The past when as eager-to-fast children we would wake up to calls of hurrying parents. When Sehri meant having a full fledged meal (because, you know, what if you felt hungry?) followed by tea.
The mornings were dark. That is the first of few. And cold. We would pile on sweaters and jackets; just enough in number that the cold wouldnt get inside yet not as many that would restrict movement.
We would tread lightly over the floor as the cold bit into tiny feet, with mother’s directives, “slippers, slippers”. And rush from the kitchen to the small room for eating by the gaslight. Electricity would still be sleeping when we woke. The sound of Sahar Khan’s bugle affirmed that we were on time. No other sound emerged from the valley, except the heavy army convoys moving at that hour. Instantly and instinctively we would ignore them. My memory bids the same.
Someone would vaguely and uselessly try to rekindle the kangri. Few things are as disappointing as a kangri gone cold. We would warm our hands on the gas burner and rub them to feel the heat spread.
Half a jug of water was heated up and mixed with cold water to make it drinkable. One couldnt drink cold water without catching a cold. A little hot water was swirled in glasses too, to keep them from cracking.
The rice wrapped up in shawls and blankets like a baby and kept in the bedroom to keep warm through the night. Even then it wasn’t hot – warm just like the water, which meant that everything else needed to be hot. The kitchen was cold, cold and dangerous to visit. The air would make the spine shiver, literally. And yet, mother would stand at the cooking stove in her blue shawl, to heat up everything, in the candle light. Warming her hands on the utensils when it got very cold.
She would leave the nunchai on while we had the rice. The tea used to be perfect. May be the darkness that ripened the taste or the cold that added the flavor, the tea was never a letdown.
Behind timidly parted curtains, the morning was still night. The frosted window pane admitted no light, and the sounds from the mosque were distant. Those days, announcements from the mosques were frequent and inaudible. And outside, it was all frost. Gwould steal out a moment and light a secret smoke in the darkness outside just before the Azan. We all knew.