Spring is when Kashmir’s full palette of colours comes to life. White almond, pink cherry blossoms, the yellow of mustard, multi-coloured, state-manicured tulips…after a hibernating, sullen, stark winter, the gates open upon myriad smells, and it’s all colour and bloom. Sitting under an almond tree in full blossom at the badamwari (almond orchard) with the sharp sting of sunrays on your face, you tend to forget the bleakness of winters. Hope is renewed and you thank yourself or your creator (whatever may be your calling) for having endured the long winter. Of course, this is a fictional depiction! The reality is that, in Kashmir, the flowers of spring wilt and fade even before summer can visit. An army check-post on the boulevard intrudes into your tranquil walk along the Dal. Winter announces itself back in the middle of spring. Head bowed, you take a solitary walk back home.
This is not the story of only one spring—the spring of 2020. For almost three decades, this is how every spring…or for that matter every season…has passed in the Valley, shackled in concertina, moored in the longing for the flowers and breeze of spring. But this year, spring was strangely different. For the first time, we were indoors because of something beyond human control. Covid did not deign to spare the already-suffering. This was the spring when the world bore some resemblance to Kashmir. Human misery itself became a pandemic, everyone came to know what a lockdown feels like—a struggle of the spirit to not shut down, to endure. Amidst all the abstract dread and anxiety that stalked the world, The Plague, a 1947 novel by French Algerian writer-philosopher Albert Camus, amassed new readership. From Japan, Italy to Great Britain, people seemed to be asking the dead author questions about life—held in suspension. A simple Google search in mid-year threw up some 100 articles written between January and April 2020 on the book and the lessons one can draw from it.