The gaseous state

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The winter is coming, like they say in the massively popular fantasy television series Game of Thrones. It is November, and winter is coming to keep its date with the valley. Soon it will be cold as a witch’s tit in Srinagar and elsewhere and everyone will be wearing those god awful Chinese ear muffs, especially brothers from the transport fraternity. One can imagine mini-bus conductors hanging precariously low on the edge of their respective vehicle doors, their aquiline noses red with the winter chill, red ear-muffs on, hollering, ‘Lal Bazar, Lal Bazar’. There is something bleakly cosy about the winter in Kashmir.

Blokes in the Press Enclave, fellow foot-soldiers defending the fortress of journalism in the world’s most militarized zone, would naturally hate to leave the fort with its hot rusty furnaces, locally called Bukharis, during winter. Outside, mile long queues of ordinary folk will assemble to get their gas cylinders re-filled. Curiously in the first two decades of the Tehreek, many thought that ‘cylinder’ is what rogue militants do, when cornered by Indian troopers. Those were innocent days and no one bothered to tell apart surrender from cylinder. Now there is no one left to surrender and cylinders are in such short supply!

Such is the scarcity of gas that Kashmir’s ruling clan recently went into a huddle and decided – in a great sign of magnanimity – to give up their additional gas connections. Omar was the first one to announce the voluntary abandonment of his two gas capsules. Anyways he looks a tad frail these days, making you wonder if he really eats at night, let alone use the gas capsule for cooking. Next Dr Farooq, noted for his voracious appetite, stepped out to surrender his extra gas cylinders. Many National Conference workers assembled outside Gupkar on this somber occasion had tears in eyes. Renunciation is no mean feat.

Doctor sahib was heard telling folks that soon Kashmiris will realize why he was made the minister of gobar gas. If the present condition prevails the day is not far when everyone will have to go back to good old style stone and mud-fire also called ‘Daan’ locally and burn gobar and firewood. This may worry a lot of people who decided to do away with the Daan system with the advent of gas and electricity. Little did they know that modernity signifies the transitory, the fugitive, the contingent, the half of art of which the other half is the eternal and the immutable.

A gas heater cannot, I repeat cannot, vanquish a naar Kangir. Ever.

(Sameer Bhat is a middle-east based Kashmiri blogger and a free-lance journalist. He has written political blogs and essays on Kashmir for several leading publications. His poems have appeared in CounterPunch USA and Poet’s Basement)

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