A foreigner at a Kashmiri Wazwan
Connnor with his friends relishing WazwanThe day arrived. When I told my innkeepers that I was going to attend a Wazwan they asked me to show them my kurta and pajama. I told them that I did not bring any, so they said to wait right there and their nephew would be right back. In a few minutes the boy returned with a sack in his hand. He ran up the stairs to meet us. With a huge smile on his face he pulled something out of a new shopping bag. It was a beautiful and stylish black Kashmiri kurta and pajama; two chest pockets and loops on the shoulders. I was instructed to “hurry and try it on.” To my surprise— because I am a bit taller than an average Kashmiri—it fit perfectly. “Now you are ready to attend a Kashmiri Wazwan!” they said. “What the heck.” I thought, “I might as well go all the way.”
The Wazwan was everything I expected and more. The tent where the feast was held was large and constructed with beautiful hand-woven fabrics with intricate designs covering them and the fabric was thin enough that the sunlight had no problem penetrating through to the walls and ceiling. All the males who had been invited to attend sat around the edges of the tent on soft and colorful rugs that covered the ground. The tent gradually began to fill and people started noticing the odd-looking foreigner dressed in traditional Kashmiri attire. A number of people stopped to chat with me and inquire how I came to be a part of this grand Wazwan. I thoroughly enjoyed my interactions with the other guests, especially since I had the irreplaceable help of a good Kashmiri friend who not only translated for me when needed but also guided me through the different customs and meanings of the events that were going on around me.
Soon, a cohort of neatly dressed young men entered the tent carrying large, shiny silver platters. An inviting aroma began to simmer in the air; I knew the feast was about to begin. I observed the people sitting in the tent, they started to perk-up and grins began to cover every face. A large covered platter was placed in front of us. The young man removed the lid and revealed the succulent challenge at hand. You see, Kashmiris do not only enjoy eating, they also enjoy forcing each other to eat more… and more.
A mountain of Kashmiri rice, which I have come to know is richer and more filling than most other types of rice, sat atop the platter and layered on top of that were giant pieces of carefully prepared meats. There were long tantalizing pieces of kabob, crisp golden pieces of Kashmiri chicken, juicy mutton and more. This platter was supposed to serve four people and as I surveyed the test sitting in front of us I thought that, even though there were only 3 of us, we could manage to eat most, if not all, of the tasty cuisine.
So with great confidence I began to shovel handfuls of rice and tender morsels of meat into my mouth. As my confidence was at a crescendo I saw the platter-baring boys enter the tent once again, but this time they were carrying large pots. Little did I know that our platter, that was starting to give way to our hefty appetites, was about to become a larger mountain than before. Author can be reached at: conrocks @gmail.com (Courtesy - Kashmir Observer).