Nonstop snowfall brings hardships to Kashmir Valley, people remain confident
According to the tourism department, the occupancy of the hotels in the famous hill resort has steeply fallen, a rarity in this season
Kashmir has been experiencing recurrent heavy snowfall over the past fortnight which has thrown life out of gear: electricity has been erratic, traffic has thinned out and the flights have frequently been grounded.
The change in weather has followed an extended dry spell through November and December which had made people rule out snow this year – at least in the plains.
But the snowfall has hardly helped bring the tourists back. At 8,960 feet, Gulmarg, Kashmir’s wonderland of snow, has fewer tourists to serve. According to the tourism department, the occupancy of the hotels in the famous hill resort has steeply fallen, a rarity in this season. The place has also the world’s highest golf course which makes it a premier tourist and sporting destination even in summer.
The absence of the tourists in the winter is put down to the still unfolding fallout of the six months of the unrest last year which witnessed killings of 96 people and several hundred blindings.
However, the hoteliers are still upbeat, so is the tourism department. “Snowfall is a boon for the tourism. It will help bring tourists back,” the Deputy Director Tourism Department Peerzada Zahoor told Naradanews. “We hope to receive more tourists as flights to Valley restore”.
Tourism department is also organizing a 15-day long‘snow carnival’ - from January 21 to February 5. The department has set up a 'night bazaar' and cultural shows as part of the carnival. Besides, the carnival has ice hockey, snowboarding, snow sledging, snowball fight competition and painting competitions.
“We are getting high-spending tourists, both domestic and foreign, who can fly to Kashmir and have the means to brave the Valley’s harsh winter,” says Zahoor adding that the snow in Kashmir is important for its novelty for the ninety-nine percent of more than a billion Indians. “With increasing rail and air link with the mainland India, Kashmir will once again become a winter tourism hub”.
However, for the local people, while the snowfall brings with it many hardships, it is also a time for celebration. The heavy snow this winter has brought back the memory of the forgotten old winters when raconteurs would narrate the fairy tales through the night.
A staple winter’s tale would be about Heemal and Nagrai, Kashmir ’s own mythical star-crossed lovers, Gul Raze, a Kashmiri epic of love or about the Valley’s own variant of witches and ghosts lurking along dark snow covered streets. In fact, Kashmir has a tradition of folk tales going back nine hundred years when Kathasaritasagar (ocean of tales) was composed by Somadev.
Besides, people, especially children also make snowmen which has now become famous as the snow art. This year state Government also announced the award of Rs one lakh for the best snow art.
"We want to see the creative side of the students. There are many students who are extremely good at making things out of snow, which is available in abundance. So we want to the students," said the Director of School Education Department, Kashmir Ajaz Ahmad Bhat. "The entries will be judged on the basis of the concept, design, creativity, originality, social message etc".