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When candles return to light darkness in Kashmir

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Young Kashmiris holding candles during the recent electricity crisis in Kashmir.

Kashmir’s ‘dark humour’ apparently came of age in the recent powerless phase when some celebrated couplets and culture found expression in the people’s anguish.

Mir Wasim’s anguish took an amusing turn when he started celebrating the powerlessness in Kashmir as some dreamy date.

Even though the fluctuating power-switch has restored its normal current now, the very recollections of the recent flickering phase have stayed with him as some haunting sarcasm.

“Sarcasm at times helps you to stay sane amid insanity,” Wasim recalls his witty social media time.

“The idea to sound funny during trying times is hard, but laughing at, as in warding off, the dark phase with the so-called ‘we’re having a candle-light dinner’ social media post did light up our gloom during the recent month of Ramzan.”

But despite the recent power cut grouse drawing the funny response from the valley, many term the collective wit as “a theatre of absurd”.

“Funny stories can’t always be a rational response to human miseries,” says Gowher Nazir, a pharmacist based out of Srinagar. “Those responsible for this enforced crisis should be called out for making mockery of our lives.”

Two young Kashmiris having ‘candle light dinner’.

Pained at powerless Sehri and Iftar, Kashmiri women hit streets in anger. Sensing the gravity of the situation, the official rank and file linked the cuts with the coal crisis in the mainland and resorted to emergency power buying to placate tempers in the valley.

But even though the mood in mountains largely remained calm, Kashmir’s witty netizens came up with their own dark description and turned a popular ballad into a parody.

“It was dark humour at its best when the popular folksong ‘Shama rath’iey ath’as keth’ became the barking comment on Kashmir’s dark times,” says Shabir Ali, one of the performers of the online act. “What else can we do, other than making fun of our tragedies in times like these!”

But while describing Kashmir’s yet another dark phase, the festive folksong—ritually being sung during happy occasion—ended up becoming the melody of misery.

Zulfikar Khan, a culturist in letter and spirit, believes the online response over the pestering power cuts was the sign and shade of Kashmir’s classic humour.

“Our satire never grows old,” Khan says. “We’ve been using witty responses against dark times since the first military coup by Mughals.”

Fast forward to Kashmir’s recent tumultuous history and one finds many amusing legends about some disturbed phases. “So,” Khan says, “the dark times only draw dark homour in us.”

But while the virtual world was making fun of the recent crisis, Kashmir’s senior citizens—the one who spent their formative years in powerless state—were reliving their rancid lamp times.

An old Kashmiri couple—Ghulam Ahmad Dar and Zona Begum—from the uptown area of Srinagar rarely skipped a session with their grand children to speak of the Ramzan times in their youth.

“What keeps proximity of some kind is our Sehri and Iftaar was enlightened with ‘czeang gaash’ (lamp light) and today it’s done under the torch lights and phone flashes,” Dar recalls the recent Ramzan times when power was playing hide and seek in Kashmir and leaving the fasting Muslims fuming. “Even after so many generations, our state of powerlessness remains the same.”

The crisis took the comical twist during the Eid time when likes of tailor Gull Mohammad had to deal with some dozens of desperate customers eager for Eid dresses. “It was very hard to convince them,” Gull says.

But while others struggled for means and methods, Gull’s rusty charcoal-run iron kept at the corner of his rundown shop came handy during the crisis.

“It’s all about keeping your options ready in a place like Kashmir,” Gull says. “Most of our options might be outdated, but they’re time-tested and true to our survival, just like my ancestral ember-stoked iron.”

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