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Migrating to warm places during winter: Is that a good idea?

This time before you pack your bags and book your window seat tickets please check the air quality index (AQI) of your place and the place you intend to scarper to

Post by ROUF FIDA on Friday, December 9, 2022

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With the onset of winter, coterie of oofy Kashmiris migrate to Jammu or Delhi to beat the cold. Bathindi and Sidra in Jammu and Jamia Nagar and Old Delhi in Delhi become small Kashmirs outside Kashmir. This has become a vogue in Kashmir for the last decade or so. And we have a tendency to get swayed by new trends.


Anyways, the raison d'etre of this migration is that the elders and children are not friends with winter and cold. They don’t get along well. Hypothermia, frostbite, heart attacks, high blood pressure, painful joints and winter depression in elders and hypothermia, frostbite and seasonal affective disorder (SAS) in children are some unpleasant and unwanted gifts from winter.


But is moving to slightly warmer places the only panacea? I could hear you whispering ‘no’. We do it because it is easy to escape the situation than to confront it. But this time before you pack your bags and book your window seat tickets please check the air quality index (AQI) of your place and the place you intend to scarper to.


I am currently in Delhi and AQI here this year crossed the 400 mark. Everyone seems to be in love in Delhi because of breathlessness, palpitations and moist eyes. Air quality is so bad that schools in the national capital region were closed by the authorities. I can feel my nostrils choking and my lungs coughing. Air in Delhi is no more transparent.


One can actually see and feel it entering his/her body. Air purifiers do help clean air inside a room but not everyone can afford them. And no one migrates to other places to stay indoors all the time. So migrating to warmer places would not serve the purpose for Kashmiris. Instead, it would only deteriorate the health of our children and elders. It might not reflect instantly but doctors fear its long time repercussions. In short, Kashmir with its low temperature is far better than any other place with a high AQI.


The last couple of years have also shown a surge in air pollution in Delhi and adjacent states. The love relationship of smoke and fog has produced a blanket of smog that only gets thicker and thicker with each passing year. And please don’t count on the person who prophecies that it will get better in the next 5 years. It will take more than just individual and collective efforts of the people who don’t have time for the effort. I wish air purifiers, my lungs and Delhi all the best. But the high AQI of these places is a blessing in disguise for Kashmir. It has given us an opportunity to introspect. Why are we so scared of winter?


Our ancestors without any electric blankets, heaters and geezers have shown us how to live and survive in winters much colder than what we have or are experiencing. They have taught us how to tame chillai kalan. How to use kangri inside the pheran. How to warm the house by our own central heating or hamam. We have not forgotten these lessons. We know they will still work. We just don’t apply them now.


Chillai Kalan, kangri, pheran, snow and hamam are just not trendy enough for us now. But air purifiers are. We are setting the wrong precedence for future generations with our seasonal migration. We give them the idea that Kashmir is not a place to live in winter. We inadvertently broadcast how to duck tough times and not to pull. We concomitantly delineate how to escape and not to confront.


Winter and cold are not new to Kashmir. Winter is a very important part of Kashmir. In fact, it is one of those rare blessings from God that makes Kashmir unique and beautiful. But this seasonal migration is costing us our culture, tradition and a part of the economy. We inadvertently are demoting winter tourism. The money we spend on traveling to warmer places and on accommodation there could be spent to improve our way of living in winter in Kashmir. That would also help us preserve our culture and tradition and will give a boost to our winter tourism also.


Yes, winter does bring some challenges. Life becomes a bit tough. Productivity reduces. Expenses increase. But it gives us more time to spend with our families and it also makes summer beautiful. And what good is Kashmir without chillai kalan, kangir, pheran, snow and hamam. And don’t forget harissa. No winter means no harissa. So let’s not teach our kids how to pack bags and run out of Kashmir. Instead, let’s show our children how to fill kangri with embers and how to hold it against our bodies. Let’s not buy them window-seat airplane tickets. Instead, let’s buy them good quality Pherans.


Let’s not buy air purifiers and have our elders breathe artificially purified air. Let’s purchase heaters and geysers and have them warm themselves artificially. Let’s not keep them locked inside a room in high AQI city. Instead, let’s surround them in our homes and hear stories from them. Let’s avoid this trend of seasonal migration and start a trend of avoiding trends. Let’s not adjust with a high AQI. Instead, let’s learn and teach how to live in winter.


Oh! I forgot to mention why I am in Delhi. I am not here because of the winters in Kashmir. I am here because of unemployment in Kashmir, which we shall discuss some other time.


(Author is Kashmir based journalist and currently working in Delhi. He tweets @rouffida)

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