Summer monsoons seem to have let us down. Gone are the days when gardens would sparkle. Welcome to the erratic vagaries of the rains.
It is reasonable to assume that once again, the summer monsoon has let us down. It has done so before, but not as badly as this year. Memories of summer monsoons, when torrential rain continued non-stop for three to four days, flooding our gardens and roads, the sound of thousands of frogs croaking in unison through the night and fireflies sparkling among freshly washed trees and bushes have faded. What looms now is the prospect of a dreaded drought. We have to face the stark reality of a scarcity of kharif crops, including rice.
Do we really have enough reserves to tide over the crisis? Do we have a distribution system to provide food for the hungry who cannot pay for it? The prospects are grim.
However, there are a few lessons to be learnt from the vagaries of the monsoons. Almost every day, the skies are overcast with rain-bearing clouds. We know of techniques of sowing clouds with ice particles, which lower temperatures and force clouds to shed their rain drops. I did not hear this being tried out in drought-prone regions. Why?
We have also been hearing a lot about harvesting rain water. There are reports of it being done in some villages which were able to fill their dried-up ponds and wells. They have also been able to water their fields and save their crops from dying. This could surely be made into a regular practice all over the country. It is time we learnt that praying to the rain gods to shower mercy yields no results and we must liberate ourselves from the vagaries of erratic monsoons.
Nyla Ali Khan is the grand-daughter of Sheikh Mohammad Abdullah, popularly known as Sher-e-Kashmir — the Lion of Kashmir. She has worshipful reverence for her grandsire and shares his vision of making Kashmir a paradise of peace and communal harmony.
He agreed with Gandhi, Ghaffoor Khan (Frontier Gandhi) and Nehru on a secular State and not the two-nation theory proposed by Jinnah and the Muslim League. That is why, when the British quit India, he chose to ally with secular India rather than Islamic Pakistan. It was the triumph of Kashmiryat embracing all communities living in the Valley of the Jhelum with a brand of Sufi Islam which respected the Shaivite Hinduism of the Pandits.
What then went wrong and turned Kashmir into a bloody battlefield? Why did the Pandits have to flee the Valley and the once liberal-minded Muslim turn fundamentalist Islam ?
Nyla Ali Khan tries to answer these questions in her recent book Islam, Women & Violence in Kashmir Between India and Pakistan (Tulika Books).
Nyla is a product of Lady Shri Ram College. She did a doctorate in English from Oklahoma University and is currently Professor of English at Nebraska University. It is evident that though she has been living in the US for over a decade and has probably taken American citizenship, her heart remains in Kashmir. She keeps in close touch with it through frequent visits and correspondence with its leading personalities. She is nostalgic about Kashmiryat, the songs of Lal Ded (poorly translated) and other Kashmiri poets. The greatest merit of Nyla’s dissertation is her emotional involvement in the land of her ancestors.
A married couple was in a terrible accident where the man’s face was severely burnt. The doctor couldn’t graft any skin from his body because he was too skinny. So the wife offered to donate some. However, the only skin on her body that the doctor deemed suitable was from her buttocks. Once the surgery was complete, everyone was astounded at the man’s new face. His friends went on about his youthfulness.
One day he was alone with his wife, and he was overcome with emotion at her sacrifice. He said, “Dear, I just want to thank you for everything you did for me. How can I possibly repay you?’
“My darling,” she replied, “I get all the thanks I need every time I see your mother kiss you on the cheek.”