25 October, 2011

Winter brings fear and joy

Published in Pakistan Observer (25 Oct. 2011)
Sana Jamal 

Islamabad – With the first chilling winds of the season, the cold weather has made its presence felt in the capital city quite raucously, sending alarm and fear for have-nots and delight for haves. Those who can afford it, have already prepared for the season, and have brought out their woollies to cope with changing weather conditions. In contrast, there is a big proportion of Pakistanis including the flood-affected people and Internally displaced persons (IDPs) who are taking the change as a threat and challenge to their lives. 

For some, the changing season may bring joy, compelling them to savour the delights of winter food such as dry fruits, soups, coffee, chocolate and milk, and inducing them to plan a trip to a nearby hill station to witness the snow fall. But for those homeless, flood-affected people who still await badly-needed relief goods and gears, winters are not only uncomfortable, but potentially dangerous. According to National Disaster management Authority, more than 8 million people of Sindh have been affected by the floods 2011.

At the same time, those affected by terrorism and/or war on terror in KPK and tribal areas are equally threatened by the hard-hitting weather which is considered as their utmost enemy. Recently some hilly areas including Neelum and Leepa valleys received first winter snowfall, which increased the intensity of cold in the surrounding areas, including Islamabad city. 

 “Winters are in fact my favourite season out of the four, and we are planning to take a trip to Murree this season to enjoy early snowfall” said Saira cheerfully, who seemed secure in pretty warm clothes. But only a few blocks away near Chak Shehzad farms, where Saira was seen bicycling, an unfortunate little girl was busy in gathering woods. Describing her activity, Farzana, 10, told that as “the nights are becoming too chilly, the blazing woods are our only shield against cold winds.” Farzana wore a partly torn shirt and was busy in search of planks with a group of children of her age. Farzana’s narration point towards the two faces of winter in federal capital. 

As the cold, gray winter days draw nearer, the well heeled citizens of Islamabad set out to splendid shopping places in search of a winter wear that shows their classy look as well as keep them safe, which includes wool sweaters, coats and leather jackets; whereas the middle class and lower middle class rush to landa bazaar to secure them from chilling weather. These bazaars, full of cheap and second hand clothes are said to be the poor man’s shopping paradise. The increasing number of have-nots, who would be struggling to surpass the harsh weather with little available resources, not only demands the attention of the authorities but also of the haves.