The dishes kept on coming. Junaid had to unbuckle his belt. The filled-to-the-brim trami served earlier was now overflowing. Although the cold autumn evening had made its presence felt, Junaid was perspiring.
It was the warm, spicy permeation that had filled the air in the hall – a huge room where the wedding feast was served to 40 odd people that made up the groom’s party at 11 pm in Anantnag.
Minutes before the feast, Junaid and others had already gulped down a soft-drink, while munching on several varieties of dry fruits.
And then, as the dastarkhan was laid down, the race to ultimate calorie intake began. Other than those existing four or five-odd dishes that usually garnish the trami, a platter for four, the party was expecting five to seven more dishes to be served.
“But the hosts hardly stopped at seven, or even a dozen. I think they served 40 dishes or even more. We lost the count,” says Junaid.
He recalls the party being served with normal rista (a meat ball), then rista with kaju (cashewnut) in it, and then another rista with apricot in it. Dodd maaz (mutton cooked in milk), rogan josh, tabakh maaz, kabab, fish kabab, shami kabab, chicken kabab, an entire chicken, chicken cooked in milk, a huge bowl of pulow garnished with yet more chicken and kabab, at least four or five varieties of whole mutton pieces cooked in different styles, cheese in tomato, cheese in spinach, and mushrooms…
Even hearing out Junaid list was an acute gastronomical challenge.
“Only half way, I had eaten way more than my fill,” he says.
The rest was collected in the plastic bags kept in the basket which carried bottles of carbonated and mineral water, assortments of soap, toothpicks, wet tissues and other whatnots. Then there was also the almost-forgotten bowl of curd and the platter of chutneys that needed to be sorted out.
To Junaid’s and other attendees rescue, finally the decider Gushtaba arrived. The small ice-cream bowls served soon after were for calming down the hullaballoo in the stomach, or, at least, what the common (mis) understanding was.
“The party left with the bride at around 1:30 am,” says Junaid.
What he witnessed was just only a little more extravagant version of the already extravagant weddings that Kashmir is witnessing, especially, this year.
Exorbitant spending on food and newest forms of costly innovations drub the government’s so-call ‘guest control’ order it had invoked from April and, more vitally, the basic message of moderation in Islam.
The killings and maiming of last year had, to some extent, reserved this overindulgence with many marriages being conducted in a simple manner.
However, given the nature of recent weddings witnessed in Srinagar and townships of many other districts, moderation has been long checked out.
Besides, spending on food, a costly addition picking up pace this year is heavy expense on the makeup, especially that of the bride.
A Srinagar-based makeup artist (name withheld) says she charged anything between Rs 40,000 to Rs 60,000 on grease-painting one bride.
“We are professionals. People are happy to pay the money if they get the right service,” says the make-up artist.
According to her, brides have to book the service in advance.
“We have several makeup plans available with us. The brides choose according to their affordability. It usually takes between six to eight hours to get a bride ready,” she adds.
Videography, which was not considered a costly affair earlier, too has upped in pomp and show.
The Kashmir Monitor spoke to witnesses of at least two such wedding ceremonies in Srinagar and north Kashmir recently where professional videographers, who were hired to shoot the entire wedding, charged in lakhs.
“This is a new trend. Hiring a professional videographer, who, unlike earlier days, gives you only 8 to 10 minutes of an output video using several cameras including the ones fitted on drones. The marriage we attended was shot by a professional wedding photographer from New Delhi,” the attendee said.
A new-into-the-field professional videographer, who shot a wedding in Srinagar recently, said he charged Rs 1 lakh for the video, adding that “the one shot by the Delhi-based photographer must have fetched him at least Rs 6 to 10 lakh, given his experience and standard”.
While there are no holds barred in lavish yet needless spending, the other issue that wedding feasts pull up is massive wastage and use of harmful disposable items.
The trend of serving water from a jug into a steel glass to guests during the feast is long gone now and even considered derisive. Instead all the assortments and drinks are served in plastic cups and bottles.
By the end of the feast, the disposable items are collected in huge plastic bags and dumped along with large quantity of rice left uneaten by most of the guests.
The Guest Control order, which limited the number of guests and dishes, on paper at least, has, meanwhile, been contested in the High Court.
“The matter is sub-judice. One Banquet Hall Association has filed a petition against the (Guest Control) order in the High Court. We are expecting a favourable decision,” said Minister for food, Chaudhary Zulfkar Ali.
Militant, Army officer killed in Anantnag gunfight
Srinagar, Jun 17: An Army officer and a militant were killed and three other soldiers including a Major injured in a gunfight in south Kashmir Anantnag district on Monday, police said.
