A Real Life Travel Story of my visit to Kashmir
Since the past decade, the number of tourists visiting Jammu and Kashmir has decreased as a result of the curfews and disputes in the area. I had read in books about the beauty of Kashmir but never really got a chance until in August 2018, I decided to visit it. Let me tell you my experience of Kashmir. Not in words but as a Story, after all Stories inspire us and makes the experience more wonderful. It was my first time and I had been warned to behave a certain way and be cautious as stone pelting’s and alike were normal in Kashmir. I was also told to carry enough food and not rely on Kashmir Food scene.
I landed and everything seemed not normal but more beautiful. Not just the people but the Environment. A man with pink cheeks and wrinkles on his face was standing with a Name board. I saw the name and ran off to him. I, along with my fellow travellers were guided to the Car that we had already booked in advance.
Jammu and Kashmir is a beautiful place in North India, famous for Natural beauty , Spices , Cashmere silks and Saffron but not for food
The driver spoke charmingly to us. However, Life in the region seemed disturbed. Fewer shops were open. Kids dressed in school uniforms were returning to their homes. I heard the schools remains open only for few hours unlike in other parts of the country. One of the fellow traveller noticed a Van ahead of us ,full of army men.
I asked the driver, “Whether the security was tight because of India’s Independence day nearing soon”.
He simply said, “No “and turned on to play Kashmiri songs on the Radio. After a few miles, I noticed Few Men camouflaged hiding behind Trucks, few more standing on House Rooftops another few standing behind Trees. I realised something was not normal. I turned around and checked the expression on my fellow travellers faces. It had turned blue.
Kashmiri folk songs still playing in the Radio. “Today’s lunch is arranged in this Restaurant”. Driver asked us, without realising, all of us were busy looking out of the car. He turned off the Radio and stopped the car. “Madam, we have reached the restaurant”
We were greeted with smiling faces. It was another normal busy day for them. The Restaurant manager suggested we sit in an exclusive dining area and we could not say no.
“What’s the Kashmir’s traditional food like”. I asked
The main food or staple food of Kashmir is Sticky Rice, Mutton, chicken or fish cooked with vegetables
He said “A lot of them but, why don’t you try Wazwan”?
None of us had heard about it. We asked him to get it for us. Rather he insisted to explain “What is a Wazwan“. What sounded like a simple dish is in fact a multicourse meal in Kashmiri cuisine. All the dishes are meat-based using lamb or chicken with few vegetarian dishes. The number of dishes served in a Wazwan could be 15 till 36. Or it could be more than that. The important ethnic meat products of wazwan include kabab, tabak maaz, aab gosh, rogan josh, nate-yakhni, rista, and goshtaba.
Rogan Josh is the signature dish of Wazwan. It is a spicy red lamb-based curry ideally eaten with saffron rice
We were already in awe and asked him to serve us as quickly as possible. The dishes started getting on the table one after another. The Hotness of the food kept on increasing. Our Stomachs were full but we could not say no. Then came the Dessert. Firni , a cool creamy delicious dessert made of semolina and milk, garnished with dry fruits.
And after eating our hearts out, I realized why is no one talking about Kashmir’s Cuisine? Why is Butter Chicken still the King of Indian Food popular in the West. The reason is Kashmir is only and only talked about for the clashes between common man and Army. Also the Terrorist attacks and Invasion, Strikes and Curfews, Disruption and Conflicts in the region. The UN and the media show cases only this side to the world. I would have never known about the Gem of a food, have I not visited this place and tried this cuisine.
The history of today’s Kashmir’s cuisine can be traced back to the fifteenth century invasion of India.
Along with that the migration of 1700 skilled woodcarvers, weavers, architects, calligraphers and cooks from Samarkand to the valley of Kashmir. The descendants of these cooks popularly known as the Wazas, are the master chefs of Kashmir. Hence the famous cuisine named as Wazwan. This traditional delight reflected that once upon a time Kashmir have had a rich and tumultuous history. Perhaps that could be the reason why it is in Disputes.