‘CHILLA BACHA’ and ‘Chilla Khurd’ are freakishly cold. The two are muddy and filthy but not Siberian. Blood curdling, 24*40 ‘Chilla Kalan’, cold as witch, is unstirring and still as death. Glaciating night, with the stars and the full moon above shinning bright is kind of beautiful ‘Chilla Kalan’ night (oxymoron). The scraggy shoots and offshootsof poplar, chinar and willow here and there formed with icicles all around, spread their shadows on the ground. Witching hours that freeze the tails(and balls of a brass monkey) let animal life go invisible. No single creature dares to settle down on the denuded icy branches of the trees for the night. Once in a coon’s age when the monstrous ‘Chilla Kalan’ goes nuts everything goes ‘ulta-pulta’. The sudden outburst of chilly winds and the overcast sky usher in the heavy snow fall, kind of whiteout…….blow, blow,thou winter wind; thou art not so unkind, as man’s ingratitude. The deluge that follows the un-interrupting rains fills the drains and ditches to the overflowing.
Somewhere in the middle of the night when the witches are active the pitter pattering of raindrops suddenly comes to grinding halt. At cock crow next day when the children roll out of the bed to peer out of the window, they shout with shock and surprise. Snow bearded Santa Claus dressed in red (children are told) seemed to have come down chimneys along with the Christmas gift,and brought with him the pure and grandfather moss ……white petals from flowers that grow in the cold. Whitening showers in hand he’s painted roof tops,trees and branches, electric wires, vast expanses of fields and gardens, roads and lanes carving out contours,bulges, and projections. During the next several hours snowdrops fall softly to the ground nipping at the children’s noses that frolic about in the snowfields and make Sheena mohnevs. Snowflakes are one of the God’s most fragile things, but just look what they do when they stick together. Nights peek through the frosted window at the softly falling snow, so do the footprints from the frosted windows track the new fallen snow; such a cool, cool winter scene so peaceful and serene. Snow falls, snow on snow, snow on snow in the eerie silence with all it serenity.
The precipitating winter with its ‘biting’ and whining’ wind has had all the land mantled with snow. The hard dull bitterness of ‘Chilla Kalan’ that gets one's hair stand on end and makes teeth to chatter, is now on to destroy the frolic architecture of the corn snow. The softness of the snow gets frozen into the hardness of marble as ‘Kot-kosh’ freezes the damp moisture to produce icicles, the tapering formation by freezing the successive drops that trickle from point of attachment. Frosty wind makes moan, earth stands hard as iron and slippery as eel and water like a stone. Walking and driving in suchlike conditions is deadly; you lurch, lose footing and break a bone or two. As if the cold is so intense that words freeze as soon as they’re uttered, and after some time then thaw and become audible, so that words spoken in winter go unheard until the next summer. Taps burst and water pipes that blast freeze in the congealing temperatures force men, women and children to tumble out in droves to fetch a pail or two of drinking water. He who’s kind of tinker plays with the water pipes using every possible trick to melt the frozen insides of the pipes. Pipes burst but the stubborn ice never melts. Geysers, septic tanks and flush systems go phut (rather go for six) and the ‘naked ape’ switches over to cave man’s way of fecal disposal. ‘Chilla Kalan’ is an ensemble of phobias whether it is the hodophobia (travel), kopophobia (fatigue), scotophobia (darkness), claustrophobia (enclosed places), thaasophobia (being idle), phobophobia (fear) or panophobia (everything). As the great Sun keeps turning its face away, the earth goes down into a vale of grief, and fasts and weeps and shrouds her in sables. The load-shed ‘Chilla Kalan’ nights bring nightmarish visions of the ‘hunting apes’ living in caves, dark as wolf’s mouth. In the howling ilderness that brings deep gloom, cuddled up in the corners of the dark cells are the scores of gloomy eyes that gaze into the ghostly shadows cast on the walls and roofs. In the company of dazzling icicles that hang by the walls of the dark congealing graves,Pheran clad grave dwellers snuggle together as snug as a bug (clung to kangri) in a rug. From a distance in the pitch darkness to ‘alien’ lofty multi-storied houses stand dead and desolate as if deprived of inhabitants. It is the flickering flames of the lanterns/candles or the fireplaces shinning with the subdued brightness’s here and here that suggests human habitation.
The stereotypical behavior of the cannibalistic Jammu-Srinagar highway is that it remains closed for days together during winter….aali saetti chus gatsan daakur. The knee jerk reaction is that chicken, mutton, eggs, LPG, kerosene, petrol and etceteras leave not a track behind. To the black marketeers and flyby night operators these are the days of wine and roses (piss and vinegar). They rake in megabucks (heaps of gold). ‘Chilla Kalan’ kind of bulldozes Kashmiris. Deaths, diseases and funerals are common as dirt. But then hope sustains life. Vanda tsalle sheen gallei beii yeii bahaar; winter dies and snowmelt for spring to be born again. Greenery and verdure shall return on the naked land masses and delicate buds sprout on the scraggy dry trees to blossom into colourful flowers. Birds will hum and miseries and afflictions caused by ‘Chilla Kalan’ forgiven and forgotten. Spring, summer, and fall fill us with hope; winter alone reminds us of the human condition. If we’d no winter, the spring won’t be so pleasant: if we didn’t sometimes taste of adversity, prosperity won’t be so welcome. Winter’s chill blankets the earth and brings with it a new birth of a season that fills us with hope and prosperity.