Police sources said the officer was shot at during the firing exchange between the holed-up militants and security forces in Bidoora village in Achabal area of the district.
The slain militant was believed to be a foreigner.
SSP Anantnag, Altaf Khan said that the operation was launched following specific inputs about the presence of some militants in the area.
He said that as the joint team intensified the searches, the militants, hiding in the area, opened fire which was retaliated, triggering off a gunfight.
Initially, sources said, the joint team of forces and militants exchanged gunfire for some time during which the house, in which the militants were hiding, was damaged. Later there was a lull for about an hour even as Army rushed more reinforcements and the joint team started searches to find out the militants.
Soon the militants rose from the debris and opened indiscriminate fire on the forces, resulting in the on-spot death of Major Keetan Sharma and injuries to three others including another Army Major Rahul Verma, sources said.
They added the joint team of forces retailed the fire, leading to the fresh gunfight in an open field. While one militant was killed and the search operation is underway to find if there is any more militant hiding in the area.
The identity and group affiliation of the slain militant is being ascertained, sources said.
Meanwhile, youth took to streets and pelted stones at the security forces. The police and paramilitary CRPF deployed in the area used tear smoke shells and pellets to disperse them.
In wake of the operation, the authorities snapped internet service in the southern district.
IED blast in Pulwama, 6 soldiers, 2 civilians injured
Srinagar, Jun 17: Militants on Monday attempted to blow off an Army vehicle in a village in South Kashmir’s Pulwama district.
A police official said that an armoured vehicle of Army came under an IED attack in Hargam Arihal village of Pulwama. He added that after the blast militants also fired some gunshots towards the vehicle.
Local residents informed that they heard huge blast followed by gunshots.
Reports said that six soldiers and two civilians were injured in the blast. The soldiers were shifted to Army’s 92 base hospital at Badamibagh, Srinagar for treatment.
The area was soon cordoned off, officials said.
Earlier, reports said that militants exploded an IED under a Casper vehicle, extensively damaging it, as an army convoy passed through Arihal. However, the army clarified that the damaged vehicle was not a Casper, but an Ashok Leyland Stallion truck.
Three of them who were travelling in the cabin of the vehicle are stated to be serious, the news agency reported.
The blast was triggered by militants using a car laden with explosives, GNS reported attributing the same to “initial investigations by police.”
“A police officer that the explosives were fitted inside a car and investigators are probing the owner of the vehicle. Asked, which type of vehicle was used, the officer said that it is a matter of investigation,” the news agency reported.
“Samples have been collected and further probe is underway,” the officer was quoted saying.
In a statement, the Army called the attack a “failed attempt” by militants. The troops are safe, barring a few minor injuries, it said, adding, “The area has been cordoned and search operations are in progress”.
The blast comes days after Pakistan had reportedly shared information with India and America regarding the possibility of major militant attack in the south Kashmir district. (With inputs from GNS)
Emotional scenes at slain SHO’s wreath-laying ceremony
Srinagar, Jun 17: Emotional scenes were Monday witnessed at District Police Lines (DPL) Srinagar as top cops and bureaucrats attended the wreath-laying ceremony of the slain police officer Arshad Khan, who had sustained critical injuries in a militant attack in Anantnag last week and later succumbed to his injuries at AIIMS, Delhi on Sunday.
J&K Police chief Dilbagh Singh, Advisors to Governor K Vijay Kumar and KK Sharma, Home Secretary Shaleen Kabra, Divisional Commissioner Baseer Ahmed Khan, ADGP Muneer Khan, and SSP Srinagar Dr Haseeb Mughal, among other civil and police officers were present on the occasion.
J&K Police shared two heart wrenching photos of Dr Mughal carrying the deceased’s son in his arms during the wreath-laying ceremony.
In the photos, a teary-eyed Haseeb is seen carrying slain Arshad Khan’s son while paying tributes to his colleague.
On the occasion, Advisor Kumar said that more than 1600 J&K Police personnel have lost their lives in the line of duty.
On June 12, around 4:50 pm, five paramilitary troopers and a militant were killed and four other security forces personnel including Arshad sustained injuries after militants attacked a joint party of CRPF and police at bus stand Anantnag.
Arshad was immediately evacuated to a nearby hospital and then to Srinagar’ SK Institute of Medical Sciences, Soura. After being treated there for a few days, he was flown to Delhi’s AIIMS hospital where he succumbed to his injuries on Sunday.
According to police, Arshad was inducted into police services in the year 2002 and was presently posted as SHO Anantnag. Khan is survived by father and mother, wife Neelofar, 5-year-old son Abuhan Khan, Danim 2, and a brother.