Long Live Wazwan!

Greater Kashmir

Wazwan continues to be an important constituent of Kashmiri culture

We are in the midst of the marriage season. Lanes and by lanes are choked by the cavalcade of cars, smoke emanates from almost every locality; heaps of garbage in the form of plastic disposables scattered by stray dogs can be seen.  Various houses are elaborately decorated and the silence of the night is broken by the songs and rhymes of women. The get together of relatives, friends and even enemies has an aura of its own. People across all age groups –children, youth, and elderly—all have a reason to rejoice. There is hustle and bustle everywhere. And of course the air is full of characteristic spicy and mouth watering fragrance of the Wazwan.
Wazwan continues to be an important constituent of Kashmiri culture. Unlike other components like handicrafts, not only has it survived in its original mode but has also witnessed enormous value addition over the times. Traditional Wazwan dishes like Goshtabas, Kababs, Ristas, Rogan Josh served in traditional large plates (Tramis) have become an integral part of our lifestyle. Even our ‘modern’ children remember these names at the tips of their tongues.  Also, the method of cooking on the burning logs of wood (Wurre) by the cooks (Wazas) in the copper vessels (Degs) continues.
Value addition has occurred in the form of variety of disposables now available and the diversity in the decorated tents (Pandals) too is awesome. Ironically, even the raw material mutton in the form of Sheep largely comes from outside. Though the outsiders, especially Biharis, have intruded into every profession as painters, carpenters, masons, laborers etc; they can’t even mimic our Wazas, and displacing them is out of question. Mutton obsessed Valleyites too can’t rein in their gluttonous desires. Indeed, Kashmir culture may be under threat but Wazwan has a bright future. Long live Wazwan!
Recently, I had an interaction with a Waza. He opined that an average trami, with about 10 meat dishes, requires about 3-4 kg meat whereas a costly trami, with about 15 dishes, requires double the amount of meat (6-8 kg).  So, the cost of trami ranges from Rs 3000-6000. Multiplying it with the whooping number of guests and adding the costs of disposables, fire wood, tents, etc; the amount turns out to be huge. On the face of it, the marriage practices seem to be just wastage of money. But, they do provide employment to thousands of youth viz. tailors, jewelers, retailers, photographers, Wazas, disposables shop owners, tent owners etc.
Over the past years, various attempts to rationalize the extravaganza associated with Wazwan in the form of decreasing the number of dishes or putting a ceiling on the number of guests or ceiling on the amount of meat have miserably failed. Interestingly, in various parts of Srinagar disposable carry bags are not distributed by the hosts among the guests. Hold on! It is not an environment friendly gesture. Such people are ‘ashamed’ of distributing carry bags as it undermines their dignity. Human capacity to eat meat is limited by the meager space of the stomachs. In fact, it is impossible to eat such a huge quantity of meat without ill effects. Thus, kilos of meat are thrown in to the gutter, later consumed by the stray dogs. Alas! What a tragedy!
Tail Piece: ideally, the number of dishes or amount of meat should be commensurate with the digesting capacity of body.  At least carry bags (preferably biodegradable) must be distributed if we can’t limit the number of dishes or put a ceiling on the amount of meat. The meat can then be slowly utilized at a later date or even distributed among friends and relatives. It ensures that precious food doesn’t go waste and in no way undermines one’s dignity. Buck stops at the hosts. They should always provide these carry bags.
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