As Srinagar battles unprecedented snow and a cold wave, courier boy wins hearts delivering essentials on horseback

Published : January 16, 2021 16:25 IST

Shiraz Ali on horseback. Photo: The Kashmir Monitor

Over the past week, Kashmir has witnessed unprecedented snowfall and remains littered with mounds of snow. Capital city Srinagar’s lanes and bylanes have turned into a no-go zone. On January 14, night temperatures plummeted across the Himalayan valley, with the mercury dipping to -8.4°C in Srinagar - the lowest temperature recorded since 1995 as per the Jammu and Kashmir meteorological department.

However, this unusual dip did not deter 22-year-old Shiraz Ali, who set out on January 12 to deliver essentials on horseback in a first-of-its-kind endeavour, as customers panicked for medical supplies and baby food while students were restless for their online course material.

The video of Shiraz on horseback making his way through narrow, snow-clad lanes of Srinagar has gone viral on the Internet, as people lauded the young man's commitment to his clients even in such adverse weather conditions. In the video, Shiraz's horse can be seen slipping in the snow as it struggles to move without losing balance. It has since been watched nearly one lakh times on photojournalist Umar Ganie’s Twitter handle – Ganie originally posted it – and multiple times on other Twitter handles.

"I was getting frantic calls from customers who had ordered baby food and medical equipment, and from school students who were awaiting their study material. There was no way to reach them, and that is when I decided to set out on a horse. I asked my supervisor, who told me to be cautious and ensure all safety-measures,” Shiraz, who works for Amazon, told an English news channel.

The mounds of snow lying in Srinagar have attracted much criticism of Lt Governor Manoj Sinha's administration, even as the bureaucrats have been patting themselves on social media for effective handling of Kashmir’s winter months. Srinagar mayor Junaid Mattu recently admitted, "Effective snow-clearance in lanes and bylanes will remain improbable till the Srinagar Municipal Corporation is equipped with adequate, modern snow-clearing machines." He further said, "The tradition is to make-do with loaders and spades and shovels – which aren’t meant for snow-clearance and are equipped for routine garbage collection operations."

The heavy snowfall followed by the administration’s lackadaisical attitude almost culminated in a major accident. On January 13, the Delhi-bound IndiGo flight 6E 2559 heading for take-off got stuck in snow accumulated adjacent to the taxiway at Srinagar airport, creating much panic, though any untoward incident was averted.

Kashmir is currently under the grip of ‘Chillai-Kalan’ — the 40-day harsh winter period beginning on December 21, when a biting cold wave grips the region and water-bodies freeze. Besides Srinagar, where most of Dal Lake and Nigeen Lake have frozen, the minimum temperatures continued far below normal in other parts of the Valley such as Pahalgam and Gulmarg, which recorded -11.1°C and -7°C respectively on January 14.