In winter, there is an undeniable charm and romance in doing nothing and just sitting by the fireplace, sipping a hot cup of tea or coffee and seeing the earth slowing attaining a milky white hue. There is nothing as serene as watching the countryside covered in a sheet of snow. It beautifies everything that it covers. Snow provokes a response that reaches right back to childhood when “showman” used to be every child’s buddy. The chill, the crisp wind and the warmth of relationship all come together to create an atmosphere that makes the heart skip a beat.
Kashmir has a long winter season when the temperatures often plummets below the freezing point. The entire scenario attains magical glow when the earth dozes off under a thick layer of snow. The tall Chinar trees, the mountain peaks, the roads, meadows or even the Dal, everything freezes when the nature takes a firm grip over the landscape. Schools and colleges also shut down during those days. Staying indoors is the better option than venturing out.
The land turns frigid but life doesn’t. Natives devise ingenious ways to keep the chill at an arm’s length. A typical Kashmiri “Phiran” is one such inimitable dress which helps in beating the frosty weather. It is a cloak which covers the body from neck to knee. Made of wool and cotton, this loose upper garment is worn by males as well as females. Phiran for females are quite colourful and has intricate embroideries on them. Only one layer of clothing is not enough. Multiple woolens are needed to keep the cold at bay. Another system which is unique to Kashmiri tradition is to tie a “Kangri” around ones waist. It is an earthen pot filled with smoldering embers. To an outsider, tying something burning so close to the body and that too under Phiran, seem dangerous but a kashmiri knows how to handle it carefully. This tradition was perhaps brought to the valley by the Mughals, now a day’s many modern and safer varieties of “Kangri” is easily available in the market.
Culinary habits change according to the season. As the winter sneaks in, it is the right time to head to the kitchen to cook up some wholesome dishes that keeps the warmth going. A hot cup of Kahva, an aromatic green tea with various spices, is always welcome anytime of the day. A hearty breakfast is the most important meal of the day. Having “Harrisa” in the morning is surely the way to keep the spirit up. Staple of every Kashmiri household during snowy season, cooking Harissa may look like a herculean job as this mutton dish takes around 12 hours to cook but the end result is worth the effort. Just the aroma wafting in the air will be an appetizer and the taste will make you forget the challenges that lay ahead on a frosty day.
With right kind of preparation, beating the chill is not a grueling task.