Monday, November 22, 2010

Of Weddings in a Village

Made a slap-dash trip to Breswana recently to attend a family double-wedding. Photo-story follows [click on pics to magnify]:

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.
Here is the bridge we cross and the other half of Prem Nagar built into the facing mountains. It's about a hundred metres max, if that, though when I was little I distinctly remember it being about 5 kms longer.
Once at Prem Nagar, the horses await, and we start our upward ride: 3 to 4 hours at a comfortable amble. Pits stops and refreshments are to be had as you like it.
 Ahem. By the way, this is my new gorgeous black mare. So far I call her Black Mare, which is #FAIL.
Finally reached my home in the hills after sunset, and it was c-c-c-cold, but aha! What's this I spy in my room? Verily it is a blazing fire. Zzzzzzz.
After a great overnight rest, which was preceded by fresh warm buffalo milk and a good hot water foot bath, I awoke the next morning to play with the pups and a few village shrimps. Boy on left is our in-house Gujjar kid, Hashim Din. Boy on right is young Irfan, who has some sort of mental disability and is still stuck at an infant's level of mental development. He's great with animals. :)
Close up of baby cocky spangrel [Cocker Spaniel+mongrel mix], Motu, at his favourite spot, under the dahlias in the sunny front yard.
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.
Now, a village wedding in my ilaaka is of monstrous proportions for the very simple reason that everyone in a village is related to everyone else in the village... and very often the adjoining few villages as well. So a general invite to the whole world and its family is sent out, and since weddings are fun times and provide a rare reprieve from their daily lives to our hardy village peeps, everyone takes advantage of these occasions to come out in numbers. Huge numbers.
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.
Inside the wedding house, the aim of the game apparently is to cramp as many human bodies as possible within the smallest confines, then sit and talk loudly or sing folk songs as the mood sets on you. :) The ladies and kids come decked up in their finest, they sit, chat, meet long-lost relatives, gossip and in general make for a very noisy and entertaining scene. For people who don't like crowds [guilty] it is a bit much, and I found myself standing outdoors, in the shamianas or secluded in a separate room with no intruders. Still, most interesting to watch.
 The men and women sit separately, with most of the men involved in the actual running around and wedding work. The ladies just have it easy.
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.
Cute decorations for the next day, when the two brides would be seated side-by-side: One, the new incoming bride and the other, the bride to leave for her new home. [Check out the heart garland. #WIN!]
 New bride arrived in a paalki. Her village was about two and a half hours away, on mountain roads- which means uphills and downhills! Most impressive of the paalki-wallahs.
 And soon after, Shahida's groom arrived. [On one of our horses. :]
 Here are the two lovely ladies. Shahida, screen left, and new bride, screen right.
Cash garlands are a very big deal here, as in UP and Mayawati. Except these are believable sums, and ten rupee notes.
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].
 Here is the dashing groom Nisar, happy to have brought home a blushing bride.
 And that was that. A most eventful wedding happened. Masses met and good wishes passed along for the next generation. There were no fights which is surprising for such big gatherings. Much chai was had, many songs were sung. One pretty girl left and another took her place. Lots of animals gave their lives for a good cause. Burp.

Back at the Haji homestead, on the morning of my departure, was hanging with our horses in the fields.
Groomed Black Mare for a bit and she was like, "WTF?" Zanskari horses are not namby-pamby and she was really irritated as I brushed her coat. Tee hee.
Quick stop at the 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. :)
Examination hall was created outside in the winter sun because it was chilly inside the classrooms and most magical outdoors.
 Hehehe. Check out little Rubina applying herself as she works out an answer.
 Back home to say bye to the two pup faces: Motu and ThinSo. [ThinSo is stray boy we picked up from the streets in Jammu. He's a nutcase.]
 Farewell shot of the school as I left for Jammu.
Downhill is about 3+ hours of walking. We don't take horses going down because of the steep descent, big boulders and generally unnecessary leg-breakage-risk. In this pic, you can see my poor Abba limping along heroically with his cane for support. He had hurt his feet something terrible earlier and they were not healed yet. Toenails falling off, bleeding etc. But he did the trip and did it well. Hero!
 Here we are resting about halfway down. You can see the bridge at Prem Nagar at the bottom.
 Quick stop at our Doda digs and the office of the Amina Trust.

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. :)


Anonymous said...

Where is the 'Like' button when you need it?

A very enjoyable read Sabbah.

