously to avoid a fall and even would tie a thin grass rope around the shoes to prevent a slip. Long and heavy icicles formed out of dripping water from melting snow were looking as if fixed with the edges of the roofs with some adhesive. Washed clothes and kept in the upper floors or terraces for drying were turning into ”unbreakable” frozen substances. Offices were routinely opening, Banks and commercial institutions were functioning normally, students were busy preparing for annual examinations scheduled in March. Ration depots used to be at the banks of the River Veth or Jehlum which used to be colder but never ever would it be seen that any ration depot was shut. All types of vegetables like sweet gourd, brinjal , turnip, tomato, red chillies etc would be in dried form in store with each household while lotus stem , some green vegetables and spinach and potatoes etc, even radish and turnip would be locally available . In other words, dependence on fresh vegetables from other States was to the barest minimum. People would do more physical work , more walking in particular and diseases were lesser, if not unheard of. And, now things are totally changed , preferences and habits as also life styles have changed, economic prosperity has made lives easy and comfortable and snow falls are liked just in symbolic manner only or when confined to mountainous regions only . Over it all, when the Government declares snowfall as a natural calamity, what to say except such an approach was going to develop a propensity towards snowfalls and natural phenomenon quite different from what should be there or how the entire scenario should be looked at , lived with and enjoyed. Shortly , some poets may even write elegies over the fate of snow instead of describing it making for us picturesque panoramas and reminding us of the beauty and mystery of creation.