Autumn: Kashmir’s golden-yellow season of plenty is here

Autumn, Kashmir’s golden-yellow season of plenty, is nature’s gentle reminder to locals that they must make hay while the sun shines. A nip in the morning and evening air, soothing bright sunshine during the day, and the sound of the cicada bugs hiding in the willows — all these are nature’s signals announcing that the gates of winter would soon be opened. An endless expanse of ripe, yellow paddy fields in the countryside comes together with the ripening of the apple crop in autumn.
The harvesting of the paddy crop begins almost with the first light. And in a sharp departure from the past, the Valley’s farmers hardly do any harvesting themselves these days.
Scores of labourers from Bihar, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal are seen doing the job in the countryside as the affluent local farmers supervise the entire operation and pay them.
It is not just paddy harvesting that has been assigned to migrant labourers.
The work of bricklayers, barbers, carpenters, masons and electricians, dozens of other skilled and semi-skilled jobs are now done by people not belonging to the Valley.
Ironically, the locals trust the outsiders more for these jobs than they do their fellow citizens.
Mountain streams flow crystal clear in this season and are filled the exotic trout. The snow in the mountains does not melt as aggressively during the autumn months as in the summer. This brings down the discharge in the Valley’s rivers and streams and also makes the waters less murky, thereby creating ideal fishing conditions for anglers.
Apples, pear and grapes are also harvested in autumn as the leaves of the majestic Chinar trees start changing colour from green to crimson and finally golden-yellow before they are shed.
Vegetables like tomatoes, brinjals and pumpkins are collected and dried by locals for use during the lean winter months.
In villages, turnips are put in shallow pits and covered with hay. These are left to mature and come to a specific taste as they remain buried. These are cooked with the local fat rooster in extreme winter to make a princely meal for families in villages.
Although agricultural land has been greedily converted into residential and commercial areas against the laws of the state, yet not very distant from cities and towns, one can still soothe one’s eyes on golden-yellow paddy fields and orchards full of trees laden with the ripe apple crop.
In autumn, flocks of domestic ducks and swans are seen coming home early in areas where people live by the banks of the Valley’s lakes like Wullar, Manasbal, the Dal Lake and other water bodies.
By the middle of next month, these water bodies will host thousands of migratory birds that come here to ward off the extreme cold of their summer homes.
Flocks of turtle doves start feeding on the fallen grain in the paddy fields of the Valley during autumn before they fly back to the warmer climate of neighbouring Punjab and Haryana states by the end of October.
Autumn is also the season of marriages in the Valley. The multi-course local cuisine called Wazwan is served to guests at marriage functions as the temperature is just right for them to enjoy and digest such a protein- and fat-rich feast.
As nights start becoming longer and days shorter, autumn is truly nature’s best recompense that helps Kashmiris brave and survive the long, harsh winter of the Valley. — IANS

Sheikh Qayoom