their forties, Man Mohan and Mohini, husband and wife, belong to the upper
middle class of society. They live a comfortable life with all the modern
amenities that such a family can afford to possess. They have to support a large
family comprising widowed mother, brothers, sisters and four children. The
mother is a strict follower of religious functions, rituals and traditions.
prize winning harvest season of mowing plentiful field's of food crops and
picking fruits of different tastes from bowlike bented branches and twig of
trees in horticulture gardens has given a boost to mobile hawkers and fruit shop
exhibiting fruits of differing fragrance and variegated hues, some red, some
yellow and juicy, some even green and sweet. Crowds of prospective consumers
briskly hustle through the busy markets. The manually moved Raidas fan
out and make brisk business in towns.
poplar trees rise to the skies to receive more heat and light. They turn golden
yellow from below upwards with green crested tops, The chinars are ablaze as
their leaves turn red. Shrawan purnima and Lord Krishna's birthday are performed
with religious fervor followed by dark fortnight of annual shardas of dead and
diwali. The drizzle of a few withering leaves turns to a regular rainfall of red
and brownish profusion of falling foliage.
The spectacle is superbly scenic. Nature is at its very
best for many naturalists, artists and poets. The dry autumn air becomes denser
and colder day by day. The fields are denuded of their verdure and golden crops
and gardens shorn of not only tasty pears and ruddy umbro apples but also their
apparel of beautiful green leaves.
Kartik is over and yields place to Manjihore, the first
month of winter. The atmosphere begins to become colder and foggy. The earth is
covered with dazzling white crystals of frost. Tiny little snow-flakes, begins
floating about in the air, heralding the pre-heavy winter showfall "Be
prepared" bugle. Woollen clothes replace the cottons of summer, Pherons,
long robes and Kangries ascend the seasonal throne of winter. The exuberance of
larger snow-flakes forming thick layers of snowy carpets on the surface of the'
earth catches the eyes as supreme beauty to be enjoyed.
Ushers in the mid-winter month of Poh, the season of
children's thristle, adventures of snow-fighting rolling and raising show
pillars, carving snow-men, skating on slippery ice-pools and puddles and so on
and so forth. At dusk time little children often sit comfortably on window sills
watching flocks of crows flying by overhead, They address them in songs thus
Bata covo, Khetserie Kavo
Ditto, Tsotta Khetto
ye brother crow, come this way,
a walnut and eat a bread."
More often than not they hear mother's calls from inside,
"come children come. Hot beans and sheer-chain are ready. Come in and share
these with us all.
Poh in Kashmir is a month of feasts and festivals
especially for Kashmiri Pandits which in reality are symbolic incentives of the
need of good diet and proper nourishment to withstand the severity of the biting
cold of winter. As the revered seasoned mistress of the house grandma is
invariably the chief organizer of such functions especially "Shivratri",
the most important religious function of Kashmiri Pandits.
As an expert in ancient lore, grandma often sits at ease
and tells her large family how in the remote past rich people from the plains
flock into Kashmir to escape the blazing heat of the summers in their habitats
outside. The locals had to escape to the jungles and spend their summers roaming
in mountain sides. The stories included the' descriptions of saints, and sages,
Rishis and Yakshas as well as inroads and raids of Bhombas, Khukhas, Kazaks and
She would often repeat mythological stories and historic
anecdotes tracing the origins and sustained development of religious rites and
rituals, festivals and religious functions including the outstanding position
Shiv Ratri holds as the most important religious festival of Kashmiri Pandits.
Snowfall, she tells them during Krishna Pakhsh (dark fortnight) of the month of
Phagun especially the 13th day is a good omen for us. To bring out the
importance of snowfall on Shiv Ratri, she generally quotes historical anecdote
"Once upon a time an Afgan Governor of the valley
compelled our community to perform Shiv Ratri in the mid-summer month of
'Har' instead of the concluding winter month of Phagun. They did so.
Lo and behold! There was a heavy snowfall that month
resulting in the whole-sale destruction of growing crops causing famine,
starvation and death.
The ruthless governor was unnerved by the impinging impact
of slighting slogans against him by one and all everywhere.
Toun Ye Jabba Jandha
Ti Karun as Wundah !
at this Jabba Jandha
the hot month of' Har' has turned into icy winter)
The jubilation of the family knows no bounds at the
abundance of snowflakes that fall from the cloudy skies. The children sing in
chorous for its continuous fall till the auspicious occasion of holy Shiv Ratri
O Ye, snowflakes fall
O, m-uncle, come to stay
The months of Poh and Magh pass into oblivion with all
their concomitant, fun and frolic frost-bites and Kangri patches and burns on
Ushers in, the dawn of Shiv Ratri fortnight on the first
day of Phagun Krishna Paksh. Normal rites and rituals are performed as per the
usual schedule from the first to the twelfth day.
The thirteenth day sunrise begins with ablutions, bathing
and cleansings, kitchen arrangements and pujas. The actual puja begins at 3PM or
4PM and is completed by eight or nine in the evening. Much more work has to be
done before dinner time.
Feeling exhausted by the day long stress and strain of
incessant hard-work, grandma retires for rest in her bedroom during the
interval. No sooner does she slip into her bed than she is found caught in deep
slumber snoring aloud. But her roaring snores are drowned in the din and noise
of her son and grand children who too find themselves engaged in playing
different games cowries in the meanwhile.
Kitchen work being over, dinner chadhars are spread and
dinnertime announced. The hungry members in their zest for flavour, rush to
pounce upon their plates as a flock of starving birds in a freezing winter crowd
round handfuls of grains to peck as many grains on they on they ern in quick in
succession. Demands and counter demands for different dishes by different
members continue browing the "Ghoor-r---" roars of snoring nostrils
emanating from the nose of slumbering grandma.
Dinner's devoured up, the ladies too now join in cowrie
playing. The din of merriment, protests and counter protests as well as
argumentations become louder.
Pangs of hunger in the pit of grandma's stomach become more
acute and painful. Her sleep gets disturbed. She wakes up and moves out to the
lobby to ascertain if dinner time has come. Entering the lobby, she's surprised
to find her son, his wife, children, grand children and all engaged in after
dinner cowrie playing at leisure. She smells the rat with disgust and sits
silent, sad and sullen at her normal place of honor as the usual head of the
family, brooding all by herself.
The game is over. It's time to go to bed. Goories are set
aside. Members of the family start moving towards their respective bedrooms. The
last outgoing member at the rear casts a backward glance into the lobby. He is
surprised and pained to notice his grandma sitting sad in an isolated corner
wearing a pale, wrathful and wrinkled face watching the movements of her
off-spring who had callously ignored her presence altogether. Moved with pity,
the grandchild, trembling with self-remorse, cannot help yelling and weeping,
with tears gushing down his cheeks.
"Ah ma! Mummy, Daddy, brothers and sisters. Ah me! Fie
on us all that our helpless and famished grandmother has been ignored at dinner
Fie! Fie !"
The cries of shame get contagious and the whole house
echoes with the pricky, painful tumult of hue and cry.
Mummy, Daddy and all rush in panic, fall at Grandma's feet
weeping apologetically and entreating her to have her dinner.
Sags Grandma, "Dear children and grandchildren. Pray
de not weep or feel panicky. Grandma's satisfied when her off-springs have had
their fill. My hunger subsides when your hunger is satiated. Don't you get
disturbed on that." So saying, the famished grandma heaves a deep sigh and
falls down unconscious.