Jasneet said...

super post Sabs. Felt like I was there too! The school bachhus are especially cute, praying with full josh before the exams :) and fantastic idea to put the desks out in the sun, I remember struggling to write legibly during Jan exams in Delhi, sitting in freezing classrooms where I could see my breath. Brrrr! Wish my teachers had been as thoughtful. I do hauw one suggestion : maybe a few pics of the wedding feast next time someone gets hitched?

alka said...

An interesting account of the wedding,
enjoyed reading it,with all the tiny details,
and the accompanied photographs,
loved every bit of the countryside feel.
For a city person like me,it offered, an entirely different perspective.

donscave said...

oh thank u so very much! Very nice read.. :)

mehaboob said...

thanks for sharing this loved reading this and making me understand the kashmiri Wedding and loved the click of Rubina applying one....LOL...:)

Babur said...

couple of observations:
1. pls get rid of that white front strap on the horse(aka kaali). needs to be black to go with the rest of the ensemble.

2. pic of dad's bleeding toe would be appreciated to highlight pain endured.

3. you look scared while brushing the horse - haha! *point finger*

4. the horse is really short coz i can see your head when you stand behind it.

Varinder said...


I really appreciate your efforts in writing this blog post. Everything here looks quite familiar to me, Nostalgia :)

longblackveil said...

Thank you all for your comments. [Except Babur Bhai. Shaddup!]
I'm thinking of calling Black Mare 'Sheela' after 'Sheela Ki Jawaani'. I know, right? Awesome.

Qrratugai said...

This was beautiful! I really, REALLY enjoyed it!

I love weddings, and I especially love that they're conducted differently all over in just ONE region! Isn't that incredible?

Maybe one day, I can describe how weddings are done in Swat and Mardan, the latter being a place where I've witnessed the best wedding, although now I'm more interested in coming to yours :p I won't mind coming uninvited. Uh-huh.

longblackveil said...

Thanks, Q. Please initiate Swat and Mardan wedding posts already. With pics. Verrry interesting, should be.

Amna K said...

This was absolutely amazing. I almost lived through the whole thing. My grandparents are from Kashmir and if I tell them this awesome wedding tale, I'm sure they'd be able to relate to every bit. The word 'wazwaan' I've heard a lot from them in their 'Kashmir-missing conversations'.

Absolutely wow and I totally adore your Black Mare. It's GORGEOUS.


Neha said...

Loved the entire post!!!

The best was when you gave such a cute description of how the ladies stare at the groom for no reason and then the groom accepts the gifts from them! I mean i am still laughing while writing this!

Anonymous said...

It was really Nice
Sarkari Naukri

kaivalyam said...

Hi Sabbah

believe it or not but i chanced upon your blog via Twitter (#Egypt, #Sopore) and here I am! spent a whole evening reading most of your posts, love your breezy yet sensitive style of writing, its hilarious too...and then you mentioned Vinayak R's blog, which I LOVE! that one too was a random find by moi. well, I thought, at least I know a good thing when i see it....if a fellow Kashmiri reccos it.
also to mention i visited JK and i mean J AND K and Ladakh this Aug/Sep (yup right in the middle of all that) for shooting a film we are making on the Indus Waters Treaty and I somehow feel connected to anyone from there ever since...
I am also teaching currently, in DC and chanced upon this on TEDtalk, you might like it if you have not already seen it, just thought I'd share,
would love to come by and volunteer sometime, ( i did not miss the couchsurfing volunteer post!) been itching to put my teaching skills to better use

ciao, then

longblackveil said...

Dear Amna, Neha and Kavita
Thank you very much. Cannot believe our little village wedding would generate interest, so Yayyy for you. :)
Kavita, special note, that TEDTalk is one of my old favourites and we're in fact planning a project like that for the schools. Coincidence? I think not!! this is a sign that I will be seeing you in my mountains soon. *hugs*

kaivalyam said...

Oh you can be sure of that!!
your students are definitely calling me :)

plus i get emails asking me to 'dear friend call as soon as you land in delhi' 'dear sister please come for my brother's wedding' photos in attachments with 'this is the first snow in srinagar' not to mention the driver who totally did a raja hindustani on me! full ashique mizaaj u guyz are!
a collection of folk songs that i am doing has but one Kashmiri, pliss be to recco more such singable ones.

and if you happen to come into DC, pls post a comment on the blog and we can meet up!

Ankit Dangi said...

Detailed, simple, and a beautiful account of the proceedings of the wedding there, and the entire journey back home. I liked every bit and part of the wedding, liked, loved it!!

I loved your narration as well, esp. via the pics.

By the way, I stumbled across your blog via your twitter account.