Started with road trip from Jammu towards Kishtwar on NH-1B; disembarked 8 hours later at small roadside town of Prem Nagar. Where one crosses a footbridge to get to the mountains on the other side. At this time of the year, the Chenab has shrunk considerably because the source waters in the mountains are now freezing etc. Do the geography yourself.
Anyway... Wedding time, and we head to the next village where Shahida and her brother Nisar were both getting married on the same day. Shahida to leave for her new home, and Nisar to bring his new wife in.So this is the path we take.On foot and horseback, as the road allows.
What makes a village wedding doable, for even the poorest of people, is the fact that everyone pitches in. Every single family offers something to the wedding preparations. People will either bring milk, curd, ghee, livestock, rice, wheat or whatever they have to help the host families do their thing. This is apart from the cash gifts they give to the bride and groom.
This particular wedding I was at was expected to host 700 peeps at each meal. And so cooking preparations were awesome to witness. The Culinary Department at such dos is the biggest deal. An outdoor cooking camp is set up, with logs, gigantic vessels and impressive manpower at work the whole day. They are in charge of providing chais, rotis, main meals and other special requests for special guests from time to time.
At meal times, the guests are called in batches to the eating tent. Catering units form a human chain and after the hand-washing routine [in Kashmir, hosts go from guest to guest, after they are seated for a meal, carrying the 'tash-nerr' (which means receptacle and kettle respectively) for them to wash their hands in], the preserved plates are brought in piping hot from the cooking area.
The pre-served plate will normally have a bed of rice, some chutney and a few pieces of meat from the various dishes on the menu. Then one by one, a line of servers start making rounds carrying huge buckets serving various curries or topping up plates and refilling rice as the case may be. Water bearers do their thing simultaneously. It is most wonderful to watch a well-oiled meal service in action. [Please note, this is not a Waazwan. This is a most simple wedding meal practised in the poor mountain areas of our district. Waazwan happens in proper Kashmir, i.e. the Valley.]
Here is the young team of Caterers at Shahida and Nisar's wedding.
And so, Day 1 of the Wedding, which was Mehndi Raat. Shahida's girlfriend from college in Doda came up to the village to do her mehndi and makeup.
Another funny tradition: After the baraatis/groom come to the bride's house, a select group of close lady relatives from the girl's side, gets to come to his room and stare at him for a while. After many awkward moments, and a heavy silence, suddenly every one of them thrusts cash gifts at his loyal companion, who accepts these token as part of his duties. Scene ends.
Here is Zaana Auntie, Shahida's Ma, seated near the groom [but not talking to him: shy].
Back at the Haji homestead, on the morning of my departure, was hanging with our horses in the fields.
school before rushing out. It was the first day of HPS's annual examination for the year 2010. Kids praying hard at assembly just before the event. :)
And another quick stop at Kishtwar, my mother's hometown, for a family visit. Here was the highlight of the Kishtwar trip, my bouncy baby cousin Sa'ad, a blonde bonmbshell and most clever kid who I have marked out for greater things in the future.
This concludes the present broadcast. Please leave comments and questions below. Also, point out typos to me. There is no way I'm rereading the entire post. :)