By Samiullah Baig
When winter gets tough in Gulmit, women pray there be no snow. They prefer the strong south wind that blows all winter.Their prayers have never been answered for as long as they remember, but miraculously last year, there was no snow at all. The clothes dried quickly and the women didn’t have to clear the snow around the house. The children didn’t bring tons of snow clogged to their shoes. The ‘damned’ snow didn’t bother them last year at all.
The part of Gulmit that we live in is called Chamangul. Our elders tell us nobody dared to enter Chamangul in olden times. It was inhabited largely by foxes and a few daring men who could withstand waist deep snow and freezing winds that could pierce through your soul. These people were labelled insane by the rest and touted for living in ‘fox-land’.
Then the weather began to change. Snow falling from the sky decreased and the winds gradually became tolerable.
The people happily built farms and summer houses at Chamangul. As the population increased fathers had to build separate houses for their marrying sons, these ‘summer houses’ began to accommodate people permanently. The Karakoram Highway and its economic benefits, made it an added attraction for the people of the highlands like Kamaris who started migrating here. The residents of Chamangul also got access to a ten-bed hospital, a police station nearby and a digital exchange. The Chinese firm CRBC which is working in Pakistan on the KKH Improvement Project has recently built its elegant new headquarters at Chamangul. In short with its spaciousness Chamangul is emerging as the new ‘America’ in Gulmit.
But all is not rosy when it comes to the future of Chamangul. Last year when the women were jubilant at the absence of snow, there appeared furrows on the foreheads of some of the older men. For the last several decades the weather had been getting milder. But no one knew that one day there could be no snow at all. The older men’s suspicions came true as the Wordsworthian spring of Gulmit slowly turned into a blazing summer. The snow-clad mountains all around the valley which usually remained so till late summer prematurely lost their whiteness, the true colours albeit a little wet. After some time the stream that runs down from the mountains at the back of Chamangul and irrigates a portion of our lands became dry. Day by day the land with all the sea buck thorn, apricots and other trees that it had irrigated gradually became pale.
For the last several decades the weather had been getting milder but no one ever knew that one day there could be no snow at all. The older men’s suspicions came true as the Wordsworthian spring of Gulmit slowly turned into a blazing summer. The snow-clad mountains which remained so till late summer, prematurely lost their whiteness.
The other stream that irrigates the whole of Gulmit had an unprecedented high level of water flow. One of the uplands of Borith faced a similar situation with lots of farms, but no water meant no agriculture! The fruit trees that had consumed decades of care died one by one.
In my continuous efforts to get my mother out of her passive attitude towards the world and its affairs, I persuaded her to watch the ‘The Day After Tomorrow’ on my PC. She didn’t quite get the science behind it, but I think I saw tears towards the end. Later I explained to her the complications and implications of global warming.
“Fossil fuels burning… more carbon dioxide… temperatures rising… glaciers melting… desalination… ice age!” I said.
Somewhat in a denial, she busied herself with her embroidery. A deer standing on green pastures with white mountains in the backdrop.
“It will all end?” she asked. “We will all get rid of our miseries. What else could one ask for!” she said.
True. We all want an easy way out of the challenges and worries of our existence and times. But the world might not end as easily or as quickly as we see it in the movies. Continue living as we are now, and we might hand over a world on the brink of devastation to people who might not be as defeatist in their behavior about the challenges of life as some of us may be. They will have to pay the price of our greed and our passion for progress.
Published in DAWN Sunday Magazine on December 21, 2008: Click for original Source Dawn