Roasting their way through winters…

Roasting their way through winters…

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Kashmir-bakery-seller

A walk at the break of dawn… warm soft grip of grandpa’s strong hand takes into its caress the cold fragile one of Abha’s… both walk hand in hand towards the Kandur shop, the neighborhood baker. As golden rays break the monotony of last night’s chill, their hearts grow sunny in security of heading in the right direction, to a place that is even warmer and has their favorite breads being freshly pulled out of the Tandoor – hot and crisp! An ideal scenario to brew chit chat over burning ember… passed on to lend some fire to Kangris and at times the Jajeers (Hookah), their age old kins…

kashmiri-People

“Luchh, Katlam, Telvour, Shrumaal, Culché, Bagerkhen, Roath, Lavassé, Girdé, Modur Culché te takhtechh…. ”
“Hatsa!!! Kanger che lwatyemech…yath chu sirf soor roodmut… tyangul ratcheyna deyuv…”

Heya!!! the firepot is buring dim already… with just ash left in it… would you care to lend some ember from the oven…. And so, that is how it all starts… with lending some warmth to each other, to combat the freezing chill outside… Water inside the taps has already frozen, not just that, the pipelines are bursting too… women are seen holding heaters and stoves below the taps to squeeze out a drop of water, if they can… Chillai-kalaan is here!

chilli-callan

Amidst this hullabaloo which provided the essential everyday background score for the household, Abha and grandfather arrive to everyone’s delight, with hot breads in a wicker basket…. little Abha has already been breaking crums of her favorite Telvor on the way. Women keep aside their hot pots, the Kanger that they had literally been sitting cocooned around and get up to prepare for everyone’s breakfast. Its an event Abha has been longing for through the night…. to see everyone together again… why? Because it meant so many of her favorite things coming together… The hot kahvè, not just to drink but also for how it filled the entire room with its aroma of cardamoms and cinnamon, the warm breads… that she liked with salted butter swept on it, her favorite people happy and lots of stories…. And the day had just begun…

tea-pot-kashmir

It is the peak of winter in Kashmir that will last for about two months…. is there a mention of a worry or a frown on their glorious faces, are they ever inadequate or gruesome for a moment…. or any lesser than stars sitting beautifully together as a constellation…. They are a sight to behold, a conversation so musical, a feeling so warm…. they are the people of Kashmir… in their land.

kashmiri-kids-playin-on-the-street

Each hold their own Kanger, an absolutely essential winter accessory close to their bellies…. and a few customize them to suite personal taste of color or weaving style. The little ones with their small fire pots are still training to hold them right without spilling the ember all over the place…. In their tiny Fehrans they carry fire. The experts it is told, could sleep with them inside their blankets or Lefh (thicker layered blankets with cotton filling for insulation)….Aaragè (a mix of aromatic seeds burnt to purify air) is burnt in the fire pot as a morning ritual…

The smell of such positive possibilities would wake her up early in the morning… She is usually one of the first ones, only competing with her grandmother who it seems has a pact with God, to meet him everyday at four in the morning, be it hot or freezing cold…. She would be bathed and dressed in her long grey Fehran, white cuffs… and her headdress, the Taraga, which is essentially a long white drape covering her head and back, with a white pashmina flat cap on topof zari or embroidered with aari work on the edges. Dejhur, the gold strings with talismans dangling from either of her ears is the only form of jewelry she wears and a proof of her marriage. For makeup she has a round yellow sandlewood paste tilak smeared on her forehead… right between those gleaming blue eyes. No one ever saw bottles of perfume or crème close to her but she smelt of fresh roses and she radiated with the glow of daylight, her cheeks warm and pink were round and so were her hands and feet, like lotus buds. In all her ways and how she carried herself with such ease, she was magical… Abha’s role model… and also the only one who could put her fluttering self to sleep at night, once she was done with her ritualistic rounds of pre bed time chit chats, kisses and good nights, having tormented everyone enough with her questions… not missing a single inhabited room in the house… getting herself invited everywhere to spend the rest of the night with them…. But she would cleverly sense the right moment and run away to the warmed up den of her grandmother’s… for it was only her tellings of Gods and demons and their various expeditions on earth, beneath and sky…. and those of Shiva more cherishedly that would put her to sleep… the God who is so much of a father…. a father everyone seeked refuge under sooner or later… and also the one she took with her in her dreams…

shiva

When hearts are warm there is little the outside chill can move… A conglomerate of heartful souls, dressed up respectably; Men in grey, beige, black, white chequered or plain wool Fehrans and Safas (turbans), mostly in white… or a Tuip (cap), if there is a friend visiting. Women on the other hand could choose to be more colorful and elaborate with their use of embroideries around neck line, the cuffs and the borders…. in silver… gold… or colorful threads… And a Taraga or a Kasaab (a simple scarf tied around head, not covering the face like hijaab) covering their heads… Sitting on carpeted floor, with patches of wool Namda forming their Aasans… While the young ones got busy with their daily runnings, the grands of the household keep the house brimming and buzzing. Guests keep pouring in, as do the alternate rounds of kahvè and Nun-chai throughout the day...

saint-kashmir

“Seerchai chu aaz rang jaan dramut… Gwaleib… talai malai ratz travus pyeth”

Aha! what a beautiful pink this tea has turned out to be…. could you serve it with some cream on top.

While the rest of the country has summer vacations in schools, Kashmir sees practically all official activities including moving a limb coming to a still in winters. Going out is a rarity and takes a lot of courage & preparation…. For most, outside world remains a grey white scenery visible from their Dub. The scenery however strikes real hard at the tip of their long noses as it unknowingly ventures by an inch outside the cozy premises of their wooden windows. And this is enough to get a Kashmiri shut all the windows, check his fire place (Bukher) for timber, stir the ember of his Kanger with the Xalen (a small metal shovel attached to it) and pull a Dussè (an extra large woolen shawl) over his lap. Holding a Jajeer close, he would shout out for a drink of Kahvè next and while it takes time to come, most likely will there be a book spread in front…. pale old pages with poetic Urdu type in black, if not a text book or a book on how to live your life…. Geeta, Kuran…. anything… as long as he doesn’t have to step out of the comforts of his Fehran… No interactions with the outside world what-so-ever…. not even visual…

kashmari-man-reading-book-in-urdu

And it is in this hostile world outside that Abha has to venture into. It’s a special day at school and all the kids are expected to be present along with their parents. The light outside is a dull grey, it doesn’t look like 10am…. taking a shower is out of question, getting into a cold new set clothes itself feels like getting out of your skin, and those black leather school shoes….. they are of stone that has been frozen overnight… sucking the last bit of heat reserved from grandmother’s den…. She is cold…. cold to heart…. and all there is to express that pain is a tear drop that spurts out of her eyes… and as it does, it also bring with it a gush of warm blood into her cheeks, nose tip that has turned red and her little round lips… Ah! some warmth again…
An early lunch, at around 10.30 am, that includes hot steamed rice with some meat or dried fish or vegetable preparations is a practice in cold regions with shorter days and two or three meals a day to be incorporated…. And the three leave for the day, which is no less than an expedition. The ones in the blankets wish them a long life and good health “Orzu Dorkoth!”…. and avoid looking at the door…

old-man-srinagar

The conversation continues…. Kahvè has also arrived. Tothèseb (dear grand dad) takes out the warm Telvour from his Kanger... he is going to savior it with the tea… digging deeper into the pot, he turns chestnuts with his Xalan…. they are still soft and will take some more time…. hopefully they should be ready by the time Abha gets home…

Images from ~ https://www.facebook.com/oldkashmirimages/

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